By Muaz Inam
Many responsibilities rest on the shoulders of American Muslims. We struggle with balancing the needs of upholding a tradition of scholarship while remaining relevant in the face of modernity. Often the lines are blurred and our attentions are misappropriated. We are faced with two distinct classes—a class fixated on upholding a very scholarly tradition, but devoid of relevance and incapable of addressing the social challenges of a modern American Muslim community; and a more prevalent class of American born Muslim activists with an unparalleled passion towards social reform, however because they are not grounded in the traditional normative religious sciences, they are ill-equipped to meeting those challenges in an Islamic light.
Qalam Institute’s full-time program seeks to fill the gaping hole and bridge this gap. The program is designed to attract students who are activists in their communities, and equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to address the challenges of the American Muslim community. By no means will our students be proclaimed scholars of the religion, rather activists and leaders in their communities who are well-versed in the normative tradition and well-equipped to address the social needs of their communities in an Islamic light.
This is achieved through the triumvirate of normative Islamic scholarship, community service, and leadership workshops, all of which are indispensable for the development of the American Muslim activist. Under the tutelage of Sheikh Abdul-Nasir Jangda, every class increases and broadens our understanding of the normative religious sciences (Qur’anic exegesis, jurisprudence, the prophetic biography, etc.). We are also familiarizing ourselves with the community through weekly sermons and talks to local community centers and college campuses, as well as engagement with local service initiatives like the Ma’ruf Refugee Center. Qalam Institute’s students are often visited by Muslim activists from countries and cities all over the world who share with us their initiatives and projects. We learn of their challenges, benefit from their insight, and grow inspired by their success.
Qalam Institute also hosts weekly workshops for the students which are themed around community leadership. Workshops will cover topics ranging from Managing Debt and Public Speaking to Event Planning and Conflict Resolution. These workshops shed light on the Prophetic tradition of service. It provides for us a holistic understanding, and brings relevancy to the traditional sciences of Qur’anic exegesis, jurisprudence, prophetic biography, etc.
The first few months of the program have been overwhelming, but they were incredibly insightful. I pray that through the completion of this program I and my fellow students will be a means of great benefit to our communities. We pray that this initiative will be a means of bridging the gap and creating a new class of well-grounded activists who are well-equipped to address the pressing social and spiritual needs of Muslim communities across America.