The following is an excerpt from the book Dar ul-Islam: Principle, Praxis, Movement by Dr. Kamal Hassan Ali, professor of Ethnic and Gender Studies at Westfield State University.
To truly understand essential aspects of the indigenous American Muslim community embodied by the Dar ul-Islam Movement, one must look to a learned analysis of racial upheavals in the 1960s, to the socio/cultural rise of descendant Africans in the American Diaspora, and to the antecedent variations of American Islam. The early leadership of the Sunni Muslim community known as Dar ul-Islam, active from 1962 through 1983 in Brooklyn, New York, namely Sheikh Rajab Mahmoud, Sheikh Yahya Abdul-Kareem, and later, Hajj Hasan Ali Muhammad, Bilal Abdullah Abdur-Rahman and Sheikh Isma’il Abdur-Raheem among others, were certainly conversant in this history and were keenly sensitive to ways in which the lessons learned through praxis could be filtered through the lens of the sunnah, or Islamic tradition, and integrated as part and parcel of an Islamic movement. Clearly, the humanitarian goals of liberty and liberation, of freedom from oppression through community organization, activism, and a preoccupation with resolving potentially fatal lapses in social justice systems are bedrock to the establishment of any Muslim community even remotely predicated upon the establishment of the Prophet’s traditions (Peace be upon him). In fact, the efficacy of any Islamic community worthy of the name must, by its very nature, adhere strictly to these basic principles.
The early Muslim community established by our Noble Prophet and his Companions—the first Muslim generation—stands as testimony to this view of Islamic authenticity, of what is, and what is not “Islamic,” as do the subsequent societal incarnations of the Caliphatur-Rashidun, or the four “Rightly Guided” Islamic Republics overseen, in turn, by Abu Bakr as-Saddiq, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, “Uthman ibn al-Affan, and ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib (May Allah be Pleased with Them). It is to the examples established by this Islamic orthodoxy that the early activists of Dar ul-Islam (alternatively known as “the DAR”) turned to construct the criteria that would be used to judge the validity, the relevance, the applicability, the usefulness of any idea, practice, action or program to be included within the Movement agenda. In this way, bida, or the inclusion of un-Islamic innovation, could be avoided, and the pristine practice of Islam amongst inner-city Muslims across the country who aspired to DAR inclusion could be ensured.
It should be understood that the goal of the Movement, simply put, was to formulate and implement a wholly Islamic environment that would enable this community of practicing believers to attain the ultimate spiritual end: Paradise. Any and all aspects of the movement program were, at bottom, carefully constructed objectives aimed at achieving that singular goal. In other words, the primary goal of Islamic praxis was—and is—to please Allah, subhana wa t’ala, or God, the Glorious, the Most High, to gain His favor and, by so doing, attain success in the Life and the Next. This is the din, or “religious culture” established by the Prophet Muhammad as guidance for all of humankind, and is the fountainhead of the material, moral and spiritual revolution taught by the great litany of prophets, healers, exemplars of virtue, of peace and social justice from Adam to Noah, from Abraham to Muhammad (Peace be upon them). These ideas were not, in the Dar ul-Islam context, mere platitudes or slogans; rather, they were real life behavioral objectives, acted on daily, with all of the rigor, focus and fortitude that has come to be associated with the genuine practice of Islam over time.
This notion of liberation via strict adherence to the Islamic orthodoxy, or sunnah, of the Prophet Muhammad cannot be emphasized enough, and has, in fact, been grossly de-empathized in the few serious studies extant aiming to illuminate essential aspects of the Dar ul-Islam community, arguably the largest and perhaps most significant indigenous Muslim community in American history.
To illustrate the primacy of Islamic orthodoxy in the belief, understanding and practice of these essentially revivalist efforts, it may be useful to present our analysis of the Dar ul-Islam movement’s action agenda in the light of, firstly, the fundamental principles of Islam as revealed in the Holy Qur’an, as implemented by the Prophet Muhammad and as prescribed within the Five Pillars of Islam; secondly, the way in which each principle found meaning through praxis; and lastly, a summary of the implications of that practice within the DAR movement. Naturally, the broad objectives of certain of these efforts, Muslim schooling, for example, fit comfortably within more than one of these fundamentals. However, the use of this conceptual matrix may serve, nonetheless, to illustrate the Movement’s determination to build community under the strictly Islamic umbrella of the Book of Allah, and the tradition of His Prophet.
The First Principle – TAUHID
Testifying That There is no god but Allah, Who is One, Without Partner; Muhammad is His servant and Messenger
“Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god; Who knows (all things) both secret and open; He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god; the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the justly Proud. Glory to Allah! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him. He is Allah, the Creator, the Originator, the Fashioner. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (The Holy Qur’an, 59:22 – 24)
Narrated Mu’adh ibn Jabal: the Prophet (PBUH) said, “O, Mu’adh! Do you know what Allah’s right upon His slaves is?” I said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Prophet said: “To worship Him (Allah) Alone, and to join none in worship with Him. Do you know what their right upon Him is?” I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Prophet said, “Not to punish them (if they do so).” (Sahih Bukhari)
The early Dar-ul-Islam leadership was meticulous in the clear expression of tauhid as fundamental to the belief and practice of Islam. It is important to note here that several historical, predominately African-American quasi-Islamic organizations and movements, from the Moorish Science Temple at the turn of the century to the Nation of Islam in the 1930s, among others, laid claim to Islamic legitimacy but failed to observe tauhid as a basis for either their system of belief, their religious practice, or their organizational development. It is, after all, the bearing of witness to the reality of at-tauhid , the attestation, or shahada, stipulating “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah; and I bear witness that Muhammad in the Apostle of Allah” that one becomes Muslim, or indicates her/his intention, publicly and before witnesses, to practice Islam. With the acceptance of Muhammad (PBUH) as the apostle of Allah, comes the obligation to follow his Way, and the establishment of Islam as “a way of life” predicated on the belief in Allah, and example of that belief expressed in the life of the Prophet.
Following new “shahadas’”—as Muslim acolytes were often called—acceptance of Islam, it was movement practice, for them to engage in a rigorous learning process that included learning classical Arabic, the lingua franca of Islam, for the purpose of reading, reciting and memorization of the Holy Qur’an; devoting oneself to the obligatory, merciful demands of salaat, which require every practicing Muslim to pray the ritual prayer at specific times at least five times each and every day; familiarizing oneself with hadith, or traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (what he said, did, allowed or prohibited); embarking on the protracted study of sira, or the history of the Prophet and the early Muslim communities; and at least a functional understanding of shari’ah, or Islamic law, which is derived from the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet, the way of life prescribed as nominative in Islam. If, while engaged in this rather demanding, disciplined intellectual and spiritual process, the new adherent maintained regular attendance at Friday, or jumu’ah prayers, and began to “hang out” among the Dar ummah, or congregants, he might be asked to sign a pledge or make bai’ah to uphold the basic precepts of the shari’a, as interpreted through the leadership and administration of the Imam and the Amirate.
Dr. Kamal Ali was born in Springfield, Illinois is married and has three children and eleven grandchildren.
“Sent home” from Howard University for his Black Panther rants, Kamal Ali then moved to New York, where he hooked up with the wrong crowd and was headed for big trouble. Then he learned of the Dar-ul-Islam community and quickly became a contributing member of the Movement.
He was an early proselytizer of the faith to angry young African Americans, helping to direct their hatred toward the Dar-al-Harb, or “house of war” and the eternal enemies of Al’lah and his Apostle.
From 1970 until 1977 he served on the Muslim Prison Committee, assigned to The Bronx House of Detention, Riker’s Island, and Green Haven Correctional Facility, a maximum security facility in Stormville, New York, helping to redirect the energies of dangerous criminals and sociopaths toward a constructive jihad in the way of Al’lah.
Dr. Ali is the Imam of the Ludlow Correctional Center and a professor at Westfield State University.
This seminal work, Dar-ul-Islam: Principle, Praxis, Movement, by Dr. Kamal Hassan Ali is rooted in his personal involvement with the largest indigenous effort to promote the religious and social remedies of Islam in America.
This is part 1 of a 3 part series on the Dar ul-Islam movement