Month: July 2017


Surveillance Won’t Stop Southside Chicago Masjid

By Narjis Abdul-Majid

Just before sunrise on July 6, 2017, the FBI raided the home of  Masjid Al-Rasul Foundation’s founder, Imam Mujahid Abdul-Karim. He, his wife and children suffered threats and damage to their home as a result of unsubstantiated charges that the Imam is currently addressing with a lawyer. Shaykh Abdul-Karim, who Sapelo Square profiled in Ramadan 2016, is well known on the West Coast for his efforts to eradicate gang violenceMujahid and serve as an active leader in Los Angeles, Calif, and surrounding communities. This horrible incident parallels the indignities and injustices that other African American leaders have suffered as a result of COINTELPRO (counter intelligence program) and other government surveillance and intrusion into Black spaces. The timing of this home invasion coincided with Shaykh Abdul-Karim’s plans to travel to Chicago to facilitate the fundraising and establishment of Masjid Al-Rasul (MAR) Foundation’s third mosque location on the South Side of Chicago.

History has shown us repeatedly that although truth may be on the side of the oppressed, the unification of Black minds and bodies will always be perceived to be a threat by the government and other oppressive power structures.

Recently, many younger members of the ummah and among the greater African American community have questioned the power and influence of the Civil Rights era leaders to handle the challenges that face African Americans today. Shaykh Abdul-Karim is one example of a multi-generational legacy who has had the foresight to pass the torch when necessary and unite brothers and sisters across socio-economic, ethnic and madhab distinctions. The mission of MAR may have best been reflected by the now-malcolmxbirthday16x9removed mural of Imam Khomeini and Malcolm X, that once faced Masjid Al-Rasul, LA. Imam Khomeini aligned his teachings with the objectives of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad (saw) which “was to teach the people the path to eliminate oppression; to teach the path that would enable the people to confront the exploiting power.” [1] For Shaykh Abdul-Karim, establishing this justice aligns with preparing for Imam Mahdi (ajf) who the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) tells us: “After me are Caliphs and after Caliphs, rulers and after rulers, kings and after kings, emperors and tyrannical and rebellious dictators. After that a man from my Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) will reappear and fill the earth with justice and equity just as it would be fraught with injustice and oppression.” [2] This mission and legacy is not without its challenges as exhibited by the FBI raid and the struggles to fund necessary programing costs for the expansion of the Masjid Al-Rasul Foundation into the Fifth Ward in Houston, Texas, and more recently, Chicago. Despite these challenges, MAR proceeds.

This tradition shows that the administrators of the Muslims shall be of various kinds: some caliphs, some kings and some tyrants. They will fill up the earth and cities with injustice. After that Almighty God will send the great savior, Mahdi (a.s.) of the Progeny of Muhammad (S) and he will destroy the tyrants and establish divine Law on the earth. As we await this justice and establishment of divine law we must prepare; and to do so, leaders from African American communities must create spaces to take care of our MARcommunities’ unique needs. All three locations of MAR — Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago — seek to provide this space and the resources needed to cultivate the sense of self-awareness that strengthens the souls, provides nourishment to the bodies and serves truth to the oppressed in times of rampant anti-Blackness and anti-Islamic sentiment.

The belief in Mahdi (mghr), the savior, is not only held by Shi’a, but by all Muslims-as well- whether Shi’a or Sunni: Even non-Muslims believe in the savior in some way or another.– Ayatollah Khamenei

Despite the many sunnah (traditions) that implore Muslims to abstain from suspicion, it arises, and therefore having strong leadership to spearhead initiatives such as MAR helps ground this project and endear it to the communities which it serves. About 6 years ago Shaykh Abdul-Karim’s grandson, Hassan Abdul-Karim, began laying the groundwork to expand his grandfather’s mission. Who better to facilitate this Islamic mission of peace, justice and education than a brother with a master’s degree in teaching education, bachelor’s degree in English, several years of teaching experience and three years of hawza (Islamic seminary) studies completed.

Now as he has just completed his third year of hawza studies at the Ahl al-Bayt Islamic Seminary located in Chicago, Hassan Abdul-Karim bridges the gap of Islamic literacy with his lived experiences of the oppression of Black communities spanning from his grandfather’s community in LA to New York, Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s community in Atlanta, Ga, Houston and many others. His foresight allows for community development that serves the unique needs of each city in which Masjid Al-Rasul is located. In LA, gang-related issues, poverty and crime were key concerns. In Houston, crime, poverty and MAR Imamlimited educational resources for a largely African American and Spanish-speaking population were key issues that that the masjid addresses by offering programs in Spanish and English while also providing traditional prayer services in Arabic. The Houston masjid was a sincere labor of love in which Hassan Abdul-Karim took into consideration both the history and needs of the Fifth Ward community, once known as the “Bloody 5th”[3] to unite the community with communal meals, activities such as Islamic movie nights, community clean-up efforts and sincere da’wah through service.

The MAR location in the South Side of Chicago will serve the community with educational, workforce initiatives, religious and social services under the advisement of Hassan Abdul-Karim and Shaykh Ja’far Muhibullah who will assume the position of resident alim for the MAR Chicago masjid. Shaykh Muhibullah has dedicated more thanMAR Children twelve years of his life pursuing Islamic Studies in seminaries and universities in the United States and Iran. In 2005, he earned an MA in Religious Studies at Duke University before moving to Texas in 2007 to pursue a PhD in Arabic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. After a short hiatus, Shaykh Muhibullah resumed PhD studies at the University of Tehran while also pursuing ijtihad with prominent Ayatollahs like Waheed Al-Khurasani and Sayyid Kamal Al-Haydari in the Islamic Seminary of Qom, Iran.

The MAR Chicago will not be hindered by federal intervention, Islamic elitism or the wealth disparities that exist for the community which it seeks to serve. The niyyah is clear and the leadership is transparent in their vision: to build a masjid and Islamic community in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the U.S., in order to help improve the lives of people that are the most impoverished, oppressed and forgotten in America. To create the kind of masjid space where everyone is free to be his or herself.

[1] Sahife-ye Imam (Dictations of Muhammad (s) to Ali (as)), Vol. 17, page 403

[2] Kanz al-Ummal (Treasure of the Doers of Good Deeds), Ala al-Din Ali ibn Abd-al-Malik Husam al-Din al Muttaqi al Hindi, page 7/186

[3] Name a result of highly publicized acts of violence that forever shaped the neighborhood

Narjis Abdul-MajidNarjis Nichole Abdul-Majid is a part-time lecturer in the departments of Pan African Studies and Humanities at the University of Louisville and Philosophy Department at Indiana University Southeast. Her research interests focus on the African American and Native American Islamic experiences (Slavery-Melungeons-20th Century Islamic Movements-Present Day) with emphasis on minority voices.


The Significance of Black Muslim History

The Significance of Black Muslim History

Why is the study of Black Muslim history important? Many Muslims in the US, including some Black American Muslims, have questioned the relevance of Black American history and culture, emphasizing the universalism and racial egalitarianism of the orthodox (i.e., Sunni and Shia) Islamic traditions. Some have gone as far as questioning whether racial categories are relevant within an Islamic worldview. Still, others have advocated that the study of the unique histories, cultures and societal contexts of particular ethnic groups among the ranks of the global Muslim community is vital to understand Muslims’ needs and historical contributions, and for understanding how the practice of Islam should be actualized in society.

Our post for this month is a recent lecture delivered by Ustadha Ieasha Prime, a Black American Muslim religious scholar renowned for her powerful delivery. The talk was given as part of an event hosted by Masjid Muhammad of Atlantic City entitled “Preserving Our Legacy: African-Americans in Islam – Past, Present, and Future”. In this insightful lecture, Ustadha Ieasha offers critical reflections on the significance of Black Muslim history, reminding us that the preservation of nasl (lineage) is one of the maqasid al-shariʻah (underlying purposes of Islamic sacred law). Her reflections span the historical period of American slavery — when enslaved African Muslims struggled to preserve their religion and identity — to the present day. She offers a compelling and poignant assessment of the importance of the history that we strive to help preserve and disseminate at Sapelo Square.



Ieasha Prime is the Executive Director of Barakah, Inc.,, an online education resource for Islamic Study.  She was traditionally educated in the Islamic sciences and is a frequent speaker nationally and internationally on a variety of subjects.



The FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, they’ll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees. This directly affects websites like Sapelo Square that provide unique and relevant content without the support of big money.  If you love what we do, make your voice heard!


On July 12th, the Internet comes together to stop them.




Commentary: Black Muslims and Black Issues

by Nuriddeen Knight

Had I been born in Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs, it would have been a good time to be Black. Black people were the ruling class. The oppressed class, at least for a period of time, was the Hebrews. But I was not born then; I was born in 1988 in America, and being Black here and now means being a part of the oppressed class. Hundreds of years of slavery, decades of legalized mistreatment, disempowerment and overall injustice. I live in a time where saying “Black Lives Matter” after of string of murders perpetrated by police is met with mockery and belittlement by mainstream America. I live in a time where a Black man can be accused of everything from sexual harassment to rape decades after the alleged incidents and it ruin his legacy while white men accused of molestation continue to make movies. I live in a time where Black relationships are falling apart and Black children are falling behind. And yet, despite the residue of slavery, the average white American can feel more sympathy for a holocaust it did not cause than for the descendents of slaves on its own soil.

There are times in my life where I go months, even years, without thinking about race and racism. It’s too painful, too upsetting and too unbearable. But what I have come to realize is that God uniquely made me Black and He bestowed upon me enough blessings to make a small dent to empower myself and my people. If Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X did not eradicate racism, I certainly won’t either. And I have come to realize that arguing with white people or non-Black Muslims about racism, trying to prove our humanity or the inhumanity of our suffering should be a minuscule, if not non-existent, part of that struggle. My struggle is to use what I have to “cast my bucket” where I am and give my people whatever I can to benefit our community.

It also means ignoring a lot of other things. I don’t plan to spend any significant portion of my life fighting “Islamophobia,” which is essentially the systematic oppression similar to what is inflicted on Blacks being inflicted on “Muslims”—Muslims being, in the eyes of a typical American, Arab or South Asian. The internal racism in the Muslim community makes it so that South Asian and Arab issues become “Muslim issues,’ whereas Black issues are ignored. There were people in the Prophet’s time who constantly came to him for knowledge then went back to their people to teach Islam, did he ask them to stay with him instead and become a teacher in the “Muslim community”? Or was it natural expectation to go back and give what you’ve benefited back to your people?

It saddens me when I hear a Black Muslim give lectures on “Islamic issues” that are in fact South Asian and Arab Muslim issues. For example, a lecture on marriage in Islam where parental approval, cultural differences and forced marriage are spoken about as if they are universal islamic issues when they in fact have nothing to do with Islam and nothing to do with the Black community that imam came from, for example. I recall hearing Imam Siraj Wahhaj of Masjid At Taqwa in Brooklyn give a khutbah about marriage and speaking about what I call the “marriage suitability problem” that is a reality for his predominantly Black Muslim congregation, and it would have been delusional to discuss forced marriage in any significance. Some Muslim speakers talk about the issue of parents forcing their children to be doctors and engineers, again this is not a Muslim problem but one for some Muslim immigrants. If the Black Muslim voice was considered as legitimate, then the conversation would focus on the double-digit unemployment rate, poor nutrition and institutionalized racism.

I am not sure if Black people have a huge ability for compassion and empathy or a major self esteem issue but we cannot continue to put other Muslim communities’ issues before our own communities; in essence, allowing our house to burn while we put out their fires. Police brutality has been an issue in the Black community, which includes Black Muslims, for a very long time yet the “Muslim Community” gave no voice to this issue. So should we be expected to lend our voice when our struggle becomes their struggle as well? No, fighting for non-Black Muslim rights under the general guise of “Muslim rights” is no more important than fighting for Black human rights which include Muslims. Why should we give up on our struggle for theirs? We cannot afford to lose a single soul in the Black community in the fight against oppression and for empowerment.

Originally published for “Fig & Olive” on December 12, 2016

14462878_1660559704255848_6610474569211659270_nNuriddeen Knight is an upstart scholar from Brooklyn, New York. She spent several years studying Classical Arabic and other Islamic sciences in the UAE, Qatar, and Jordan. She is the founder of Noor Al Shadhili, a research, education, and counseling initiative whose aim is to engage in theological and spiritual dialogue through an Islamic, philosophical and social science framework.