This item was sourced from ASJA's 70th Anniversary Souvenir Magazine 1935 - 2005.
The day was October 31st, the year 1935 and the Legislative Council of Trinidad and Tobago had passed an ordinance to incorporate certain persons as Trustees of the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ASJA) with the four Incorporated Trustees being Syed Mohammed Hosein [First President], John Mohammed [First Vice President] with Buckredee Meah and Mustapha Khan as Trustees. Today, seventy (70) years later ASJA continues to be the largest single Muslim organisation in Trinidad and Tobago providing the community with leadership, guidance, maturity and stability which has been responsible for recognition by the national community and successive Governments over the years since its humble, yet auspicious beginning in 1935.
(Standing From Left To Right ) Aziz Mohammed, Taheeb Ali, Meharwan Mohammed, Backreedee Meah, Abbass Hosein, Haji Rooknodeen Sahib, S.M. Hosein, Aziz Mohammed (Tunapuna), Mohammed Ibrahim, Hausildar Meah, Nawab Ali, Sheik Hashim Muzaffar.
(Sitting From Left To Right) 1. Not Identified 2. Not Identified 3. Not Identified 4. Belbagai 5. Ishmael Ali 6. Ghulam Hosein 7. Not Identified 8. Peru Meah 9. Hassan Khan 10. Not Identified 11. Hafiz Yacoob Ali 12. Badaloo Meah 13. Not Identified 14. Not Identified 15. S.M. Mustapha 16. Not Identified 17. Khairat Ali Meah
To have survived for so long a period of time and to have achieved, for its membership and the wider Muslim community, many milestones as an organisation, must redound to the credit of the founding fathers, whose vision, wisdom and religious persuasions have, till this day, ensured that our noble religion, Islam, would be presented and be available to the community in the purest doctrine of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaat. This initial action, therefore, being of pure and sincere intent on the part of the illustrious founders to form a body to truly represent Muslims, continues to enhance the successes of the ASJA, in the propagation and defence of Islam at all levels.
Ten (10) Presidents and several office holders have guided the destiny of the organisation over the years and others will continue to do so in the succeeding years, yet the structure of the ASJA remains intact, riveted to the creed of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaat as interpreted by the four Imams, in particular, Imam Abu Hanifa.
Two of the longest serving Presidents of the association have made their mark on either side of our country’s independence.Haji Mohammed Ibrahim, who engaged in Masjid building programmes, among other things, constructed the Jama Masjid in 1942, provided leadership and guidance in the formative and early years over a sustained period of time, while Haji Shafik Rahaman engaged in education and school building programmes and provided the stability and expansionist policies which characterise the ASJA today.It must be mentioned that these two stalwarts had distinctively similar qualities of vision and foresight and both were dynamic and aggressive leaders and shaped in the philanthropic mould.
The Association, for the purposes
of coordination, has divided these Jamaats along five geographic areas,
known as Regions, each with a Chairman and an Executive elected by the
Jamaats of each particular Region.
These are responsible to the
National Executive, which in turn, is elected by delegates of each of
the eighty-six (86) Jamaats.
Units of the Association, apart
from the National Executive, include Regional Councils and Jamaats and
the Imams’ Council, the Council of Ulemas, the Divorce Council and
the General Council through which is enforced the Constitution and policy
The Youth Arm of the Association
is the National ASJA Youth Association (NAYA) and the ASJA Ladies Association
looks after the needs of the sisters at the National and Regional levels.
The National Executive is the supreme body in the organisation.
The Education Board of Management
is directly responsible for all the Association’s schools, while the
Imams’ Council determines the role and functions of Imams and attends
to the spiritual needs of the Jamaats.
The National Executive, headed
by the President General, is responsible for the day- to-day and overall
management and coordination of the multifarious activities conducted
by the Association and also maintains linkages at national, regional
and international levels.
The Haji Ruknuddeen Institute of Islamic Studies, a semi autonomous body of the ASJA, looks after the religious educational needs of the community.
At the spiritual level, the
ASJA has been blessed over the years with guidance in Islamic affairs,
with the office of Sheikh ul Islam headed by two renowned Alims in the
saintly personality of the late Haji Ruknuddeen Sahib (RA) and the scholarly
Maulana Fazlur Rahaman Ansari (RA) of Pakistan.
Maulana Siddiq Ahmad Nasir
who held the title of Sheikh ul Islam did so for a short period in the
1990's. Haji Ruknuddeen Sahib prior to serving as Sheikh ul Islam of
ASJA was appointed Qazi in the year 1928 following the death of Syed
Abdul Aziz; his predecessor. He also
became the President of the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association but relinquished
the post when Moulvi Ameer Ali was elected Mufti preaching the doctrine
of Qadianism. Under his leadership Haji Ruknuddeen with full support
of Sunnis of the Hanafi Madhab then founded the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat in 1933. This became
an incorporated body in 1935. A1 Haj Maulana Shah Muhammad Hassan Al-
Qaderi R.A, a Sufi with a spiritual following was also a founding member of the ASJA
Mention must also be made of Moulvi Nazir Ahmad Simab B.A who served
the ASJA as a missionary from 1935 serving as lecturer and teacher until his return to
India in August 1937.
In 1941 the ASJA again engaged
the missionary services of a Moulvi this time Moulvi Fateh Dad
Khan of Guyana who also became the Pesh Imam of the Haji Gokool Mosque
in St. James.
The ASJA has also been favoured
with missionaries over the years in the persons of the late Moulvi Fateh
Dad Khan, Moulvi Ishmael Adam (India) and Moulvi Ahmad Saied (India)
who have all rendered noble services to the community. In later years
Maulanas Dr. Waffie Mohammed and Imran Hosein became ASJA's graduates
from the Aleemiyah Institute in Pakistan. Maulana Nagib Hosein, Maulana
Siddiq Nasir of Guyana, Dr. Musa Mohammed of Sudan, Maulana Ayub Ali
and Maulana Mustaq Sulaimani have all contributed,
and most recently Sheikh Faisal Abdur Razak and Sheikh Feisal Baksh
of Canada have made outstanding contributions.
The turning point of Islam
and the transformation of the Muslim life in this country and the ASJA
as an organisation came with the visit of that revered personality,
His Eminence Maulana Abdul Aleem
Siddiqui (RA) with Dr. Fazlur Rahaman Ansari (RA) as his secretary in
1950 who gave new dimension to the Islamic image and gave new meaning to religious
obligation, values and cultural practices. The dress code for women,
the performance of Salaat and education were high on the list of priority topics dealt with
by His Eminence, who also encouraged and promoted the performance of
Zikr as an exercise towards greater spirituality. One of his major successes
was his address to a crowd of seven thousand (7000) at a Rally organised
by the ASJA at the Queens Park Savannah Port of Spain bringing together
Muslims from far and wide. Three notable converts to Islam include
Haji Yusuf Mitchell who was an Architectural draughtsman who later assisted
in drawing the plans for some of our colleges and Masjids, Sister Muriel
Fatima Donawa, a teacher who eventually became a Minister of Government
and Brother Rafaee Scope.
Zikr groups established several
Jamaats in this country and strengthened by Maulana Dr. Fazlur Rahaman
Ansari in succeeding years after his appointment as Sheikh ul Islam
in 1964 bear further testimony to the successful efforts of Maulana
Later, Haji Mohammed Yusuf
Francis, a local Sufi leader, established the ‘Halqa’ exercises
training his devotees in spiritual development.
It must be noted that His Eminence Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddiqui (RA) was well known not only on the international scene, but in his native country, India, where he continued, until his departure from this world, to educate the Muslims there. He produced a booklet entitled “Elementary Teachings of Islam” which is the standard text used by ASJA in our schools and Maktabs. These books are distributed by the ASJA, free of charge. He also authored the book ‘History of the Codification of Islamic Law’.
At the primary education level,
the ASJA established seven (7) primary schools at the following locations:
- Carapichaima, Charlieville, San Fernando, Rio Claro, Princes Town,
Point Fortin, Barrackpore, three of which were officially opened on
11th January 1953. Not content with these successes,
the Association soon entered the field of secondary school education
with both the San Fernando ASJA Boys College and San Fernando ASJA Girls
College being established as private institutions in 1960 and 1962 respectively.
In 1966, ASJA Boys became state-aided and in 1976 ASJA Girls was similarly
granted state aid.
These colleges have had great
successes over the years and when, in the year 1999, permission was
granted, once more, for the construction of denominational schools at
the secondary level, the ASJA grasped the opportunity and constructed
four (4) colleges: - ASJA Boys, ASJA Girls both at Charlieville and
ASJA Girls at Tunapuna and at Barrackpore all of which opened their
doors in the year 2000.
These colleges have all had
graduating students in 2005 despite the sometime trying conditions due
to construction which both teachers and students endured and for which
they must be commended.
The ASJA’s contingent of
schools and colleges now stand at sixteen (16) with three (3) Pre-schools
The literacy level of our community could not have been so greatly enhanced had it not been for our entry into the field of secular education in which moral and religious values form an integral part of our schools curriculum.
As the majority Islamic Body
in the minority among other religious groupings in the country, it is
our responsibility to ensure that Islamic values and laws are respected
and that Muslims are treated with fairness at all levels especially
at the national level. With strong representation in the late
1960’s, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act was proclaimed so that
our sons and daughters could be registered at birth as legitimate and
not illegitimate as we were previously classified. Since then,
Imams and other qualified persons have been appointed as Marriage and
Divorce officers on an on-going basis.
With the attainment of Independence
in 1962, the ASJA’s role in the community was boosted with the President
General being placed on the Government’s protocol list as the Chief
Representative of the Muslim religion in Trinidad and Tobago.
The ASJA gained further prominence by having Government declare Eid ul Fitr as a public holiday, for the first time, and, to demonstrate the gratitude of the Muslim community, the ASJA hosted a grand Eid dinner at the Trinidad Hilton in 1967 which the then Governor General, Sir Solomon Hochoy, officers and members of the ASJA, Heads of Government Departments, representatives of the Judiciary and the Diplomatic Corps attended. Regarding the Eid holiday, the policy of the ASJA remains the same as it is today in that whenever there is doubt of the sighting of the moon, on the 29"' day Ramadan, the holiday will be given on the following day. The Muslim Coordinating Council maintains the situation today.
The then President General
of ASJA, Haji Shafik Rahaman, who had, in 1976, been elevated to the
prestigious position of being a member of Rabita's committee on "The
Conference on the role of the Mosque" convinced the Rabita office
in Saudi Arabia to jointly hold a conference in Trinidad for the Caribbean
and South American regions. This Conference was held in 1977 with all
the pomp and ceremony befitting a world conference at which delegates
from the Caribbean and South American countries attended along with
representatives of all the local Muslim organizations.
The main address was delivered by the late Prime Minister, The Honourable Eric Williams (picture above). Dr. Williams gave a comprehensive speech on "The Resurgence of Islam as a Religious and World Economic System for Humanity". The Secretary General of Rabita also gave a speech at the opening session. Over Twelve hundred (1,200) people attended what was considered to be the largest Muslim conference ever held in this part of the world. At the end of proceedings, Haji Shafik Rahaman was elected Secretary General and Bro. Kamal Hosein, Treasurer of -"The Islamic Conference of South America and the Caribbean-ICSAC. The Rabita's office was located in San Fernando and the relationship between ASJA and Rabita grew into intense coordination between the two organizations. When the Secretary General fell ill and, after his demise, Maulana Dr: Waffie Mohammed, an Aleemiyah trained Maulana, was appointed Regional Director.
In 1988, the Association entered into a venture with the Islamic Development Bank, [IDB], in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, whereby deserving students would be provided with a loan for the full term of their studies at The University of The West Indies, [UWI]. Four (4) students were enrolled in the initial year and, today, the ASJA IDB Loan Programme, as it is known, continues to benefit members of our own country. To date, approximately 18 doctors and engineers have graduated from this programme.
The ASJA also entered into
an alliance with the Tackveeyat ul Islamic Association [T.I.A] and the
Trinidad Muslim League [T.M.L], two (2) other Muslim Organizations in
Trinidad, under the umbrella of the Muslim Coordinating Council and
has cooperated in meeting the needs of the community. With a new Constitution
being adopted by ASJA in 1990, new horizons were opened up and the Executive
took the initiative, in 1991, to host a consultation conference sought
to bring about harmony, accord, rapport and understanding as means of
cementing ties and cooperation in the community.
One major activity of this body was the hosting of Eid Celebrations at Skinner Park San Femando in which all organisations participated. Due to financial constraints this activity was discontinued. The ASJA however continues to maintain this event annually.
From as far back as the 1940's
the ASJA has been involved in assisting financially in the area of natural
disasters whether at the local or international levels. Severe drought at that time in India was so
overwhelming that it became a matter of international concern and the
ASJA contributed significantly to the Indian Famine relief Fund.
The ASJA also contributed heavily to the earthquake victims in Pakistan in the late 1970's and also later the earthquake of Iran both of which claimed thousands of lives and left thousands homeless. Within more recent times the ASJA Disaster Relief Fund has been able to bring relief to millions who have been displaced through the Tsunami Disaster in South East Asia and more so in Indonesia. Contributions have also been made to help in assisting victims of the Earthquake Disaster in Pakistan last year.
Around the year 1955 the ASJA
was responsible for successfully arranging legal representations for
twenty four (24) seamen (Lascars) who were charged with mutiny aboard
ship. A Pakistani seaman was also charged for murder. They were all
repatriated after due process with the ASJA providing for their needs
in the interim.
In the 1950's and 1960's the
war between rival factions of the Madinga Tigers in Biche became unbearable
for the Police Services, residents and families of victims of a family
feud that could not be contained.
With the help of the ASJA the matter was eventually brought under control to everyone's relief and peace restored to the village.
Mindful of its obligations
at the community level the Zakaat programmes continue to benefit persons
at the Jamaat level.
In the 1990's the need to expand
such services as well as to address the needs of Poor relief and related
areas, Drug rehabilitation, Counselling services and Clinic facilities
and a Home for the Aged came sharply into focus.
These facilities from humble
beginnings at Montrose Mosque now to be found at the ASJA Islamic Community
Services Home Aged in Longdenville.
Product certification has always
been of concern to the ASJA because of the number of Muslims who patronize
fast food outlets and those who purchase packaged meats and other products, including
beverages. This is an ongoing process requiring constant vigilance.
Clinics- the ASJA was able
to establish two (2) medical clinics at Arima and Charlieville Mosques
on a biweekly basis. Doctors continued to be sourced partly from the IDB student
programme and other doctors who voluntarily gave their services.
Due to lack of voluntary help
at the Jamaat levels both facilities fell into disuse and had to be
Hospitals and Medical Services Complex- The ASJA has plans in place to embark upon the construction of Hospital and Medical Services Complex to meet the healthcare needs of all who require such services.
This occasion, which is juxtaposed between the two festivals, attracts a large cross section of the Muslin community as an all-day family event and, without doubt, the largest gathering of Muslims at any given point in time. Jamaats, Booth holders, Principals, teachers and students of our schools and members of the organisation and community interests all share in the day's activities in which items are provided for the oldest amongst us and games and services for youths and toddlers. This year a new dimension will be added to the celebrations to entertain the thousands that assemble for the event.
This year , a large contingent
of participants is expected to participate from other visiting countries
with ASJA as the host organisation in what promises to be a very exciting weekend at
the end of August, being held on the 26th and 27th of August.
Over three hundred (300) foreign guests and participants are expected
to be hosted by ASJA some of whom will be accommodated at the Complex.
Special dormitories are being constructed for this event, to house participants and guests alike, as well as to accommodate youth camps, which have been a regular annual feature of the Association's community-oriented programmes.
This year, with added impetus
of last year's success, the second annual celebrations occupied two
days with an eat-out dinner, singing of songs and fireworks on the 29th
May, preceding the main celebrations on the 30th. This was an all-day
event with participation from schools, colleges, Jamaats and stakeholders
and members of the community.
The Eat out dinner was a welcome change with over two thousand persons in attendance in a garden setting with their families and friends. The actual holiday was marked by a street procession of schools with speeches, Qaseedas and an awards ceremony forming part of the official programme followed by a cultural programme later in the afternoon. Children and even adults availed themselves of the opportunity to have some fun on the chair plane which was provided free of charge.Our 70th Anniversary Celebrations
The Organisation, ASJA, also held conferences at different levels, the last being Vision 2006 with a focus on future development. Conferences of Teachers have also been an on going event in the education system which has the potential for becoming an annual event on the educational landscape. In the same vein, the celebration of Meelad un Nabi continues to be a national event and was celebrated this year with a massive rally for school children where more than three thousand (3,000) students and staff members attended.
The Educational Complex at
Charlieville continues to grow into a fantastically massive Conglomeration
of buildings already accommodating two colleges, a primary school, a
pre school and a Markaz, a centre being built to house the Institute
of Islamic studies, a convention hall, an auditorium and a penthouse,
with Masjid facilities on the ground level. There will also be an artefact
room, a language laboratory and a library, and a restaurant to cater
for all levels of our society in a relatively safe environment.
The complex will also house dormitory facilities for students and teachers of the Institute and a Cultural Centre for the teaching and practising of our cultural beliefs and practices.
As we close this chapter on
seventy years in the life of our organisation, we must remember our
Jamaats and our Imams who have laboured long and hard both in the formative
stage and, in more recent times, to hold Jamaats and the community together.
These are the real stalwarts
and when the question is asked, "How has the ASJA served"?
The laurels must go to those hard working Imams and members of our Jamaats,
firstly for their commitment to the teachings and practices of Ahlus
Sunnah Wal Jamaat, and secondly, for keeping the membership alert and
informed through active participation.
Our missionaries must also
be commended for their role in educating the community and providing
guidance to our Regions and Jamaats.
May Allah bless and reward those who have guided the destiny of the Association and may He assist us in the continued development of Islam in these parts.