A few seconds.
That was the difference between life and death for M. Arshad Anwar, the new imam at the Roswell Community Masjid (RCM). Long before joining RCM, Imam Arshad studied at Pakistan's International Islamic University. While attending class one day, a bomb blast rocked the women's side of campus. He considers this near-death bomb incident one of his most significant life experiences, highlighting his untraditional path to RCM.
Arshad Anwar (Brother Arshad) was born in Karachi, Pakistan and moved to the United States with his family at the age of seven. He grew up in south Mississippi with three siblings. After graduating high school in 2002 he studied briefly at the University of South Alabama where he was blessed with the company of his first teacher Shaykh Ghassan Al-Barqawi. There, he met and studied with other students of knowledge and gained an interest in traveling abroad to study Islam.
In 2005, he traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan and was accepted at its International Islamic University. There, he earned his B.A. (Honors) in Usul-ud-Din (Principles of Religion) with a specialization in Tafsir and Quranic Sciences. In Islamabad, he was blessed to study both in and out of the university with scholars from different parts of the world including Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
He moved back to the United States in 2011 where he took up teaching Quran & Islamic Studies at an Islamic school. He was blessed to be able to network with Muslim educators from around the nation and had an opportunity to present at the 2012 ISNA/CISNA Education Forum. Observing a need for practical Muslim leadership in education, he is now pursuing a Master’s in Educational Leadership.
Take some time to visit Atlanta’s newest Imam at RCM and get to know him personally!
In the mean time, here is AtlantaMuslim.com’s brief interview with Imam Arshad:
Q: What are a few things you would love the Atlanta Muslim community to know about you?
One important thing to know is that I did grow up in the United States, and I think that plays a very important (role) in communicating with people here. One of the reasons I came back to the US was because I realized that I could not communicate with people overseas - I did not understand what they have been through, their lives, and their experiences. The fact that I grew up here, especially in the south, really helps me connect with people.
Another thing I would want the Atlanta Muslim community to know about me is that I strongly believe in being open-minded and accomodating. I try to be as welcoming as possible - I always tell people to come see me. Even if I cannot give them a great deal of time, just lending an open ear is really helpful.
Q: What can you tell us about your personal journey to the Roswell Community Masjid (RCM)?
I tell this story a lot, the first time I prayed in RCM I felt something different, something special. I really liked the fact that there were no fancy rugs or decorations. It was very simple and I felt really tranquil. Then I heard the same feedback from others - that they felt very different at RCM as well. So I really wanted to get more involved with this masjid, I made it my intention to do so.
Coincidently, the school at which I taught, Ilm Academy, moved right next door to RCM. That was cool because I got to come to RCM more often for Jummah Prayers. Finally, I got an opportunity to give a Khatirah (short talk) during Ramadan and that opened the doors for me to give a Khutbah (sermon). Once that took place, I felt assured as a member of the community. I later found out that they were looking for someone to take a religious leadership position and decided that I had to apply. RCM provided a great venue to broaden my communications horizon from the educational to the community level.
Q: What has been your most rewarding life experience?
Surviving a bomb blast while I was at university. There were so many things that happened that day - I was in my building with a friend and there was a bomb blast on the female campus next door. We saw people running and decided to go help as best we could. While running out of the building, we saw one of our professors who asked us what happened. We explained to him and then continued to go help. SubhanAllah, that small amount of time that our professor stopped us was just enough so that we did not (reach) the open doorway where another bomb was right in front of. If we had arrived literally a few seconds earlier, we would have turned the corner right when the bomb went off.
That was a real experience that showed me how God’s fate works. There were so many things that happened that day that do not usually happen. For example, I wore boots when I always wear sandals to class. I remember thinking to myself “why am I wearing boots,” but I ended up needing them to run over a sea of broken glass. It is amazing how everything has a connection and there is a wisdom behind every little thing.
Q: What would you say is your greatest strength as an Imam?
I would say being able to connect with people. I really try to be welcoming to people and reach out to them in a way that makes sense to them.
Q: What is the single greatest change you would like to see in the Atlanta Muslim community?
I would love to see more seriousness towards studying Islam. We need structured educational systems rather than weekend courses here and there. Our community could really benefit from dedicated individuals attempting to understand the A to Z totality of Islamic Sciences. Weekend courses are great, but to really give back to the community we need to have a better understanding of our religion.
Q: What is your favorite sports team?
I haven't followed sports in a long time, but the Utah Jazz used to be my favorite team - back when Karl Malone and John Stockton were on the team. Besides them, I would have to say that I support the New Orleans Saints. Being in Atlanta, it isn’t very popular to support the Saints but, growing up in Mississippi, they were the closest team we had!
Q: Any interesting fun facts or quirks people should know about?
I am a die hard fan of comedy - I love stand up comedy. Jim Gaffigan is my favorite.
Q: If you were stuck on an island, what three items would you bring with you?
My knife, my Qur’an, so I can pass the time until I die, and a phone to call for help!
Tweet this article out
Like AtlantaMuslim.com on Facebook
Free Weekly Emails