The ISRA Academy hosted a groundbreaking, sold-out fundraising event on Sunday 12 November 2023 at Edessa Reception in Greenfield Park with an overwhelming attendance in-person of over 600 people from diverse backgrounds and hundreds more tuning in online via livestream aiming to establish a comprehensive centre including a mosque at Casula, South West Sydney that would cater to the community, with a particular emphasis on the youth.

Rendering of the ISRA Islamic Centre.

The proposed ISRA Islamic Centre is set to include a beautiful mosque, flexible education spaces for Quran classes, Islamic courses, youth Islamic and leadership education, a fitness centre, youth recreation and hang-out spaces, facilities for Ramadan programs and Itikaf, and a commercial kitchen.

Despite the ongoing global events, Mr Orhan Kaba, the event’s MC, addressed the importance of moving forward, emphasising the community’s need for a place to pray, halal spaces for the youth, and continued education in the Deen. He expressed solidarity with current events affecting Muslims worldwide, particularly mentioning a rally in Sydney for the situation in Palestine.

Shaykh Mohamed Harby, Imam of Lakemba Mosque, opened the event with the recitation of the Qur’an.

Professor Mehmet Ozalp, the founder and executive director of ISRA, expressed gratitude for the community’s support, emphasising the profound impact of their backing: “It really means that you support this project. It gives us confidence to move on.”

Professor Ozalp shared a deeply personal story, recounting a moment of introspection during Hajj in 2001, “When I went to Hajj in 2001, I had that opportunity to think about what am I? What am I going to commit for the rest of my life?” He spoke about his dua for knowledge, a desire to be a teacher and student of knowledge, made at the Prophet’s (s) mosque in Madinah, reflecting on the historical significance of the location of As-Hab e Suffa, which is the first institution of higher learning in Islam where the Prophet (s) gave classes every to the young Sahaba, who attended the school full-time.

Now, reflecting on the ISRA project, Professor Ozalp continued: “I thought that when we established ISRA and had the opportunity to teach Islam at the university level was the fulfilment of the dream. Truly, this project, brothers and sisters, I really feel, is the last part of that dua that Allah is realising through us, through you, and through your support and donations.”

Imam Dr Salih Yucel delivered the first keynote speech, drawing parallels between the generosity of the Muslim community in Australia to that of Abubakar Sadiq: “As a Muslim, we need to be generous as well.” He emphasised the impact of contributions, stating, “Whatever you contribute doesn’t matter more or less.”

He recounted the story of when the Prophet Muhammad (s) was preparing to leave for the Tabuk expedition, Osman (r) contributed 600 camels. At the same time, another companion had only one or two kilograms of dates. When he presented his offering, the Prophet stopped everyone and took that small quantity of dates. He then spread it out along with what everyone else had brought, highlighting that this act symbolised the collective blessings (Barakah) of their offerings.

Shaykh Ikramuallah Ahmad, the second keynote speaker, focused on the spiritual significance of contributing to a mosque: “We’re all gathered here tonight to raise funds for a masjid, and we can imagine the significant reward a person will attain if he spends in the path of Allah (s) to build the most preferred of all places.”

Shaykh Shabbir Ahmed, the founder of Qubaa Mosque and a prominent scholar in Sydney, reinforced the spiritual importance of contributing to a mosque will lead to a palace in Paradise. “Allah (s) promises whatever you spend tonight, what you are going to spend even $1 or $1,000 or $10,000 Allah (s) will give you your money back. ”

Mr Ahmet Ozturk and Mr Ibrahim Khalil led a spirited fundraising session, resulting in a total pledged amount of $856,950. The auction, managed by Mr Hussin Goss, featured diverse items, including ZamZam water, a Qiswa from the Prophet’s grave in Madinah, and a 7-night Umrah package. The grand total surpassed the initial goal, reaching an impressive $1,020,150.

A/Prof Zuleyha Keskin expressed gratitude for the community’s donations, stating, “I want to thank you all because that amount would not be possible without your donations.” She expressed hope that the new centre would be a “safe haven” for future generations to connect with their faith.

The event concluded with a closing dua by Ustadh Kamel Kheir, praying for assistance for the people of Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Yemen, Bangladesh, Burma, India and all over the Muslim world.

The event was sponsored by Pearl Dental Clinic, Sydney Kebabs, Liverpool Dental Clinic, and Hello World Auburn, receiving support from various organisations, including IFAM, the Burmese Muslim Association, Blacktown Mosque, Australian Islamic House, Bayt-ul Islam, Qubaa Mosque, the Galaxy Foundation, Amity College Community, the Uyghur Community, and the Fijian community.