Fundraiser for Expansion of Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery Project
By Ras H. Siddiqui

Every immigrant community which has come to America has had to create its own cultural space. This land of opportunity has attracted people from just about every part of the globe, people who have brought with them their cuisine, cultural heritage and religious backgrounds. Much of this influx has already been highlighted in the “melting pots” or “salad bowls” of the American landscape as new communities have arrived, grown and integrated while still retaining some of their original uniqueness. The media here continues to discuss many issues which almost all cultures face in the assimilation process with the possible exception of the final step in our new lives which has to include the fact that not only do we come to live and grow in the United States but in the process we also die here while putting down roots. 

Muslims in America are no different from other immigrants who have thrived here. A recent event in Sacramento, California held at the local SHAZ Restaurant addressed this issue at length and in the process held a fundraiser to expand the services offered at the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery (GSMC) located at 6330 Eagles Nest Road in Sacramento, California. Since the area has some of the oldest South-Asian (Pakistan-Indian) Muslim communities in the US, the graves of many ancestors, some over a century old, can still be found scattered in area graveyards.  Now Muslims in the area have their own graveyard and an expansion of its facilities requires immediate attention.

The final resting place for Sacramento area Muslims at GSMC is in need of: 1) A Prayer Hall. 2) Ghusul/Prep Room for washing the body before burial. 3) Ladies Waiting Room. 4) Rest Rooms, and 5) A Wudu Area.  At present parts of the final rites are carried out at local area Mosques because there is no provision for these services at the cemetery itself. And this fundraising gathering was in part an effort to rectify this situation so that families can say a dignified farewell to their departed loved ones at the graveyard itself.

Imam Mumtaz Qasmi started the proceedings with the customary invocation. Syed Khasimuddin next made the necessary introductions and gave a background of how this necessary service for our community has currently been carried out. He informed the goal was to keep burial costs low and in accordance with our religious beliefs.

Next, Dr. Najme Minhaj gave a detailed view of the project after recognizing the valuable services of some local personalities, especially Essop Khan. He said that the land for the cemetery was purchased in 1995 and Phase 1 was completed in 1999. He added that out of the 14 acres purchased, the usable part was around 12 acres. He also went into the specifics of how the gravesites are prepared and the costs involved. He also mentioned the fact that with the growth of the Muslim community in the Sacramento region, the need for burial services has grown accordingly. He said that the purpose of Phase 2 now is to centralize the burial process for the community at the cemetery and to make it more convenient, efficient and safe.    

Founder of the local Shifa Clinic Dr. Mohammad Habib Khan next elaborated on the need for this effort.  “I don’t have to tell you how important this project is,” he said. And from that point onwards a handful of speakers shared their personal perspectives, spotlighting the issues they faced when their loved ones passed away. Some especially moving moments were shared about their loss, of those who are currently buried at this graveyard. Tariq Munir, Ammar Ghori and Javed Siddiqui were amongst the speakers who shared their thoughts with the gathering. 

Area residents and families are requested to visit the GSMC website or call Essop Khan at 916-925-2662 or Imam Qasmi at 916-443-5167 / 916-214-5167 if they have an immediate need for cemetery services.

(In memoriam: Tahir Hasan Siddiqui, affectionately known as “Papa” who passed away recently at the age of 90 and is buried at the GSMC)

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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