Jameel Syed, founder and CEO of Fluidvisions branding firm and author of 99 Scenarios: Business in the American Muslim Sector, is currently on a mission to make the adhaan (call to prayer) and the words of Muhammad (pbuh) go viral across all 50 states of America. His goal is to deliver the call to prayer in one mosque in every state over a period of 35 days. Accompanied by his trusted campaign manager, Yahya Sultan, Syed has successfully delivered the adhaan in 25 states, marking the halfway point on his spiritual journey. Along with reciting the call to prayer, Syed further sets his mission apart from others by delivering the last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to honor the essence of his legacy. While his mission is rooted in fundamental traditions of Islam (call to prayer and the final sermon), Syed hopes that Muslims and non-Muslims alike will follow him along on this journey to revitalize the way Islam and Muslims are viewed around the world.
I had the privilege of speaking with the muaddhin (one who is appointed to deliver the call to prayer) and learned the deeply personal nature of his mission as he provides a glimpse into how his dream became a reality and the purpose behind his effort to make history. As he shares insight regarding what the completion of his “50 mosques in 50 states” campaign means to him, Syed highlights the importance of the prophetic teaching, “actions are based upon one’s intentions” – and his intent is to use his gift to convey the stories of Muslim American communities throughout the United States.
Hira Uddin: You want to be known as “the voice heard around the world”. What inspired the dream to deliver the adhaan in 50 states across America?
Jameel Syed: Back in January of 2004 during Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), I was in the Prophet’s Mosque – peace be upon him, and I was sitting in front of his grave and that’s where I had the idea that I would serve God through the gift that he’s given me. You know, at the end of the day I’m a muaddhin. I haven’t memorized the entirety of the Quran and I’m not a scholar. I’m not an individual involved with the extensive imparting of knowledge. But if you want to gain the favor of God, you have to get creative and use whatever gift you’ve been given to do that. I want to serve God by serving humanity – and that includes both Muslims and non-Muslims. Let me go and engage communities and let me help them tell their stories to others, especially when Muslims don’t always have that ability to reach a broad audience.
You’ve embarked on a personal journey but it’s also a very public one because you have others following you through various media outlets. What do you hope to impart on others following you on this journey and what do you hope to gain for yourself?
JS: I’ll start with answering the personal piece because ultimately it all leads back to that. It’s as the Prophet – peace be upon him, has said: “Actions are based upon one’s intention”. When I was in the Prophet’s mosque, I realized that I’ve had my marketing firm for ten years and I’ve been able to work with some of the top leadership in the United States. But I just turned 40 a few months ago, and as I took a look and account of what’s been done – I ask myself if I’ve done everything I could have and I find myself in deficit. So I had this ridiculous idea, I mean really ridiculous idea (laughs)…it’s the stuff of dreamers, to deliver the adhaan across America. I want to make the adhaan and the words of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, go viral and help Muslim communities author their own narratives so people can see how we contribute to impact society in a positive way by sharing photos and videos of the communities we visit.
Why do you feel it is so important to revisit the last sermon of the Prophet (pbuh) and how are his words still relevant today?
JS: In order to follow a person, you have to love them. In order to love them, you have to respect them – and in order to respect them, you have to know about them. The Prophet (PBUH) states clearly in his speech, “…those who are present here today shall take it to others, and others to others again. May the last ones understand my words better than those who hear from me directly.” The last sermon is 23 years of a perfect prophetic mission encapsulated in 3-5 minutes of speech which mentions gender equality, racial equality, social justice, and peace and harmony vs. violence. It talks about inviting others to be a part of the chain that goes back to these words.
We often experience highs and lows in our faith. What advice would you share with someone experiencing a low?
JS: If you have a good intention for the sake of God, you shouldn’t be discouraged if doors don’t open right away. When the Prophet (PBUH) took his mission…he experienced one trial after another. He experienced the “year of sadness” when he lost loved ones and experienced rejection after rejection. Every human being has a breaking point. But if you’re a person striving for the sake of God, don’t give up hope and keep going.
What message would you share with the Muslim community?
JS: The situation of Muslims is very complex. Individuals are trying to come up with complex ways to combat the difficulties we face. But step one is prayer. I think prayer is the fundamental solution to this problem. The next aspect of a solution is for Muslims to engage people on the individual level – dont wait for your institution to do it. Engaging doesn’t necessarily mean handing out pamphlets that say “come to Islam and be blessed”. It means you have to be a good person – like smiling in the face of strangers. If someone has a nametag, you call them by their name to show them you care and you’re offering a sentiment od goodwill. We all have to be ambassadors and tell our own stories.
What’s next on your radar as the muaddhin?
JS: If God allows me to make the adhaan across the entire United States, then why not the entire world? Why should I be restricted to only this country? I would love to make the adhaan in every country. These are the types of ideas that come to my mind only because I know God’s treasury is limitless. The nature of human beings is that we always want more; an there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as its the right thing.
Follow Jameel on his historic journey via his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. He would also like to recognize individuals he has worked closely with throughout his journry who he states are the backbone of this project: Yahya Sultan and Ayman Abu Rahma. Additionally, he would like to extend his appreciation to his sponsors: Tahir Chaudury Arts, Mecca Books, SAMS Foundation, Life for Relief and Development and everyone who has donated to and shared his GoFundMe campaign.
Image from Muaddhin Website