It is uncommon for a distinguished business executive to put his professional career on hold to embark on a spiritual mission across all 50 states of America - but that is precisely the path Jameel A. Syed is currently pursuing. Accompanied by his loyal campaign manager, Yahya Sultan, Syed hopes to make history as the first man to give the adhaan (call to prayer) in 50 mosques across all 50 states.
Syed explained his aim as being two-fold: "I want to make both the adhaan along with the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) go viral, and help Muslim communities author their own narratives so others can see how we contribute to impact society in a positive way." In addition to fulfilling his personal dream, Syed hopes to share the stories of Muslim American communities throughout the U.S. via various social media platforms to peacefully combat Islamophobia and the misrepresentation of Muslims.
A native of Michigan, Syed shares a profound connection both to his country and to his faith as a Muslim American - which is one of the main driving factors behind launching his Muaddhin campaign. Although he has over 20 years of professional leadership experience working with various companies and is the founder of his marketing firm, Fluidvisions, Syed now wants to be known as "the voice heard around the world." Not only does he want to be heard giving the call to prayer, but he also wants to be listened to as he delivers the last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); accomplishing his dream full-circle. He shares that a significant source of inspiration is the essence of the Quran that encourages service to humanity. Syed states, "I want to serve God by serving humanity. Let me go and engage communities and let me help them tell their stories to others - especially when Muslims don't always have that ability to reach a broad audience."
Syed identifies the significance of the final sermon as the culmination of 23 years of prophethood in which the universal social principles of justice, equality, and unity are emphasized; therefore, he could not surrender the opportunity to call listeners back to this historical speech. Prior to the launch of his campaign, Syed explains how he searched for the most meaningful way to honor his personal link to Muhammad (PBUH) because it was in visiting his mosque in Medina which led him to formulating his vision: "Back in January of 2004 during Hajj, I was in the Prophet's mosque, and I was in front of his grave and that's where I had the idea that I would serve God through the gift that he's given me."
While he has served as a well renowned muaddhin (one appointed to give the call for prayer) for a large part of his life, his dream to reach 50 mosques in 50 states materialized a few years ago in 2004. Syed recalls how he was inspired to pursue his idea when he was seated in Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) mosque in the city of Medina. Syed stated that he was on the spiritual journey of Hajj and it was there he was inspired to make the highlight of his legacy to share the gift of the adhaan with as many people as he could reach.
"I realized that I've had my marketing firm for ten years and I've been able to work with some of the top leadership in the United States. But I just turned 40 a few months ago and as I took a look and account of what's been done, while I've taken the benefit from the companies I've served, and when I look back at the 10 years, I ask if I've done everything I could have done and I find myself in a deficit." In an effort to fill that deficit, Syed made the commitment to embark across all 50 states and use his gift to connect with the people he meets along the way.
Although his mission is comprised of fundamental Islamic components (the call to prayer and the last sermon), Syed hopes that his journey will be followed by non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Ultimately, Syed wants others to understand that Islam truly is a religion of peace and unity; a fact he wants to emphasize by documenting the Muslim communities he encounters along the way. His personal goal is to serve God by serving humanity through making this effort to help Islam gain attention in a positive and meaningful way; his personal formula to dispel untruths about Islam and it's millions of followers.
With a growing social media following, it is evident that he and his campaign manager have been successful in presenting snippets of diverse Muslim American communities through photos and videos posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. His unique campaign serves to invite others to learn and see a more accurate manifestation of the faith that their neighbors, coworkers, students, or friends practice. As a Muslim American, Syed is all too familiar with the climate of Islamophobia and hostility towards Muslims. He feels the misrepresentation of Islam as a religion that promotes violence serves as a reminder as to why the Muslim community needs to be creative in reaching the masses with an accurate representation of Islam.
Additionally he believes that every individual has something substantial to contribute, and that can be as simple as being kind to strangers or stopping to have a conversation with someone. He states, "I'm a muaddhin; I haven't memorized the entirety of the Quran, I'm not a scholar. I'm not an individual involved with the extensive imparting of knowledge. But if you want to gain the favor of God, you have to get creative"; essentially meaning that a person's contribution to the social fabric is not measured by overall perfection, but using one's individual talent and perfecting one's craft.
Syed shares that he wants to set a precedent as the first muaddhin to undertake this journey across America and hopes to inspire individuals along the way to use whatever talent a person may have to help foster a deeper understanding of all people. Traveling across the country to new and unfamiliar places is no easy task and Syed admits there have been challenges along the way in terms of overall logistics as well as grappling with the fact that not everyone welcomes his mission with open arms. However, that slight rejection only motivates him further to complete his journey because he explains that he finds solace in remembering the trials encountered by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are well documented and "nothing worth having, comes easy". Moreover, regardless of the struggles he has encountered thus far, Syed is determined to push through and finish what he set out to accomplish.
With 25 states completed since April 3rd, Syed's journey is close to being complete. He aspires to be a role model for all those who believe in serving humanity and embracing acceptance of marginalized communities. His mission to reach 50 mosques in 50 states is more than just a physical journey; it is one of unifying and connecting communities to one another in an effort to break free from hatred and discrimination of all kinds. His aim is to honor the responsibility that is attached to his title as a muaddhin: "The tradition is that when the muaddhin makes the call to prayer, everything that his voice touches, as far as his voice goes - alive and not alive, animate and inanimate, will testify for him on the day of Judgment and serve as an inteccsor. I will literally March across the entire country and make the entire country my witness."
Hira Uddin is a graduate of Rutgers University and currently reside in Houston, Texas where she works as a Qualified Mental Health Professional for youth with mental health diagnoses and severe emotional disturbances. She has also written articles for Bravura Magazine, Muslimgirl.net, The Happy Hijabi, and Ummid.com. Follow her onTwitter.
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