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Siraj Wahhaj
Born Jeffrey Kearse
1950 (age 59–60)
New York City, New York, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Islamic scholar
Religious beliefs Sunni Islam

Siraj Wahhaj (born Jeffrey Kearse, 1950) is an African-American Muslim convert to Islam and public figure for Muslims in North America. He is currently the Imam of Al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn, New York and the leader of The Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA).


Early life

Siraj Wahhaj was born as Jeffrey Kearse, who was raised in Brooklyn, New York. His mother was a nurse and his father a hospital dietitian. He went to church very religiously and went on to become a Sunday school teacher as a teenager in a Baptist church.[1] Wahhaj then later went on to the New York University on a partial scholarship. He also played basketball where he met his coach who interested him in the Nation of Islam.

In 1969 he ended his schooling and joined the Nation of Islam changing his name to Jeffrey12x.[1] During this time he was vocal in his belief that that “white people are devils." He said of this, “I preached it. I taught it.”[2] Imam Siraj says of his interest in the nation:

"It wasn't the theology that attracted me to the Nation of Islam at all... It was the kind of do-for-self black pride."

In 1975, at age 77, Elijah Muhammed died; of his death the Imam Siraj said,

"his teachings began to unravel in my mind,"

He became a Sunni Muslim after the death of Elijah Muhammad and with the encouragement of Muhammad's son Warith Deen Mohammed who took over and reorganized the organization, urging members to come to orthodox Islam. Kearse then changed his name again to Siraj Wahhaj (which means "bright light" in Arabic). He was chosen to study Islam at the Umm al-Qura university of Mecca for a period of four months in 1978.[2] He also briefly taught a course in Islamic studies at Howard University, where Johari Abdul-Malik is the chaplain.

Public Life

Siraj is an extremely prolific speaker in America. He makes many appearances at major North American Muslim conventions, and numerous forums and lectures in New England. His audio and video lectures are also popular in America's Muslim community. He is known to encourage Muslims to be God-fearing, enjoin good and forbid evil, practice regular charity, stay away from drugs, abstain from pre-marital relations, and other issues as well. He has also appeared on several national television talk shows and has had interviews with several media outlets.

In 1991 Siraj offered an invocation (opening prayer) to the United States House of Representatives. He was the first Muslim to do so.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hosted Imam Siraj and other notable scholars for a Ramadan feist of lamb, lentils and saffron rice.



Masjid Al Taqwa

In 1981 Wahhaj started his own mosque, Masijd Al-Taqwa, in a friend's apartment in Brooklyn. Later they bought an abandoned clothing store which is where Masjid Al Taqwa still resides today. The Masjid has expanded since then and usually overcrowded on days of Jummah (Friday prayer).

Anti drug movement

In 1988 he led his community in an anti-drug patrol in which they staked out drug houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the cold of winter for 40 days and nights, forcing the closure of 15 drug houses. This effort received high praise from the New York City Police Department and the media.

Organizational Involvement

Since that time, Siraj has been active in many Islamic organizations. He has been vice president of the Islamic Society of North America since 1997 and has served on the Majlis al Shura, a consultative council of Islamic scholars, since 1987. He is a member of the Board of Advisors for the American Muslim Council and has also served on the national board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

In 2005 Imam Siraj was elected as the Amir (Chair) of MANA's Diwan (Executive committee). MANA was founded on the independent ideas of many scholars including Siraj Wahhaj, Zaid Shakir, Hamza Yusuf, Talib Abdur Rashid, Asim Abdur Rashid, Ihsan Bagby, R. Mukhtar Curtis, Abdul Hakim Jackson, Amir al-Islam and many others. The organization's initials stand for Muslim Alliance in North America. The organization has since held two conventions in 2007 and 2008, in which the topics community activism, criminal justice and marriage where given great concern.

Recent Speeches

Imam Siraj is still the resident Imam of Masjid Al- Taqwa as well as a speaker across the country. One of his most recent speeches was given on September 5, 2009 during the "United Against Malaria" conference, were he helped to raise money for people of Africa suffering from Malaria.


A jury threw out Siraj's $5 million (libel) lawsuit against Curtis Sliwa for claiming the mosque had run guns to Canada, after the Guardian Angels had helped the mosque fight a crack epidemic in the 1980s.

Battle with Prostate Cancer

Imam Siraj, having publicly spoken about his battle with hyper tension stated in a letter posted on that he'd been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer.

As a result of being thoroughly checked by the competent doctors in Atlanta , I have been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Al Hamdulillah, inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajiun. (All Praise is for Allah. Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.) My diagnosis is not as bad as it sounds on the surface. Many men have been cured from prostate cancer. My doctors are very optimistic about my cure, and so am I. InshaAllah the treatment should last about two months

Months later Imam Siraj wrote another letter on where he stated that he was now cured of the disease:

Al Hamdulillah, I'm happy to announce to MANA readers and supporters that my major treatment for prostate cancer has been successfully completed. This has been a major milestone in my life and I thank Allah, Most High, for His purification, love and mercy. Likewise, it is through Allah's love and mercy that my treatment has been paid for with help from so many of you. The generous donations, acts of kindness, duas, and overall love shown to me and my family has been a true blessing and is deeply appreciated. Jazakallah khairan! Your highest reward is with Allah, Most High. Many of you want to know how I'm feeling. This is an easy question to answer. Al Hamdulillah, I feel very good. I think I'm in very good condition and I actually feel more healthy now than I have in years. I'm exercising everyday, eating healthy and am more conscious of making the best choices for my health. I really feel I'm on the right track in terms of achieving and maintaining a lifestyle of wellness. In terms of the efficacy of my treatment, my doctor has informed me that we are "right on target". Insha'Allah, after one month I will return for an evaluation, and again three months later for a full examination. With the full examination we will have a good idea of where things are, insha'Allah.


  1. ^ a b Paul M. Barrett (2007-02-16). American Islam. Washington Post. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  2. ^ a b Dulong, Jessica,The Imam of Bedford-Stuyvesant, May/June 2005, volume 56, number 3, retrieved November 15, 2009.

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