Meet Jameel Syed of Auburn Hills, Michigan, who completed a mission of delivering the azaan or call to prayer in 50 states of the United States from a beach in Hawaii to Disneyland in California.
On Friday night, the 40-year-old father-of-two concluded his journey at the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit in Rochester Hills, where he is the designated caller of prayers, termed ‘muezzin’ in Islam, five times a day.
Syed is believed to be the first person to have recited the prayer in all 50 states.
Speaking of his experience during the 35-day trip across the US, he said, “It was an epic journey on so many levels.”
He also used the opportunity to interact with Muslims belonging to different races and ethnicity as well as non-Muslims, engage them at airports, mosques and even in taxis.
A jubilant Syed said, “I was in awe of the generosity and hospitality and love from people I never knew before”.
During his trip, in Hawaii, he recited the prayer after meeting non-Muslims on the beach. As he arrived in California, he recited it inside a prayer room at Disneyland with Mickey Mouse.
He also visited a Chapel Hill mosque to pay his respects to three Muslim students who were shot dead in January.
The beginning of the trip covered the place close to where the verdict of the Boston Marathon bomber was given, and it concluded near the spot where the shooting in reaction to an anti-Islam cartoon event had taken place.
Anti-Islam bloggers circulated a blog in an attempt to bash the trip, sparking concern that Syed could be attacked.
In January, protests were held to pressurise Duke University officials cancel a broadcast of Muslim call to prayers from a chapel bell tower on campus. Similarly, in Hamtramck, complaints were received at times over the call to prayer being broadcast outside mosques.
But Syed is not dismayed at this as he hopes to further the cause and write a book as well as produce a documentary about his journey.
“I don’t like throwing religion in people’s faces,” said Syed.
Elaborating on his visit, he urged Muslims to set a good example by helping people, not by pushing their faith onto others.
Syed also delivered the last speech of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), highlighting points such as racial and gender equality, peace and fairness. He stressed that the message is needed more than ever, adding that the affectionate sermon made many cry.
Speaking about the recent Texas shooting incident at an anti-Islam event, he said, “Anti-Islam cartoonists are hatemongers, and the people who reacted to it are hatemongers. It’s just sad this is the world we live in. Faith is supposed to bring people together.”
He also made it clear that the act of the two men attacking the center was against the tenets of Islam.
“Our position is a call to peace,” Syed said. “You’re not supposed to hurt anyone.”
Concluding his trip in a phrase, Syed said: “It was not easy, but … God always comes on time.”