Juniata/Hunting Park: Teaching Islam And Serving The Community
Shireen Hammoudeh has been preaching about Islam since she became a teacher at the Muslim American Society Center in 2003 (MAS). Her mission has been to empower the youth and pass along the teaching of the last prophet in Islam, Muhammed.
What is MAS?
MAS, the Muslim American Society is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, that is a dynamic charitable, religious, social, cultural and educational organization. MAS offers unique programs and services that seek to better the individual and in turn, the greater society by imparting Islamic knowledge, promoting community service and much more.
How long have you been a member?
When MAS started in 2003 at its old location near North Howard street, I was first asked to start teaching children and youth members how to memorize verses from the holy Quran. In 2005 once MAS moved to its more spacious location on East Luzerne in the Juniata/ Hunting Park area my role at the Mosque and in the Muslim community became more known.
What role do you play at the MAS Islamic Center?
I am currently an Islamic studies teacher, mentor in the youth program and committee member of MAS. The current title given to me is assistant director where I help promote community service events such as, clothing drives for Syrians, visiting nursing homes, neighborhood cleanup, free school bags giveaways, feeding 1,000 Philly officers, ESL classes and flu shots. Everything we have at the Mosque is for everyone, not all of it is just for Muslims. Which means we bring a diverse crowd from Hunting Park and Juniata area.
Why do you teach Islam?
I love Islam with all my heart and know it’s the true way of life, I was blessed to have individuals that inspired me to seek knowledge, love and appreciate being a Muslim and living my life practicing Islam in the best way possible. I want to share my love and gratitude for Islam by teaching others the beauty of Islam. By teaching the youth clubs such as the girls club I currently give lectures too. I’m able to teach and connect with young Muslim girls and women who then teach what I have taught them.
Would you say teaching is your passion?
Teaching Islam is not just my passion it is also my deepest desire. I know this because I think about spreading Islam all the time and I always want to do more, all for the sake of my Lord, Allah. I’ve always felt this connection and as I became more educated in the teaching of Islam it inspired me to spread the teaching of our last prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him. When I teach toddlers about Islam it teaches them right from wrong, sharing, caring, happiness and the values and morals Muslims should have.
Would you consider yourself a community leader? Why?
I consider myself a determined human on a mission to better this world by inspiring others to be the best they can be through Islamic knowledge, teachings and examples. I teach everyone and anyone, every two weeks I have a session for people who converted to Islam and are just beginners in the faith.
If young women and girls look to you for advice, what would be your advice to them?
My advice is to seek knowledge about Allah, your religion and how to make yourself a better person every day. To have pure intentions and a clean heart. To strive to obey and fulfill the obligations that Allah has given us while being thankful for it, to follow the perfect example Allah blessed us with, the sunnah (way of life) of our beloved prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Ultimately, what impact do you hope to have on the MAS Islamic Center?
My dream is to show the community the true beauty of Islam and leave a mark in everybody’s heart just like I have in mine. To help everyone realize how truly Allah is so gracious and merciful and is always there for us. To never ever lose hope in Allah’s love and care for us and to always seek his love and forgiveness and to always do our best to get closer to Allah, the more we try the better for us.
– Text and images by Yafa Dias & Jensen Toussaint.