The concept for Islamic Community Outreach Services was developed in the summer of 2013 after observing the evolution of other Muslim communities. The key insight was that many communities start with a temporary space in order to grow before they would settle for a permanent place. Although the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association at Cornell University provides places for prayer, their location on campus and student-centric focus makes them unsuitable for genuine community building.
The concept gained traction after the key observation that commercial lease rates in downtown Ithaca were relatively low. Leasing an office space in downtown Ithaca could be a cost-effective stepping stone to building the Muslim community in Ithaca. The central location would provide access for all Muslims in Ithaca, especially those in the downtown area who find it difficult to attend prayers at Cornell. In addition, the downtown zoning laws were very permissive with regards to starting an religious place.
The first few attempts at securing a commercial space were unsuccessful. In the meantime, we began to build our network for the future organization. We pitched the concept to some local community members, while maintaining separation from other ongoing projects, such as the Al-Huda Islamic Center masjid project, in order to prevent any misunderstanding or sense of competition. We visited surrounding communities and met the imams of the surrounding masaajids of Big Flats, Johnson City, Rochester, and Buffalo. During the process, we also sought advice and help from knowledgeable scholars. For example, we researched the fiqh-based issue of the permissibility of commercial liability insurance under the guidance of some scholars.
Alhumdulillah, we have reached the following milestones:
- Signed a short-term lease for our first location at 317 N. Aurora St. in downtown Ithaca on Monday, August 4, 2014. The lease ended on Wednesday, December 31, 2014.
- The moosalla, named Moosalla Noor, officially opened for daily prayers on Friday, August 22, 2014.
- Launched the Children Islamic School on Sunday, September 14, 2014.
- Men’s and women’s halaqahs held weekly starting on Sunday, September 21, 2014.
- Secured a supply of halal chicken into Ithaca and made it available for order on Monday, January 12, 2015.
- Signed a lease for our second location at 111 E. Seneca St. in downtown Ithaca on Thursday, January 29, 2015.
- First community outreach dinner to increase awareness and to fundraise for the Medical Crisis in Syria on Saturday, March 14, 2015.
- Recruited and invited a well-qualified scholar from United Kingdom to run programs and aid in leading taraweeh prayers during Ramadan from Wednesday, June 24, 2015 to Monday, July 13, 2015.
- Partnered with A1 Halal Foods in Binghamton to provided expanded offerings of halal meat starting on Wednesday, August 19, 2015.
- Launched a long-term outreach project on Saturday, November 21, 2015 to educate the Ithaca community about Islam.
- Reduced meat prices to minimize profit and improve affordability for community members on Friday, January 15, 2016.
- Invited guests to our first open house on Saturday, February 6, 2016. Open houses would continue weekly until Ramadan and monthly following Ramadan.
- Following a negative cash balance on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 we quickly recovered with the help of generous donations and established a reserve fund on Friday, April 29, 2016 to limit the impact of future cash shortages.
- Established a school committee on Friday, April 22, 2016 to oversee organization of the Islamic school. Nominations of the school committee started on Friday, April 29, 2016.
- Provided summer Quran classes four days a week for four weeks from Monday, July 25, 2016 to Thursday, August 18, 2016.
- Our anniversary of providing two years of service to the Ithaca community on Monday, August, 22, 2016.
- Established connection with Nema Halal for more reliability in providing beef meat on Tuesday, August 23, 2016.
- Involved additional people for helping with the halal meat service on Sunday, August 28, 2016.
- Increased selection of farms for slaughtering animals during Eid Al-Adha on Monday, September 12, 2016.
- Hosted a open community meeting at GIAC on Saturday, December 3, 2016 where we proposed action items to respond to the results of the election.
Inshaa’Allah, we hope to invite members of the Muslim community and establish Muslim services for their benefit. May Allah (SWT) purify our intentions and may this project be something that gets His pleasure and not His anger. Ameen.