Updated: Oct 15, 2019
A specialist in Tazkiyah and Adab and premarital and marital counselling with a Bachelor’s in Islamic Studies from the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences, Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed Faqih joins the Memphis community as the Imam of Memphis Islamic Center. Sheikh Faqih talks about the importance of enriching the youth and his plans to work with the youth to produce the future leaders of our community.
Interviewed by Naisha Choudhury
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
بسم الله الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم
My name is Mohammed Ahmed Faqih. Faqih is the family name; it was the official title of my great-grandfather who was a scholar in the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence. I was born in Ethiopia, I grew up in Saudi Arabia, and I came to America more than 28 years ago. I have been married for 20 years, and I have three children: Ahmad and Maymuna are twins, and Abdullah.
I was about to major in science when I had some difficulty getting my paperworks done so in the meantime, I went to the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America which is an institution that is affliated with Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia. It was offering B.A. degrees in Islamic studies so I went to that school and I finished my degree; my wife also went to that school and graduated. Shortly after she graduated, we got married. I’ve been an Imam in Laurel, Maryland; Raleigh, North Carolina; San Diego, California; and lastly the Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim, Orange County since 2006.
I love to teach; I love to serve communities; I love to serve people. What I’m most passionate about now is spending time with people that I love and care about. InshaAllah I am looking forward to picking up some hobbies and some things that I will be passionate about, here in Memphis. I like to fish. I like hunting, but I haven’t done that in a long time. I also love soccer!
You graduated with a B.A. from the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America. How did you deteremine that you wanted to go into the fields of Islam and Arabic?
I did not memorize the Qur’aan in high school and earn my degree in Islamic Studies because I wanted to make a career out of it. It was for my own growth, my own self development, and my relationship with Allah (SWT). I was actually dragged into being an Imam just to fill a void. When I became an Imam in 1996, I wasn’t even 21. I realized then that it is a very heavy duty and huge responsibility. At one point, I became an Islamic Studies teacher and I stopped, but I was just assisting as an Imam- as a volunteer. Then eventually, I was pushed by people. I remember there was a particular nationally well-known sheikh who, in a post 9/11 era, told me: We need to act. Many Imams are either leaving the country or some of them are too old. He told me: We need you to be full-time and that’s when I came back. It was the demand and the need that pulled me into it. I was not young looking forward to being an Imam one day. But I was inspired by my sheikh, Sheikh Abdullah Basfar, when I saw a young Physics major and haafidhul Qur’an doing a lot of great work.
Why did you choose to come to Memphis? What are your hopes for your journey here?
It was not an easy decision. But I felt that I may be able to offer something to Memphis and Memphis has a lot to offer to me and my family. Sheikh Yasir Qadhi did a lot of good work here. I saw how genuine and how sincere people are. It’s a great community with professionals who have the humility and the understanding that when Allah (SWT) blesses us with sources or elements that give us power, like education and influence, we need to give back to our community. Memphians understand that affluence comes with a responsibility to influence others in a positive way. So I felt that MashaAllah there is a good community here. Overall, I felt that Memphis or the South, is more conservative and has a good environment to raise my children. I saw examples of people who would have a good impact on my family. I made Istikhaara and something just felt right about Memphis.
In your opinion, what are some of the steps that Muslim communities across the country can take to produce young men and women that are rooted and proud of their religious tradition?
I think that the Masaajid need to start catering to the needs of our youth, treating our youth as an asset as opposed to a part of a moral issue that needs to be contained or dealt with. Youth programs shouldn’t be just another service we’re providing; it should be the reason these centers (MIC) actually exist and are established for. When we look at the youth as an asset as opposed to a challenge or something that we need to take care of, handle, or control, I think the perspective will change. That will put them, their education, and their empowerment at the top of our priorities. We should be focusing on what they need the most; I believe that in addition to education, they need inspiration. They need to be inspired; they need to be defended; they need to be accomodated; they need to be heard.
Every masjid that I have gone to, I have told the youth that: The day that I can’t make a difference in your life, that’s the day I feel my job has ended. I told a friend of mine once: What is more important than my own personal growth is the growth of the future. These youth that you and I are investing in will be one day investing in our own children. It is very important for us to continue to keep the connection with the next generation. The ones that come after us, the ones that we taught, are supposed to connect with the ones that they are teaching. The ones that they taught are supposed to connect with the ones they mentor.
In the past ten years, I think at one point, we lost about two generations. We disconnected with them. I blame myself and some of the Shuyookh because we became more preoccupied with local, national, and global issues that we lost track of many of our youth. In my community, I was trying to start (I plan to start this here) an Islamic Science Club specialized for the youth, to reconcile Islam and what the Qur’aan teaches us with what we find in science. We can resolve some of the issues and matters that arise when they go to colleges and university. I think, the more we teach theology, as opposed to activism, the better off our children are. What we are seeing now is more people losing their Imaan.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice that you’d like to share with readers who want to do similar work as you in their future?
My advice for the future Imams is prepare yourself now and this seriously; Islam and Dawah deserve the best. Invest in yourself at a young age, teach yourself leadership qualities, study hard, memorize the Qur’aan, and work on character. Character is very important. A lot of people are Masha’Allah very smart, but when it comes to character and people skills, they are lacking. One of the most devastating things is to find someone who is highly qualified when it comes to their credentials, but when it comes to their personality or manners, they are not at the same level. These people can cause damage because they connect with people, but they don’t have good manners. Allah (SWT) praised the Prophet (SAW) for his manners, and he was able to attract people through his manners and through his compassion. Abdullah ibn Salam, a Rabi, saw the Prophet and he said, I saw a man who is not capable of lying. He said, as soon as I saw him, something about him told me that he’s an honest man. So if you refine your manners, build your leadership qualities and personalities, take knowledge seriously, study Qur’aan as early as possible, and master the sciences of Islam, InshaAllah you will make a great leader.
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