LAKESIDE – In mid-December, immediately after the conclusion of a Friday sermon, Imam Masee Hassan of the Islamic Center of Orange Park announced to the congregation and board of directors the he …
LAKESIDE – In mid-December, immediately after the conclusion of a Friday sermon, Imam Masee Hassan of the Islamic Center of Orange Park announced to the congregation and board of directors the he was resigning.
Some members voiced disapprovals, others wished him the best, but all accepted it.
Now the only mosque in Clay County is on the lookout for a new religious leader for their small, tight-knit community.
“It was a sad thing he left,” said Batul Fatima, ICOP board treasurer. “He’s a young person, a leader, but everyone has his own obligations and we all respected his decision.”
Hassan had been with the mosque since Nov. 2012, but left for Atlanta to pursue better business opportunities. Hassan was 12 when he first became a hafiz, or someone who had fully memorized the Quran.
All considering, his absence could easily have meant a huge blow to the community, especially when much of the national dialogue of the religion remains negative. Unlike most other religions, however, mosques do not necessarily require a full time imam to facilitate the daily prayers and weekly services. It helps, however.
“When a leader is not there it’s like the parents have left the house,” said Khalid Majied, ICOP member. “They plan and God plans – and God’s the best of planners. So when we start living our life…we know God will provide us with the right person who is the right fit at the right time.”
Sunday service is still being held and the regular ins and outs of worship is still, of course, being accomplished.
But the imam is the only paid position at the center, and for good reason. It’s the imam’s job to not only be the leader of worship in the center but to be the face of the community. The board’s primary focus for the search for a new imam is someone who could not only reach out to other Muslims in the area, but reach out to all religions.
So far, the board hasn’t found a serious candidate to fill Hassan’s shoes.
Majied said there is also some concern of complacency in the mosque. The imam facilitates spiritual growth and denounces spiritual stagnancy. Just like a rabbi or pastor, the imam is there to encourage other Muslims to strengthen their spiritual ties and rituals.
According to Majied, “[I]t would bring sense of identity. I think it will revive the community. New blood, new viewpoint – new knowledge.”
Currently, the congregation is leading itself in sermons. Anyone who is reasonably knowledgeable and engaging can lead the prayer, according to Fatima. And while Hassan now lives in Atlanta, he comes back to Orange Park periodically for the weekends and teaches a special Friday sermon.
He said he understands the tough position members of his religion are in nationally, with fallout from the White House’s failed travel ban and now, this week a second version being announced.
“Stay strong and be patient,” Hassan said. “These times are definitely trying, but the help of God is with the righteous, so stay dedicated in faith and stay united.”
In the meantime, the search for a new imam will continue.
“It’s not an easy job to fulfill,” Fatima said. “It’s not a regular job, it’s a spiritual job.
We need someone who can reach out to everybody, a spiritual person and has to be able to reach out to the larger community. Those are really, really important things.”