Islamic Foundation in Villa Park mourns 2 founders who died hours apart
The two visionaries always seemed to be in sync.
For some four decades, Abdul Hameed Dogar was the public face of the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park as the first mosque in DuPage County developed into a regional academic and religious institution.
Zia Hassan, his close friend and fellow founding trustee, preferred to work from behind the scenes.
But if there was any misunderstanding between the two during an era of growth, "nobody knew about it," said Moon Khan, who joined the community 17 years ago.
"They were just like body and soul together," Khan said.
And so it was almost extraordinary that Dogar and Hassan died hours apart Sunday after each had suffered long illnesses, foundation leaders said. Dogar, the former director, was 93, and Hassan, the chairman emeritus, was 84.
Roughly 2,000 mourners attended funeral prayers at the mosque Monday afternoon, a testament of their legacies felt across generations of Muslims who graduated from the foundation's schools.
"They were so selfless," said Azam Nizamuddin, an adjunct professor of Islamic studies at Loyola University and head of the foundation's interfaith committee. "It wasn't about their own legacy. It was purely selfless dedication to the community, and you can see that reflected in the way people turned out in huge, huge numbers."
In 1974, the foundation became the first mosque in the county. The community moved to its current site, a former elementary school campus along Highridge Road, in 1983.
As the Muslim population grew in the suburbs, so did the foundation. Under the helm of Dogar and Hassan and other leaders, the foundation built an addition to the mosque and expanded academic programs at the complex.
"They had this determination, a dogged determination to make sure there would be an institution that meets the needs of the community," Nizamuddin said.
Dogar worked as a civil engineer in Pakistan before coming to the United States in March 1962. He spent his U.S. career at the Illinois Department of Transportation until his retirement in 1991.
He then devoted his life to the foundation, keeping long hours as its director. Dogar also wrote publications about his faith, including, "Islam God's Final Message to Mankind."
"He was completely immersed in the religious domain," Khan said.
Hassan served as dean emeritus of the Stuart School of Business at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Khan and Nizamuddin described him as humble and soft-spoken.
Both Dogar and Hassan would pass the torch to a new team of successors about four years ago.
"They contributed in the public life, and at the same time they were family persons," Khan said. "They were community people."