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Photo credit: Imam Siraj Wahaj (center) getting hugged by Muaddhin Jameel Syed after the Jumuah prayers in Brooklyn, New York on Friday May 2. Photo credit: Jameel Syed.

Muaddhin’s journey sparks inspiration in self, others

By Carissa D. Lamkahouan
TMO contributing writer

Photo credit: Imam Siraj Wahaj (center) getting hugged by Muaddhin Jameel Syed after the Jumuah prayers in Brooklyn, New York on Friday May 2. Photo credit: Jameel Syed.

Photo credit: Imam Siraj Wahaj (center) getting hugged by Muaddhin Jameel Syed after the Jumuah prayers in Brooklyn, New York on Friday May 2. Photo credit: Jameel Syed.

The Adhan was called 50 times, in all 50 states, over the course of 35 days by one man, Jameel Syed, and he is forever changed.

“The trip was, in every single way you would categorize it, an epic journey,” said Syed, a long-time muaddhin from Michigan. “You don’t do something like this and remain the same person.”

He embarked on his historic journey on April 3, and culminated his self-described chaotic, fulfilling, overwhelming and inspiring mission more than a month later. His trek took him to all corners of the country and taxed him physically and mentally, but it ultimately gifted him with a unique and important experience.

“For 35 days I was an ambassador for the greatest ambassador of all,” he said, referencing Allah. “I met thousands of people, Muslims and non-Muslims, and it was non-stop energy. Sometimes we hit three states in one day, and I even saw a guy take his Shahada at the airport. Outside of haj, this was the journey of a lifetime.”

Syed’s goal was not only to give the Adhan across the land and sea, offering the Prophet Muhammad’s Last Sermon at each stop along the way, but he also sought to capture the largely hidden yet compelling stories of the American Muslim community, to bring them to the forefront of this American moment in time, too often characterized by distinctly anti-Muslim sentiment.

To do that, he documented the good he found in mosques all around the country, and he spoke with religious leaders and everyday Muslims along the way, asking them how they contribute to a better society.

“We have to show Islam by our nature, by being a good neighbor, and there are amazing people doing amazing things,” Syed said. “Muslims are making an impact.”

One of his most meaningful encounters was with a Muslim who is indeed making an impact even as he and his family are grappling with the worst of tragedies, the death of loved ones. That Muslim is Namee Barakat, father of Deah Barakat, the North Carolina dental student who was gunned down and killed earlier this year along with his wife Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

Members of the victims’ families are living the lesson Syed hopes to convey to American Muslims– “We have to physically engage with the community.” – with their work to remodel a home to one day serve as a safe house for women.

“(With these stories) I want to inspire Americans Muslims to do something good, to make their own propaganda amongst so much negative propaganda.”

With that in mind, he and his team are putting together a documentary of his trip and plan on debuting a five-minute clip at the upcoming national convention for the Islamic Society of North America.

But as he works to package the experiences of his recent past, Syed is also thinking to the future and his hopes for how those experiences will shape what happens next. Beyond his plans for the documentary, Syed has lined up speaking engagements throughout Ramadan in communities working to build mosques. After the month of fasting, he will be giving dinnertime speeches in conjunction with a visual presentation of his 50-state journey.

“I will be walking people through what I was feeling at the time, and this can only happen face to face,” Syed said.

He is also developing a full-day workshop and training program for others who aspire to serve as muaddhins.

The session will touch on the history of the Adhan, biographies of notable muaddhins, discussion of the Sunnah of giving the Adhan and specific how-to training to offer the call to prayer. The day-long session will end with an Adhan competition.

A marketing professional by trade, Syed said he plans to put much of that work on hold over the next year while he dedicates himself to ensuring that his journey across America will continue to spur Muslims to chart their own paths, to defy hatred and to actively shape others’ perceptions of who they are.

“Ninety percent of my energy is going to be making sure that I solidify the stories out there,” he said. “When I delivered the Prophet’s Last Sermon (in each of the 50 states), when he called for peace, unity, brotherhood, and gender and racial equality, it was a reminder that (negative propaganda) is not who we are, we are who the Prophet said we are.”

He continued, “This was something significant and humbling in my life, but my mission starts with the individual and ends with the community so I owe this to the Muslim American community to make sure this gets done.”

For anyone interested in inviting Syed to speak or to present his Adhan workshop, contact him at info@muaddhin.com.

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lamkahouan_Syed_muaddhin

Preparing to make the call to prayer in all 50 states

By Carissa D. Lamkahouan
TMO Contributing Writer

lamkahouan_Syed_muaddhinFor much of his life, Jameel Syed has been led by inspiration.

In fact, it was the inspiration and influence of a special Quran teacher he knew in his youth that helped to shape a great part of his spiritual life today – his role as a muaddhin.

“I’ve been giving the Adhan for years,” said Syed, a Michigan native. “I developed a love for it when I was in Islamic school, and he (Syed’s teacher) laid the foundation for what I would be doing for years to come.”

Of the Adhan, Syed said he still stands in awe of it despite having offered the call for years.

“It’s food for the soul,” he said. “That’s the best way I can possibly describe it.”

What’s more, Syed said the Adhan has the power to touch people, no matter their faith, which makes it all the more beautiful and powerful.

“The Adhan is engineered to pull the strings of your heart,” he said. “Whether you understand Arabic or not, when you hear the call there is a basic response phenomenon happening there. There’s power in it.”

Now, having spent years calling thousands of faithful Muslims to prayer, Syed said he wants to do more, to make his mark.

“Why not do something extraordinary?” he mused. So he looked inward, to his talents both spiritual and secular, when determining how to set himself apart.

“My son recently asked me, ‘What do you want me to be?’” Syed said. “I asked my dad the same thing when I was young, and he told me you have to use the gifts you are given, and one of the things I pride myself on is launching new ventures.”

With that in mind, on April 3 Syed is embarking on a journey across America during which time he aims to give the Adhan in each of the 50 states along the way and to recite the Prophet Muhammed’s famous Last Sermon, as well. He plans to fulfill his mission by May 8.

But he said this historic road trip – which will be by car and by plane when necessary – is not only about himself. Indeed Syed plans not only to live stream his travels on social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, but is prepared to produce a documentary of the trip to showcase and highlight the Muslim American experience from sea to shining sea.

“Right now Muslims are suffering so much in terms of how we are portrayed,” Syed said. “I want to share a positive narrative of the Muslim community.”

To do that, Syed and his team will highlight the positive aspects of the trip and pay particular attention to what is being done right in the mosques they visit.

“If there’s a women’s area that’s being property taken care of, or if a mosque has handicapped ramps, clean bathrooms and (tidy) shoe racks, then I want to showcase that,” he said, adding the documentary will also capture scenes from the road trip, that most American of rituals.

“I look forward to seeing the Grand Canyon,” he said, adding, “We’re not just talking only about Muslim communities. I want to see all the different flavors and styles (of the country). We want to capture all of that.”

And just as Syed said his dream of giving Adhan in all of America’s 50 states is not just for himself, so too is he not alone in the planning of and execution of his historic journey. He’s enlisted the help of a flagship sponsor, Life for Relief and Development, and is also seeking individual and other corporate donations to fund the trip. He’s also recruited Push Brand Marketing to handle logistics and photography along the way. The company is also tasked with uploading images and video to social media in real time.

“That’s the mechanism we need to deliver to the worldwide community,” Syed said. “I want to make my Adhan go viral because the Adhan should be heard throughout the world.”

To help Syed fulfill his goal of raising $50,000, log on to lifeusa.org/Muaddhin or visit gofundme.com/Muaddhin. people can follow Syed on Facebook by searching “Muaddhin.”

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Miladun-Nabi (s) at Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center

By Adil James, MMNS

P3218760 Bloomfield–March 21–Perhaps the controversy surrounding the blessed celebration of Miladun Nabi (s) has finally subsided in America.  While in every Muslim country the blessed date of the coming to this planet of the final and most beloved Messenger of Allah (s) is a national holiday and has been for centuries, in America for many years extremists fought against the celebration and recognition of that tremendous event.

Several mosques in the Southeast Michigan area held Miladun-Nabi (s) programs, including the Brownstown mosque, Masjid Umar Bin al-Khattab, as well as the MCWS Canton Mosque, and IAGD’s women’s group had a huge Miladun Nabi (s) program (attended by 600 sisters who completely filled both banquet halls at IAGD) as well.

I attended the particularly large Milad celebration at the Bloomfield mosque this Sunday.

Speakers and reciters included Imam Musa, Imam Lela, Dr. Asif Baig, Sheikh Ahmed Mabrouk, Khwaja Muneeruddin, Shaukat Najmi, Jameel Arif, Jameel Syed, Amir Khan, Mohammad Khalid, and Ishtiaq Jilani.

According to Jameel Arif, who sang beautiful Naath at the most recent Bloomfield Mawlid, “a lot of people were doing private programs celebrating it at their homes.”

Most of the Mawlid celebrations, however, were organized by individuals rather than by mosques as a whole–and perhaps an indication of the more religious nature of the Mawlid celebrations was the fact that they were hosted and paid for mostly by their hosts–unlike the majority of mosque events which require payment as one enters.

P3218758 Many of the local imams have been celebrating the Mawlid, including Imam Aly Lela of IAGD, Imam Muhammad Musa of Bloomfield, and Imam Sulaiman Ali of the MCWS Canton Mosque.  Imams Musa and Lela spoke at the Bloomfield Mawlid, Imam Musa speaking on the greatness of the holy Messenger, and Imam Lela advocating the showing of love for the blessed Prophet (s) by celebrating Mawlid.

The Pakistani tradition of celebrating Mawlid involves few speeches but much singing by many individual reciters who usually sing beautiful Urdu Naaths with soaring voices. 

Individual singing is the tradition in Pakistan, explained Jameel Arif, who said there’s “hardly any group singing.  We recite the Salaam at the end,” all together, “just to finish the event.”

But in a sign of the American melting pot and the presence here of many different ethnicities and vibrant cultures, the Bloomfield Milad also had several people singing Arabic qasidas, together with two speeches in praise of the Holy Prophet (s) by Imams Musa and Lela.

This year the Bloomfield mosque was very very full, almost as full as I have ever seen it, with the exception of the previous year’s Miladun-Nabi (s) when it was even impossible to find space to park, and literally impossible to find a chair to sit in inside the spacious Bloomfield gymnasium.

Dr. Asif Baig is the founding member of the Michigan Milad Committee, he explained, and he organized and sponsored the Milad celebration this year and also every year “for the past 15 years.”

This year there were fewer people at the Bloomfield Milad, but still very many; Dr. Baig estimated that this year there were approximately 600 people, and that last year there had been about 700.

P3218759 Dr. Baig explained that in the early days his Miladun-Nabi (s) celebrations had been at the Troy mosque (IAGD), and had been attended by only about 100 people, but that the number of attendees grew every year, many times growing by as many as 100 people. 

“It has been increasing and increasing and people love it, and all year long people ask me when is it going to be, who is reciting, who will be there,” said Dr. Baig.
This year the Bloomfield mosque gave the gymnasium to the Milad celebration without charging rent.

“People came from Canton, Troy, Farmington Hills, and sometimes people from Grand Rapids also,” said Dr. Baig. Reciters also came some from as far afield as Windsor.

Dr. Baig spoke highly of Imam Lela for his speech on the greatness of Prophet (s), and spoke highly of Mrs. Baig also, saying “she has been very helpful in organizing the dinner and everything.  May God bless her… And preparing the food also–I want awareness among the people of how successful the event was.”

“I feel great, it was a real spiritual boosting experience,” said Dr. Baig, “I do it mostly from love and respect for our Prophet (s), you know how wonderful the speeches by Imam Musa and Imam Lela–unless we love the Prophet (s) our Islam is not complete.”

More Milad celebrations are scheduled, including one on April 10th in Windsor Ontario, at which the famous Naath reciter Fasihuddin Suhrawardi will recite.

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