If you had reason to open the trunk of the car driven by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, spiritual leader of the Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center located on the southwest corner of Rio Linda Blvd and Nogales Street in North Sacramento, besides the normal things that are kept there, you would find a mobile food pantry from which he regularly distributes basic food items to those in need he encounters in his travels around Sacramento. This distribution plus the small scale soup kitchen done at the Center twice a month on Sundays is part of the emphasis that the Imam and his community place on Zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Translated from Arabic as “that which purifies”, or alms-giving, Zakat is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality.
Characterized by many as the “African American mosque” in Sacramento, Masjid Ibrahim is actually a multicultural community of believers drawn from a cross-section of Sacramento’s diverse native-born and immigrant populations. The community also drawn from across the socioeconomic spectrum. The uniting force which brings them together is their shared faith, whether like the Imam, it has been part of their lives since birth, or it was made by choice at some point in their journey through life.
The mosque is looking to grow its physical structure and also its work in the local community. It closed on a vacant lot near its current location at the end of 2012. It is in the middle of a funding effort to pay for the construction of a much larger facility which will include classrooms and an industrial kitchen. The goal is to raise $1 million by the Spring of 2015, the planned date of groundbreaking. Besides having a larger place for worship and religious classes, the membership of the mosque hope to be able to provide after-school tutoring and mentoring classes for area residents. They also hope to be able to provide meals for the homeless and needy families on a larger scale than they are currently able to.
Imam Luqman Ahmad uses the inspiration of not only the Qur’an, his upbringing in the Philadelphia area and examples from his religious tradition but also the words and works of other traditions, most notably those of Father Flanagan of Boys Town fame. “I can see myself being known as an Islamic Father Flanagan in the years to come,” he stated jokingly.
The Imam has publicly taken very strong positions in his extensive writings. He has forcibly spoken out against the “thug” culture he sees present in the Sacramento community as well as the culture of alcohol and drug abuse. He has also come out openly against the messages of hatred expressed by other Islam commentators, both religious and political, around the world. Imam Luqman Ahmad sees America, while not perfect, as a country where everyone, both native-born and immigrant, can reach their full potential materially and spiritually unlike any other place in the world.
Whether Moslem or not, the Imam and his community should serve as an example for Sacramento, our country, and our troubled world.