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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Towards A Multi-Ethnic British Mosque

By Selma Cook

Masjid al-Taqwa has not actually been built yet. However, it has been on the drawing board for 15 years. The people organizing the fundraising for this project see the importance of having a masjid that is not based on ethnicity but one that will cater to the growing needs of the youth in terms of spiritual development, while providing a much needed social and recreational outlet. In 15 years, Sheikh Musa has only managed to collect about one quarter of the funds needed to build this masjid. However, in one night, they collected a huge amount. What did the speakers say to move the people’s hearts to give so generously? Read on and find out!

First on the stand was Abur Raheem Green who is a well-known and much-loved da`i for the Muslims, specifically the youth in London.

Given the growing number of converts, especially among the youth, Green began by saying, "Don’t ask yourself why you have become a Muslim, ask yourself why you stay a Muslim?" He said that Islam has bits and pieces of all religions but only Islam is the complete package. He added that when people live Islam and taste how beautiful and how powerful it is, they will know their purpose in life.

It's All About Behaviors

Then Green began discussing how Muslims relate to the "others" in the UK. He said that Muslims are living in isolation, but they have to know their neighbors, and should take time out to do that and think about them and about all those who do not know the beauty of Islam. He reminded the audience that the Qur’an tells us that Almighty Allah (Blessed is He) created man to worship Him and that every Muslim believes that we should only submit to Him and that we should believe in Muhammad (pbuh) (peace and blessings be upon him) seeking mercy, benefit and well-being for humanity. He noted that Islam is all about morals, manners and behaviors.

Then he moved on to talk about the Muslim's responsibility to their community. He mentioned how the Muslim cannot satisfy his hunger while his neighbor is hungry because a believer cares about his neighbors whether they are Muslim or not. He also mentioned a hadith saying that a person is not a true believer if his neighbor does not feel safe with him.

After this, Green moved on to some issues of great importance to Muslims living in the UK. He mentioned that Muslims must care for the orphans, the oppressed and the needy. He added that jihad means to struggle to make obedience to Allah (Blessed is He) your top priority, your family and your environment. So, how can we kill and be violent? He noted that Muslims should struggle to relieve people and protect them from weakness and oppression.

In this way, Green prepared the audience to have the spirit of giving. After all, the reason behind the gathering of more than 1,500 people, was to raise money to build Masjid al-Taqwa. In concluding, he noted that Muslims must get red of anything in life that might get in their way to Paradise. "Down size your life!" he said. "If Allah (Blessed is He) is your provider, your protector and supporter, would you need anything else?"

At the Heart of the City

The next person to take the stand was Khalid Yaseen, an American da`i from the US who was trained by Malcolm X. He was a very powerful speaker and succeeded in motivating the audience to give a lot of money to build the masjid.

He opened his speech with a loud clear voice praising Allah (Blessed is He ) then he said directly, "The idea and spirit of this event tonight is to help to implement the building of Masjid al-Taqwa which has been in the planning for 15 years. People are not giving. A major characteristic of Muslims is when people of integrity want to do something in their community, the Muslim follows and cooperates. We are talking about paying 2,500,000 British pounds to build a masjid." Then, he stopped and kept silent for a few moments.

"In the last 20 years more than 73 Islamic organizations have secured buildings in London, 64 of them were for a specific ethnic group or ideological group. So, the problem in raising money for such a building is not a real problem because it is for the Muslims.

However, Masjid al-Taqwa is not restricted to one certain group. This masjid is for the grass roots inner city in London. There is a masjid in London that cost 3,000,000 British pounds to build but only 10 people on average a day turn up there for Fajr prayer. A masjid has to be built in the heart before it is built by bricks and mortar."

Then Yaseen told a story of his recent trip to Guyana. He took a boat up the Amazon River and saw a masjid there in the middle of nowhere. There was a gathering and 1,500 people attended. Then he said, "It takes 100 Guyana dollars to make one British pound. Their masjid cost 8 million British pounds. They are poor people, some had no shoes. We eat too much and talk too much and we lack commitment." The audience fell silent.

Then he told the audience that there were about 1,500 people attending the event that night and if the people spend on the masjid like they spend on their own houses enough money will be raised.

"How many people are willing to give and contribute to this project?" The audience stirred.

"Who’ll give 10,000?" In less than a minute, one woman raised her hand.
"Who’ll give 5,000?" Eleven people, men and women, raised their hands.
"Who’ll give 3,000?" Seven people, men and women raised their hands.
"Who’ll give 2,000?" Nine people, men and women raised their hands.
"Who’ll give 1,000?" Twenty-six people, men and women raised their hands.
"We want to make 200,000 British pounds tonight!" There was a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air.

"Who’ll give 5,000?" One man shouted out 7,000.
"Who’ll give 3,000?" Three people raised their hands.
"Who’ll give 2,000?" Two people raised their hands.
"Who’ll give 1,000?" One person raised their hand.
"Who’ll give 500?" Thirteen people raised their hands.
"Who’ll give 300?" Seven people raised their hands.
"Who’ll give 100?" Thirty-six people raised their hands.

So it continued until the amount of 200,000 British pounds was raised. Volunteers went around the audience giving commitment papers to be filled out by those who pledged donations. Women were also going around the audience selling t-shirts with the words "Bringing some Taqwa to town" written on the front. There were Muslims from all walks of life and nationalities attending. With men sitting on one side and women on the other, they all took part, pleased to be making a difference.

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