The life of Muhammad Shehadeh enriched not only those around him but the entire Rocky Mount community.
The 73-year-old imam of the Rocky Mount mosque, who passed away last week, achieved the American Dream that so many immigrants from across the world come to the United States to pursue. And he achieved not only material success in his adopted country, but spiritual and civic success as well.
Shehadeh studied furniture making after receiving a sixth-grade education at an Islamic orphanage school in Jerusalem. He immigrated to the United States in the early 1960s, securing a job making lamp bases with a furniture company in Sharpsburg. He worked hard, saved his money and brought his brothers Hassan and Mousa to the area.
He would later manage a local restaurant and teach cabinet making at Tri-County Industries.
But it was his more than two decades of service as iman at the Rocky Mount Islamic Center, which he was one of the driving forces in establishing, that was the centerpiece of his life.
In addition to his religious duties at the mosque, he worked tirelessly to improve relations between Islamic residents and the rest of the community, striving to bridge cultural differences and misunderstandings.
In the aftermath of 9/11, he increased those efforts to promote harmony and understanding within the community. He worked diligently to dispel myths and promote respect for people of all faiths and backgrounds during a very tense time in American history.
He will be greatly missed, not just by his friends and family but by all whose lives were fortunate enough to have been touched by him. He was loved and respected by all who came into contact with him, and Rocky Mount is a better place today due to the influence of this wonderful man.