Imam Siraj Wahaj
headlines community Fundraising Event
|February 18, 2000/Dul Qa'ada 24, 1421|
700 people attended a fund raising event for the Abraar School, a
recently established full time Islamic school serving the Muslim
community in the Nation's Capital. Siraj Wahaj, Imam
of Masjid Taqwa in New York, was the main guest speaker who motivated
the attendees to donate and pledge over $100,000.
The President of the Abraar School board said "the event was a success and it demonstrates the commitment of the Muslim community to establish alternative schooling that integrates the best of the public school system and the values and principles of the Islamic faith. He also announced plans to purchase a school building that will meet the immediate needs of the Abraar School but emphasized that, with the recent influx of Muslims to the Ottawa area, there will be an increasing demand for more space and more Islamic schools.
Siraj Wahaj, well known among Muslims in North America as a dynamic speaker and tireless supporter of Islamic causes, delivered a simple but inspiring message of self-sacrifice. Imam Siraj in his usual humourous and captivating New York accent used the analogy of the "sacrifice bunt" in baseball to bring home the concept of self-sacrifice and teamwork to achieve community objectives.
He reminded the audience to ponder over the question "why are we here?". He said "one day we will all check out. So what will we do with all this money?". Eid al-Adha and the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) is soon approaching and he used the example of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) as a symbol of sacrifice. He pointed out that over 4000 years ago Prophet Ibrahim demonstrated wisdom as in "don't be afraid of anything but be practical".
Imam Siraj encouraged the audience to remember the words of Allah (God) and His Messenger: "If you are thankful, Allah will give you more" and "I seek refuge from Allah for knowledge that does not benefit".
Siraj is no stranger to the issue of establishing Islamic schools in North America. In a pre-event discussion with him, he pointed out that "in New York city there are seventeen full time Islamic schools but 95% of the Muslim children are still in the public schools. Therefore, Muslims have to still participate in the public school system to have positive influence on education, whether they be participants in parents advisory committees or other forums.
Another speaker at the event was Yasin Dwyer, a former resident of Winnipeg, who recently moved to Ottawa. Yasin, a young and articulate speaker encouraged the audience to reflect on their responsibilities as parents and parents to be. He said " it is considered noble within this society to question everything, but we have to encourage our children to be analytical".
Yasin pointed out the challenges of being a minority but put forward the notion of self-confidence by saying " we have to believe we are the best because of our belief and our actions to do good".
The fund raising event was coordinated by Ayman Faris, a member of the Abraar School board of directors. Faris is no stranger to planning major events for the Muslim community in Ottawa. Many are familiar with the annual Eid Festival, which draws huge numbers to celebrate Eid al-fitr and Eid-al Adha, the two main annual festivals of Islam. Ayman who is responsible for public relations for the Eid Festival applied his talents to organizing the fund raising event for the Abraar School with much success. Ayman, a firm supporter of Islamic education, expects to send his daughter Ayesha to an Islamic school once she reaches school age.
The Ottawa area has been growing at a fast rate over the last two years, and the growth is expected to continue over the next five years. A great many of the educated and highly skilled newcomers are Muslim. We can expect to see many challenges and changes to the face of the Nation's Capital. How positive will the Muslim contribution be? That's the challenge facing the growing Muslim community, the great majority of whom are young and educated.
Muhammad Rashdan is doing his doctorate in biology at Carleton University
and is a regular contributor to Ottawa Muslim Network