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.

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