Islamic Foundation of Toronto: A Tribute & Lessons Learnt From 50 Years
By Muneeb Nasir*
[Keynote address delivered at Islamic Foundation of Toronto 50th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, September 22, 2019]
Over the past 50 years, all of you and your families have given of yourselves and dedicated your time, energies and resources in service to the Islamic Foundation.
May Allah reward you for all your contributions and selfless service to this important Canadian Islamic institution.
My parents, Mohamed Nasir and Opheera Nasir, dedicated their lives in Canada to public service and to the Muslim community in this country.
Their mission statement in life can best be described through the Qur’anic verse:
“Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds” (6:162).
For over 2 decades, they selflessly served the Islamic Foundation of Toronto.
As you know, Mohamed Nasir was the longest serving President of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto – he held the position for 18 years, pioneering the relocation of the organization from 182 Rhodes Avenue in East York and leading the construction of the Islamic Foundation Centre to its completion at 441 Nugget Avenue in Scarborough. This is an incredible record of service.
May Allah accept the good works and good deeds of my parents and may He forgive them, have mercy on them and make their good works weigh heavy in their scales on the day when they will need them.
Mohamed Nasir was a pioneer in the Canadian Muslim community.
His contribution to this institution and to the Muslim community was tremendous and his long service should teach us an important aspect of leadership…. he led by example by being foremost in doing good deeds.
On this day of reunion, when we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Islamic Foundation, we should take a moment to cherish the fond memories we hold of this institution and in this institution and the good times we had.
All of us and our families have benefitted from our time in the Islamic Foundation – yes, there were many good times and, dare I say, there were difficult times when we disagreed with each other.
But this is the reality of life in this world – we will be tested and we will also be tested by each other.
Allah says in the Qur’an that He is the One “Who created death and life that He may try you which of you is best in conduct” (67:2)
So it is how well we respond to the tests that matters; It is how well we treat each other that matters.
Also, my dear brothers and sisters, we should not think or feel that our service and contributions are more or better that the other person who served this organization.
It is not what we think of each other’s service but it is what Allah thinks of this service.
We pray that Allah will think well of us and our service and He will accept whatever we have done for this institution and for the Muslim community.
There is a saying that” “The secret of a people’s progress lies in their past history.”
I want to leave you with three lessons that I think made this institution exceptional in the early decades.
- The Islamic Foundation began as a community of families and it functioned as a community of families in the early decades. It was not a mosque of men but a community centre of families.
- It was an open, welcoming organization that included families of all ethnicities, nationalities, ages, schools of thought, as well as new Muslims.
- It was a small organization but it was outward looking, collaborating with other mosques and national organizations and with the broader community. The leadership was acting locally but always thinking globally.
The three lessons I take from this history are that diversity is a strength, openness is a strength and cooperating with each other is a strength.
The success of the Foundation over the next 50 years will lie in taking heed of this history because we are living in difficult times and we will need to strengthen each other and be strengthened by each other to face these challenges.
In conclusion, on Sunday February 8th 1987, Mohamed Nasir was elected the President of the Islamic Foundation for the 12th time.
In his remarks, he reminded members of the organization that it is not good organizational practice to re-elect the same person year after year, but to encourage youths to come forward and accept the role of leadership.
He said our motto in life should be: “we pass by this way but once, all that I can do, let me do it now, for I shall never pass this way again.”
May Allah reward you with goodness and bless all of you for your service to the Islamic Foundation.
* [Muneeb Nasir served as a Board of Director of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto in the early 1990s, on a number of committees in the organization from 1974 to 1994, as Chairman of its Program Committee for 18 years and as Editor of Al-Basheer, the magazine of the Islamic Foundation in the 1990s.
He is currently the President of the Olive Tree Foundation and Co-Chair of the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee (NMCLC). He is a founder of the Islamic Institute of Toronto (IIT) and Masjid Toronto].