Imam Mubarrak Hasson, a longtime leader in the Buffalo Muslim community, died April 9 in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a brief illness. He was 89.
Born Henry House in Memphis, Tenn., he moved to Buffalo at age 15 and became interested in Islam after attending a lecture by Muhammad Ezeldeen, founder of Addeynu Allahe-Universal Arabic Association, the first Islamic organization established in the U.S.
He became a Muslim at age 17 and took the Arabic name Mubarrak Hasson.
Imam Hasson served stateside in the Army during World War II, and upon his honorable discharge, he returned to Buffalo.
He worked for 35 years in the coke ovens at Bethlehem Steel and spent his free time raising a family, studying Islamic teachings and learning Arabic -- and often explaining Islam to non-Muslims.
"We all have Arabic names, and nobody understood it. We were just totally different," recalled his daughter Maleekah of Amherst. "Nobody appreciated him at that time, but he stuck to it."
Imam Hasson was an early leader with the Buffalo chapter of the AA-UAA and served for many years as the only imam, or Islamic teacher, between Buffalo and Rochester.
"In the 1960s and 1970s, he was the only imam in town," said Imam Dawoud Adeyola.
He operated a school on High Street for many years and taught Islam in homes.
After retiring from Bethlehem Steel in the 1980s, Mr. Hasson delivered meals for Meals on Wheels of Western New York and continued to teach about his faith.
"He tried to teach people to respect each other's differences," Maleekah Hasson said.
In 2009, the Imams Council of Greater Western New York recognized his more than 50 years of work with an "Outstanding Community Service Award."
Mr. Hasson was married for 52 years to his wife, Fuwaadah, who died in 2002. In addition to his daughter Maleekah, survivors include three other daughters, Rasheedah Sarmad, Saleemah Bailey and Fatimah; three sons, Kaamel, Haroon and Jaamel; a brother, James House; and a sister, Mattie Bibb.
A janaza service was held Friday in T. Thomas Edwards Funeral Home.