Monday, June 22, 2009

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA: First National Convention

In 1947, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA held its first National Jalsa Salana (annual convention) in Dayton, Ohio. The site where the convention was held is the site of what was to become the first mosque built in America by American converts to Ahmadiyya, the true Islam.

From these humble beginnings the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA has continuously held its Jalsa Salana (annual convention) for sixty-one years. Alhumdulillah! All praises are due to God, Who is Single.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ahmadiyya Muslim Prison Ministry USA

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Philadelphia was the scene of this photo, which was taken in 1972, in front of the Philadelphia, PA mission house. Bilal Abdus Salam (5th from the right) established himself as a Chaplin in a minimum security facility outside of Philadelphia. To my knowledge, Bilal's "jail ministry" was a first in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and it caught the attention of the then Chief Missionary, Sharif Bajwa (picture with coat over his arm) and several Pakistani judges who were visiting the U.S. at the time. This group photo was taken before driving to tour the facility.

Bilal Abdus Salam tells the story of how he established himself as a Muslim Chaplin. He made an application to provide religious services to inmates, but was denied by the authorities because they thought the teachings of Islam would be a security risk. Bilal gave the application authorities a copy of The Philosophy of the Teaching of Islam by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom we believe to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as). As a result of reading that book the application authorities were able to comprehend that Muslims were to submit to those who are in authority from among them and they therefore admitted Bilal as a Muslim Chaplin. From there Bilal went on to secure the human/religious rights of the Muslim inmates.

Bilal wanted to relieve the suffering and provide moral/spiritual guidance to those inmates seeking to reform themselves. In collaboration with authorities he was able to exclude pork from being served to Muslim inmates, provide Islamic reading materials to those seeking knowledge, and established Jummah services into the conceptual framework of jail/prison ministry at that facility.

We can measure Bilal's success as a Muslim Chaplin from an interview I had with one of Bilal's converts. He said, "I was a teenager living in the projects of Philadelphia when I saw my brother's body minutes after he was gunned down. I was angry and never thought of living life pass the age of twenty-five when I landed in jail. Islam was the buzz among the inmates and I wanted to know what was going on. I attended a lecture discussion on Islam, which was delivered by Bilal and for the first time I was hearing something that made sense of this hell I was living. Bilal gave me a copy of the "Philosophy" and when I started reading that book it seemed as if light was jumping off the pages. That's how I came into Ahmadiyyat." As an interviewer I was surprisingly stunned because I've known this brother for over thirty years, but wasn't aware of his background. Currently a grandfather, who dresses like a Wall Street business man, musingly talks about his grandchildren saying, "When I tell them about my life before accepting Islam and Ahmadiyyat they always tell me they don't believe me. I give praises to Allah, the Most Forgiving. The life I was living wasn't providing me with peace of mind and I certainly would have been just another casuality of the streets instead of a grandfather telling my grandchildren stories they can't believe."

In view of the way Bilal carried out the Tabligh process...I'm reminded of "some home grown" wisdom, which was shared with me by a dear brother. He said, "Tabligh has become just a prophetic idea instead of being the force igniting processes that relieve the suffering amongst the most vulnerable".

From a historical perspective, a movement that began in the 1970s under the Nation of Islam to evangelize inmates has evolved into one of the most effective religious rehabilitation agendas in the U.S. Imams continue to draw converts, but most Muslims in prisons today are Sunnis, said Lawrence Mamiya, a professor at Vassar College who has studied Muslim prison ministries.

As far as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA is concerned, Bilal may have been the first, but other Ahmadi Muslims have followed his example. Currently, Al-Haj Abdur Raqib Rashid Wali is serving as Chaplin in a maximum security prison in California. I had the pleasure of meeting several of these unique individuals, who were converted to Islam by Imam Wali, as he is affectionately called by ex-inmates. I consider them to be unique because they had served their time and I met them not in prison, but outside the confines of their cell walls. They were on jobs living life as upright tax paying citizens. While inmates, they were serving long sentences, sometimes up to ten years or more. They credit Imam Wali for his guidance by saying, "...he would tell us that he was preparing us to leave this small prison to go into the big prison of life." I found them to be very focused, having an exceptional knowledge of themselves and their purpose in life, deeply spiritual and well connected with Allah, the Most-Merciful.

"Jail [/prison] is a tomb or a womb" as inmates under Chaplin Hakeem refer to their confinement. Hasan Hakeem, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Zion, is also a Chaplin of what may be termed a jail ministry, is untiring about his work. In an interview with Chaplin Hakeem I asked him what he considers his role as a Chaplin to be? He explained, "I minister to everybody. Regardless if they are Muslim or a Christian inmate, a family member visiting an inmate or a security guard, the message is the same...get your relationship with God together. When I council inmates about questionable behavior I asked them what would their mother think about what they are doing and they make positive adjustments." When I went to the Zion Mission House I found newly released inmates there for prayers and waiting on assignments for an upcoming event. I could see the tabligh process manifesting itself in a "new Muslim cool" kind of way i.e. reformation. "All of these brothers come from troubled backgrounds, they're African-American, European-American or Hispanic-American converts who have an opportunity in a wholesome environment to try to reflect and change their lives, " Chaplin Hakeem said. "The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community offers them that opportunity."

In today's Islamophobic climate The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA still has an important role to play in Muslim Prison Ministry programs. It's motto "Love for All Hatred For None" signals its "moderate" stance toward that end.

Major James K. Dooghan, United States Army School of Advance Military Studies in his white paper titled Muslim Prison Ministry: Hindering the Spread of Radical, Violent and Irreconcilable Wing of Islam states the following: "Addressing the violent Islamic ideology at the grass roots level may decrease the number of terrorist recruitment and increase the number of Muslims appealing to a nonviolent interpretation of the Qur'an." Major Dooghan goes on to say, "The author recommends an anti-violent Islamic ministry program which educates detainees and prisoners through Muslim clerics...The U.S. Bureau of Prisons Muslim chaplaincy program offers a framework to select Muslim religious service providers for a Muslim prison ministry program. Sufficient legal, ethical and moral framework exist to argue for the availability of a ministry program to personnel in U.S. custody. This indirect appoach focuses on conflict resolution and relies on Muslims who reject the violent interpretation of the Qur'an, commentaries, the hadith, the fiqh and the law. The solution is not an ecumenical reconciliation of the various religions of the world but a peaceful coexistence beginning with an intellectual understanding of the ideologies and empathy for the Muslims caught in the war between terrorist and the coalition forces trying to defeat the terrorist networks."

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA has an inherent history of nonviolence and has always advocated true Islamic principles leading toward peace. The philosopy behind "Love For All Hatred For None" stands as a challenge to Muslims who are advocating a violent and radical approach to Islam.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

...and they prayed too.

Prayer is the life of a Muslim. In the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA the observance of prayer is the means of direct communion with the Lord of All The Worlds. 95% of these brothers, pictured above, are American born Ahmadi Muslims. They have incorporated prayer into their lifestyle after their acceptance of Islam. It is through the acceptance of prayers that one comes to know God for certain.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Al Qaeda Plays the Malcolm Card -- In These Times

Al Qaeda Plays the Malcolm Card
By Salim Muwakkil

Many of these Islamist groups fear the election of a black American president with explicit African roots and symbolic Islamic connections will lessen the anti-American fervor among their recruitment targets.

When media reports emerged that al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, disparaged President-elect Barack Hussein Obama as a "house negro," it angered many in the black community. However, it also struck a chord.

The Egyptian physician — who is reportedly Osama bin Laden's confidant — actually used the phrase "house slave," but it was later translated as "house negro."

Al-Zawahiri said, "You [Obama] represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz or Malcolm X," who "condemned the crimes of the Crusader West against the weak and oppressed, and he declared his support for peoples resisting American occupation."

The al Qaeda leader said Obama, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice "confirmed" Malcolm X's definition of a "house slave." He was referring to Malcolm X's distinction between slave-era "house Negroes," who lived comfortably in the big house abetting white supremacy, and "field negroes," who toiled in the fields under the whip, plotting resistance.

But his metaphor was wrong about Obama: If anything, he would now be the housemaster, not the slave.

What's more, Al Qaeda is deploying this particular metaphor to offset Obama's global popularity, particularly in East Africa. Many of these Islamist groups fear the election of a black American president with explicit African roots and symbolic Islamic connections will lessen the anti-American fervor among their recruitment targets.

Although al-Zawahiri overplayed his hand with such a transparent racial ploy, he did manage to draw attention to what could be a troublesome issue for many progressive activists, particular for those who are African-American.

Many advocates of progressive international policies see the United States as "imperialism central." And for good reason. Stephen Kinzer's 2006 book, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, makes clear this nation's ignoble history in subverting and deposing foreign governments. Kinzer concludes, "No nation in modern history has done this so often, in so many places so far from its own shores."

The response to al-Zawahiri's comments also revealed African-American Muslims have little love for radicalized Islamists. At a news conference in New York City at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational and Cultural Center, a gathering of African-American Muslim leaders denounced al-Zawahiri's remarks as "insulting." The group added, "As Muslims and as Americans, we will never let terrorist groups or terror leaders falsely claim to represent us or our faith."

The statement also noted that radicalized Islamists have, "historically been disconnected from the African-American community generally, and Muslim African-Americans in particular."

This was a veiled shot at Arabs' historic role in the slave trade and the racism still blemishing some Arab nations, such as in Sudan.

Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam — which is generally separate from other African-American Islamic groups — has been effusive in his praise for Obama. And Farrakhan has made clear his disdain for groups that employ terrorism.

Despite Farrakhan's aversion to al Qaeda's tactics, his foreign policy prescriptions probably would please al-Zawahiri and "condemn the crimes of the Crusader West against the weak and oppressed." With their man Obama now leading the "Crusader West," where will the Nation of Islam stand when the crusade inevitably continues?

More generally, where will black progressives stand?

No doubt, there will be strong black critics of the Obama administration who will keep the first black president's feet to the fire.

Others may find more to love about America. If the Obama administration decides to bomb Pakistan's tribal territories, for example, these supporters, who once may have questioned the wisdom of unilateral bombing, now will urge critics to "understand the bigger picture."

In October 2002, actor and activist Harry Belafonte called Powell and Rice "house negroes" for their subservience to the Bush administration. He was condemned in the media, but the black community had his back. If Belafonte said the same about Obama today, he would have to take a banana boat back to Jamaica.

Al Qaeda Plays the Malcolm Card -- In These Times

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Origin of the Human Race by Alhaj Dhul-Waqar Yaqub

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

[32:8] الَّذِىْۤ اَحْسَنَ كُلَّ شَىْءٍ خَلَقَهٗ‌ وَبَدَاَ خَلْقَ الْاِنْسَانِ مِنْ طِيْنٍ‌ۚ‏

[32:9] ثُمَّ جَعَلَ نَسْلَهٗ مِنْ سُلٰلَةٍ مِّنْ مَّآءٍ مَّهِيْنٍ‌ۚ‏

[71:14] مَّا لَـكُمْ لَا تَرْجُوْنَ لِلّٰهِ وَقَارًا‌ۚ‏

[71:15] وَقَدْ خَلَقَكُمْ اَطْوَارًا‏

[71:20] وَاللّٰهُ جَعَلَ لَـكُمُ الْاَرْضَ بِسَاطًاۙ‏

[71:21] لِّـتَسْلُكُوْا مِنْهَا سُبُلاً فِجَاجًا

How did I get here? Where did I come from? Who are my ancestors? It would be safe to say that these questions may be asked by every thoughtful human being at least once in their life time. For Black Americans in particular, finding the answers to these questions begins an incredible journey of self discovery.

Black American folk wisdom says, “If you don’t know where you’ve been you won’t know where you’re going.” Our captain and navigator into “where you’ve been” is Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop (December 29, 1923 – February 7, 1986), a historian, anthropologist and physicist. Considered one of the greatest African historians of the 20th century, Diop’s scientific ideas have transformed the basic thrust of African studies in the United States.

Cheikh Anta Diop was born in the town of Diourbel, Senegal, on the West coast of Africa. His birthplace has a long tradition of producing Muslim scholars and oral historians. His early education was in a traditional Islamic school where his inspiration and interest in history, the humanities and social sciences from an African point of view began. At the age of 23, he went to Paris in 1946 to become a physicist. He remained there for 15 years, studying physics under Frederic Joliot-Curie, Marie Curie’s son-in-law, and ultimately translating parts of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity into his native Wolof. Diop's education also included African history, Egyptology, linguistics, anthropology, economics and sociology.

In 1951, Diop submitted a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Paris in which he argued that ancient Egypt had in fact been a Black African culture. The thesis was rejected. Over the next nine years, Diop reworked the thesis, adding stronger evidentiary support. In 1960, he succeeded in the defense of his thesis and was awarded his Ph.D. degree.

In 1955, the thesis had been published in the popular press as a book titled Nations nègres et culture (Negro Nations and Culture). Dr. Diop challenged the notions of European centered scholars, who had written Africa’s contributions to world civilization out of history. It would make him one of the most controversial historians of his time.

Dr. Diop’s critics contend that his thesis lacked merit and that it essentially supplants and counters one form of racism with another rather than attempting to arrive at the truth.

Seeker after truth who engage themselves in studies should be aware that there are scholars performing inferior research and research that supports prejudicial conclusions rather than ones of discovery. Other pseudo scholars approach scholarship with designs to a political end. Concerning the latter, identity politics came to the forfront in the Black American awarness experience. Identity politics is political action to advance the interests of members of a group whose members perceive themselves to be oppressed by virtue of a shared and marginalized identity (such as race, ethnicity or religion).

While using Africa as the vantage point and the basis for his thesis, Dr. Diop does not neglect the broader dimensions of history. He shows that history cannot be restricted by the limits of an ethnic group, nation, or culture. Roman history is Greek as well as Roman, and both the Greek and the Roman histories are Egyptian because the entire Mediterranean was civilized Egypt; and Egypt in turn borrowed from other parts of Africa, especially Ethiopia.

Diop left his mark in the realm of the reassessment of the role of black people in world history and culture. Combining an unusual breadth of knowledge; including linguistics, history, anthropology, chemistry, and physics; he uncovered fresh evidence about the ancient origins and common principles of classical African civilization. He believed that people who feel they possess no past of their own tend to be absorbed and assimilated into the governing system, and are made to feel inferior because of this apparent deficiency.

Dr. Diop contends that there exist two theories of human origin: monogenetic and polygenetic. The monogenetic view states that there is one source for mankind; man was born in one place and became different due to the climatic conditions to which he was exposed. Followers of this theory believe that mankind was born in Africa - specifically in the area of Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia. It is from this area of Africa that mankind evolved as a separate species and left there to people other parts of the world, which had different climatic conditions. Under these different climatic conditions and over periods of time the African changed and developed a new look.

As an example: during the last Glacial Epoch or about 40,000 year ago a Homo Sapiens Sapiens, currently identified as Grimaldi Man, left Africa and went to Europe. As a result of the extreme cold climatic conditions and over a period of 20,000 years he underwent an adaptation to that climate and evolved into what we conventionally call a White man. The Grimaldi Negroids have left their numerous traces all over Europe and Asia, from the Iberian Peninsula to Lake Baykal in Siberia, passing through France, Austria, the Crimea, and the Basin of Don, etc. In these last two regions, the late Soviet Professor Mikhail Gerasimov, a scholar of rare objectivity, identified the Negroid type from skulls found in the Middle Mousterian period.

The polygenetic opinion claims that man has several locations of origin, which would explain the physiological differences between the races. Followers of this theory believe that man was born in Africa, Europe, and Asia and there was no evolutionary or climatic development. Diop argues that there are two reasons why this theory is faulty. He says that nature never strikes twice in its evolution; she doesn't create the same being twice. In addition, complete fossils have been found only on the African continent, which proves that life began there. No such fossils have been found anywhere else in the world.

Aspects of the polygenetic theory (sometimes referred to as multi-regionalism) have been criticized as not based on objective scientific observation. Some critics even argue that the polygenetic theory may be motivated by ethnocentrism and is meant to instill beliefs of purity of lineage. This implied racism has had a negative effect, causing scientists to restrict their hypothesizing to politically correct conclusions.

Dr. Diop reinforces his belief in the monogenetic theory by noting that the polygenetic theory seeks to establish a hierarchy of race suggesting that some races are superior to others. He asserts, if man has the same origins there can be no intellectual hierarchy because all of the races of the world would have the same intellectual history. If the races had had different origins it can be said that they had different intellectual capacity because they all had a different intellectual history. The polygenetic theory is essential in order to defend the notion that there are inequalities between the races. It is for this reason why people have defended the polygenetic theory. However, science has set this theory aside.

It is the monogenetic theory that will support the notion that because our origin is the same we also have the same intellectual capacity. Dr. Diop is not saying that Blacks are intellectual superior to Whites. That would be false. Diop’s insistences are: no race is superior to another. All races have the same intellectual capacity. There is no autonomic difference in the brain of the various races.

Currently, the dominant view among scientists is the Out of Africa Model. According to the Out of Africa Model (sometimes referred to as the Recent African Origin of Modern Humans or RAO) Homo Sapiens Sapiens evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago. Homo Sapiens Sapiens began migrating from Africa between 70,000 – 50,000 years ago and would eventually replace existing Homo Erectus, Neanderthal, and Homo Sapiens in Europe and Asia.

The Out of Africa Model has gained support by recent research using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). After analyzing genealogy trees constructed using 133 types of mtDNA, they concluded that all were descended from a woman from Africa, dubbed Mitochondrial Eve.

By analyzing DNA from people in all regions of the world, American geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a San Bushman who lived in Africa around 60,000 years ago.

Here, important questions arise: Should Black Americans be satisfied with learning only European history and why should there be a focus on Black history? Dr. Diop answered these questions by stating, “Its fine to learn the history of others but you must know your own history first. People who lose their historical memory become a fragile people and they regress. It is their historical memory that permits them to be a strong people. The final question is: in what measure does the works of Cheikh Anta Diop allow one to respond to the challenges of the future? Theophile Obenga, a disciple and a companion of Diop answers this question by stating,” with Cheikh Anta Diop, history is not defined as the study of the past of human kind, but as the construction of the future in the name of life."

Dr. Diop was the Director of Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (IFAN) at the University of Dakar. He sat on numerous international scientific committees and achieved recognition as one of the leading historians, Egyptologists, linguists and anthropologists in the world. He traveled widely, lectured incessantly and was cited and quoted voluminously. He was regarded by many as the modern `pharaoh' of African studies. Cheikh Anta Diop died quietly in sleep in Dakar, Senegal on February 7, 1986.

In the introductory remarks of Cheikh Anta Diop we noted that his early education was in a “traditional Islamic school”. His life’s work appears to be a reflection of the Holy Qur'an. Based on the idea that “the proof of the pudding is the pudding itself”, it would be safe to believe that he was grounded in the Qur'anic concepts of man’s creation. Some of the verses that support Diop’s ideas of the origin of the human race and the development of man are in Arabic at the beginning of this paper and may be rendered into English as follows:

Who made perfectly well all that He created. And He originated the creation of man from clay. Then He made his progeny from an extract of an insignificant fluid. (32: 8-9)

O you human beings! What is the matter with you that you fail to understand that Allah does not do anything unless there is wisdom and purpose underlying it? You yourselves are not ready to accept the assumption that you do things with no aim or purpose in view. Why do you therefore assume that Allah, the Most Wise and Al Knowing does things without purpose? Why do you jump to the thoughtless conclusion that He created man with no purpose in view? Why do you fail to grasp the evident truth that your creation has not been the result of a sudden meaningless impulse? It was the result of wise planning and deliberate execution in a succession of stages from one point to another. (71: 14-15)

Allah has made the earth a vast expanse for you. That you may traverse its spacious paths for the development of civilization and also to attain spiritual perfection. (71: 20-21)

One world, one people. That seems to be what Allah is saying in the Holy Qur'an, “O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may know one another.” (49:14) As a counter-measure against ethnocentrism (lack of tolerance of other cultures), etnocentrism (lack of tolerance of other races) and xenophobia (fear of other races) we must internalize the historical reality that the blood that unites us is thicker than the waters of the Diaspora, culture and accents that separate and divide us.

Bibliographical Sources:

The Holy Qur'an with English Translation and Commentary, Vol. II (Part II) and Vol. III, Published under the auspices of Hadhrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud, Khalifatul Masih II.

The Holy Qur'an with Arabic Text – English Translation as Explained by Allamah Nooruddin.

Creation of Man by Hadhrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud, Khalifatul Masih II.

The Cultural Unity of Negro Africa, Cheikh Anta Diop, (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1963), English Tanslation: Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Patriarchy and Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity, (Karnak House: 1989).

Civilization or Barbarism, (1981), Cheikh Anta Diop

Introduction to African Civilizations, John G. Jackson and Runoko Rashidi, (Citadel: 2001).

Conceptions of History in the Works of Cheikh Anta Diop and Theophile Obenga, Jackson and Rashidi, op. cit; Chris Gray, (Karnak House: 1989).

Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution in Nature, Rebecca L. Cann, Mark Stoneking, Allan C. Wilson (1987).

Genetic and Fossil Evidence for the Origin of Modern Human in Science,

Christopher Stringer and Peter Andrews (1988).

Modern Humans Came Out of Africa, "Definitive" Study Says, James Owen, National Geographic News (2007).

Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop Part 1-6,

Created Unequal: Multiregionalism and the Origins of Anthropological Racism, Adam Wells Davis, MA

Thesis (2004),