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Masjidullah—a place for human excellence

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: Jun 26, 2014 - 12:17:46 AM

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The new location for Masjidullah returns the masjid to its roots, which include being a stabilizing force in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

PHILADELPHIA—The Nation of Islam under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his teacher, Master Fard Muhammad, goes all the way back to the early 1930s. During that 80-year period the Nation developed a reputation for its “restorative” work in urban neighborhoods across the country.

Taking its lead from that rich history, the purchase of a 30,000 square foot former synagogue by members of Masjidullah returns the Philadelphia-based masjid to its roots that include being the main “stabilizing” force in whatever community it took up residence.

Ali Salahuddin joined the N.O.I. in the late 1960s while a student at Howard University, serves as chief fundraiser for Masjidullah and was coordinator for the June 21 appearance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at a Masjidullah fundraiser.

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“We trace our history, our origin all the way back to the beginning of the Nation of Islam … Wherever the mosque is, we automatically become a stabilizing influence in the community; we have that reputation,” said Mr. Salahuddin.

Longtime imam at Masjidullah and Qu’ranic scholar Muhammad Abdul Aleem calls the house of worship “the masjid of human excellence.”

First introduced to Islam in the 1960s at Mosque No. 7 in New York under Min. Farrakhan, Imam Aleem, during an exclusive interview, said he joined the Nation of Islam because “in Harlem they were the brightest light.” “I processed because I wanted to be with the men. I thought Muslim men were dressed so elegant, standing upright and taking care of business,” he said.

Giving honor 0to the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Imam Aleem said, Masjidullah during its 30-plus-year history under the leadership of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, “We were the only place you’d come to Jumu’ah and you’d hear the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s name mentioned. We respect and honor him, (because) the Qur’an says to reverence the womb that bore you.”

Purchased in May 2013 for $1 million and with nearly another $1 million for renovations, Masjidullah is the largest masjid in the Tri-State, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, region.

In addition to the masjid, the campus includes a 14-room office building and a one-quarter acre parking lot. The “musallah,” or prayer area holds 1,200 people. In the same building is a school with 14 classrooms, a banquet hall and an industrial kitchen capable of providing food for special events. The building has a stage that allows for small shows, spoken word performances and jazz concerts.    

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A New Orleans style live band June 19 led a nearly 200-person procession into the new home for Masjidullah, which was holding a dedication ceremony over an historic weekend of unity and celebration.
To solidify its place in the West Oak Lane/Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, Imam Aleem said plans call for purchasing and renting out real estate in surrounding neighborhoods. The members of the masjid have also sat down with local politicians, like Councilwomen Marion Tasco and State Rep. Dwight Evans, to find out what can be done to be of service in the community.

“We really want to make our own Muslim politicians,” Imam Aleem said. “We want to make our Islamic footprint here, and also to increase our Islamic sphere of influence,” said the imam emeritus of the masjid. 

The resident imam at Masjidullah is Mikal Shabazz, who told The Final Call he “came into the religion of Islam (as a teenager) by way of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1969.”

Imam Shabazz, who has a degree from Drexel University in Chemical Engineering, said his educational achievements were the result of reading Elijah Muhammad’s words in the Muhammad Speaks newspaper. What really inspired me was the paper’s consistent encouragement, through articles and various visual pronouncements, to qualify one’s self, said the imam.

“We’re going to build this Nation, and we need qualified people,” was a constant reminder in the pages of Muhammad Speaks, he said.

On top of his responsibilities to the Believers at Masjidullah, Imam Shabazz is a senior environmental engineer with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The purchase of the edifice, according to Imam Shabazz, “represents another step in a long journey towards our quest for freedom, justice and equality.”

This quest, the imam said, actually began when man was created. “He wanted to be free from limitations ... Free from limitations that were imposed upon him by other people. He wanted to express his God-given ability in such a way (as) to glorify and exemplify the power and the glory of almighty God,” said Imam Shabazz.

In terms of the long term “desire to have a full expression of the Islamic movement in all of its dimensions,” Imam Shabazz said, “It started really with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.” It started with him saying, “‘we want a piece of this earth that we can call our own.’ ”

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