Imam Siraj Wahaj becomes the first American-Muslim to offer an invocation (opening prayer) at the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall II (D – West Virginia) introduces Imam Siraj in this recording on June 25, 1991. Siraj Wahhaj is an African-American imam of Al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn, New York and the leader of The Muslim Alliance in North America. He was also the former vice-president of the Islamic Society of North America.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj is an African-American Muslim convert to Islam and public figure for Muslims in North America. He is currently the Imam of Al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn, New York and the Amir (Leader) of The Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA). Born and raised in New York, he became a Sunday school teacher as at a young age, then later went to Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) where he studied biology education. In 1969 he joined the Nation of Islam and was taught under Louis Farrakhan at the height of the NOI’s anti-Malcolm X rhetoric. He became a Sunni Muslim after the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975 and Muhammad’s son Warith Deen Mohammed took over and reorganized the organization, urging members to come to orthodox Islam. Kearse then changed his name to Siraj Wahhaj. He was chosen to study Islam at the Umm al-Quran university of Mecca in 1978. He also briefly taught a course in Islamic studies at Howard University. In 1981 he started his own mosque, Masijd ul-Taqwa, in a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn. Although it originally started out with only 25 people, today it is well-known.
In 1988 he led his community in an anti-drug patrol in which they staked out drug houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the cold of winter for 40 days and nights, forcing the closure of 15 drug houses. This effort received high praise from the New York City Police Department and the media.
Since that time, Siraj has been active in many Islamic organizations. He has been vice president of the Islamic Society of North America since 1997 and has served on the Majlis al Shura, a consultative council of Islamic scholars, since 1987. He is a member of the Board of Advisors for the American Muslim Council and has also served on the national board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Siraj is a prolific speaker in America. He makes many appearances at major North American Muslim conventions, and numerous forums and lectures in New England. His audio and video lectures are also popular in America’s Muslim community. He is known to encourage Muslims to be God-fearing, enjoin good and forbid evil, practice regular charity, stay away from drugs, abstain from pre-marital relations, and other issues as well. He has also appeared on several national television talk shows and has had interviews with several media outlets. In 1991 Siraj offered an invocation (opening prayer) to the United States House of Representatives. He was the first Muslim to do so.