They took the challenge very seriously and resolved to create a stronger foundation for their children to maintain their Islamic identity and values. Along with this challenge was that of the parents’ own lack of knowledge of Islam. They realized that without a well-rooted understanding and practice of Islam themselves; they would be ill-equipped to impart the much-needed strong Islamic values to their own children. These parents, when growing up, were bound to the values and practices prevalent among their own societies, and were still part of a cultural milieu present at the time in their own countries. They felt the need to gain Islamic education in order to convey accurate Islamic values and ideals. These challenges had to be met, and thus, the young parents began the journey to where we are today.
It became apparent that the starting point in this Herculean task would be to first impart Islamic education to the numerous Muslim families. During the summer of 1977, Br. Sultan Mohiuddin invited some brothers and sisters to his house in Livonia to discuss the initiation of an Islamic study circle in the western suburbs of Detroit. Those who attended that first meeting included the late Br. Mohammad Ismail, Br. Abdul-Latif Kasu, Sr. Suraiyya Kasu, Br. Jabir Baig, Br. Syed Ahmed Baghdadi, and Br. Mir Qudrat Ali and his wife Sr. Ayesha Batool. Br. Qudrat Ali, who had been participating in the Troy community study sessions, advised the group on their logistics. It was then decided to start similar weekly meetings for the purpose of providing a source of Islamic education for the local Muslim community members and their children.
The study sessions were held every Friday evening. The first regular study session took place at Br. Kasu’s house in Livonia, and among those who attended were Br. Bashir Ahmed Khan and his family. In the subsequent weeks, there were times when the participants were disheartened by the low attendance. Br. Basheer encouraged the group saying “We have started a good thing to please Allah SWT and benefit from His pleasure. It’s essential that we maintain consistency in our weekly study sessions. Allah SWT will help us and this community will, insha’allah, grow.” Soon after, a core group was assigned to call and remind existing members of the weekly programs and to invite new members. By the blessing of Allah (SWT), more and more members of the community began attending the study sessions and the circle began to grow. Each member volunteered his/her assistance through opening his/her home to conduct sessions, providing finances to meet expenses, and giving time to make the various programs successful. Br. Asim Hussain, who had joined the group at a very early stage, soon became the leader of the study sessions. At his suggestion, participants came prepared with something to contribute. For example, Br. Ismail usually led our Salat; Br. Jabir Baig was in charge of ‘Nazera’, or the art of reading the Holy Quran properly; and Br. Sultan was responsible for children’s education. Alhamdulillah, as the participation grew, the expanding community had to be accommodated by renting the Bryant Junior High School on Merriman Road in Livonia.
Naming and Registering MCWS
With the community’s growth and incoming donations that could be made tax-deductible, there came a need to register with the State of Michigan as an official non-profit organization. At Br. Kasu’s suggestion, the name ‘Muslim Community of the Western Suburbs of Detroit’ (MCWS) was adopted, and the constitution of IAGD of Troy tailored to fit this community. Br. Mohammad Ismail became the first president of the MCWS; Br. Bashir Ahmed Khan, the Vice President; Br. Abdul Latif Kasu, the Treasurer; and Br. Sultan Mohiuddin became the Secretary. The early MCWS elections were very simple affairs. Everyone was usually elected unanimously. As the group grew in size, it was clear that most community members were involved through the Islamic educational and recreational activities rather than participation at the organizational level. As a result, the original elected members formed the initial core of management and remained active in organizing the group for a long time. The first sister who was elected to the Board of Directors was Sr. Hajira Zahoorullah. It was she who took on the responsibility of matters regarding the sisters in the community.
Fund Raising Dinners
Community fund-raising dinners were regularly conducted and brought about the unity and involvement of members. The sisters always played a very important role as they took on the difficult task of food preparation for the large gatherings. Br. Ahmed Hussaini carried out the responsibility of inviting guest speakers to come and share their experiences as well as help raise funds for the community to have a facility of its own. Among these valued speakers was Br. Omar Farooq Abdullah, Imam of the Muslim House of Ann Arbor, who occasionally provided tafseer lessons of the Holy Quran. Br. Farooq’s three hours of tafseer of Surah Al-Asr at Br. Khursheed Hussain’s house was a very memorable event. There was also Br. Ali Behazadneah and Br. Muzzaffar Partowmah, both of whom took a very active part in the tafseer sessions, and Br. Mustansir Mir, who began conducting them regularly.
Also among these notable speakers were – Br. Nayeem Siddiqui of Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan, Br. Yousuf Islahi of the Jamaat-e-Islami of India, Br. Abdus Shakoor from Detroit, Br. Khalid Saleem and Imam Jawwad Chirri from Islamic Center of Detroit, Imam Khabeer from Windsor, Br. Syed Salman of Troy, and Br. Ahmed Hussaini from Livonia. The visiting speakers from abroad provided an insight into experiences and perspectives from within their own countries. This was important to the Muslim community as it gave them an opportunity to grasp and appreciate their solidarity with the diverse Muslims in other lands.
Search for a Facility
As time passed, the Muslim community continued to progress and expand, and the need for a facility of its own became increasingly apparent. Short and long term goals regarding the facility requirements were developed. The short term goal was to provide the community with a place to congregate and worship as well as to provide a weekend Islamic school for children. Long term goals included running a full time school for children, having a place where the seniors could gather, and having our own funeral home.
The Muslim Communities in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Dearborn and the Syrian Community of Walled Lake worked closely with MCWS towards combining their own facility goals with those of the MCWS. A facility coordination committee was formed from among these communities and commenced on a difficult quest of finding and settling on the perfect facility for MCWS, which might accommodate the goals of all involved.
Several facilities were considered, some of which were simply not approved by the MCWS General Body. Examples included a school in Dearborn Heights on Ann Arbor Trail, a school in Westland, a church in Westland, and a church on Middlebelt Road in Livonia. Other options were not feasible, such as the church in Farmington Hills whose zoning as a Masjid and a full time school could not be obtained. Then Br. Saleem Khalid very graciously offered the use of their masjid, Masjid Al-Mumineen, in Detroit. MCWS did not take up this offer and merge with the Muslim Community of Detroit. Unfortunately, Masjid Al-Mumineen was eventually closed, as the families that had started it were unable to meet the financial obligations of the building. Working with the Muslim Communities of the surrounding areas was very significant in that it provided an opportunity to share experiences and an opportunity to unite. Even though it seemed unfortunate at that time that these combined efforts did not materialize, it now seems that Allah SWT had better plans for all of us. All these individual communities are thriving in their own surroundings with expanded programs and suitable facilities.
A private group within MCWS community along with Br. Syed Salman of the Troy community tried to purchase a closed out school located in Farmington Hills. The school district that was selling the school discriminated against this group in the sale of the building. Because of this, it was brought before Federal Court and the group was awarded $30,000. The proceeds went toward payment for Br. Abdeen Jabbara, attorney for this case, and about half of the money was donated by the group to MEC (Michigan Education Council) of Canton.
Land Purchased in Canton
Finally, thanks to the efforts of a small group of individuals including Br. Mahmood Abdul Hai and Br. Syed Waqar Ahmed, a small piece of land was purchased in Westland with the purpose of constructing a masjid on it. Since construction on this land could accommodate the Masjid only, there was no room for a separate full time school for the children. Much time had passed since the conception of the MCWS and its goals, and the new situation initiated a debate within the community. Many felt that both the short-term facility needs of an operating Masjid and weekend school, and the long-term goal of operating a full time Islamic school must now be combined. Others did not agree. Ultimately, the community decided to combine the short term and the long-term facility goals in just one facility.
Since about 10 acres of the purchased land were paid for by the MEC Trustees, MEC was to undertake the construction, establishment, and management of a full time Islamic school that would include a prayer hall. MCWS at large would have the right to use the prayer hall, the gymnasium, the kitchen and the parking lot.
The community continued to grow and connect through services and activities as a whole. One of these frequent activities included the recreational picnics, usually at Kensington Park and sometimes at Delhi Park, for which the efforts of organizing by Br. Abdul Hafeez were much appreciated. The picnics opened up opportunities to further consolidate the community and were always memorable through the sports, food, and especially the congregational prayers and small Islamic discourses on the lawns of the park.
The Muslim community became a resource within itself for Muslim children, youth, and adults to identify and unite amongst themselves as they increased their knowledge and came together for seminars, weekly study sessions, recreational sports, and ongoing educational opportunities. As the community was gradually maturing, its cultural expansion had also taken an Islamic flavor, with a noticeable inclusion of Islamic values during births, graduations, weddings and funerals within the community. By the grace of Allah (SWT), Islam had wrapped around the full cycle of community life. The Muslim community has seen that the more it strives towards Allah (SWT), the more it has been rewarded and blessed, insha’allah, in both in this world as well as in the Hereafter.
Almost all the little toddlers from 1977 have acquired high levels of university education. Through the community, they gained Islamic education and a Muslim identity, and went on to participate in the Muslim Students Association activities within the university campuses. By the grace of Allah SWT, this insulated them from many of the social problems that a lot of kids experience during the course of their school and university lives. By the grace of Allah (SWT) the deficiencies that the founders of MCWS felt in 1977 have to a large extent been overcome. The community’s young generations are better versed in Islam than were the founding pioneers of the community when they were young. The MCWS community has played an important part in providing an extended role that is typically available in Islamic countries. It has provided the children of the community an opportunity to not only maintain their Islamic identity but also gradually take over the responsibilities of running the Islamic community. The pioneers of the community always prayed to Allah SWT to grant their future generations the faith, wisdom, and courage to succeed, and to guide them in following the footsteps of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah SWT’s peace and blessings be upon him) in establishing a stronger, larger Muslim Community. May Allah (SWT) continue to answer their prayers and strengthen this Muslim community, as well as all others, in faith, action and brotherhood for His Sake. Ameen.
Note: The above information is provided by one of the early pioneers of this community. If you feel there is anything missing, please send us an email at [email protected] and we will review and update it Insha’allah.