I had heard so much about Masjid-At-Taqwa, and all the controversy surrounding it, but today I would actually visit this notorious house of Allah. The Masjid, located in Brooklyn, is completely surrounded by distractions which can hinder visitors from remembering God. It is as if it is the only oasis providing relief from the nearby worldly life and the material desire of wanting more and more. Imam Siraj Wahaj, an internationally recognized speaker and spiritual leader, founded the Masjid after he converted to Islam. Inspired by Malcolm X, Imam Siraj has a very similar fearless attitude and radical belief system which challenges society. Both Malcom X and Imam Siraj Wahaj are so firm on their beliefs that not even death can break their conviction, and my father told me that Imam Siraj Wahaj has been paying five tickets daily to the city as he transmits the adhan, or the call to prayer, on a loud speaker to the community, so that Muslim and non Muslims alike can join together five times daily and answer Allah's call to prayer.
Finding parking near the Masjid on Friday is extremely difficult. Located in the midst of downtown Brooklyn on Bedford Avenue, it was founded in 1981 and at first was only the size of a bedroom in an apartment. Later on, the Masjid expanded as the nearby clothing store was bought; however, to this day the Masjid is overcrowded during the Friday prayer or Jummah prayer. I found parking as it was getting closer to the time of the Friday prayer. As my companion Bilal and I approached the Masjid, numerous beggars covered in dirt and reeking of alcohol and garbage asked us for change, and street hustlers demanded we buy their out-of-style baggy clothing which may have been popular at some time but were of no appeal to us now. I felt upon arrival like I didn't belong.
Half way down the block the adhan played on speaker; Bilal turned to me, eyes wide open in shock. He looked as if his soul rose out from his body for a moment. My heart skipped a beat and I smiled as I replied to the call to prayer "Allah is the greatest, there is no God but Allah, Muhummad peace be upon him is the final messenger of Allah, hurry to prayer , hurry to success, Allah is the greatest." We had never experienced hearing the adhan on loudspeaker in public where Muslims and non Muslims could hear, as this was the only Masjid in New York that was brave enough to deal with the consequences of doing so.
The sign outside of the Masjid is distinct from any other house of worship I had ever attended. It states the names of the mighty messengers of God such as Abraham (peace be upon him), Jesus (peace be upon him) and Muhummad (pbuh). It gave me a sense of unity along with all the creations of God, and I was enlightened to have known that all creations share a creator.
Bilal and I entered the Masjid and washed our bodies (ablution), so that we might stand in front of Allah in prayer. The majority of the attendees of this Masjid were converts; this was especially amazing because the majority of members in the Masjid in my community were born Muslim. It was an amazing sight, men of all different skin colors, many of whom had long black beards, all gathered together for the same purpose. Each man smiled at one another, exchanging greetings of peace and embracing one another with hugs. Although, I was coming from Long Island,
I felt like I was amongst my own brothers. It hit me why Malcom X said Islam was the only cure for racism.
The smell of Musk and fragrances made of oils filled the Masjid. The front of the Masjid was directly northeast facing the city of Mecca; it had a pulpit which the speakers used to address the mass. Directly behind the pulpit was the first row of Muslims, made up of community leaders and people who were knowledgeable of the Qur’an. Following the first row were many other rows made up of general Attendees of the Masjid. In the back, there were a few small offices where the educators and community leaders addressed their work; Bilal and I were amongst those in the fourth row. We all sat on the floor except for the elderly and physically disabled. I knew Imam Siraj Wahaj was not always present here because of the work he was involved in at a global scale. To my surprise, this was the first time this year he would be present in the Masjid he founded. As the brother to my right informed me of his presence today, my face lit up like a lantern in a cave.
As Imam Siraj Wahaj made his way to the pulpit, he was accompanied by two bodyguards. The guards were quit massive and their eyes were like cameras, examining the crowd forany threatening situation. When Wahaj spoke, the speaker system was actually quite low, but his words held more weight then the Himalayan Mountains. He spoke on the issue of judging others, he spoke about the teachings of Nelson Mandella, he spoke about the killings in Gaza, Syria, Burma, he spoke about the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, he spoke about the state of the society today and how it is the duty of the Muslims to work hard and set an example for others to follow. His words could move even a stone hearted youth like me into tears. I had previously watched his lectures on the Internet, although the clarity in his message was better experienced in person.
Afterwards, he stepped down from the pulpit; sobbing and sounds of worship filled the Masjid at this point. A drop of water falling from the bathroom could be heard as hundreds of men contemplated how their creator would deal with them when they returned to him. The Adhan was called again and my brothers and I stood up to answer the call to prayer. We stood in front of our Lord praising him and reciting parts of the Qur'an, we bowed to him, and we put our foreheads on to the ground as the soft carpet cushioned our knees and skull as we declared the supremacy of the creator of the heavens and the earth. Humility filled our hearts as we ended the prayer and embraced one another in celebration.
As Bilal and I headed toward the exit, the sight of men competing to donate money filled our view, and I envied them; I only had five dollars to give. I glanced at Imam Siraj Wahaj as he stood behind his guards, and changed my direction towards the pulpit to go meet him. Bilal thought I was little insane, as his guards were not letting anyone get too close. However, when I was less than two feet away from him I greeted him and he broke through his guards and hugged me. I was shocked at the amount of humbleness to this man's character. He offered me advice, saying, "My favorite groups are the ones that invite others toward Islam.” He then made a prayer for me; I have to admit I was a little nervous.
I made way toward the exit and Bilal was excited. "What happened?” he asked; I could not reply as I was too deep in the thought of applying the knowledge I had received. I then departed from the Masjid through the doors which I had entered, a new man.