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  • Writer's pictureAslam Abdullah

Marghoob Qureshi: An American Muslim Pioneer

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Marghoob Quraishi was born in India and moved to Pakistan soon after the partition of the subcontinent. After obtaining his undergraduate degree from Pakistan, he came to California in 1960, via London and Montreal, for his graduate studies in business and finance at Stanford University. After completing his master's degree, he started his firm in business and financial consulting.

Mr. Quraishi's activism dated back to his college days. His prime concern was social issues facing the Muslim world in general and the American Muslim community. Over the past 45 years, he was involved in founding and organizing a host of American Muslim institutions throughout the US, especially in California. He was one of the founders of the Muslim Students Association, the United Muslims of America organization, and the Muslim Student Network internship program in Washington, DC. Besides, he founded the summer Muslim Youth Camp and the Islamic School at Stanford, both of which have been in operation for the last 40 years. He established and was the Executive Director of the Strategic Research Foundation, a prominent Muslim think tank. He edited Muslim journals, Al-Manar and Geopolitics Reviews.

It was the summer of 1985, and inside the cubic Kaaba, there was this middle-aged man next to me crying with floods of tears running on his cheeks. I had just finished my prayer inside the Kaaba. We looked at each other. He said, "I am Marghoob Quraishi from Palo Alto, California." "I am Aslam Abdullah from London," I replied. It was our first meeting inside the Kaaba. Marghoob Quraishi was in Makkah, attending an international conference on Islam and social change. I told him that I was there also to present a paper on media ethics. We spent the next three days together talking about almost everything that we could think of, as far as the Muslim state of affairs was concerned. He told me about a youth camp that he had initiated in California since 1958. I told him of the "Arabia" news magazine that I was associated with.

A few months later, we met again at the residence of Hashir Farooqi, a fellow journalist in London. One evening, Mr. Farooqi called me and urged me to come to his home as quickly as possible, as he wanted me to meet someone from America who wanted to set up a think tank for Muslims. Without knowing that it was Marghoob Quraishi, I rushed to his residence. I stayed there for almost six hours talking about the Muslim community's status and the need to inject into it fresh thinking.

The third time we met was in Malaysia, where Marghoob was attending another international conference. I was there giving a series of lectures to the university of Malay students on media ethics. It was at this meeting that he invited me to his summer youth camp. I said, God willing.

I didn't realize that the opportunity to visit him would come soon. "Arabia" magazine was closed down, and I moved to Chicago to work at the American Islamic College. I contacted Marghoob upon my arrival to Chicago, and this was the beginning of a long friendship and work.

I didn't miss a year of the camp he had pioneered in California for almost ten years. I was also with him when he organized the Muslim Student Network, an annual policy training program in Washington. We exchanged hundreds of phone calls and thousands of emails during these 18 years.

He was a tireless mujahid, always concerned about the Muslim community's future, always worried about the dangers that lay ahead. His concerns came under sharp criticism when he founded the Strategic Research Foundation and invited me to be part of the foundation.

He was a visionary, an activist, a doer, a thinker, and above all, a frank and compassionate man. Not many people know that he was the first-ever Islamic organization in the US by immigrant Muslims. He put his resources at the service of the Muslim community. He never sought any office or any reward for his work.

His most precious contribution to the Muslim community is the annual Muslim Youth Camp - now in its 43rd year - that he founded and carried on until he met his Creator. He was a mentor to the young people who attended his camps. Many of these young people are now working in important positions in different companies and Islamic organizations.

His second most precious contribution to the Muslim community is the Muslim Student Network that he co-founded with his wife, Iffat Quraishi. The MSN is the only organized effort to link young Muslim America with political America. So far, more than 150 students have completed an intensive summer training program that has been offered every year since 1993. I have had the privilege to work with him almost every year. He never complained about the apathy of those who knew the importance of this work. He never criticized those who opposed him silently on this project.

In particular, Marghoob Quraishi wanted the MSN program to ensure Muslims' future in America. He knew that many in the Muslim community did not support this project simply because they were not guest speakers. Yet he never said a word of disrespect against anyone. On the contrary, he always tried to include such people in this project. Until he departed from this world, the project that he was working at was about a conference of scholars and activists that he wanted to organize first in London and subsequently in the US. He wanted Muslim scholars and activists to present a "State of the Umma" report to find ways to overcome our collective difficulties. We exchanged several drafts of the proposal. I had offered him the Las Vegas Islamic Society venue to host such a conference, and he was keen that such a meeting takes place either in March or in April. A few days before he met his Lord, he said, "I want to put together the team to finish the job, as I know I would not be here long." How right he was in foreseeing his last journey.

His legacy will live in the youth camps, MSN, and the scholars conference that, Inshallah, will take place. But more so in his daughters and son. May God bless him and elevate his status in paradise and give patience to his family. He was a silent soldier, a real hero, a real gem whose likes are rare in the US, the land of glamour and razzmatazz where Islamic work is to win a few second's spots in the media. He created wave after wave of change, yet he never proclaimed any status - for his ultimate reward would be with Allah.

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