About Us

Our Ancestors began their arrival in Trinidad in the year 1845. They came with little material possessions but with faith and a daunting spirit to succeed. From areas of the sub-continent of India; be it Punjab, United Provinces, Faisabad, Calcutta, Madras, Benares, or Uttar Pradesh to Port of Spain by steamer they came to cultivate the sugar cane fields. They brought their faith, Islam, those who professed it.

The first wave of labourers gave way to greater numbers in the 1870's. They toiled in the fields and practised their respective faiths. In the workplace and in their homes until, for the Muslims, Masajid were built. The early ones recorded are Calcutta and Victoria Village. They then grew in numbers over the years. Today, they dot the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago with some eighty (80) odd such masajid. Haji Ruknuddeen Sahib, who later became Qazi and then Shaikul Islam, was the first Imam at Victoria Village, while the late Dookie Meah is reported to have been the first Imam at Calcutta No. 1 Masjid. Calcutta Masjid, the first, was established in 1863. The land on which the masjid exists today was given to the late Dookie Meah who built this masjid for the muslims and the first "panchayat" system started at that compound soon after.

In 1868, the then Governor, in a hand-written document, exempted the first masjid in Calcutta from the payment of rates and taxes. To this day, no taxes are paid. Then there was the masjid at Thomas Street in Chaguanas which later played a key role in the history and direction of the Muslim community. The late Sirajuddin Meah played a major role for the ASJA as Imam of that masjid. Iere Village and Realise Road Masajid were two others established late in the 19th Century. They are all active today.

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.

The ASJA and its Origins - A Historical Perspective

This body was incorporated by Act No. 24 in the year 1935. The first Secretary of the ASJA was the late Abbas Hosein of San Juan. An early founder- patron of the ASJA was Al-Haj Maulana Shah Mohammed Hassan Al-Qaderi (R.A). 1950 witnessed a Renaissance with the visit of our esteemed Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddiqui and Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari (R.A). Maulana Ansari was later to become our Sheikh ul Islam. The ASJA itself, since its incorporation in 1935, has had a most colourful history. From its first President Imam Mohammed Hosein, who was later to serve at the Jama Masjid in San Fernando it can record a meteoric rise to the present day.

In the early years, past Presidents include the late Abdul Ghany and Haji Mohammed Ibrahim. The latter served until he died in 1956. Haji Mohammed Ibrahim assumed the Presidency in 1938 after returning from pilgrimage. The late Abdul Ghany was the President of the ASJA prior to this. During the tenure of Haji Mohammed Ibrahim, the late Mohammed Esau Rahaman served as President for one (1) year in 1949. Sometime in the mid 1950's the late Mohammed Hosein Shah also served as the President of the ASJA. After the death in 1956 of Haji M. Ibrahim, the late Haji John Mohammed assumed the Presidency, with the late Haji Shafik Rahaman as his under study. Succeeding Haji John Mohammed was the late Haji Shafik Rahaman who served as Leader until 1981 when illness forced him to resign.

Throughout the years of the Presidency of both Haji M. Ibrahim and Haji John Mohammed, the late Haji Shafik Rahaman was to play an important role in the ASJA especially in the establishment of the Primary and Secondary schools from 1952. Today, the ASJA manages seven (7) primary schools and six (6) secondary colleges. The first primary schools were established in 1953. The last four (4) ASJA Boys’ and Girls’ Colleges. In the year 2000, Haji Abdul Sattar on the resignation of Haji Shafik due to ill health, took over the Presidency in 1981 until 1990. From that time, Haji Dr. Mansoor Ibrahim has been the serving President. One of the dedicated servants of the ASJA, Dr Wahid Ali, served as President of the Senate for many a year.

The ASJA, today, has been restructured to provide for a Shura Council with a Spiritual Head and Administrative Executive which it is hoped, Insha-Allah, will provide greater momentum in service to the community.

So much for the origins of the three Founding Members. We were at one time all together and in recent times, every effort was made by many by dint of a co-ordinating effort to bring about some degree of unity among the three major Muslim organizations. We always felt we had the ability to formulate change. We must also have the capacity and will to make it a reality. With this ceremony today, the initialling of a Memorandum of Understanding, we have with Allah Subhanahu wa Taala as our Witness, with the goodwill of the leaders and members of our respective Organizations, we’re well on the pathway to success. We, today, lay the formal groundwork for the thrust forward. Nothing must stand in our way. We shall have as our Motto, “Service to Allah with Service to Mankind”. When those whom we serve expect more from us “Are we prepared to give it?” Our effort in all this must be to stabilize the community to produce the best results.

Our aims in the Memorandum include emphasis to engage in service through technology, journalism and the mass media to deliver the message. Our Organizations must co-operate to establish the Islamic Institutions that affect the varied aspects of our lives. We have to contribute to the future generations. (Quote from Dr Ahmed Sakr): “We are not to live with the past but we are to benefit from the past to build a brighter future”. We are to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to us. One has to remember the saying of the old persons: “They planted and we ate and we are planting so that they in the future will eat.”

And what did our own Noble Prophet of Islam tell us? “Work for your worldly affairs as if you are to live forever, and work for your Hereafter as if you are to die tomorrow”. If we can say we are proud of our heritage and ancestors, then let us inspire the same feelings in the offsprings of today’s muslims. Let our children be proud of their parents because of their achievements, because of their contributions and for the institutions that their parents were able to establish. Let us all therefore exploit the opportunities we have, to enhance ourselves and our people with the bounties that are available to us. Allah Subhanahu wa Taala has reminded us muslims that only the good hardworking people are the ones who are to govern and to establish themselves on earth.

The establishment of Islamic institutions is a symbol of the presence of a strong and viable community. Islamic institutional development, schools, colleges, hospitals, financial services and the like, an Islamic newspaper, radio and T.V. endeavour to express the cultural aspects of Islam. We can only achieve these when we are united and strong. We shall have now this HOPE and DREAM and, with a clear vision, we cannot fail. It will take all the hard work and sacrifice. Are we prepared for the challenges? Unity will be achieved.

The effort has been a long and pain-staking one. Many of our former leaders staked their reputation on it. We have to enhance each others’ efforts. We will excel only in our desire to serve, and compete only in promoting better facilities. We have the hope, the desire and the will to succeed. We record the past so we can only reshape the future. Our children must stay in school longer to be able to produce a richer people in all the facets of their lives. Our visions must be for a well ordered, organized and disciplined community. We must put systems in place to take care of succession after we have set our our goals and objectives. We have got to identify the young; if not, there will be a serious void in our future plans.

Finally, "Success in life is not what we have but how much we are prepared to give". May Allah Subhanahu wa Taala bless all our efforts.

-- Haji Yacoob Ali.

The First ASJA Meeting in 1935

The First ASJA Meeting in 1935 Trinidad

Standing from left to right: Aziz Mohammed, Taheeb Ali, Meharwan Mohammed, Backreedee Meah, Abbass Hosein, Haji Ruknuddeen 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.

Organizational Structure

The ASJA is structured along community lines, with the Association being responsible for eighty six (86) Jamaats in the country. Each Masjid is headed by an Imam and an administrative executive that conducts the affairs of each Jamaat looking after spiritual, social and welfare needs.

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 directives.

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.

National Representation

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.

Muslim World League

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.

Eric Williams at Muslim World League ASJA Trinidad

The main addresses were delivered by the late Prime Minister, The Honourable Eric Williams and the Secretary General of Rabita. 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.

Spiritual Development

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 Siddiqui. 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’.

Muslim Coordinating Council

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.