Excerpted from D Magazine’s article on Dallas’ Dynamic Faith
Imam Khalid Shaheed, leader of Dallas’ predominantly Black Masjid Al-Islam mosque
When was Masjid Al-Islam founded and why?
It was officially founded in 1968. Originally, it was called Mosque No. 48 of the Nation of Islam under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad. The Temple attempted to address the social needs of black people in the Dallas area during Jim Crow. The present location was bought and dedicated by our late leader Imam Warith Deen Muhammad in 1980. The mosque was dedicated to the practice of mainstream Al-Islam and to support and service the betterment of American society.
African-Americans make up the bulk of your membership. Why is that?
We have members and supporters from different nationalities and ethnicities. We’re based in South Dallas. The area is a traditionally black area. Also, African-Americans have an Islamic legacy in their heritage. A substantial percentage of Africans brought to these shores as slaves were Muslims. And many of our attendees were part of the original Nation of Islam before converting to the orthodox mainstream Islam in 1975 under the leadership of our late leader Imam Warith Deen Muhammad.
What inspired the mosque’s Feeding Our Neighbors program?
When the Quran defines righteousness, one of the factors mentioned along with belief in God is concern for the less fortunate members of society. We provide over 10,000 meals a year. We also provided free medical screening. Our outreach program is six years old, and it operates every Saturday and Sunday. The mosque also spearheads the biannual Humanitarian Day DFW with the help of Muslims, Christians, and civic and business communities from across the metro areas. That program provides free, new and used goods and a health fair. Our overall effort is called The Beacon of Light Community Center. Our mission is to serve everyone—without proselytizing. We are encouraged by the Quran to be a contributing element for the enhancement of society and to work with all people.
How does the mosque work with other congregations in the city?
We participate in interfaith gatherings. Since our inception, we have visited and spoken at more than 250 churches in town. We participated in Thanksgiving Square World Assembly. On November 30, 2010, we were part of Dallas Independent School District’s dialogue with African-American religious leaders. We have worked with the Dallas Peace Center and contributed to the dialogue with the interfaith coffeehouse. On September 11, 2010, we hosted 12 Christian and Jewish congregations at Masjid Al-Islam seeking unity, appreciation, and tolerance.
What is the one thing you’d like someone moving to Dallas to know about Masjid Al-Islam?
Dallas Masjid Al-Islam believes in the greatness of America. We feel honored to be part of this great nation. We denounce any harm done in the name of religion. Our congregation wants to help make Dallas the greatest city in America for all people. We respect and appreciate the sacredness of all religions.