Imam Hassan A. Amin is the Executive Director and Founder of the Muslim Social Services Agency, Inc. of Maryland and the Director of Social Services of Muslimat Al-Nisaa’s Muslim women and children homeless shelter.
MH: Tell us more about yourself and how you got involved in activism in Baltimore and growing up Muslim in America.
I had gotten involved in becoming a change agent in the community around the Masjid because the community around the urban Masjid needed to be changed. The community is flooded with drugs, crime, grime and high unemployment. So, as a Muslim, I am mandated by Allah and the Prophet (SAW) to look after the needs of our neighbors. Therefore, because of this mandate, I, inshaAllah, try to provide, yearly, resources and services to community members that would improve upon their quality of life, such as, providing for the homeless, low income and poor, hot meals, clothing, hygiene kits, free healthcare screenings, drug rehab programs, job training/job referral information, etc. Regarding growing up Muslim in America it has been great! In America we had the freedom of religion, to practice whatever religion one wishes to practice. After the terrible event of 9/11 many people in America wanted to band the Islamic faith here and suppress Muslim’s rights to practice their faith. The American constitution and other federal laws prohibited such a prohibition to Muslims’ rights to practice their faith freely and openly without any type of suppression or discrimination, it’s the law! Therefore, America is a great place to practice one’s religion and no one has the right to impede upon Muslims’ ability to practice their faith.
MH: You have a fairly rich background in activism in your community, how do we encourage those in the Muslim community to become more active and be less apathetic to the issues facing our community and the United States?
Everyday we draw closer to our graves and before we know it it’s time to be placed in our graves. At that time, it will be too late to do anything, regarding helping others. Matter of fact, at that point we can not even help ourselves! The only thing that will benefit us at that time will be our good deeds. Helping our neighbors is doing a good deed; picking up trash is a good deed, showing kindness towards others is a good deed, etc. The Prophet (SAW), Abu Bakr , Umar, Uthman, Ali and other companions were always involved in helping others. Perhaps Muslims and others should read the stories of these great people and learn from their stories and emulate their kind and giving behavior. We as Muslims are to ask Allah for the good of this world and the good of the next and save us from the Hellfire. Helping others in need may be just the act that may save us from the Hellfire, where just men and stone keep it burning! Allah said every soul will have a taste of death, we just do not know when, where or how we are going to died, but for sure we are going to died. Muslims need to remember this and let no apathy obstruct them from becoming more act and involved in changing the communities that surrounds them, instead of walking by the community problems or closing their eyes to the needs of others.
MH: Do you feel that Muslim Americans are challenged now more to practice their faith and hold on to their Muslim identity more so than when you were growing up?
The access to the internet and other information is greater now than during my earlier years as a Muslim, living in America. Information influences people, both Muslims and non-Muslim alike. This is both good and bad. It is bad because of all of the negative information on the internet like for example, pornography, incurring of same sex marriages, people dressed but undressed, positive promotion of sex outside of marriage, etc. All of the above is presented as being okay and positive, but each of those things go against Islamic principles. Therefore, this increase of access to information can cause a Muslim to question their faith and agree that the above is okay and that nothing is wrong with them and that there is something wrong with Islam, which prohibits every one of them. On the other hand, greater access to information provides for the Muslims and non Muslims greater access to Islamic information. It gives Muslim an opportunity to learn more about their faith from the comfort of their home.
MH: You live in Baltimore and it’s been reported that it’s a city with one of the highest crime rate in the US. What is the Muslim community doing to assist in reducing crime in Baltimore? If not what can it do?
We do have some Muslims, in Baltimore City, involved in encouraging community members to take better care and responsibility of their communities. Some Muslims are volunteering to go into the public schools in Baltimore City and talk with the students, teachers, counselors, school police and parents about stopping/preventing gang violation and bullying in schools. Some Muslims are approaching drug dealers and encouraging/warning them not to sell drugs in the community.
MH: Tell us more about the challenges that face the Baltimore, MD community and how the Muslim community is rising up to face the challenge of homelessness, hunger, poverty, and other social issues.
Yearly, my organization Muslim Social Services Agency, provides free of charge resources and services to the greater community to help them improve upon their quality of life. We focus on helping the hunger, those in poverty and the homeless with helping them to change/improve the quality of their life. Each year we look at the people in need and how can we help them to satisfy their needs. How can we help make their situation better? We also encourage our local youth to get involved in helping of others. We have college students and children as young as seven years old assisting us with providing food and other items to the needy.
MH: You mentioned in your biography that you know martial arts that’s pretty unusual for an imam to have that skill, how’d you get interested in pursuing martial arts?
Allah has blessed me with well over forty years of martial arts skills. Allah knows best when one will need to use those skills to protect one self or others. Also, men are the protectors and maintainers of the women. The Prophet (SAW) was a great wrestler and he (SAW) use to have foot races against his wife. We as Muslim are encouraged to be fit and well groomed. Therefore, my martial arts skill is in keeping with the above encouragements of my Islamic faith.
MH: You mentioned your biography that you served in the military, specifically your service in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, when did you serve and what motivated you to serve in the military? What was your experience like?
I had served in the US Army from September 13, 1973-September 13, 1976. Two and a half of those years I had served as a paratrooper in the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division. I am a Vietnam era veteran. What had motivated me to serve in the military was I wanted the experience of being in the military, protecting our country and receiving help with financing my college education. The experience in the military was a great one. I was fresh off the streets from being a member of a gang in Philadelphia so I already knew the importance of following orders, being focused and discipline. The army provided me with additional skills for understanding a mission and seeing it through to its completion. The military also took advantage of my martial arts skills and I had provided karate training to many of my fellow soldiers in arms.
MH: You’re the Director of Social Services of Muslimat Al-Nisaa, a shelter for homeless women and domestic violence victims and children. How has your experience been with Muslimat Al-Nisaa? How important is it for the Muslim community to develop shelters and resources for impoverished, homeless and neglected in our own communities? How can the Muslim community best address this in your opinion?
My experience with Muslimat Al-Nisaa had been interesting. It has opened my eyes to the trauma that these victims, women and their children, go through at the hands of the one who claim to love them! As a board member of Muslimat Al-Nisaa, Imam and licensed social worker I only want to wrap a blanket of protect around these victims and make sure that they receive no further harm, inshaAllah. It is very important that the Muslim community and others provide financial support for those providing resources for the impoverished. In Baltimore City we have three homeless shelters owned and operated by Muslim women and most of the time each one of them has a waiting list of Muslim and non Muslim women needing a place to stay. What I would like to encourage both the Muslim and non Muslim communities to do are to give financial support to these non profit homeless shelters. These shelters only exist on donations, they have no other income in which to pay their bills, buy food and other shelter needs. The women in these shelters need our support and assistance and we need not to forget them in their time of immense need. Their love one has neglected and turned their back one these women and children. It is my hope that the Muslim and non Muslim communities do not do the same!
MH: Tell us more about Muslim Social Services Agency, Inc. and what it does.
The focus of Muslim Social Services Agency is to provide resources and services to the poor, low income and homeless families and individuals in order to improve upon their quality of life. The services and resources that we offer are very length and the best place for others to find out more about Muslim Social Services Agency is to visit our website at www.muslimsocialservicesagency.org. There they can take their time and review our services, programs, initiatives and resources.
MH: How can Muslim Heroes readers learn more about you and the work you do? How can individuals support your causes and organizations?
Again, readers can visit the above website and the can visit the Linked in website: www.linkedin.com and enter Imam Hassan A. Amin and they will learn a little more about myself and my work, inshaAllah. Furthermore, I will answer questions about myself via my email address at firstname.lastname@example.org or enter Imam Hassan A. Amin on Facebook and I will consider them becoming my friend and we will communicate via this social media, inshaAllah. How readers can support and help our cause? Presently, we are trying to raise money to buy our own building, furniture, etc., in which to operate from, inshaAllah. We estimate the cost to be about 1.5 million dollars. The giving towards this effort may be a form of sadaqa for the giver and may benefit them in this world and in the next, inshaAllah. There is no amount too small or too great to help us in the above effort, inshaAllah. So, we encourage readers to visit our website and donate whatever they can towards the effort to help others help themselves. I also like to mention that readers should donate to the Muslim Heroes website. This is a great thing that you all are doing and I believe you need others to support you in your efforts.
MH: What advice or tips would you give to individuals who would like to pursue the same career path as you?
My advice to anyone who is interested in pursuing the same career path as me would be that they pray that the choice that they are making is right for them and that it will make them happy. If the work of helping others does not make one happy then one should be in a job where they are not happy. Helping others makes me happy and I am happy because I am following the footsteps of some of the great ones, Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali.