Adrian Ashir Kirk
A father, husband, entrepreneur, and teacher, Adrian Ashir Kirk talks about the developments at Midtown Mosque, as well as several initiatives he is driving. A man of community, Ashir Kirk finds himself working on his web company when he’s not teaching tajweed. He speaks on the Memphis Muslim community, where it should head next, and what we as Muslims can do to strenghten our rapidly increasing network. And finally, he ties it all together by telling us life lessons that can be derived from his work but can nevertheless be used in the community.
Interviewed by Ata Amro
For those who haven't had the privilege to meet you, can you tell us who Ashir Kirk is?
My birth name is Adrian Kirk but I go by Ashir. The reason for my "non-Islamic" name is due to the fact that my mom became a Muslim when I was a year old. So, I already had the name Adrian. She decided to give me the name, "Ashir" as a Muslim name but never changed it legally. Later on, as I got older, I also decided to leave it. But I still tell people to call me Ashir most of the time.
I'm a 32 year old father of many daughters and one son, a husband, entrepreneur (I own a web development and branding company), and Quran & Islamic Studies teacher at the Midtown Mosque and Pleasant View School in Memphis, TN. I studied Quran, Arabic, and Islamic Studies in Damascus, Syria for 4 years and then went on to further my Quranic studies in Morocco for another 2 years.
Midtown Mosque has led the way in community service initiatives, with food pantry endeavors and a community garden to name a few. Can you describe what you think a mosque's obligation to its community is? Do you believe the Memphis Muslim community has some work to do in this regard? If so, what do you suggest the community could improve or address?
I believe that a mosque's obligation is to take care of the community around it. We have to serve the needs of the population around us regardless of their race or religious background. Serving the community can come in different forms, however. We [Midtown Mosque] chose to focus on 3 main things; community service, da'wah (inviting people Islam without force or coercion), and continuous religious education for our regular attendees and whoever else would like to benefit. We believe that proper knowledge of our religion is necessary to properly be able to serve the community. We find our examples in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and, of course, the Quran, first and foremost. Not only do we encourage continuous religious education, but we also encourage formal education (knowing our history, for example), staying up to date on current events in the country and, especially, the local community and Memphis at large. If you want to serve properly you have to know what's going on in your city.
As founder of the Measured Tones Institute of Quran, what can you tell us about the program?
Measured Tones Institute of Quran is a project that I have been trying to get off the ground for a very long time now. It's geared towards educating people on the proper recitation of Quran as it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is a science which is called Tajweed. I finally got my YouTube channel and Instagram accounts up and running and providing regular content, by Allah's permission, finally. I plan to produce hundreds of videos of content teaching the proper recitation of Quran from the bare bones basics of reading Quran to full-blown advanced Tajweed concepts as well as fun, interactive videos. Eventually, I would like to introduce a short study abroad Quran program in the summer. But that's a long-term goal, in shaa Allah.
The Memphis Muslim community is growing fast. In a relatively small amount of time, we have expanded tremendously. However, with this growth comes more responsibility to address issues on a social scale. What do you think the Muslim community in Memphis has uniquely addressed? And where do you think the community has some work to do?
I'm not sure if the Muslim community in Memphis has addressed anything "unique" per se. We do a lot of feeding but everybody is doing that here because hunger is a major issue in Memphis. I guess one thing that may set us apart from other religious institutions is the fact that we plan to open a combined food pantry and grocery store in the same space. We also have our own bee hives from which we harvest and sell local honey to the community. Now, one thing that we need to be addressing that we currently don't do very much is mental health within the Muslim community. Muslims are far behind when it comes to dealing with mental health. The reasons vary but, regardless of the reason, we are far behind. Because of this, we have planned to bring in a couple of mental health experts, who happen to be Muslims, to do a youth mental health training for people in the Muslim community who deal with young people on a regular basis. This training will be held on Sunday, June 30th, 2019 at Pleasant View School. Participants will be trained for 8 whole hours and will receive a certification at the end if they attend the whole 8 hours. We hope this will start the process of breaking away from the stigma attached to mental health and dealing with it properly, both in ourselves and in our youth.
Tell us about Design Pro Web Solutions. How has the experience as an entrepreneur been? Are there any lessons from business that can be applicable to life in general?
Owning my own business has been a real journey and learning experience. I went from not knowing about running a business to now being able to consult people on how to start and run their own businesses. It's very empowering yet it can really beat you down at times. My company specializes in web development and branding as well as a few other digital services for businesses. I really enjoy taking a business or organization from concept to reality when it comes to these things. Me and my family also own a commercial cleaning company which specializes in cleaning medical facilities. Our hope is to scale both of these businesses in the coming years, in shaa Allah, and use the revenue to support ourselves as well as our community.
Is there anything you would like to say to the folks of the Memphis ummah?
I would like to, first and foremost, thank the Memphis community for their support of Midtown Mosque and its projects and encourage them to continue supporting! Our plan is to continue to scale our operations in the community to unprecedented levels, in shaa Allah, and we recognize that we can't do it alone. I would also like to shout out the food pantry, which is titled “the Table Spread,” which is on the second Saturday of every month. Please do try to attend one of our distribution days! There are so many things we want to do but we're taking things one project at a time. We hope to have everyone along with us on this noble journey all the way to the end.
Get Connected with Ashir:
Midtown Mosque: (203) 435-5992