Discussing unity and community with Australia’s soccer-playing Imam

Our Lord instructs us to love and care for humanity

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Our Lord instructs us to love and care for humanity

Imam Imraan Husain is the leader of the Gold Coast Mosque at Arundel, Australia, where around 1,200 Muslims attend the congregational prayer weekly. Previously, he was the Imam at Nurul Islam Masjid Johannesburg, South Africa for 12 years, taught at Darul Ulum Mu’eenul Banaat (an academy for Muslim girls in South Africa) for 6 years, and taught Arabic and Islamic Studies at LMS Lenasia for 6 years.

After moving to Australia, he taught Arabic and Islamic Studies at AIC Perth Australia for 7 years and is now an Imam at Gold Coast Masjid since the year 2005. His love for Australia and determination to show the people in his country what Muslims are really like led him to lead by example on the soccer field. 

Salaam alaikum, Imam Imraan, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Many people who want to be more involved in their local sports teams usually have time, health, age, or work as excuses to hold them back. As a 57-year-old leader of a large mosque, you have proved such excuses invalid. You even ran the 10km Gold Coast Marathon while fasting during the month of Ramadan. What drives you to get out on the soccer field and track despite being very busy with your duties as an Imam?

Where there’s a will there’s a way. Having a balanced life is necessary as Islam has encouraged us not to go to extremes in any of our affairs. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly is important; knowing what to eat, when to eat, and how much, are all part of healthy living.

It can be difficult sometimes to include my passion for sports in my hectic daily schedule, but it’s important to make the time for it. The Australian climate, the built sporting facilities, and pedestrianized areas make it easy to engage in sport. It’s also an opportunity for me as an imam to interact with the local community in an accessible and friendly way. In all aspects of life, the ability to meet goals is possible provided one has the zeal and energy to achieve them.

What does an Imam of a mosque do as part of his job? Have you shouldered any additional responsibilities in your local community?

Being an Imam can be challenging as it’s not only leading the 5 daily prayers and giving sermons as many people assume, but there is a whole host of other duties and responsibilities, especially for imams in Western countries. People in Muslim communities often look up to their imams because they regard them as figures of authority and sources of religious knowledge.

I carry out educational programs for children and adults, visit schools and organisations, provide support and help for converts, visit the sick, fulfill the passages of rites for birth, marriage, and death, resolve marriage disputes, speak at functions, perform Islamic and civil marriages, and so much more.

Other additional responsibilities in the community include taking part in Australia Clean Up Day, working at the local hospital as a spiritual carer, working as a Justice of Peace at the court, volunteering at sporting events – especially soccer carnivals, and answering questions about Islam that people may ask me via email or phone.

The community’s expectations of an Imam is that he is on duty 24/7. Therefore, I plan my time and set up appointments and also delegate work so I am able to accommodate my sporting passion.

Have you been successful in reaching out to the younger generation? How does participating in sports help with that?

I have been able to engage with the youth primarily as a teacher and mentor in madrasah (Islamic classes). An interactive, fun community and madrasah is an investment for the future. Without it, one risks the wellbeing and positive Islamic identity of the future generations in the West and the rest of the world.

Over the years, I have been working to achieve that goal in various ways insha’Allah. For example, we use interactive videos and activities that give young people opportunities to express themselves and channel their creativity in expressing the beauty of Islam. This may be done through prayer, nasheeds (Islamic songs), creative projects/performances, and conversations that address real-life challenges young people face (such as being confident in being Muslim at the same time as being able to engage in wider Australian society in terms of excelling at education, sports, healthy living, and having halal and productive relationships with family, friends, and the wider community).

Sports activities such as soccer are great non-formal ways of connecting with young people about their concerns and aspirations. It teaches the youth confidence, trust, dedication, and teamwork. These are important life skills and are critical to helping young Muslims achieve balance in matters of deen and dunya (religion and the practical world).

Why do you encourage Muslims to be actively involved in their communities? How do you think this would help promote harmony among Muslims and non-Muslims?

A dialogue between communities and interacting with one another helps break down myths and creates understanding. It is always good to be open-minded and honest. Apart from the indigenous people of Australia, we are all migrants and share this land. Being isolated is harmful, as it leads to distrust from both sides. Australians are friendly people and being connected with them creates a more beautiful world to live in.

I love to start a conversation with everyone I come into contact with and just feel happy as they can feel that we Muslims are no threat, but a blessing. Our Lord instructs us to love and care for humanity, so we need to display this in practice and not just speech.