With his hands placed on either side of his face, Qari Yasir Abdul Basit brought back memories of his late father, the world renowned Egyptian Qari Abdul Basit Abdul Samad. From the rapt attention his recitation garnered from the young in the audience, he was also introducing many to the beauty of Qur’anic recitation as well. Traveling with a delegation from Dar-ul-Uloom, New York, Qari Yasir was helping them raise funds for a number of initiatives they are in the process of expanding, from their (secular) academic curriculum to a weekend school for those unable to attend full-time.
The fundraiser was held in the prayer hall at Masjid Dar-al-Taqwa in Columbia, MD. With an initial crowd of a hundred attendees, a steady stream formed through the Friday evening as people getting off work across the region brought their families to experience in person what they had only heard before in audio recordings. Students from local Qur’an academies were also in attendance, along with many other youth whose parents wanted them to have a greater commitment to the Qur’an.
The evening began with a recitation by Qari Safiullah Sherzadi, an instructor in Masjid Dar-al-Taqwa’s TAQI (Ta’leem Al-Qur’an Institute) program. Dr. Aamer Sheikh, Dar-al-Taqwa’s resident scholar, introduced the program. He reminded the audience, “On this blessed night we have visitors that have traveled from a far distance… I’m sure they don’t want it that the only time we get together is when they come to visit us. The purpose of their visit is… so we get together on a regular basis.” Dr Sheikh then introduced the TAQI program, mentioning it among a number of programs in place at Dar-al-Taqwa to help the community participate in the Masjid. The Chairman of the Dar-al-Taqwa Board of Trustees then spoke briefly, introducing Qari Yasir Abdul Basit.
Qari Yasir began his recitation in a style common to most people, gradually repeating his chosen verses with increasing complexity and variation of recitation styles, covering a range similar to his father. Barely a word was spoken across the room as he chose passages from the Qur’an that many had heard on a daily basis, though they perhaps had not realized the richness the words possessed, even if only in their recitation, until that evening. After more than half an hour, with sweat appearing on his forehead from the effort of his recitation, Qari Yasir took a break as the speaker for the night was introduced.
Doing the fundraising was Dar-ul-Uloom’s own Sheikh Hasan Abunar, a professor of Islamic Studies there, and well known for his excellent recitation (he is a past winner of the prestigious International Qur’an competition). He is currently the chair for the Qur’an Competition program for the USA and the national Dubai Competition representative. Alongside his jovial demeanor and multilingual banter with the diverse audience, Sheikh Hasan highlighted the importance of dual education – secular as well as Islamic studies. He challenged the audience to move beyond the standard dichotomous view of the two fields, saying that, “your child should not only be a doctor, he should be a doctor and a ‘Aalim (Scholar)”. Many agreed with this sentiment, with some admitting that the best, current method to reconcile the two was through a rigorous home-school program; the parents would exercise control over their children’s schedule, making certain neither of the two (Qur’anic learning and academic studies) suffered.
Sh Abunar also mentioned a brief history of New York’s Dar-ul-Uloom. “We started with 4 students in 1997 and have grown to more than 400 students today.” They have graduated 70 students so far who had memorized the entire Qur’an. A quarter of their students board on campus, and with 17 full-time instructors, ten of whom are devoted to the scholar program (the Aalim course). The Dar-ul-Uloom is in the stages of expanding its academic curriculum as well, among key developments, hence the fundraising efforts being undertaken.
Dar-ul-Uloom, New York has led a vigorous fundraising campaign nationwide with the help of well-known Muslims over the past few years. Sheikh Hasan Abunar previously came on their behalf to Masjid Al-Rahmah in Baltimore to help fundraise along with Junaid Jamshed, a former singer-songwriter who is a popular for becoming an inspiration for many Muslims through his personal story, Islamic fashion, and charitable works.
Though this was the first fundraiser of its type to be held at Dar-al-Taqwa, the visitors from Dar-ul-Uloom NY were happy with their reception in the community, saying that they had felt welcomed at all levels. The local community also felt particularly happy as their special guest, Qari Yasir Abdul Basit, had come to Dar-al-Taqwa as his only place of visit in the entire Mid-Atlantic metro region. About $40,000 was raised with a final figure yet to be announced as all the pledges had not yet been tallied.
May Allah bless the Scholars and Reciters that came to Dar-al-Taqwa, and help Dar-ul-Uloom establish itself as a standard-bearer for knowledge and character in the United States. Ameen.