Siraj Wahhaj was born in 1950 in Fort Greene. He joined the Nation of Islam in 1969 and became the imam of Masjid Muhammad 7C in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1976. He studied with the Muslim World League in Chicago and at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He founded Masjid At-Taqwa in 1981; the following year, he purchased a building in Bedford-Stuyvesant to house the mosque. As the imam of Masjid At-Taqwa, Wahhaj coordinated successful efforts to reduce crime in the area, especially through anti-drug patrols in 1988, and by emphasizing significant community outreach. He was the first Muslim to give an opening prayer for the United States House of Representatives, in 1991; in 2004, he founded the Muslim Alliance in North America to advocate for Muslim American’s needs and civil rights. Wahhaj also served on the city’s Majlis Ash-Shura Islamic Leadership Council of New York, campaigned for New York City public schools to formally recognize Eid holidays, and represented Masjid At-Taqwa in the Raza v. City of New York lawsuit against the New York City Police Department for religiously motivated surveillance. See this narrator’s full biography and oral history.
Oral History Clips:
Siraj Wahhaj describes what motivated him to lead a local anti-drug campaign in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the late 1980s.
Siraj Wahhaj describes how his group worked with the New York Police Department in an anti-drug campaign that lasted 40 days.
Siraj Wahhaj recalls how he felt when he heard about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. He describes how this event was pivotal in his relationship study of Black Nationalist movement.