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ISLAMIC ACTIVITIES IN WICHITA FALLS, TX

Introduction- We are one of the oldest Muslim education center

FIRST MUSLIM EDUCATION CENTER IN WICHITA FALLS TX

A ONE OF ITS KIND AMERICAN ISLAMIC CENTER

My name is Abdullah Shamsid-Deen, and I have worked as a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force (USAF) for the past 18 years. In October 1993, my wife (GevriyeShamsid-Deen} and I were stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base (AFB}, Texas, in Wichita Falls. One of the first few things we learned upon our arrival at Wichita Falls was the absence of a Masjid or a Muslim Community center. As we had wanted to connect and thrive with other Muslims in the State, the absence of Islamic activities and Muslim gathering centers wasn’t less than a shock for us. There was no Muslim education centerinthe area which made us upset.

Our First Meeting as a Community- An Islamic center close to me and my heart!

Al-hamdu-lillah, my wife, and I had been actively supporting both activities. Allah had blessed us to see the need to unify both efforts, if not wholly, as much as possible. On Saturday, October 19, 1996, we held our first unity meeting in Wichita Falls,which was attended by 50 Muslims.

That was our first meeting between the Muslims from Sheppard AFB and those living in the local community. Imam Fareed B. Rasheed, from Fort Sill in Lawton, has agreed to be our guest speaker. This meeting was held to take our mission here to a greater height. Then, by the grace of Allah, we joined hands to get all of the Muslims in this State to work together to advance Al-Islam and establish a Masjid. My dream of having an Islamic center close to me was coming closer!

My Journey at Sheppard AFB

When we arrived here in October 1993, we met a Saudi Arabian brother named Abdur-Rahman. Unfortunately, I met Abdur-Rahman approximately two weeks before he finished his course and returned to his native country. Abdur-Rahman had been trying to organize the Muslims at Sheppard to perform the Jumah Prayer. However, he told us that most Muslim students could not, and some did not attend the Jumah because of their class schedules; therefore, Salatul-Jumah can’t be offered every week. Also, at that time, there was no permanent facility available for Muslims to meet for the Salaat.

Acquiring an Adequate Place for Prayers

At that time, they offered the prayer in a “day room” in one of the motels on the base. When I attended the Jumah, brother Abdur-Rahman and I were the only two to show up (Allah knows best). The day room we met was definitely not the right place to pray. While we were discussing this subject, other people were in the room, watching TV and talking, which greatly affected our discussion.

Al-hamdu-lillah, immediately, I detected that it was not the proper place for Muslims to meet for such an important gathering as Salatul-Jumah. Despite that, we conducted the Salatul-Zuhr (since we didn’t have enough people to hold the proper Jumah prayer).

My Struggle Starts Here…

After Abdur-Rahman moved to Saudi Arabia, by the grace of Allah, my wife and I took the responsibility to reach Muslims out there. We made efforts by calling them on the phone, sending letters to their homes, etc., and inviting them to join me in establishing (at least) the Jumah on the base. After realizing the place where we were conducting the Jumah prayer was inadequate, we were provided with a more suitable place to hold the Jumah prayer.

After securing a good place to conduct Jumah, we encountered the same problems in getting the Muslims to attend Friday prayer. Many were in class during the Jumah time, and some were just, outright, not interested, but Al¬ hamdu-lillah. Sometimes, one or two people would come out; however, I was there only myself most of the time.

I consistently go for the Jumah every Friday, but weeks and months passed by, and no one was coming out for the prayer except me. I started spending time reading the Quran or other Islamic literature and praying the Zuhr prayer alone. Sometimes we had to travel to Fort Sill in Lawton, OK, and attend the Jumah there or travel to Dallas. This went on for about a year.

Small Initiatives Results in Greater Accomplishments!

But, Al-hamdu-lillah, due to several published articles in the base newspaper, I had become well known throughout the base. In December 1994, I received a call from an international student from Saudi Arabia named Saad AI-Harbi, who wanted to attend the Jumah Prayer. I explained to him the situation that we had a place to meet and pray, but no one had been showing up regularly or taking a keen interest in the religious studies. As he knew several Muslims on the base from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Arabs countries, he told me that as long as we had a place to meet, he would speak to those Muslims, and (ln shaa Allah) they would become a part of our sessions. Sure enough, about 7, 8, or 9 Muslims attended the prayer on the next Jumah. Brother Saad became a great influence on the other international students.

But, Al-hamdu-lillah, due to several published articles in the base newspaper, I had become well known throughout the base. In December 1994, I received a call from an international student from Saudi Arabia named Saad AI-Harbi, who wanted to attend the Jumah Prayer.  I explained to him the situation that we had a place to meet and pray, but no one had been showing up regularly or taking a keen interest in the religious studies.

As he knew several Muslims on the base from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Arabs countries, he told me that as long as we had a place to meet, he would speak to those Muslims, and (ln shaa Allah) they would become a part of our sessions.  Sure enough, about 7, 8, or 9 Muslims attended the prayer on the next Jumah. Brother Saad became a great influence on the other international students. 

He convinced them to leave their classes to attend the Jumah because following the commandments of Allah, Ta’Ala is more important. He told them they could always get with the instructor or another student to learn what was discussed in the class when they were out.

Al-hamdu-lillah, the attendance continued for several months. However, in March 1995, I went to Saudi Arabia for three months for military duties. I left Saad AI-Harbi responsible for the Muslim affairs at Sheppard AFB; however, in April 1995, Saad AI-Harbi finished his training and returned to Saudi Arabia. I met with Saad AI-Harbi while I was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; he told me that when he left Sheppard AFB, the Jumah was still being held by one of the brothers from Egypt.

My disappointment after returning from Saudi Arabia

When I returned home from Saudi Arabia in July 1995, I found, to my disappointment, that we were right back where we had started. The Jumah prayer was discontinued as all the students who were part of the prayers had left, and new ones had arrived. So, once again, my wife and I found ourselves alone again. However, we had one advantage: a room to hold the Jumah in. So, once again, we put forth our efforts to meet and reach out to other Muslims on the base, but we were unsuccessful at the core of what we had been trying to achieve.

We Got Back on the Track!

But, Al-hamdu-lillah, one day in August 1995, a brother called me to learn about the Islamic activities on the military base. This time the caller was a Muslim American named Ibrahim who was at Sheppard for training. We agreed to come together the next Friday for Jumah or the Salatul-Zuhr if no one else showed up. The first week no one came to the Jumah except him and me.

But, Al-hamdu-lillah, Allah Ta’Ala is most merciful. The following week, I received a phone call from another Muslim American named Dawuud, who was also seeking Islamic training. So, for the next few weeks, the three of us attended the Jumah together; although we continued to invite the international students, they didn’t attend any prayer or discussion.

Then, one day, I received a phone call from a Muslim from Bangladesh who was interested in attending the Jumah. Al-hamdu-lillah that brought our gathering to four. Then, one Friday, after Jumah, my wife and I was shopping in the Commissary on base, a Muslim American brother walked up to me and greeted me. He told me he was a new student and would be here for the next four months. Al-hamdu-lillah also joined us for the Jumah, making a gathering of five.

The brother from Bangladesh was instrumental in reaching out to the other international students. As the weeks went by, the Jumah attendees increased to ten to fifteen people and continued to increase from time to time. We know those numbers didn’t sound like much, but we were discussing the development of an initiative that we had hoped would grow more and more by the grace of Allah.

Al-hamdu-lillah, the Jumah continued, we have now established the five daily prayers in Jamaat, and we had started to seek a larger and more permanent building from the base official. The room where we were meeting was very small, as it could hold only about ten to twelve people. In the beginning, it was meeting our needs, but now we had the potential to grow and attract more and more people.

The idea of the Islamic Society of Wichita Falls Establishment.

In addition to Sheppard AFB, we had begun a new and (in my opinion) more crucial effort–the establishment of an Islamic Community in the City of Wichita Falls, TX. We started this initiative in Ramadan 1996. It wasn’t started by me or anyone living in Wichita Falls. (In fact, I didn’t even know that there were “civilian” Muslims living in Wichita Falls). This effort was initiated by a Tablighi Group from Dallas. One of those individuals’ mother-in-law had lived in Wichita Falls.

During one of his visits, he came with a group of brothers, and they looked in the telephone book and shortlisted the people whose names indicated that they were Muslims. They called everyone (including my wife and me) and invited us to a meeting. I was the only Muslim military member that attended; the rest were civilians.

Those brothers discussed the need and importance of us coming together to establish Islam in this area. At that meeting, we agreed to meet once a week, Sunday afternoon, for Salatul-Zuhr and a Ta’leem discussion.

Al-hamdu-lillah, Allah Ta’Ala has blessed us from that day we had been meeting. Then we started meeting in homes, but our intention and prayers were to become strong enough financially to get a building for our meetings. The attendance had dropped significantly from where we had started, but we had a core family support that kept things going.

We had maintained two separate efforts simultaneously. On the one hand, our efforts are making Muslims on the military base come together on Fridays for the Jumah. At the same time, the civilian Muslims in the local community met every Sunday for Ta’leem.

Our First Meeting as a Community!

Al-hamdu-lillah, my wife and I had been actively supporting both activities. Allah had blessed us to see the need to unify both efforts, if not wholly, as much as possible. On Saturday, 19 October 1996, we held our first unity meeting in Wichita Falls that was attended by 50 Muslims. That was our first meeting between the Muslims from Sheppard AFB and those living in the local community. Imam Fareed B. Rasheed from Fort Sill, in Lawton, had agreed to be our guest speaker. This meeting was held to take our mission here to a greater height. Then, by the grace of Allah, we joined hands to get all of the Muslims in this State to work together to advance Al-Islam and establish a Masjid.

OUR FIRST UNITY MEETING AS AN AMERICAN MUSLIM CENTER

The theme of this unity meeting was “community life,” which was really important for Muslims. During this unity meeting, we discussed organizing ourselves into a responsible Muslim Community. We were focused on raising funds for establishing a place for worship and meetings, a place for our children to come to meet and socialize with other Muslim children. We also discussed reaching out to many Muslims living in the City of Wichita Falls who had not yet joined our effort or attended our meetings. We were building an American Muslim centerthat would contribute to the Muslim community’s betterment.

While addressing the audience, Imam Rasheed, who was once a resident of Wichita Falls, mentioned that those Muslims who lived in this area before we were obligated (and tried} to blaze a path for us but, due to their circumstances, were not successful.

Imam Rasheed reminded us that Allah Ta’Ala has now placed the responsibility on us. He said that it is our duty to set the way for those who are here now and those coming after us. Imam Rasheed also told us about the Da’wah effort put forth while living in Wichita Falls. He commended the believers for the work they are doing today for the future of A-Islam in Wichita Falls, Texas, and encouraged us to trust in Allah Ta’Ala and never give up on our efforts.

Although this was our first unity meeting, we hope it will serve as the groundwork for establishing a solid and viable Islamic Community andAmerican Islamic centerin Wichita Falls. We had hoped Allah Ta’Ala would help us provide a place of worship for those living permanently in Wichita Falls and those who may come here for just a short period. Moreover, we raised the money we needed to get a building for our Muslim Center.

The idea of the Masjid Establishment

In 1998, we officially planned to establish an independent Masjid in the State. In pursuing this goal, we considered such options as leasing a suite in a shopping center, renting a house, purchasing an inexpensive building, and building a Masjid. However, it was decided by the community members at that time to buy land and raise funds to construct a Masjid.

After passing through several hurdles and obstacles to construct the building, the Masjid construction was successfully completed in 2005. However, the Masjid had later undergone several renovations and additions through charity and donations.

Support us in our efforts for the establishment of the islamic society of wichita falls!

Still, if anyone is interested in supporting our effort, please write to the Islamic Association of Wichita Falls, P.O. Box 2585, Wichita Falls, TX 76307.

Nathani's Family Contributions

The Nathani family offered to donate a water fountain for the Masjid yard; we accepted and agreed to have the fountain installed in the front of the building. Mr Nathani hired Mr. Abel Torres to do the concrete work to prepare the area for the fountain to be installed. The completion of the installation of the fountain is still pending.

The Nathani family offered to donate a water fountain for the Masjid yard; we accepted and agreed to have the fountain installed in the front of the building. Mr Nathani hired Mr. Abel Torres to do the concrete work to prepare the area for the fountain to be installed. The completion of the installation of the fountain is still pending.

Per the recommendation of Mr Nathani, we made a contact with Mr. Abel Torres to install the bricks around the Masjid building; and we gave Abel an advance payment of $5,000. However, Mr Torres defaulted on the contract (and did not give us our money back; but Mr. Nathani gave the Masjid $5,000 since he recommended the person to us).

According my our understanding, the city had issued a work permit to Mr. Torres, but later issues a “stop work” order because Mr. Torres no longer had insurance. Then, without coordinating with us, Abel Torres obtained another permit in the name of Pete Torres of Pete Construction Company to do the job. Abel told us that Pete was his brother. Pete sent some people over to start the job; however, we were not pleased with that arrangement, so they stopped working, and we started looking for another contractor to do the brick work for the Masjid.