Masjid Freehaven History

Masjid Freehaven was founded by a group of 12 Muslim families who for the most part lived and worked in the Lawnside area. The families came together regularly to celebrate their Iftars (breaking the fast) and Ends (Islamic Holidays), meeting in each other’s homes, sharing and discussing the needs of the growing Muslim community. As the gathering grew larger we began discussing the need to open a Masjid in the Lawnside area. In the interim, we began meeting in our homes, businesses, schools, etc. We started conducting classes where we began teaching our children the tenants of Islam. Allah (SWT) blessed us to eventually find a location that would become the home of Masjid Freehaven. Once the property was located, the families sacrificed and raised the money to purchase to property outright.

Over the next nine years the building was slowly renovated and refurbished by a few dedicated brothers and sisters. The building which formerly was a nursing home and then a church became known as Masjid Freehaven. Masjid Freehaven’s name was chosen to commemorate the historical significance of this African-American community. The town was once known as Freehaven and was home to the Underground Railroad.

The founding families were well known and active members of the Lawnside community. They founded and organized the Lawnside-Freehaven Little League and the Lawnside Girl Scouts, established businesses (daycare, beauty parlor, etc.) and marched yearly in the Heritage Day Parade. The founding members participated fully in the life of the community.

During the time that the building was being renovated, the small Muslim community began organizing and functioning as an Ummah, establishing a Shura board, selecting a resident Imam, and conducting weekly Taleems (religious educational services) in various homes and businesses. Masjid Freehaven was officially opened Friday May 16th 1999, after 9 years of hard work and dedication. For the grand opening, the late Imam WD Mohammed (son of the late Elijah and Clara Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam) traveled to Lawnside to officiate in the ceremonies. During his visit he was presented with the keys to the Masjid. Also present and to lend support to this historic occasion was the then State Senator Wayne R. Bryant and Borough Council President Mary Ann Wardlow and other borough officials. Ms. Wardlow now serves as our Mayor. Also present that day were many visiting Imams, fellow Muslims, our beloved pioneers who traveled from the surrounding areas to help celebrate this auspicious occasion.

Masjid Freehaven’s mission is committed to presenting, teaching and practicing AL-Islam in a clear and balanced way, never given to extremes and working for the good of humanity through collaboration and mutual respect with all right-minded people.

Imam Yusef Ismail:

Yusef Ismail is the resident Imam of Masjid Freehaven in Lawnside, NJ. Imam Yusef Ismail was born & raised in Newark, NJ. He is married to Sis. Baseemah they are the parents of 3 sons. At Morehouse College Yusef was elected as the dorm President & President of the AUC Muslim Student Association that encompasses Morris Brown College, Clark Atlanta University, Spellman College, and Morehouse College. In college he connected with the founders of Taqwa Clothing Inc, a clothing company and later was promoted to CEO. As CEO he expanded the company operation, managed a nationwide sales team and created a design agency. Imam Yusef was a graduate of Aviation Institution of Maintenance majoring in the Avionics Engineering program. While in school he was employed as an Engineering Technician and Medical Device Scientist. He would later be employed as a Research Consultant/ Project Manager at a consulting firm.

Currently, Imam Yusef is a fulltime entrepreneur. Co-partner of Citizen’s Mortgage Relief. Citizen’s Mortgage Relief provides foreclosure assistance to distressed homeowners to give homeowners another chance at financial success. Imam Yusef has set on the board of trustees of New Africa and City National Bank alliance. He is a licensed foreclosure consultant, real estate agent, life insurance agent, real estate investor, and a public speaker.

Imam Yusef has compiled a seven-book volume set of selected Qur’an verses titled, “Living the Heavenly Way & Walking the Blessed Path 1) with Virtue & Serenity 2) The Righteous Beliefs 3)Disciplines of the Heavenly Way 4) The Virtuous Mindset 5) The Family of GOD’s Books 6) Trusting the Irresistible GOD 7) Discerning the Cursed Path”. Please fill free to download all of the above selection at no charge at

Imam Yusef is a student of knowledge, a student of Imam W.D. Muhammad and a student of countless other teachers.

However, he prefers to be simply known as a Servant of God (Muslim).