It was the summer of 1985 and inside the cubic Kaaba, there was this middle aged man next to me crying with floods of tears running on his cheeks. I had just finished my prayer inside the Kaaba. We looked at each other. He said, “I am Marghoob Quraishi from Palo Alto, California.” “I am Aslam Abdullah from London,” I replied. This was our first meeting, inside the Kaaba. Marghoob Quraishi was in Makkah attending an international conference on Islam and social change. I told him that I was there also to present a paper on media ethics. We spend the next three days together talking about almost everything that we could think of, as far as the Muslim state of affairs was concerned. He told me about a youth camp that he had initiated in California since 1958. I told him of the Arabia news magazine that I was associated with.
A few months later, we met again at the residence of Hashir Farooqi’s, a fellow journalist in London. Mr. Farooqi called me one evening and urged me to come to his home as quickly as possible, as he wanted me to meet someone from America who wanted to set up a think tank for Muslims. Without knowing that it was Marghoob Quraishi, I rushed to his residence and stayed there for almost six hours talking, once again, about the status of the Muslim community and the need to inject into it fresh thinking about the strategies of change.
The third time we met was in Malaysia, where Marghoob was attending another international conference. I was there giving a series of lectures to the university of Malay students on media ethics. It as at this meeting that he invited me to his summer youth camp. I said God willing.
I didn’t realize that the opportunity to visit him would come soon. Arabia was closed down and I found a job opportunity at the American Islamic College in Chicago. I contacted Marghoob upon my arrival to Chicago and this was the beginning of a long friendship and work.
For almost 10 years, I didn’t miss a single year of the camp he had pioneered in California. I was also with him when he organized the Muslim Student Network, an annual policy training program in Washington. We exchanged hundreds of phone calls and thousands of emails during these 18 years.
He was a tireless mujahid, always concerned about the future of the Muslim community, always worried about the dangers that lay ahead. His concerns were crystallized sharply when he founded the Strategic Research Foundation and invited me to be part of the foundation.
He was a visionary, an activist, a doer, a thinker and above all a very sincere and compassionate man. Not many people know the fact that he was the first elected president of the first ever Islamic organization started in the US by immigrant Muslims. He put his resources at the service of the Muslim community. He never sought any office or any reward for his work.His most precious contribution to the Muslim community is the annual Muslim Youth Camp – now in its 43rd year – that he founded and carried on until he met his Creator. He was a mentor to the young people who attended his camps. Many of these young people are now working in important positions in different Islamic organizations.
His second most precious contribution to the Muslim community is the Muslim Student Network that he co founded with his wife Iffat Quraishi. The MSN is the only organized effort to link young Muslim America with political America. So far, more than 150 students have completed an intense summer training program that has been offered every year since 1993. I have had the privilege to work with him almost every year. He never complained about the apathy of those who knew the importance of this work. He never criticized those who opposed him silently on this project.
In particular, Marghoob Quraishi wanted the MSN program to succeed, in order to insure the future of Muslims in America. He knew that there were many in the Muslim community who did not support this project simply because their names were not on the list of invited guest speakers. Yet he never said a word of disrespect against anyone. On the contrary, he always tried to include such people in this project. The project that he was working till he departed from this world was about a conference of scholars and activists that he wanted to organize first in London and subsequently in the US. He wanted Muslim scholars and activists to present a “State of the Umma” report to find the ways to overcome our collective difficulties. We exchanged several drafts on the proposal. I had offered him the venue of the Las Vegas Islamic Society to host such a conference, and he was keen that such a conference takes place either in March or in April. A few days before he met his Lord, he said, “I want to put together the team to finish the job, as I know I will not be here long.” How right he was in foreseeing his last journey.
His legacy will live in the youth camps, MSN, and the scholars conference that, inshallah, will take place. But more so in his daughters and son. May God bless him and elevate his status in paradise and give sabr to his family. He was a silent soldier, a real hero, a real gem whose likes are rare to be found in the US, the land of glamour and razzmatazz where Islamic work is often carried on to win a few second’s spots in the media. He created waves after waves for change, yet he never proclaimed any status – for his would be with Allah.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the editor of the Muslim Observer, Director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, and founding director of the Muslim Electorates’ Council of America.