Click here to read about the Imam Siraj Wahaj controversy from MuslimMatters
Imam Siraj Wahaj... Ya Allah, please protect him from smears and attempts to disgrace him because only you are the one who controls a person's Izza(respect).
One of the earliest lectures I ever remember attending was one in a park in New Brunswick, NJ. It was a small park with about 20 people present in the audience. Nevertheless that didn't deter the Imam. Imam Siraaj was speaking about how many times the word Qul(Say) has been mentioned in the Quran. After a couple minutes or so, he asked a question. Which word is mentioned most in the Quran? I immediately raised my hand. My mother kept bugging me to tell me the answer. But no, why should I listen to her, when I already knew the answer. Imam Siraj Wahaj picked me. Qul, I answered. "Sorry, wrong but good listening" laughed Imam Siraj Wahaj. (The correct answer was Allah by the way) That was 2nd or 3rd grade.
After that incident, I only distinctly remember listening to him in conferences and fundraisers. Nevertheless, he always had a great positive effect on my life. I remember my childhood Sahabah hero was AbdurRahman bin Awf. (Hence the alias Abu AbdurRahman) and the Imam was responsible. Imam Siraj Wahaj at Madison Square Garden said something special about him. He said(I paraphase) "You know who I want to be like? AbdurRahman ibn Awf. Why?!? Because Allah(SWT) promised him Jannah, thats why." Some time after that I read the book, Companions of the Prophet(SAW) and I read stories about AbdurRahman ibn Awf after which I decided that he was my favorite Sahabah.
A couple years ago, I learned that it was Imam Siraj Wahaj's lectures and khutbahs that caused my father''s interest in Islam to nurture and grow. He once told me that he would always be listening to his lectures in the car. Out of the small collection of cassettes that we had, a couple were nasheeds and the rest were lectures by Imam Siraj Wahaj.
The last lecture I listened to his was about two years ago at the Youth Conference. SubhanAllah, It almost made me cry. Not because it was dynamic or scary but the humbleness in his voice was really amazing.
If you look at the AlMaghrib Impact page, here, you'll see that I wasn't the only one who's childhood hero was Imam Siraj Wahaj, he was Muhammad AlShareef's, too.