The smell of fresh paint and the loud whirring sound of a wet saw slicing ceramic tile resound the halls of the Dar-us-Salaam campus with building renovations ongoing since March 2021.
With over twenty on-going and planned reconstruction projects, dozens of contractors and a new building manager, Dar-us-Salaam is working diligently to repair, renovate and refresh the well-loved, venerable building on Edgewood Road. Some of the major projects completed or close to completion include replacing the entire roof, repaving the main parking lot, renovating the preschool, and remodeling the boys’ bathroom after a complete demolition. Projects in the earlier stages include installing a new drainage system, an electrical panel update, and renovating the courtyard.
“There is a labor shortage due to the pandemic, but, alhamdulillah, we have a great team working with us now,” Br. Omar Smith, an associate from Dar-us-Salaam’s Donor Care Office, explains. “Once we found professional, committed people to work with, we devote our best efforts to stay on top of everything, because we know it is an amaanah (trust) from the community.”
While this building in College Park, Maryland, is the home of Al-Huda School which includes Al-Huda High School, Al-Huda Middle School, Al-Huda Elementary School and Al-Huda Preschool, it is truly a community center. It is Dar-us-Salaam’s weekly musallah for Salat-al-Jum’ah every Friday. It is where community members gather to worship and celebrate Eid each year and lean on one another for sympathy and support during Janazah prayers. School events, sports and extracurriculars are hosted here with DUS Youth and Aqabah Karate as well as halaqas, sisters-only social events, and educational seminars by iMuslimah.
“It’s an exciting time with all the new changes that will be inspiring for everyone to see,” Br. Omar continued. “It’s also the perfect time for people to witness and support a historical change in the Dar-us-Salaam community.”
“It’s an exciting time with all the new changes that will be inspiring for everyone to see…It’s also the perfect time for people to witness and support a historical change in the Dar-us-Salaam community.”
Constructed in the 1930s, Dar-us-Salaam’s building has never undergone a transformation of this magnitude. Dar-us-Salaam, since its establishment in 1994, has always been a community that focuses on the inside, or what’s in the heart. It was not necessarily about where the community was located or how glamorous the building appeared as long as it was a purposeful community that worshipped Allah.
The opportunity for significant renovations, however, came along when the building was emptied during the pandemic as per state regulations. The DUS Donor Care Office launched fundraising campaigns online in lieu of the annual fundraising dinner. The generosity of the donors this past Ramadan finalized the decision to initiate major renovations that had been on the organization’s ‘to-do’ list for years.
The Donor Care Office believes people will continue donating when they see the drastic yet essential changes. “We aren’t here hanging up chandeliers,” Br. Omar pointed out. “We are focusing on high-quality, functional improvements.”
“We aren’t here hanging up chandeliers. We are focusing on high-quality, functional improvements.”
The parking lot re-pavement, for example, will not only allow the parking to be organized but also facilitate the numerous outdoor events like the Drive-Thru Iftars and Grocery Giveaways with Ansaar-ul-Birr Community services (ABCs) as well as family barbecues and outdoor movie nights.
“People don’t always take things like building maintenance seriously,” Br. Safi Khan, the Imam of the Dar-us-Salaam community explains. “Our primary motivations are the safety and security of everyone who uses the building, increasing the longevity of the building, and decreasing the cost of future maintenance.”
“Our primary motivations are the safety and security of everyone who uses the building, increasing the longevity of the building, and decreasing the cost of future maintenance.”
While a strong first step has been taken, the new building manager, Br. Zahir Hussain, anticipates that the entire process will take about 2 years.
“I view it as a challenge, because it is an old building. However, I think it’s crucial that there are no quick fixes and everything is repaired in the way that it should be, in shaa Allah,” Br. Zahir said. “If a building is taken care of properly, it doesn’t matter how old it is. I’ve worked in buildings that were 200 to 250 years old and they still looked really good.”
Some of the many new changes that have taken place under the direct supervision of Brother Zahir include hiring a new maintenance team and cleaning staff, upgrading the glass building entrance doors with more secure metal doors and completing a new drainage system for the crawl spaces.
This will be the second year that the annual fundraising dinner is canceled due to Covid-restrictions, but the Donor Care Office is optimistic that over these next few months, donors will be putting the ‘unity’ back in ‘community’ to fund these substantial upgrades. A little goes a long way when it’s a joint effort because nearly half of all contributions raised for the ongoing renovations so far – about 48.7% – were under $100.
Dar-us-Salaam aims to, one day, by the will of Allah, expand to a residential, Islamic community open to all, that is based on the principles in the Qur’an and Sunnah. The vision is that such a living, dynamic, and vibrant community can become a paradigm for Muslim communities around the world to emulate. Such a community will invite people to Islam by example, not merely through words alone, with the help and permission of Allah.
“As we continue to build a driven, Allah-centered community for His sake…we have to remember that ‘fee sabeel-illah’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘free sabeel-illah’.”
“As we continue to build a driven, Allah-centered community for His sake,” Br. Safi said light-heartedly, “we have to remember that ‘fee sabeel-illah’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘free sabeel-illah’.”
To help build a stronger Dar-us-Salaam, support at darussalaam.org/donate .