SALAM Fundraiser Hears from Sufi Scholar
By Ras H. Siddiqui

Dr. Kabir Helminski
Imam Abdel Azeez

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 College.
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 true.

From left: Metwalli Amer and Mahmoud Sharif
The 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 Divine presence.
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.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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