MOLINE — It was a pure example of practicing what Imam H. Saad Baig preached.
Baig, 39, on Friday bade farewell to hundreds of his faithful friends and followers, reminding them to love and respect their parents. He’s headed to an Islamic society school in Baltimore, Md.
Baig was single when he arrived to the Quad-Cities almost 10 years ago, he said. Now he’s a married father of four children.
Teaching at an Islamic school will be far easier than serving an an imam, a spiritual leader responsible for the lives of his followers.
“Being an imam is a huge task,” Baig said. He worked countless hours that took him away from his wife, Yusra, and children, Muhammed, 7, Fatimah, 6, Ibrahim, 2, and Musa, 3 months, he said.
Still, preparing to leave his “hometown” is a bit of a shock to his system, he said. Originally from India, Baig had lived many years in Africa but still considers the Quad-Cities as his home.
He said he and his followers have shared many tears during a series of farewells that started in November and will continue for another two weeks.
“They will miss me, and I, them,” Baig said.
He wore a purple-colored robe made in Togo, by his congregation members, topped with a green-colored cap made in Guinea.
“He (Baig) was like a brother to me,” said Aboulye Sani, of Moline, originally from Togo. “I cannot express what it means to me that he’s leaving.”
Leaders of the Islamic Center of the Quad-Cities’ mosque at 6005 34th Ave, Moline, are searching for Baig’s replacement. He said he wishes them the best and that they find someone even better than him as its new leader.
He also said he hopes to find a better place for his new life in Baltimore.
Personally, Baig has acquired three master’s degrees, including one from Augustana College in Rock Island. He declined credit for his accomplishments in the Quad-Cities, instead citing the work by his congregation and community.
His colleague, Dr. Lisa Killinger, said many conditions have changed massively during his 10-year tenure.
“The biggest change is due to refugee resettlement in the Quad-Cities, which has brought people from dozens of countries to live in Rock Island and worship at the Moline Mosque,” she said.
Baig also oversaw a major expansion of the mosque that doubled its space, Killinger said. Since the beginning, she said, Baig has “championed interfaith cooperation” as a part of an interfaith dialogue series.
“We are sad to see him go, but happy that he has a great opportunity to serve in a huge mosque in Baltimore, Md.,” Killinger said.