I want to tell you the story of a homeless Muslim brother. First off though I must briefly tell the story of the 1995 Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) convention in Dearborn, Michigan. I would meet many major figures in Islam in the West and make some good friends for life including Tariq Nelson. There are those on my Facebook friends list I met at that convention including Abu Noor Abdul-Malik Ryan and Abdul Aziz Suraqah.
Speakers at this convention from America included Sheikh Ali al-Timimi, Jaffar Sheikh Idris, Jamal Zarabozo, Idris Palmer, Mukhtar Curtis, Salim Morgan, and a young dynamic graduate of the Islamic University of Medinah bringing an enthusiastic following by the name of Abu Muslimah of East Orange, New Jersey. On the international side scholars such as Suhaib Hasan from the UK and Abdur-Rahman Abdul-Khalaq of Kuwait attended.
A lot of knowledge was being dropped. Imagine me a kid from St. Louis who attended a masjid where few brothers knew the word fiqh or Aqeedah and had never seen a niqaabi in person now surrounded by Arabic, ‘ilm, beards, niqaabs, and smiles. Being that this was the 90’s and pre-911 you also had a little edge to some attendees. A clueless young American I sat and listened to a private discussion between Taliban reps trying to convince Saudis their group was the right group to invest in. I met the Arab Amir of the Mujahideen in Bosnia and was invited to Kashmir as his guest. This was before I put on weight and I was still in wrestling shape which prompted several brothers to suggest I go overseas and fight.
I drove back to St. Louis with a Palestinian brother, Ismail Royer, and one other person I can’t remember. We left with contacts with other American brothers, cassette tapes, books and memories. One brother I met stood out though.
Brother R was a smooth talking tall and slim cat from DC. Beard was on point, thobe above the ankles, and brand new white socks. I told him I’d be traveling to DC soon to visit Ismail who was attending American University and he gave me his number.
When I got to DC I met up with R. He had a van and worked as a street-vendor mostly selling clothing. He told me he was born and raised in DC, had done some time; but took shahadah, married a Moroccan and was now raising his kids in the Virginia suburbs. He gave me the DC Muslim tour and I put a visual to the places Zaid al-Timimi had been telling me about during our after halaqa sessions at Steak’n Shake. The brother seemed to really have it together and he was respected in the community.
On my several different stints living in DC-VA (which is really a second home to me) I would always see that brother and he seemed to be doing good. A few years ago things began to change. He was having trouble in his marriage. Then he was divorced. Next thing he wasn’t looking too sharp. Then he was homeless. Next thing he was on drugs, begging for money and brothers told me they saw him standing in food lines.
In the DC area you can hardly get an apartment for under $1,000 per month. It’s also been ranked the worst area for non college-graduates in America. Massive gentrification. How does a brother like that get better even if he gets off drugs? And who is even going to help him get clean?
Thinking of Brother R makes me think of so many things. How special the 90’s were in the American-Muslim community, divorce, drug-addiction, gentrification, homelessness and the lack of services we have in our community. I wouldn’t know how to reach him and get him help at this moment. All I can ask for is that this Ramadan you keep Brother R in your prayers.
My Ramadan essay for Patheos 30 for 30 anthology.
There are maybe like 5 people that keep me on twitter. Probably more like two. Boxing writer Dougie Fischer and a young sage soul sister out of Chicago if you don ‘t include some young St. Louis journalists I like. My old Twitter had 500 or 600 followers. My new one (@STLAbuBadu) I can’t seem to pick up steam. So, I basically just use it to talk shit about my passengers, rant and follow boxing news.
So the sister gave me an idea. I told her I don’t go to jummah anymore. I aint gonna lie. I don’t answer my phone during jummah and I don’t engage in social media. People think im at jummah. I say I was. But I aint at jummah. If I do go it is to meet a brother.
Why? You may ask. You know and I know the imam ( or whoever they let give the khutbah) aint talking about shit. With all the problems in our lives, all the pain, all the social problems in our society, all the wars and the imam talking about some irrelevant b******* or quoting some medieval scholar. If the imam even speaks English. Half the congregation is fighting off sleep. The other half thinking about paying the bills or what they want for lunch. seldom do you get a good khutbah. Now if you are blessed to live in Brooklyn, Philly, North Jersey, DC, ATL, the Chi or the Bay you may have some good options. other than that you’re pretty much f*****. In St. Louis im better off talking to myself or listening to a YouTube lecture. Or reading a book. that has to be more beneficial then going to a place where half the people hate each other and the imam uses the khutbah to talk s*** about his enemies. Or you are told it’s hopeless and you are going to hell!
So, the sister said, why not just have jummah at your house? Invite four or five brothers?
I think it’s a brilliant idea. Not just for me. Not just for brothers. for anyone left out. Anyone not being served by the community.
Brother coming from the streets who need love and support. Instead of some FOB or Madkhali masjid giving you the latest from the KSA why not just invite a few brothers over going through the same struggle and have jummah in your living room?
The young Muslim brother who grew up here whose parents came from Egypt or Pakistan who is not feeling the uncle’s khutbahs. they not even addressing whats real to him. Just have the brothers over for jummah.
The sisters who don’t wanna be shoved into a basement or closet by some imam or administration talking about women’s rights and yet they are told to be unseen unheard. Why not have the sisters over for jummah? Why does some man who doesn’t know your struggle have to be preaching to you?
you don’t need buildings, budgets, boards and bureaucracy. You just need a living room or a basement. you are the community.
Somewhere to go without all the hypocricy. Somewhere you don’t have to lie. You have a girlfriend or boyfriend. OK, let’s talk about it. Bring them too. You like to smoke. Pass it to the right. You saw an interesting documentary. Let’s watch it together. How do I reconcile deen with secular knowledge and modern society? Who knows: but lets discuss. You hate Obama, love Obama, want revolution, in the damn Tea Party, that’s cool.
Are our masjids open like this? Our sisters, on balance, are smarter, better read and have more to offer. Yet their voices are not heard. A sister steps in the dunya and has a boyfriend, a phase, a love, a whatever, she is done in the community. Allah can forgive. The community won’t. They always worried about some girls p**** and what she doing with it. Worry about your own damn p****? They act like it’s a loaf of bread with an expiration date. Most of these niqaabied or supersunnah sisters not really about that life anyway. The shit just hidden. A lifestyle of sexual hypocricy. Oh brother estafurallah I bumped into you. Oh, my niqaab slipped, you saw my nose can you control yourself? And she textin the imam nude pix dying to be his deuce. Not all. Not a few.
The brothers f****** everything that walks Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Zorastian, Caucasian heathens then go hysterical when a sister not wearing “proper” hijab. let’s just meet together. talk with one another. be real. you like girls, you have girlfriends, but you really wanna be a good Muslim family man. You want love. Nobody ever showed you how to love or what family is. We in the boat together let’s talk about it together. You think the imam married to his cousin has something to offer to this conversation?
You don’t pray, you drink, you can’t f****** stand your mother, you are s*** as a father, but you have to lie about all these things at the masjid. Just say mashaallah, alhamdulilah, yeah yeah. Naw akh, let’s talk real. You got HIV we can talk….you aint seen your kids in years we can talk….you high? Still come. addicted to video games. addicted to pornography. Don’t come to lie. Don’t come and tell me you don’t listen to music. You don’t know who Jay-Z is. Come and be real. Come and tell me the feds are f****** with you because you are Muslim. That you are black and don’t wanna be treated like an abd. That you are white and don’t wanna be a mascot. That you a Desi but don’t know s*** about Pakistan. That,when you were young and dumb you thought of blowing yourself up. That you went to ISNA and were bored by the lectures but fiended for the Desi girls. That you dropped a body years ago and it still stares at you in your sleep. That you feel death is near. That you don’t make plans because you don’t plan to live. That the jones is too sweet. That you cry in your car to sad songs. That sometimes you felt more at peace in prison. That you drank 40 ounces, smoked one more and then read 40 hadith. That you love Rasulullah but you love Nietzsche. Or Kafka. or brother George Jackson. Or Howard Zinn. Or Russell Kirk. Or Ayn Rand. Or Pac. That you think like Lupe but act like Beanie. That you wish Ramadan was all year. That you love oud and the smell of the masjid but hard to stay on deen poppin codeine. Got Allah to thank but high off the purple drank. The Sunnah smell sweet like a rose but the browngirl going up your nose. That you came to the masjid to be close to Allah and got further away. That you don’t have the answers. We don’t either. It’s an idea. maybe your living room. maybe mine. maybe under a tree. maybe at the beach. maybe at a park. maybe we can just talk……