Since I am not going to be able to make it to MANA here is some advice for all of those who will be attending.
- Sisters, that brother from Philly is not really interested in taking you to Bilalian Gardens to teach you the finer points of the Sunnah or to correct your aqeedah.
- Brothers, if that sister from Germantown lifts up her niqaab, looks at you and says “brother, all I need you to do is come see me once a week and I’m straight” she is not under the false impression that you are an auto mechanic.
- Brothers, when lowering your gaze as the Brooklyn sisters walk by lower your gaze all the way, TO The FLOOR, do not let your eyeballs stop at any point in between her head and the ground when viewing from the back.
- The brother offering you a “business opportunity” is really trying to crawl from under the debt he incurred investing in a pyramid scheme.
- If you see some brothers talking like they are still Black Nationalists from the 70′s ( but may not even be black); don’t worry you have not went back in time, that is just some of the Midwestern delegation talking who are a little behind the times.
- Ten packs of incense bought in the bazaar does not suffice for a dowry. Nor does teaching a sister your jacked-up tajweed version of any number of short surahs.
- A retreat to Camden, NJ is not a romantic post-MANA honeymoon.
- Marrying a sister you met at a lecture by Imam Siraj on the Sunnah when you already have two wives and no job does not qualify as “reviving the Sunnah”.
- Sisters, marrying the brother you met at the “prisoner reintegration” session and letting him come in your house and live rent free, beat your kids, and eat all of your groceries, is not doing your part to help out with the effort.
- Also, FYI, if you have to fly back, or for that matter even get on the train or bus, I would advice you not to rock one of those ” Jihaad is My Way” t-shirts they were selling last year in the bazaar.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik remarked to a friend and myself that a beautiful thing about MANA is that it brought together all of the historical factions of the African-American Muslim community; under one roof there were Mainline Sunni Muslims, Salafis (even if there numbers were few), Sufis, descendants of the Dar al Islam Movement (both those followers of Imam Jamil al-Amim and the Muslims of America), people who began their journey into Sunni Islam in the Islamic Party, and you also had the two major historical factions in African-American Islam represented; Imam Warith-deen Muhammad, the son of Elijah Muhammad and successor to his leadership and catalyst of the largest mass conversion to Sunni Islam in the history of the West as stated by Dr. Sherman Jackson, and Minister Akbar Muhammad who is the International Representative for Minister Louis Farrakhan. That spirit of continuity was brought to the forefront in a session that featured lectures by Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Imam Warith-deen Muhammad, Imam Talib Abdul-Rasheed, and Ishan Bagby.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj is a pioneer of Islam in the African-American community, and the at-large Muslim community, and this has led some Muslims to give him the title of the “Amir of Dawah in the West”. As Imam of Masjid at-Taqwa in Brooklyn, a masjid that started with a handful of people and now is a large and vibrant masjid, Imam Siraj has become an intentionally known figure in the Muslim community.
When I lived in New York, I would take the subway sometimes for a hour or two depending on where I was just to hear him speak at jumma and wherever I am I keep some of his lectures on CD for inspiration and encouragement. The journey that began in the late 1970′s for Imam Siraj has grown to the point today where he is considered as one of the most, if not the most influential leaders in the American Muslim community and an inspiration to many.
During my period in the Salafi movement Imam Siraj was often denigrated and talked bad about because he was perceived as someone who lacked knowledge and had not received formal Islamic training. However, I never fell for that negative way of thinking, because I knew then and know now that being a leader as a Muslim is about more than just the memorization of some knowledge and having the ability to regurgitate it, being a leader is also about leading by example and knowing what message is right for your people after feeling their needs and then calling them to the truth in their own language. By that measurement of leadership Imam Siraj was and is a leader in every sense of the word.
There is no issue in the Muslim community that is more serious and more of a problem to the short and long term success of the community than that of marriage. Family is the foundation of the Muslim community and a marriage is the foundation of the family and if our marriages are failing, and our divorce rates are soaring to a point that if a brother has been married less than 5 times he is considered pious, then we have a problem.I have chastised and been critical in the past of the failure of the Muslim community to address the problem of marriage in a serious way and be real. It angered me when I attended conferences where all they talked about was Palestine when our families and homes were in a state of crisis right here in America. The problem had been known to all but ignored on the organizational and national level, perhaps because it may have been seen as too hard to deal with, or perhaps because addressing it in a real way would mean airing dirty laundry and calling some of those pimps posing as imams that have been married more times than Dick Cheney has tried to hype the threat of Iran and Saddam.
Therefore, it was extremely gratifying to me and others I spoke with, to see the issue of marriage and all of the problems that come along with that in the Muslim community in America, being addressed in a very frank manner and the sisters brought it all out and the brothers responded in a cordial and constructive way.
One of the issues that was brought up most often in this discussion that was hosted by Sheikh Anwar Muhaimin and two sisters I did not get the names of was the issue of domestic violence (with many sisters adding in verbal and emotional abuse to that equation) and what is the appropriate response of the community to this issue and how do we develop a plan of action on this matter.
Sisters told of either being abused themselves, or of friends and relatives being abused, and the local imam or masjid doing nothing to help them and often taking the side of the brother. Others told the story of masajid playing a very active role in the defense of the sisters and having a set protocol, often physically intervening in such situations, and examining the pluses and minuses of this approach. In this regard it was one brother who I think made the best point when he said “we need to get rid of this street mentality once we are in the deen of not snitching and going to the police…if a sister is being abused she should call the police…if she calls the masjid and the brothers come over to handle the situation that brother may call the police on them and make the situation worse.”