By Adil James, TMO
Imam Sohel Mangera recites Qur`an at the beginning of the event.
March 1–Farmington–A new mosque and learning institute is in the works in Oakland County, headed by Imam Sohel Mangera, formerly the imam of the Tawheed Center.
The new mosque is close to the crossstreets of 14 Mile Road and Haggerty, although it is not yet ready to hold congregational prayers because it has a limited amount of parking.
Present Saturday night were approximately 700 people, who packed Farmington Hills Manor showing their reverence and appreciation for Imam Sohel.
Present also was (1) the famous musician and speaker Junaid Shamshed, and (2) Imam Zia Sheikh, Ph.D. the imam of the Islamic Center of Irving TX. Shoaib Akhtar, the famous cricketer, had agreed to go to the event but was prevented by a serious illness which caused his hospitalization.
The event organizers collected approximately 150,000 in pledges, far short of the $375,000 they had hoped to collect in order to fund the construction necessary to have the masjid available for full use as a mosque during Ramadan.
TMO had the pleasure of speaking directly if briefly to Junaid Jamshed, who pointed out his respect for the Muslim community of the Detroit area, whom he described as â€œvery progressive–they want to contribute, to be part of American society.â€
â€œThis is very good–they want to take in people from all walks of life.â€
Mr. Jamshed emphasized also the importance of the Falah Institute, pointing out that there are Muslims who lack knowledge of the reality of the living circumstances or beliefs of their own family members inside their houses, who â€œlive in delusion.â€
He said that we need Muslims rather who are engaged with society, who contribute to society-and the best way of letting people know about Islam is to practice it–â€œand how can you practice it when you donâ€™t know what it is.â€
Therefore the importance of training institutes like the Al Falah Institute.
It was a pleasure to directly interview such a man who may not be well known to Americans but who is a celebrated and important part of the Pakistani cultural landscape.
What was striking about the event Saturday night were the speeches of the young people whose lives have been touched by Imam Sohelâ€™s active work to reach out to disaffected youth.
Again and again speakers referred to the â€œunmosquedâ€ movement and the phenomenon that many Muslims feel disconnected from their communities, if not from the religion they practice.
Several youngsters spoke about their own involvement in activities which are not Islamically accepted, but that Imam Sohel had accepted them and through their association with him they had grown attracted to a more pious Islamic lifestyle.
The youngsters showed active following and acceptance of sunnah, and had knowledge of many ahadith relevant to the present time in which we live.
One said that Al Falah Institute would function as â€œshelter and a safe place from the fitna in the community–a place with intimate and open dialogues, khalaqas.â€
â€œSpending time with righteous people improves us,â€ he said.
Imam Sohel began the program by reciting Qur`an very beautifully (mostly from Surat Maryam) and then later spoke of his journey towards building the Al Falah Institute, and his deep appreciation for the many devoted people in the community who had worked with him to explore through discussion what was necessary to do, and who had accompanied him as over the counrse of months he evaluated many potential buildings as homes for the Al Falah Institute–most of them not suitable because they were too far from the local community.
The Texas imam, Imam Zia Sheikh, said that big things begin small, and pointed out that a huge Texas masjid had begun as a regular prayer meeting at an apartment, and had grown to a multimillion dollar mosque.
Junaid Jamshed spoke of his journey towards active faith after his celebrated career as a musician, saying that he had had everything material that people could want and yet he had felt deeply deeply unhappy until he spoke to a shaykh who advised him that his material possessions would never satisfy his soul, but they would only provide comfort to his material body.
The implication of this advice was that the only way to bring happiness to his spirit was through devotion and obedience and through good behavior.
The community was refreshing because of the many people present, including young people, who followed sunnah, some wearing turbans, many wearing beards, many wearing kufis, many wearing traditional clothes. It was also refreshing because of the many young people who spoke highly of having a place where they could go and feel accepted despite having been on a path that was divergent from the path they eventually want to be on, and spoke of how Imam Sohel had helped bring them back.
The Al Falah Institute will be much more than a mosque, and in fact the primary purpose appears to be to educate and shelter young people.