by Daleel Jabir Muhammad @DaleelJabir7
NEW YORK—The Essex County community was on edge after an early morning shooting that claimed the life of a beloved imam, activist, and community leader.
Imam Hassan Sharif was shot and critically wounded after the early morning (Fajr) Prayer on January 3 around 6:00 a.m. He later succumbed to his injuries at nearby University Hospital from multiple gunshots inflicted on him by an unknown suspect in the parking lot of his masjid.
The beloved father, husband, community leader and resident imam of Masjid Muhammad Newark for the past five years was remembered as a “true street warrior that was out in the streets speaking with people and changing lives,” Imam Qasim Amin Nathari recalled of Imam Sharif.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement, “We don’t yet know all of the details, but here is what we do know, Imam Hassan Sharif stood with the people of this city, and we will stand with him and his family.”
An early statement from a masjid official said, “Our brother, father, friend, and husband we will give him his rights as a Muslim. We will shroud his body and give him his Janazah rights soon. The details for the Janazah will be forthcoming.”
Thousands attended the Jan. 6 janazah (Islamic funeral service) at the NIA Masjid and Community Center in Newark with crowds so large that people packed the mosque and its parking lot, joining prayers aired over speakers, reported northjersey.com.
Masjid Muhammad Newark in 1958 was known as Temple No. 25 and was the first Nation of Islam mosque opened in the city of Newark, according to their website.
Imam Hassan Sharif, 52, was a chaplain and a partner with Mayor Baraka’s Safe Surrender Program. It is a program where individuals with warrants can surrender at a safe place with the goal of surrendering peacefully. Masjid Muhammad Newark is one of the locations where fugitives met with and received counsel from the imam.
Along with sharing condolences from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at the evening prayer vigil, Student Minister Abdul Haqq Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 25 in Newark, N.J., shared words of guidance from the Minister to strive and to do our best to find the truth in what happened without speculation. He quoted from the Holy Qur’an 49:6, “O you who believe, if an unrighteous man brings you news, look carefully into it, lest you harm
a people in ignorance, then be sorry for what you did.”
We have to search and do our best to find the truth of the matter and not to follow rumors, gossip, and innuendos. Because doing that can cause us to turn on each other,” Student Min. Haqq Muhammad shared from the Minister.
“Imam Hassan Sharif was a life giver. He came and gave back to his community to educate, to uplift this community with the light he was given from Allah. He died coming out of the mosque worshipping Allah,” Student Min. Haqq Muhammad added. Imam Nathari, a prominent Muslim cleric and author, pointed out we have to take security more seriously.
“I am advocating masjids that don’t have security in place to set up a check procedure for men and women like the Nation of Islam,” he said. “Not only do we need to establish checking procedures, but also have a security post outside.”
In addition, Imam Nathari, who attended Temple No. 25 fifty years ago as a Junior F.O.I. (Fruit of Islam, the men of the Nation of Islam), proposed having simulated drills to teach people what to do in a situation of an active shooter, bomb threats and evacuation procedures.
Muslims are instructed to be alert and vigilant while the suspect or suspects are still at large.