Mujahid Abdullah: Memoirs from San Quentin – Part 1
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Mujahid Abdullah: Memoirs from San Quentin
I came to prison in the year of 1983. I recently turned 19 by the time I arrived in the notoriously violent San Quentin State Penitentiary. When I arrived along with a group of mostly teen-aged felons like myself, San Quentin was on “lockdown” due to a massive racial riot that occurred the year before.
Months before coming to prison [while in county jail] I engaged in an interesting conversation with an older gang member. We spoke extensively about many things, especially about how it would be for me upon my arrival to prison. This person, who had actually come down to the country jail from San Quentin was a “lifer.” So, I learned as much as I possibly could from him. I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could be.
“When you get there (prison), don’t get caught up,” the older Crip said to me sternly. “And above all, don’t join any prison gangs,” he continued. Following our talk, I decided to restate my shahada and get with the Muslims. I was ready to denounce the way of life that got me a life sentence in the first place. Unfortunately, my resolve was less than strong and I ended up doing exactly what I said I wouldn’t do, with the exception that I didn’t become a prison gang member, not technically anyways. I instead joined an organised wing of the Crips, a street gang I already belonged to.
At some point, not six months later, I was sent to a “security housing unit” normally called the “SHU” or the “hole.” While there, all Crips were required to study and there was a mandatory quiet period and exercise program.
In 1984 I was transferred to Folsom Prison. While there, I denounced the gang and restated my shahadah cutting all ties to the kufr lifestyle. I have been a serious, practicing Muslim ever since, Insha’Allah.
When I began to practice Islam again, I was Sunni and Maliki because my Imam practiced this sect at the time. I was also a registered member of a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood Headquartered in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Amir Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah. I studied the standard books, Sirat-un-Nabi by Ibn Ishaq, Al-Muwatta by Ibn Malik, as well as works by Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, such as Milestones.
One day, I received a shipment of books: Nahj al-Balaghah, Husayn, the Saviour of Islam, Ali the Magnificent, and Islam and Revolution by Imam Khomayni. I read them all cover to cover. I was amazed at the contents of these books. None of them were like any book I had ever read, aside from Al-Quran of course. The love for the Ahl al-Bayt (a) was firmly planted into me after reading these books, as well as others.
One day later, perhaps a couple of months after reading a wide variety of Shia texts exclusively, the Imam (who was also a prisoner) called a meeting on the yard and questioned each of the five of us re our feelings about the Shia School of Thought (madhhab). We all responded positively and expressed our collective belief in and support of the Shia madhhab. At that moment, we collectively declared ourselves as Shia. We were the very exclusively Shia community in a California prison.
We used ot get visits from our Sunni brothers on a regular basis. Once, after becoming Shia, while on a vista, I informed one of the brothers who came to visit us that I was studying the book “Nahjul-Balaghah.” He was noticeably disturbed by what I just told him. So I asked him was was the matter. He immediately criticised the book and denounced the Shia madhhab as heretical.
Until this day, I have never seen or heard from the Sunni brothers, with the exception of the Lion of Da’wah and the Lover of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah, my Sunni brother, teacher, friend, and comrade.
To be continued…