The Islamic Bulletin
The Islamic Bulletin
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
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
Of course your letters to the editor are always valued, so
feel free to write at any time “Letters to the Editor” at the
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
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.”...
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
“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
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