SALAM Fundraiser Hears
from Sufi Scholar
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Sacramento Area League
of Associated Muslims (SALAM) held a banquet and fundraiser
at its spacious Community Center to collect funds for a Phase
III (Mosque) project that includes the building of a brand
new place of Muslim worship on SALAM property at 4541 College
Oak Drive, Sacramento, across the street from American River
SALAM’s School has recently started a new Elementary
and Preschool Program (call 916-979-1933 or visit www.salamcenter.com
for details) that wants to attract more students and promises
to be an exciting chance for Muslim families in the Greater
Sacramento area to send their kids to a progressive Islamic
school. And for an organization that started off with just
a P.O. Box ten years ago and is now a locally well-known fully
functional Muslim grouping, this Mosque project is possibly
going to be a crowning achievement.
The evening program began with a Qur’anic recitation
by Dr. Metwalli Amer, Executive Director of SALAM. Dr. Arif
Seyal, Chair of the Fundraising Committee, next went through
the genesis of the organization and emphasized the need to
fund the Phase III Masjid.
Dr. Metwalli returned to present the annual SALAM Distinguished
Service Award to the Sharif family as Mr. Mahmoud Sharif came
on to the stage to receive the plaque.
The Sharifs have been associated with SALAM for quite some
time now and have helped the organization with their generosity.
Their family business, Sharif Jewelers, is quite a well-known
enterprise in the Sacramento area.
A view of the SALAM fundraiser
Imam AbdelAzeez of SALAM
is a also very recent addition to this Islamic Center. “Spend
from the sustenance that Allah has given you,” he said,
while kicking off the fundraising part of the program. He
added: “If the Prophet were to ask you to donate tonight,
how would you respond?” The young Imam was extremely
successful in his appeal and with two huge donations of $100,000
each from the Amer and the Rashid family; a total sum of over
$360,000 was collected for the new Masjid in just one evening.
The keynote speaker Dr. Kabir Helminski was introduced by
Dr. Irafan Haq. Author Kabir Edmund Helminski and his wife
Camille are founders and directors of the Threshold Society
(http://www.sufism.org/) and have been working within the
Mevlevi tradition of Sufism for about twenty years. Their
work includes Rumi: Daylight and Jewels of Remembrance, 365
Selections from the Wisdom of Rumi. Kabir’s Living Presence,
A Sufi Way to Mindfulness and the Essential Self.
Dr. Kabir said that what
he has seen in mosques and Islamic centers like SALAM has
given him hope. He said that we have freedom of expression
in this country which should be used. “We can awaken
something here that can really be a light for the world,”
he said. He said in self-criticism that our religion (Islam)
has become dysfunctional and that the dialog has to be more
open within the faith. He added that we are currently in an
incredible situation, being a community of over a billion
people. “We have a revelation which is pure,”
he said. “At the same time we are viewed by the world
as something to be feared.”
Dr. Kabir was critical of certain aspects of Institutional
Islam, for instance, of the place of women in some communities.
He said that the Ummah today is afflicted with the disease
of victimization even though some of that perception may be
left: Metwalli Amer and Mahmoud Sharif
keynote speaker with local activists
He spoke of the inner reality of Islam or the inner “Haal”
or spiritual core. “Islam is not an ethnic identity
or a club we belong to. It is a state of being,” he
said. “What Allah wants from us is his light in our
inner being,” he added. Speaking from the Sufi point
of view Dr. Kabir said that since we are filled with distractions,
we have a need to first empty and then open ourselves to the
On another note Dr. Kabir said that there was a one-dimensional
Islam spreading in the world today which stressed a behavioral
process or a legalistic framework. He was critical of this
phenomenon and offered his view on the religion. “Our
relationship with Allah is a relationship of intimacy and
love,” he said. But he retained hope. “We are
on the verge of a beautiful renewal,” he said. “The
human being is incomplete without Allah,” he added.
Quoting the Sufi poet Rumi he said, “If you want to
know love, become ‘We’ ”.
In conclusion, SALAM needs to be congratulated for raising
over $360,000 towards its Masjid Project and for inviting
Dr. Kabir to share his Sufi path with us. The Sufi poet Rumi
is read widely in the United States and his attraction for
American readers has survived a great deal of other turbulence
associated with the Islamic religion. And since there are
various paths to the Divine practiced worldwide, the universalism
projected in Sufism thought the path of love, succeeds in
adding a great deal of beauty to this journey we call life.
We thank Dr. Kabir for reminding us of that beauty.