Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 24 April 2006.Phone: 401-861-8896
Activities and ScheduleFive daily prayers Friday: Jum’ah prayer and khutba at 1:00 P.M. Sunday: children’s school from 12:00 P.M.-2:00 P.M. Monday-Friday: Arabic classes and social functions at variable times, please call for details.
HistoryWith a quick glance, one may miss the silently nestled Muslim-American Dawah Center on the 2nd story of 247 Lockwood Street. However, this subtle exterior belies the remarkable activism for community service and social change for which the center strives. This community has a very fascinating past along with a vibrant and inspiring future. The members, under the national leadership of Warith Deen Muhammad, are converts from the Nation of Islam (NOI) to Sunni Islam. The community’s NOI roots in Providence date back to 1952, when Martin’s Barber Shop on Winter Street along with other homes were used as meeting places for NOI members until a regular place could be established at 312 Prairie Avenue. However, following Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975 and Warith Deen’s redirection of the community, the congregants physically and spiritually left the NOI at 312 Prairie Avenue and established Masjid Al-Razzaq on 234 Pavilion Avenue as their new home from which they could begin practicing their new vision within Sunni Islam. After leaving Al-Razzaq and working with the larger Muslim community, they again felt the need for a place where they could practice their distinct vision of community activism and service under the leadership of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad. In the late 80’s they moved into 804 broad street and eventually expanded to 247 Lockwood Street by the summer of 1998, where they presently reside. Members comment that its present location is ideal in its proximity to needy areas along with other resources. They humbly contest the title “masjid” for their place of worship; rather they prefer the term “center” because their present location is somewhat temporary, and their more elaborate location will be their masjid, once it is built anew with all the amenities of a classical mosque (i.e. minaret, etc.). The congregants are dedicated to establishing an American identity through an Islamic framework. This ideal of harmony can be demonstrated quite literally on their letterhead, where the American flag and the Qur’an are cohesively depicted beside their organization’s name.
DescriptionThe tightly knit and dynamic group of forty-five members is lead by Imam Farid Ansari, who serves as the main religious speaker and leader within the immediate group members. In addition, an administrative board serves the community’s organizational needs for finances and activities. The community is a member of the larger regional (New England) and national organization of followers of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, estimated to be 2.5 million strong. The congregants hold primary the Qur’an and Sunnah as sources of authority. Also central in their attitudes are the future visions for the Muslim-American community articulated by Imam Warith Deen Muhammad. The primarily African community comes from all over Providence and surrounding cities to meet and worship together, using Arabic and English in their services. The community hopes to give solace to African-American Muslims who do not feel a sense of immigrant culture to belong to. They emphasize that Islam can be a distinctively American religion, and this “ethnicity” can in itself be celebrated with, rather than subverted by, common western norms and customs (clothing, food, etc.). In addition to the daily and weekly prayers, the center provides a variety of activities and opportunities for civic engagement in spiritual growth and community building. There are Arabic educational classes and various social gatherings throughout the weekdays. They plan on having “open house” sessions for community members to learn about them. Their short-term goal is to expand their facilities and improve their educational system for children and adult classes. They expect this expansion within the next two years. Their longer, “5-year plan” is to physically establish a full moral community in the vision of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, in which all people, regardless of faith, may reside and aspire for educational, moral and social development. The group’s identity is strengthened by the national publication of the newspaper, the Muslim Journal, linking the common identity and celebrating the history and transformation of the followers of WD Muhammad. These include a calendar of local and national events. Members attend common functions and fundraisers with the larger Muslim community of Rhode Island and New England. Unfortunately, it is evident that the Rhode Island Muslim community beyond this center still viewed the Muslim-American Da’wah Center in the shadow of the NOI, as a separatist, militant group. However, with increased interaction and communal engagement, these clarifications will hopefully be made, so that informed dialogue may occur. Recent sentiments of change within the NOI have given these followers of WD Muhammad hope for a united Muslim America.
Community/OutreachWarith Deen Muhammad’s emphasis on community involvement and interfaith dialogue can be seen in this congregation’s vision for its activities and goals. The members view all persons of faith as having the same moral ideals. It is this commonality upon which they hope to find mutual ground for community activism and service in an attempt to integrate all of humanity together, regardless of religion. This would be in an attempt to counter what they see as a morally declining American society. Their theology is a practical one. It is one in which the best Muslim is one who leads by example, one who lives the religious life proactively by doing, not preaching. This integrates their vision of a unified moral community. They also emphasize that they are not interested in converting non-Muslims, rather they aim for all people of faith to live up to their own moral standard of excellence, regardless of what one’s conception of the Ultimate may be. They see their anti-crime, anti-violence initiative as their contribution to society as a whole. The beginnings of this can be seen in the fact that already many non-Muslim parents send their children to their Sunday school simply for the moral education and healthy social life. These parents may have been attracted to the citation of excellence by Mayor Vincent Cianci for the recently established “Putting the neighbor back into the hood” anti-crime program that encourages communal involvement and service, fighting such societal ills as teenage pregnancy and child poverty, regardless of one’s faith. (This program was inspired by the vision of WD Muhammad in his stressing the importance of a neighborly culture of respect and caring within a community. [“So woe to the worshippers who are neglectful of their prayers; those who want but to be seen among men, but refuse to supply even neighborly needs.” Qur’an 107:7]) In addition to attending and inviting local churches to dialogue, Imam Ansari serves on the National Council on Citizenship and Justice (NCCJ) interfaith council. Members also attend high schools and churches to educate others about Islam. In addition to service to local correctional institutions, the congregants are active in crime prevention measures through the Opportunity Knocks program, which has been responsible for revitalizing and rebuilding the Cranston Street Area of Providence. They are also involved in partnerships with local churches on initiatives against youth violence and drugs. The Muslim-American Dawah Center of Rhode Island has appeared numerous times in the Providence Journal for its efforts towards an improved community through active engagement of diversity.
Location and DirectionsFrom Route 95, take exit 22 (memorial blvd.) and continue downtown with the river on your right. Take a right onto Point Street and then a bear left onto Friendship Street and then take a quick left onto Lockwood Street.