CLEVELAND, OHIO – Masjid Bilal began with a vision that belonged to Imam W. Deen Mohammed.
Cleveland’s Imam Clyde Rahman was present at a meeting around 1980 during which Imam Mohammed indicated to his supporters that it was time they began to think and plan for the construction of new places for worship designed to meet the needs of Muslims.Imam Rahman took the words to heart and returned to Cleveland determined to put a plan of action around Imam Mohammad’s words.
A few years later Imam Mohammed’s vision became a reality when Masjid Bilal formally opened on June 3, 1983. It became the first mosque built from the ground up in Greater Cleveland and the first mosque built by a predominately African American congregation in the United States.
Imam Mohammed’s vision and Imam Rahman’s dedication to that vision were celebrated recently when the community of Masjid Bilal celebrated its 30th anniversary with a weekend of programs, workshops, and highlighted by a dinner attended by Imam Mohammed’s son, Wallace D. Mohammed II, president of The Mosque Cares. “We all knew what was happening here in Cleveland,” Bro. Mohammed recalled. “There was pride and a great feeling that many of us experienced due to what was happening here.”
He recalled a visit with his father to Masjid Bilal when he about 14 years old. As they approached the entrance to the Masjid, several members of the community greeted them. Bro. Mohammed recalled that he noticed something special in the faces he saw that day. “I saw the faces of the believers, and there was nothing more impressive than the gleam in their eyes, the looks on their faces, their pride for the great accomplishment they had achieved in building the first mosque in our community by African Americans.”
Bro. Mohammed acknowledged the work contributed by the brothers and sisters of Masjid Bilal, the time, sweat, dollars and coins they sacrificed and contributed to complete such a significant project. “They gave whatever they had to give. This is what community is all about,” he explained. “It’s what you give to the community, what you contribute as a group, not as an individual. If you work for the whole group, then your work lives. “This building is a historical landmark that our young people should cherish until the end of time. We should have a special place in our hearts for Masjid Bilal. This physical building should be preserved as a monument to our history.”
Prior to constructing the new mosque, the community at Masjid Bilal was previously known as Masjid Willie Mohammed, under the leadership of Imam Mohammed, and as Temple No. 18, under the leadership of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. Under the leadership of Imam Rahman, Masjid Bilal gained widespread recognition in Cleveland for his efforts to work with and unite various religious communities and people for the betterment of the total community.
That work has continued since the passing of Imam Rahman in 2009 under the leadership of Imam Shafeeq Sabir. “We have a rich history and a proud tradition here at Masjid Bilal,” said Imam Sabir. “But we can’t rest on that history and tradition. We should be inspired by it to do even more.”
Imam Dr. Abdul Majied Kariem Hasan, who gave the khutba for the JumUah prayer service, said he was appreciative for Imam Rahman’s dedication to Imam Mohammed’s vision. “I had known Imam Clyde Rahman since I came into the community in 1961. We were friends then, and we are friends now. “I loved him then and I love him now. And I am appreciative for all he did for the establishment of this Masjid some 30 years ago,” he said.