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The Islamic Bulletin

Issue 9

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The Islamic Bulletin

Issue 9

Dear Readers,

We are proud to introduce the many new and exciting

projects now beginning to take shape for The San Francisco

Islamic Center and The Islamic Bulletin.

One of the projects we are especially proud to present to

you is the new Volunteer Line, designed to better serve

and assist the community.

In order to accomplish this, we need YOU, the members

and readers of the Islamic Bulletin, an important resource

and priority.

The first task of the new volunteer program is to listen to

the ideas and needs of our members. We would greatly

appreciate any feedback you can give us. Are you seeing

the kinds of articles you want to see? Are there any items

you would like to see covered by our staff? Any changes

or suggestions that would make the Bulletin better or more

interesting to you? Any special topics or monthly columns

you would like to see added to the Bulletin? Any part of

the Bulletin you don’t like?

The Volunteer Lines’ other objective is to help encourage

and organize those who wish to contribute their time and

energies to the furtherance of Islam and the glory of Allah.

There is always some small way we can help, no matter

what our abilities may be, to work for Allah. If you have a

few hours to help in some way, please consider spending

the time as a volunteer. We have many projects and many

levels of skills are required.

YOUR participation in the ongoing improvement of the

Bulletin and the San Francisco Islamic Community is vital

to us, whether you want to become an active volunteer

member, contribute an article of our own, or offer your

comments and recommendations.

But please, call the new Volunteer Line at 415-552-8831

with your comments or to discuss the possibility of your

active participation.

Of course your letters to the editor are always valued, so

feel free to write at any time “Letters to the Editor” at the

Islamic Bulletin.

Prison has the Body, but Allah has the Spirit

(An excerpt from the NY Times, July 2, 1992)

Beacon, NY - The criminals faced Mecca, staring beyond the

window bars and glittering rolls of razor wire lying between their

basement prison mosque and the world outside.

As they prayed, a blue jay burst freely above the sharply bladed

gyres and out toward a cow herd grazing by an interstate highway

that laced across the horizon, a teasing reminder to the prison

Muslims of how sweetly meandering freedom can be.

“That is all irrelevant,” insisted Hamza Abdul Aziz, the mosque’s

leader. “This is only a place that keeps you locked up spatially,”

the 32 year old convict said. “I don’t have bars and razor wire

blocking my mental life. I’m in a state of peace.”

... Islam has been claiming its institutional role behind bars, with

New York State now employing 31 Muslims for its 171- chaplain

corps and looking for more, and with a prison population that is

17 percent Muslim.

“When I started in this department 32 years ago, there weren’t

that many Muslims in the prison system and they were unrec-

ognized,” said Dean R. Riley, the Fishkill prison superintendent.

“Today, they are probably one of the most supportive groups

among themselves and within the system, too. They take care of

their own. It certainly has been in the department’s interest to

recognize them.”

The superintendent said it used to be far different. “Muslims were

seen as a militant group at first, but not today,” he said, drawing

concurrence from Salahuddin M. Mohammed, the prison’s Imam,

an Islamic chaplain, making his busy rounds among the Muslims

here and in two other prisons.

“Black nationalism and all that, that’s out the window,” said the

Imam, a 41 year old clergyman who turned to Islam as a Harlem

teenager interested in his African ancestors and the cultural im-

plications of slavery.

“Prison is slavery,” said the Imam, whose friends from the housing

projects near Amsterdam Ave and 125th St turn up on his prison

rounds. “The men feel that sense of slavery and they discover

that Islam can offer a sense of freedom.”

Among the 1800 Fishkill inmates, there are 200 congregants in

the masjid, or mosque. Most of them are from the prison’s nearly

50 percent black population.

“They are beautiful Muslims,” said Sofyan Saleh, a believer serving

10 to 25 years for manslaughter who was born into the religion

35 years ago as a native Yemenite.

In the mosque, Islam’s comforts appear to go beyond the relaxed

solidarity and seclusion the prisoners indulge.

“It’s the whole ritualistic concept,” said Zaki Fatim, a 30 year

old native of New York City...Wearing a yellow kuffee, or prayer

cap with his green prison garb, Mr. Fatim seemed eager for the

mutual respect and group worship of his peers kneeling on the

simple blankets covering the mosque floor. “I feel human, more

than human,” he said hesitantly. “I even feel love.”

“... I already know that when I’m back outside, this will play a

big part in my life,” he said, counting on Allah in the face of the

devilish recidivism rate of former convicts. “I understand the

nature of man better. A religion requires discipline and raises the

level of self-esteem.”...







Web Address:


Editor, Islamic Bulletin

P.O. Box 410186

San Francisco, CA 94141-0186, USA

“To be able to rise above the madness,” said the Imam, summarizing

the mosque’s focus. “The general mood among incoming prisoners

is ‘The world is cruel and you have to get yours.’ I talk beyond their

sense that they are the scum of the earth; talk to the dignity that I

know exists in all men. I teach them that if they do bad things, they

‘swag,’ or steal, here, they’ll be doing it on the streets and eventually

they must face Allah on Judgment Day.”

One of the critical elements in the state’s coming to encourage the

Muslims faith behind bars, the Imam said, is that the prison-chaplain

system maintains its own Council of Imams, who, he said, reflect

urban black inmates’ preference for the Sunni sect.

“... ours is a very radical message: telling the individual to point

the finger at himself and take responsibility instead of looking for


The Imam speaks from some terrible personal experiences of his

youth. The many young men he saw become enmeshed in the

criminal culture eventually included his brother, still doing long

prison time.

“There was a world of nothing but trouble, and most of the guys

I grew up with are gone now,” he said, speaking of their death as

both victims and criminals in assorted forms of violence.

Mr. Aziz, the mosque’s elected inmate leader, has discovered that,

with Islam, he can adapt the street devotion that made him a force

to reckon with as a member of the Savage Nomads gang in the

Bronx 17 year ago.

“I was very serious into what I was doing there, a leader,” he said.

“And now I’m a leader in a better cause. Before, I was cold in the

world, and I only cared about putting on my gang jacket and feeling

good. But when you face 25 years to life inside, you know you have

to change your life sooner or later.”

As he talked resolutely, the outside world still eluded him beyond the

mosque bars and the razor wire. The day seemed to glow from afar

with freedom as the congregants in the Fishkill masjid worshipped...

On June 14 and 21, 1992, several Muslim brothers visited

the First Congregational Church in San Francisco to share the

teachings of Islam with our Christian brothers and sisters. These

blessed events occurred at the invitation of Mr. Ray McEvoy of

the First Congressional Church.

Mr. McEvoy had studied the Quran independently, and having

read it in its entirety in translation by A.J. Arberry, he was struck

by the many similarities between the Quran and the Bible.

Because of this and his interest in furthering the understanding

of humanity, he was planning to share his discoveries with his

brothers and sisters of the Congregational Church. In conjunction

with this, he made an inquiry to the Islamic Center for possible

Muslim participation. It was gladly accepted.

On June 14, 1992, three Muslim brothers from the Bay Area

attended the first session. Our San Jose brother made a concise

presentation on the basic elements of Islam to the study group.

The talk was well received and it was followed by an animated

question and answer period. At McEvoy’s request, the study

session ended with a brief prayer and blessing in Arabic which

was offered by our brother from San Jose. After that, various

Islamic literature and audio tapes were presented to the study

group and for the Church library.

On June 22, 1992, five brothers attended a study session which

was dedicated to reading passages from the Quran which Brother

McEvoy had selected from his studies. The selected passages

fell into categories which suggested things in the Bible, refer-

ences to Jesus, fighting for the cause (of Allah), works of mercy,

possible unforgivable sins, free will versus fate, Muhammad as

one of God’s messengers, God’s defense of Muhammad against

skeptics, other religions, praise to God, Heaven and hell, and

miscellaneous matters.

The Muslim brothers joined the Christian brothers and sisters in

reading some of these translated passages and discussed their

meanings. One of the Muslim brothers also gave a very moving

recitation of Surah 2, Ayahs 284-286 in Arabic for the group.

The readings were followed by a short, but lively question and

answer period. As with the June 14 session, this one ended with

a short Islamic prayer and blessing made in Arabic, offered by

one of the Muslim brothers.

The session ended with much cordiality and deep fellowship be-

tween all those present. While the Muslim brothers were hopeful

that they were successful in communicating at least a grain of

truth about profundities of Islam, they also learned at least one

thing which increased their understanding of Christianity.

Of particular note was the revelation that the belief in the concept

of the Trinity was no longer held as a universal truth in Christian-

ity. Instead, Christ is viewed by at least the Unitarians as a mere

human being, albeit as an extraordinary one, whose life mission

was to awaken the people of his time to the message of the one

God (Allah). This has significant implications for furthering the

understanding of Muslims and Christians of each others beliefs

at the highest levels of being.

After the study session, the Muslim brothers presented Mr.

McEvoy and one of the Christian sisters with a copy of Yusuf

Ali’s translation of the Quran. Arrangements were also made

to provide Mr. McEvoy with a copy of the videotape, “Book of

Signs” and the Ramadan issue of the Islamic Bulletin.

The Islamic Center has been getting increased requests from

the Christian community for information about Islam. These

have proven to be providential opportunities for us to share our

blessings with others and for us to improve the non- Muslims

understanding of the truths of Islam. Such work must continue

for the sake of perpetuating a living Islam in the dynamic soci-

ety that America is. All Muslims are encouraged to help in this

important work.