Sanaullah Kirmani, longtime imam, advisor to Muslim students, dies

By Sarah Sternhagen, staff writer

Sanaullah Kirmani, a retired Towson University educator and active member of the campus Muslim community for over 30 years, died on Feb. 23.

His burial took place on Feb. 25, well attended by family and friends.

Kirmani served as an advisor to Towson’s Muslim Student Association and volunteered as the imam, leading prayers for the organization.

He acquired an interfaith prayer room in the University Union for the MSA’s weekly use for Jummah, the Friday prayer.

“That is a huge, huge deal, and that we can never thank him enough for,” said Atika Syed, a colleague of Kirmani at the Center for Student Diversity.

Syed is the coordinator for Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and Desi American students for the center and the default Muslim student coordinator.

She said it bothered Kirmani that Muslim students and faculty did not have a consistent, quiet, private place to pray. He believed they should have a designated space for  Jummah, at least.

“Without him facilitating that, we probably never would have been in the position [of having space available for prayer],” MSA Vice President Hyder Javed said. 

The room is booked at 1:30 p.m. every Friday when classes are in session, regardless of what else is happening on campus, Syed said.

Kirmani also hoped to find a dedicated space for the Towson Muslim community to use for the five daily Muslim prayers.

Javed said the MSA is searching for that space. It also plans to hold a memorial for Kirmani soon.

Kirmani was also keen on addressing students’ mental health needs, according to his wife, Mubina Kirmani.

On multiple occasions, he invited staff from the Counseling Center to speak at the end of Jummah. 

Kirmani understood the loneliness students felt being away from their families and wanted to make them aware of the resources available to them, Mubina Kirmani said. He wanted them to know “it was not taboo.” 

Interfaith work

Kirmani’s legacy is marked not only by his contributions to the Muslim community on campus, but his commitment to interfaith dialogue as well.

“He was himself a person of peace and conflict resolution,” Mubina Kirmani said. “He felt that there needed to be some effort on campus for this understanding between people of different faiths so they can learn to live together.”

The Kirmani’s wanted to start an ongoing interfaith dialogue on campus, so they created a fund for the Center for Student Diversity to host an annual event to bring together students of different faiths. 

It had stalled in early stages due to the on-campus impacts of COVID-19 and other global events, and now Kirmani’s death, according to Syed.

The Center for Student Diversity and Kirmani’s family intend to restart the project. Syed said that now, more than ever, they are working on starting a recurring interfaith dialogue to honor his legacy.

Kirmani had done interfaith work long before he came to Towson. In 1984, he led the inception of the interfaith dialogue program at the Islamic Council of New England and served as the director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., according to his obituary in The Baltimore Sun.

Over the course of his three decades at Towson, Kirmani befriended many people. 

Ken Krivitzky, a former member of Towson’s Jewish community, said he contacted Kirmani’s family after he died. He told them about when he and Kirmani had spent a Friday taking their students to both a Muslim Jummah and Jewish Shabbat service. 

Krivitzky called Kirmani a great leader, ally and friend.

Syed recalled the amount of support she received from Kirmani. 

“I regularly [sought] his guidance on matters pertaining to the Muslim community on campus,” Syed said. 

She called him “a peacemaker.” 

Echoing her, Mubina Kirmani said her husband “crossed boundaries to understand other people and bring peace.” 

“I truly hope his legacy will be honored and continued on campus,” Mubina Kirmani said. “Because it can only bring good, the kind of person he was.”


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