Mujahid Abdullah: Memoirs from San Quentin (2)
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Mujahid Abdullah: Memoirs from San Quentin
The Islamic Revolution in Iran is well established in the annals of history as being one of the most significant revolutions of the 20th century, if not the past few centuries. The ramifications of this revolution is being felt ‘till this day on practically eery continent.
That siad, it must be pointed out as well that although many men, women, and children played a role in the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran nobody epitomises more the heart of the revolution than the illustrious personage of the late Imam Khumayni (r). Indeed one can arguably posit that (aside form the will of Allah of course) were it not for the entrenchment of the Imam at the root and base of the revolution, it may not have occurred at all. Such was/is the profound influence of the mind, teachings, guidance, taqwa, courage, vision, and sheer personality of the man.
Although a world away, America was profoundly effected by the Islamic Revolution as well. I was not only effected in obvious ways related to the captivity of the Americans held at the embassy in Iran. But, within the very bowels of America’s prisons there were many men and women who witnessed the power and energy of the young Islamic Republic of Iran led by the implacable Imam Khumayni.
I was one of the many young, mostly African-American, reverts to Islam who was fascinated by the character/personality of Imam Khumayni and what he stood for. Ironically, the first person to explain to me the nature and principles of the Islamic Revolution as well as plant the first seed in my head regarding who Imam Khumayni was and why one had to join with him was not Shia. Rather, he was a brilliant and sincere Sunni Shaykh. He was none other than Imam Muhammad Abdullah, who at the time was the Amir of the L.A chapter of the Ikhwanul-Muslimin of America.
I’ve learned many things from this shaykh and continue to do so. But, one of the most important lessons I learned from him is that Islam is bigger than us! That unity and willingness to go against the grain is something a true Muslim must be willing to do.
I’ve been in prison for over 31 years now. The last 30 I’ve been a serious practicing Muslim. In 1986 I became an Amir for the first time at the age of 22. I’ve been placed in a leadership position from that day and though I am and have been a Shia Muslim for about 29 years, each time I was voted into the position of the Amir of the yard by the majority vote of the Sunni brothers.
That is a truth that I never tire of pointing out. There have been conflicts along the Sunni-Shia divide in prison, especially during the period when the Saudi Wahabbis were flooding the prisons with cases of books and pamphlets spewing divisive and inflammatory rhetoric about the Shia and whoever else (Sunni included) that didn’t subscribe to their heretical brand of Islam. Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah and his profound love for Imam Khumayni and the Islamic Revolution of Iran taught me that unity can be achieved. He taught me that a true Muslim will find a way to rise above division.
So, by the grace of Allah, those who embrace this idea will be united in their love for the Ahl al-Bayt (a), the Rasul (a), the righteous companions, and all true Muslims.
Presently, myself and others in the bowels of America’s prisons here in California are striving to change the paradigm. We intend to change the game, so to speak, by establishing a clear, complete, and authentic Islamic curriculum/minhaj based upon the pattern of the hawza ilmiyyah (Islamic seminary) on the streets.
This system will include the three levels. It is the same program, the same books, and the same requirements. We realise that there are those who will never recognise our efforts or respect those who graduate from the howza that we establish, but we are not deterred in the least. In fact, such rejection only fuels our efforts to reform our lives and to acquire deeper knowledge and understanding of this lofty din (religion). Right now there rare student/teachers amongst us who have memorised the Quran, become proficient in Arabic, and usul al-fiqh. There is quite a ways to go, but by the mercy and grace of Allah for some of us, especially the Shia that I am in regular contact with and consult (including some Sunni), we have already thrown down the gauntlet, so to speak. We have met the challenge of turning prison into Islamic universities taking on each and every traditional Islamic science.
We are working with a handful of Muslims on the streets. Some students, others teachers (many who were prisoners themselves) who understand our plight. But, we need more support, especially from hawza students and scholars who can offer sound guidance and assistance by way of books, CDs of lectures, visiting, and correspondence.
We wish to re-enter society with the gift of sound knowledge, understanding, taqwa, and the ability to be assets for our community, as opposed to being burdens as we have been in our past.