Salaam Restaurant hosts Believers for Saviours’ Day 2023
CHICAGO—The Salaam Restaurant returned to its glory as the crowning jewel of the Southside just in time for The Nation of Islam’s 2023 Saviours’ Day convention, which took place Feb. 24-26.
Saviours’ Day is an annual event held to honor the birth anniversary of our Saviour, Master Fard Muhammad, Who was born on February 26, 1877. Believers gathered for plenary sessions and a host of activities concluding with the keynote address from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. The Salaam experience was just another part at the center of this Muslim reunion.
It was the desire of Min. Farrakhan to restore the N.O.I.-owned-and-operated restaurant for the Believers to enjoy during the anticipated weekend. Efforts to bring the restaurant back to his standards of creating a “Palace of the People” was not an easy task. The restaurant has reopened and closed throughout the years since the structure was completed in 1995. Years of wear and tear had taken a toll from the inside out.
Late last year, a committee comprised of members of the N.O.I. Executive Shura Council was formed to work on The Salaam Restoration Project. Student National M.G.T. Captain Naeemah Muhammad led the project. Other committee members included Student National Secretary Sa’ad Alim Muhammad, Student National Auditing Coordinator A’ishah Muhammad and Sister Aminah Bayyinah Muhammad, the administrative assistant to Min. Farrakhan.
“It was an absolute honor to be a part of this project,” said Sister Aliyah Muhammad, Sis. Capt. Naeemah’s assistant on the project. “To be able to work with so many different and talented Believers who all have their areas of expertise and watch as they poured their hard work into making sure our restaurant was restored was amazing! Everything from the floors to the ceiling was important and it showed in the end result. Nothing was overlooked.”
The restoration project began with a united effort of N.O.I. Muslim volunteers, contractors, electricians and helpers to restore every detail. Believers worked extremely hard to ensure that the Salaam Restaurant was ready for Saviours’ Day. Sister Aneva Muhammad of Chicago held a position of leadership as Salaam Manager of the project. She helped to organize volunteers and workers.
“When I accepted the post—to come in and see the Salaam with everything, everywhere—we had to sort through, organize, and clean from top to bottom and restore from October to this day, with the M.G.T. by my side,” Sis. Aneva said. “To see all of the Believers come through; it was such a beautiful experience. Although it was taxing on the body, it was well worth it.”
The completed project renewed and highlighted the original beauty of the unique structure complemented with updated greenery and curb appeal. Beautiful murals greet you as you enter and the details all throughout make for new experiences for first timers while bringing back memories to some who expressed fond memories.
“It almost felt like we never left. It looked almost identical as it did when we first opened,” said Sister Kutabi Muhammad of Mosque Maryam in Chicago, who assisted with the restoration. “And I was here when we first opened.”
The restaurant offered two floors of dining including a lower level of healthy and delicious meals while, the second floor offered a fine dining experience with a live jazz band and exquisite cuisine.
“It was exciting to be a small part of the process of restoring a place the Minister put so much into,” said Ayanna Muhammad of Mosque Maryam. Sis. Ayanna spoke about her role in the early stages as a helper all the way to the final presentation as a hostess in the fine dining area. “To help restore it back was definitely a reward. Really, the ultimate reward is to see all of the Believers truly enjoy the experience. I think everyone who walked out had something wonderful to say about their food, about the way it looked, you could see the joy and that made the difficult parts really worth it,” she said.
Head Chef of Fine Dining Sis. Haniyyah Muhammad, worked alongside a team of experienced cooks including her mother, Sis. Carmen Abdullah Muhammad. “To be a part of something so significant as to usher in the reopening of the Salaam Restaurant and be able to work alongside my daughter was truly a blessing,” Sis. Carmen said.
“This is my very first time here at the Salaam Restaurant,” said Sabrina Muhammad of Richmond, Virginia. “It has been absolutely amazing! The beauty and just the high civilization of this facility reign supreme! Top tier!”
After more than 20 years, Student M.G.T. Captain Samantha El-Amin Muhammad of Richmond, Va., agreed. “Love, love, love my experience here. It is wonderful to be back. I did come once before and I definitely enjoyed it then,” Sis. Samantha said. “But it is so wonderful to be back and I’m just hoping that it’s reopened for good so that everyone can enjoy this wonderful experience in this wonderful place. I came last night as well, and it was divine so now I have all of my family here, my mom, my brother, my husband, my children, my cousins. We were just so excited!”
Qadira Muhammad of Oklahoma City recalled her experience at Salaam as a child and coming back years later as a young adult. “When I walked in, I felt the energy, and it was amazing! Live music, that was really cool and the food was incredible,” she said.
Like many, Sis. Qadira recognized the difference of the time and valued every moment of her experience: “Being here at Saviours’ Day has been very unique to us. This year, I felt like it was different from recent previous years. And I think it had to do with us coming back together,” she said.
“There’s a new elevation of where we are, where we feel we need to be. And with the weightiness of the time right now, to come into the fine dining has been something that’s gonna take some reflecting, to be honest, because we’re in a different time now, and so we really do have to treat it like every time we meet might be our last time for a while.”