Dr. Shakeela Hassan and the Making of a American Muslim Icon

by Sapelo Square

Imagine the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and you will undoubtedly picture a man wearing a cap embroidered with a large star and crescent. This month’s post features Dr. Shakeela Hassan, the maker of those iconic caps. In this video interview with Sapelo Square Editor in Chief, Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Dr. Hassan explains how she came up with the design alongside Elijah Muhammad at his dinner table. Her story reveals that the caps, like the Nation of Islam itself, were as much products of local, homegrown enterprise as they were of global Muslim networks. Dr. Hassan’s story is a striking example of what Professor Sally Howell calls “Old Islam” — the theologically inclusive, ethnically diverse and explicitly indigenizing Muslim communities that arose primarily in the Midwest before America’s immigration reform of 1965. Both she and her husband, Zia Hassan, found a spiritual home in the Nation of Islam as well as close friendship with the Muhammad family upon arriving in Chicago from Pakistan in the 1950s. Indeed, as she tells elsewhere, Clara Muhammad was “nothing short of a mother to me.” Their relationship was born during an era that defied current divisions between ‘immigrant and indigenous’ Muslims in the United States. The story of these caps provides a rare glimpse into not only the personality of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but also a bygone era that still has much to teach us.

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  • Allah U Akbar!!!!!! Thank you for sharing

  • What an era to have been Muslim in America.

  • Thanks for circulating this article. I was there and will never regret a moment of my time well spent with him. And yes, his cap was strikingly beautiful.

  • BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!

  • The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam had a much longer relationship with Pakistan and its people than what has been understood. Between December 1959 and January 1960, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, his sons Elijah, Jr. (Assistant Supreme Captain) and Akbar and Son-in-Law, Supreme Captain Raymond Sharieff went on a world tour during that time to multiple countries in Africa and the Muslim World. This included the Ummurah (Voluntary Pilgrimage) to Mecca and visiting Karachi and Lahore Pakistan. He spent more time in Lahore where he visited a factory that produced English translations of Al-Qur’an, which I believe is the Maulana Muhammad Ali Translation, since that is the most commonly used translation in the Nation of Islam. He was very close to a man by the name of Professor Muhammad Abdullah, who was also from Lahore. This man became very close to his son, the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed after his father’s passing and helped the Imam in transitioning the Nation of Islam to the teachings of Al-Qur’an and the Sunnah of Nabi Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Mustafa (SAW) by being an Imam of Masjid Muhammad 77 (Now Masjid Warithdeen) in Oakland, CA. This man was believed to be the same man as the Founder of the Nation of Islam, Master Wali Fard Muhammad, which Dr Fatima Fanusie has researched and connected these two men as the same person. Also, I believe in 1969, the Nation of Islam in Chicago led a major parade on the south side, which it was said that there were no reported incidents, or crimes on that side of town that day. When the FOI (Fruit of Islam)marched and passed by the Supreme Minister (this was the title that Fard gave the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, not Messenger), standing next to him was either the Ambassador or a diplomat from the Pakistan Embassy, or Consulate.

  • Beautiful and interesting article and can you tell me where I can get those head kerchiefs to buy, I have been asking around but no success, even when I contacted members of NOI.

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