Elsayed Mogahed, engineering professor and leader of Madison’s Muslim community, dies at 74

During the week, Elsayed Mogahed trained the next generation of engineers as a professor at UW-Madison. On weekends, he helped shape the next generation of Muslim leaders as a volunteer director of the Islamic Center of Madison.

Mogahed, who died Sunday at 74 after falling and hitting his head, seemed born to teach, said many who knew him.

“Every time I entered the mosque, it was always there, and it always felt like a sanctuary,” said Tariq Saqqaf, who emigrated to the United States when he was 2 years old. “He felt like an incredibly safe space. There was no ego around him, no judgement. He was just there, accepting me for who I was, supporting me, encouraging me.

Mogahed played a key role in forming a cohesive Muslim community in Madison regardless of national origin, race and language, said Saad Khalifa, who bonded with him because they were both immigrants from Egypt.

Children Mogahed taught in the 1980s now have children of their own enrolled in the Sunday school he founded at the center, Khalifa said.

“Children go and come back and help the community be better,” Khalifa said. “It’s because of Elsayed.”

In recent years, Mogahed, who has also served as the center’s director, has taught arithmetic classes at the center to help high school students with their schoolwork. Longtime friend Ibrahim Saeed said Mogahed played a role in his son’s decision to enroll at UW-Madison.

“We (Muslims) believe in education; there is no better tool to bring people together than education,” Khalifa said. “And education was everything to him. Giving children the tool of education… that has always been his goal.

Mogahed not only taught religion, but also culture — and American culture — Saqqaf said. It was Mogahed who helped Saqqaf understand that he could be a Muslim, a child of immigrants and own his ethnic heritage, while still being American, he said.

“The story of my experience with the Muslim community has been one with a certain level of confusion,” Saqqaf said. “There has always been a level of confusion with immigrant and multicultural children: where do we belong? Where to locate us? … But he was really able to support the kids growing up here.

‘Madison’s Ellis Island’

Mogahed’s daughter, Dalia, said her father was passionate about embracing new Muslims in America.

“Growing up, our home was like Madison’s Ellis Island,” she said. “It was where people stayed when they first arrived here and had no place to stay.”

Islamic scholar Dalia Mogahed was an advisor to former President Barack Obama. His sister, Yasmin Mogahed, is also an Islamic scholar.

Like his daughters, Mogahed was involved in the education of Americans and the Madison community, especially the Muslim community.

In November 2001, a few months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he gave a presentation at an open house at the Islamic Center, answering questions from the Madison community about Islam.

“The environment in the early 2000s was very hostile to Muslims,” ​​said Adel Talaat, who worked with Mogahed at the Islamic Center. “He was very good at communicating with the Madison community and making sure we had open channels.”

At the time, Mogahed said, he meant “Muslims are peaceful people”.

“He had such an impact on the downtown mosque and on the Muslim community as a whole in Madison,” Khalifa said. “So many people growing up now are indebted to him because of the community he created.”

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