The few who know me personally, know I have a fascination and love for “ghetto” neighborhoods and giving dawah to the people there. Any city I visit, I’m always asking about the ghetto areas and how to get there. Some think I’m crazy, but I just feel the need to help these people because Islam has many solutions for their problems. They don’t need to look at the Hip Hop or sports stars to get out. The just need to get out with Islam. Which brings me to an amazing community that is unheard of, for the most part, outside the DC area in the Maryland-Virginia suburbs and most definitely the entire country.
‘Asr time was almost ending and my wife and myself were in DC enjoying the beautiful weather. I remembered there was a masjid in South East DC that my wife had been to before for a wedding. For those who don’t know SE (South East) is the ghetto of DC. If you told the average resident of the Maryland-Virginia suburbs that you went to SE DC, they’d probably react with the “OMG” and then some stereotypical question that involved robbing, fried chicken, drugs, street corners, boarded up houses, etc. Alhamdulillah for Islam and alhamdulillah we are Muslims. I put my foot to the pedal and we were off to Masjid al Islam in SE DC.
Getting there was not fun. The roads reminded me of the BQE (NYers know what I’m talking about) and the local streets were the typical looking blocks of Brooklyn or Queens. Again, alhamdulillah, not to worry because we’re going to connect with Allah (swt). So a few craters on the road can’t hurt.
We arrived at Masjid al-Islam just as ‘Asr time was pretty much over. We saw Muslim children playing outside as we walked up to the masjid. There was an elderly man outside in which I greeted. He returned the greeting with a nice big smile. We went inside and I saw the sign for brothers wudhu area and I went there, and my wife disappeared to where the women’s section was (or at least I thought she was gone, read on to find out how we reunite). Bathroom was the average masjid bathroom facility, but better than average in cleanliness, mashaAllah.
As I made my way to the musalla, I passed by some pictures of young Muslim children. Then I passed a classroom and a table full with lectures from many speakers. At this point I’m thinking to myself: “They have a school. They produce lectures. Who are these guys? Why haven’t I heard or seen any events in the DC-MD-VA area?”
I continued on to the musalla feeling ignorant not knowing anything about this community and on my way I pass a huge professional copy machine. What? They even got their own copy/printing machine! Usually only the big community centers with more than one jummah have these type of machines, not a masjid in SE DC. There were also some network cables connected to it, so I know they have some techie people in here. That got me excited, because at least I know they must have some web presence.
I got to the musalla and it was huge mashaAllah. From the outside I couldn’t tell, but when I walked in, I felt like I was in a “real” masjid (real meaning with a dome, minaret and the rest of the whole nine yards of the typical masjid with Islamic architecture). I started to look around, but was diverted to facing one area, after realizing their was a niqabi sister praying at the back of the musalla. I focused my attention on a brother reading and then preparing for ‘Asr. I quickly entered into the state of prayer and began. After completing ‘Asr, I turned around to see my wife making her salah right there. I then realized that the men and women pray in the same musalla with absolutely no divider at all. That impressed me, because it is rare to find a community that is following the musalla for women and men exactly like the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Upon leaving the masjid my wife and I met a few brothers walking in. They all had long beards, kufis and thoubs or regular clothing. They greeted us with big smiles and one of the brothers said “you’re not staying?”. I responded that we were in the area and we came to pray ‘Asr. Then the brother explained that the first Saturday of every month is family night and we were invited to come. I responded saying we couldn’t stay tonight, but inshaAllah now that we know, we will try to attend the next one.
Walking to the car, I looked at my wife and said “Family night?”. What masjid does this? I’ve heard of halaqahs, lectures, dinners, programs, classes, etc. but never “family night”. On a continuous basis too.
After doing some research with Shaykh Google, I realized the brother I spoke to when leaving was Imam Abdul Alim Musa who is the Imam of Masjid al-Islam and the Amir of the Sabiqun movement in DC. I listened to some of his lectures available on YouTube and many of them are extremely powerful and profound, especially for youths in urban and city neighborhoods.
I’ve saved this for the last, but as I was doing my salah, some brothers came up to the musalla to talk to the brother who was originally there before I came up. One of them spoke and said “He wants to take shahada.” After chatting with a few people about this community, one brother told me they have converts on a weekly basis.
To sum it all up, I’d say I just experienced 100% home-grown Black American Islam straight form the Qur’an and Sunnah. This blog post wouldn’t explain it, but my heart felt at peace at that masjid.
May Allah (swt) continue to bless this community. May Allah (swt) preserve Imam Abdul Alim Musa. May Allah (swt) continue to uplift this community in such a unlifted surrounding. Ameen.