Lanterns has been following the rising career of the enigmatic Shaykh Hosam for the past two years as he featured regularly during ISNA Canada’s khutba’s, taraweeh prayers, and recited Quran at our last two annual conventions. Finally, we had the opportunity to sit down in an interview with him. Personally, I was extremely impressed with the amazing work he’s accomplished at such a young age.
Born in Southern Egypt to a family with strong religious ties, Shaykh Hosam Helal was privileged to live in a religiously grounded home. His father was an instructor at Al-Azhar University and his mother was an educator as well which explains how Shaykh Hosam completed his Hifz of the Quran by age 8. In the late 1990’s, Shaykh Hosam’s father was invited to come to Canada as an Imam and the move was supported by the Mufti of Al-Azhar to move there. In 2002, the family moved to Canada and Shaykh Hosam, being only 12 years old, started middle school.
“I didn’t speak a word of English. It was very difficult at first and I struggled to fit in,” says Shaykh Hosam. “Alhamdullilah, by the end of Grade 8, I had adjusted and actually got the award for Student of the Year at Elms Junior Middle School.”
In high school, following advice from his father, Shaykh Hosam enrolled into the MaCS program, a specialized program for Mathematics, Sciences, and Computers. As for all students, Shaykh Hosam faced numerous challenges in high school.
“High school was a time where my deen was challenged. I would have a lot of questions about various aspects of my religion. With this in mind, my father enrolled me into continuing my Al-Azhar classes remotely. These classes helped me gather a foundation of my religion and Islamic knowledge.”
Finishing high school, Shaykh Hosam received a full scholarship from both McMaster University and the University of Waterloo. However, to fulfill his mother’s wishes, he accepted his admission offer at the University of Toronto in the Life Sciences program.
His time at UofT is when he developed a passion for dawah work. While being involved with the MSA on campus as well, he began giving khutbahs, providing counselling, and truly understanding the needs of our community. His passion shifted from becoming a doctor to helping the Muslim community.
“I was initially pursuing medical studies because it was what I really wanted. However, I realized that my passion was serving people and I could see that many young Muslims didn’t need physical help as much as spiritual help. This realization came through seeing friends dealing with drugs, addictions, hard relationships, eating disorders and even people around me contemplating suicide. I understood what it feels like to have a masjid without an Imam.”
He understood firsthand what the needs of the community were and how they should be addressed. Just having somebody lead prayer every day without connecting with the community and without truly serving all their needs wasn’t enough in today’s troubling times.
“The community needs an imam who is young, dedicated, and passionate, someone the youth can talk to and relate to, someone to make them feel comfortable. I took these concerns seriously and I shared them with my parents. My mother was against it at first. Having seen my father, she knew how difficult it is to raise a family while looking after the community. Inshallah I plan to make sure that I divide my time between my community, my family, and myself.”
Shaykh Hosam’s mindset is truly inspiring and had me nodding in agreement throughout the conversation. What was really beautiful was hearing him speak about his family. Through every stage of his life, his parents were involved. That is true for most youth but unfortunately, this habit starts to fade once we pass a certain age. For Shaykh Hosam, he chose the MaSC program in high school for his father, he honored his mother’s wish and went to UofT to be closer to home, he made sure his parents agreed with his shift from studying medicine to pursuing dawah work, and his parents were especially involved when it came to marriage!
For all those that don’t know, as recently as 3 days ago, Shaykh Hosam married the daughter of our very own Shaykh Alaa Elsayed! We pray that Allah (SWT) blesses them both with immense happiness!
Since Shaykh Hosam is now truly a part of the ISNA Canada family, I asked him about how he took this next step.
“When I began my dawah work, I started receiving a lot of proposals for marriage to which my mom was very reserved and conservative,” says Shaykh Hosam. “Over a year ago, our family came and met Shaykh Alaa and his family at ISNA. After we got home my mother told me, ‘I don’t care what you’re pursuing or what you’re thinking, the only person in Canada I would be comfortable with you marrying is Shaykh Alaa’s daughter.’
I didn’t even know Shaykh Alaa had a daughter.”
Again honoring his mother’s wish, Shaykh Hosam asked Shaykh Alaa for his daughter’s hand in marriage and this week,they performed the Islamic marriage ceremony (katb kitab)!
To conclude, I asked Shaykh Hosam for advice, to which he said, “Be humble, be sincere, speak little, pray a lot, keep a good relationship with your family, and pray with khushu.”
He then mentioned, “Take your mom for umrah. Ask Allah SWT for any dua after that and you can’t imagine how far it goes.”
With everything Shaykh Hosam has experienced at such a young age, along with his current sincere and passionate work, inshallah he will be a defining gem in our community in the coming years. May Allah SWT preserve him and bless him with patience to keep striving to make our community better.