Saturday, April 11, 2015

HARLEM COMMUNITY MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR DR. YOSEF BEN-JOCHANNAN


 
The following is the complete, unchanged text of the original remarks prepared by me for the communal celebration of the life and work of Dr. Ben. There were many speakers (see program) and so by the time I spoke we were asked to keep our comments brief. I did so (five minutes, see here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vch7r9r9g0I ) but decided to publish what I wanted to say but couldn't, as a testimony to our widely beloved elder, an affirmation of his acceptance of Islam, and an address unto those who weren't aware of this (evidently because they really hadn't known what's been going on with him over his last years, beyond reports of his declining health) , but upon receiving the news of Dr. Ben's acceptance of Islam years back (something which I for one stated after his death as a matter of record, nothing more or less) have responded with outright hostility - even going so far as to publicly accuse me of intentionally lying about such a thing (what madness !) . 
Both Baba James Small and Dr. Leonard Jeffries, renowned students of Dr. Ben, are witness that I was called upon for inclusion not only in the event, but the intimate meeting with family members which preceded it. I did not call beyond an inquiry as to the family's arrangements. I was called upon to participate as I did by those close to Dr. Ben who knew and understood. I thank them, and Allah knows best and is Witness to all things.

Bismillaahir-Rahmaanir-Rahim. We thank Allah, reflecting upon the life’s work of our elder , Yosef Ben Jochannan, and his invaluable contribution to the healing and empowering of us, of a people in need of  communal and global restoration.  Our elder, along with his friend and colleague professor John Henrick Clarke not only trod the path of those noble ancestors who lived before him -  of  J.A. Rogers, Drusilla Dunjee Houston, John G. Jackson and others - but he labored mightily to bring us all to that path, and to extend it, to stretch it further into the continuum of our people’s struggle for freedom.
            There are those, although certainly no one here,  who will not understand the blessed nature of Dr. Ben’s work, or who will underestimate the true scope of it. In his magnum opus entitled Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology, Our master teacher , whom our modern day scholar Runoko Rashidi identified as “…regarded by many as a modern Pharoah of African Studies”, Cheikh Anta Diop, taught us what he identified as the “components of collective personality”. They were a historical factor, a linguistic factor, and a psychological factor. “The historical factor” Cheikh Diop wrote, “…is the cultural element that unifies the disparate elements of a people to make then into a whole, by the particular slant of the feeling of historical continuity lived by the totality of the collective.”
            When one wants to ascertain the state of one’s health, the first thing one does is look at history.  When we walk into a doctor’s office the forms enrolling or registering us for treatment , first question us as to our identity (What is your name? Where are you from?  i.e. what is your address?) We are then questioned as to our history, even before the examination begins, and if needed, treatment commences.
            Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan was a physician who took on the African people of the global diaspora as his patients. Blazing a path for us, a people in quest of a healthy collective personality, seeking psycho-spiritual regeneration, Dr. Ben understood the importance  again, of what Cheikh Diop identified as “ historical conscience”. That conscience is essential to the process of Africans distinguishing ourselves as a people, from an amorphus black population.
As our teaching physician, Dr. Ben asked us “how will you know who you are if you don’t know who you were?” “How will you know the full extent of your current health  if you don’t know  your previous state or condition?” he queried.  So as a people in treatment we thank  the Creator for him. We thank Allah for our doctors who seek to heal us.
            It amazes me to witness in the Village, those who would lay claim to Dr. Ben. One side of the room says “ He was ours and therefore we claim him in exclusion of others”, and the other side of the room declares “ No, he was ours and we claim him in exclusion of others”. Foolish people, do you not understand that no one has more of a claim on any of us than the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and all things in between?  We come from Him, we belong to Him, and unto Him will we return - all of us, living our life in between our first breath given by Him, and the last one granted by Him.
            This marvelous historian, physician of African people, scholar-warrior wielding historical continuity and consciousness as a cultural weapon, practiced what he preached. he preached, “Physician heal thyself”, and never stopped practicing that as long as he lived.
            When one looks at Dr. Ben religiously and spiritually, it is clear that he had a life-long commitment to worship of The Creator, our Creator. and when I say “our Creator” I mean The One described in the ancient sacred writings, the Metu Neter, as  “…incapable of being imagined by man, even as the hand of man was incapable of making a figure that could be considered to be an image or likeness of  Him; The One Who could not be sculptured or seen, nor contained in a habitation… the Great Unseen, Unknown and Incomprehensible Creative Power, which had existed forever and was the source of all created things” ( Tutankhamen, Amenism, Atenism, and Egyptian Monotheism, E.A. Wallis Budge)

It was the Almighty Who was worshipped by our highest-consciousness ancestors, and He is The One Whom Dr. Ben worshipped.  When we look at his personal life we see that Dr. Ben worshipped as a younger man according to the traditions of Beta Israel , as did others in the territory of Ethiopia where he was born.
I admit openly that no one was more surprised than me, when several years ago I finished leading prayers and delivering a sermon during an Eidul-Adha (feast of the Abrahamic sacrifice) Muslim high-holy day worship service, and I was informed that Dr. Ben was there , and had been present for the entire service,  and worshipped according to Islamic tradition as one of us.
 I spoke to him and he affirmed his faith and what I would call his expanded or evolved identity to me, personally.  Or another time when he came to the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood for Friday prayers , and prayed in the ranks behind me.
Or his frequent attendance at Friday prayers at Harlem Hospital when his health still allowed it and before he was moved to the Bronx nursing home. This is the truth and many are witness to this in the Muslim community within the Village, although there are others in the Village who bite off the tips of their fingers in rage and call me a liar for relating what I have just said to you , because they  can’t comprehend as a student what their teacher did.
However regardless of  the outer form of his worship, the object of Dr. Ben’s adoration was always the same; the One Creator of all. And as a self-determined free African human being, he exercised his right to worship as he pleased, and let none of us be so narrow-minded or arrogant as to deny him his choices as he walked on the path of submission to The One who was, is, and shall ever be.  Dr. Ben has now moved unto what my own late teacher, Ash-Shaykhul-‘Allama Al-Hajj K. Ahmad Tawfiq called “the evolutionary path of our ancestors”.
He said to those of us who were his students, “ No teacher can lead a student all of the way to enlightenment. He or she guides him or her to the Path, walks with them a little way upon it, and then says, ‘That which you seek is that way. Pursue it. I must leave you now as I have others to attend to'..”  We thank Allah for our visionary leaders and teachers, those who have left, and those who are still present, and we pray that we will continue to walk the Evolutionary Path, to Glory.
And now I conclude with a traditional Islamic prayer:
Allaahum-maghfir lihayyinaa, wa mayyitinaa, wa shaahidinaa, wa ghaa'ibinaa, wa sagheerinaa wa kabeerinaa, wa thakarinaa wa 'unthaanaa. Allaahumma man 'ahyaytahu minnaa fa'ahyihi 'alal-'Islaami, wa man tawaffaytahu minnaa fatawaffahu 'alal-'eemaani, Allaahumma laa tahrimnaa 'ajrahu wa laa tudhillanaa ba'dahu.
Translation

“O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk. O Allah, whomever you give life from among us give him life in Islam, and whomever you take way from us take him away in Faith. O Allah, do not forbid us their reward and do not send us astray after them, Aameen”.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A FAMILY'S TRAGEDY

According to local news reports in New York City, over the weekend a husband and wife lost their seven children in a fire in which the mother and another child were critically injured. The accident was described by Mayor Bill DeBlasio as "an unbelievable tragedy". The facts of the fire are now well known, but when I heard the news reports I was reminded of a similar tragedy in the Bronx eight years ago. That time eight children died and one adult. The Bronx family were Muslims. The Brooklyn family were Jews. The magnitude of the deaths are the same , and who amongst us can fail to be moved by such occurrences?

These events remind me of these sacred and authenticated narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):


 أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم وأصحابه قاموا لجنازة فقالوا : يا رسول الله إنها يهودية ، فقال : إن الموت فزع فإذا رأيتم الجنازة فقوموا – صحيح مسلم

Translation of meaning: He (peace be upon him) and his companions stood for a funeral bier and [people] said: O Messenger of Allah, it is a jewess. He (peace be upon him) then said: Indeed death is a fright, then if you see a janaaza (funeral) , then  stand. (Sahiih Muslilm)
and also

   إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَرَّتْ بِهِ جِنَازَةٌ فَقَامَ ، فَقِيلَ لَهُ إِنَّهَا جِنَازَةُ يَهُودِيٍّ ، فَقَالَ : أَلَيْسَتْ نَفْسًا – صحيح البخاري

Translation of meaning: A funeral bier passed by the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and he stood, and it was said to him that it is the bier of a jew. He replied: “Isn’t it a soul?” (Sahiih Bukhari)

Allah tells us that every soul shall have a taste of death. As human beings we feel compassion for all such afflicted families, and may Almighty God comfort them all in their grief, ameen.

Also, let this tragedy serve as a reminder to us all to have both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in our homes, and to change the batteries at least once a year. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

SHAYKH PHILIPS ON MUSLIM EXTREMIST ATTACKS IN FRANCE

The tragedy in France is so saddening and maddeningly frustrating, while simultaneously being so mindbogglingly vicious
http://www.muslimvideo.com/tv/thumb/1_31465.jpg
                          Sheikh Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
By:  Sheikh Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
. Even more so considering that it was supposedly committed in defense of the Last Prophet's honor (pbuh). The hate-filled ISIS Takfeeri mentality, which seeks to justify the unjustifiable, will continue to haunt the Muslim world in various forms ofBoko Haram, Shabab, and Taliban atrocities until we finally manage to educate our communities to their reality. May Allah rid our community and the world community of this evil ideology in all its forms and support the positive global awakening to the moral and social excellence of Islam.

Friday, December 19, 2014

MY SAD ANNOUNCEMENT


IT IS WITH GREAT SORROW THAT I ANNOUNCE THE PASSING YESTERDAY (DECEMBER 18, 

(2014)  OF MY WIFE OF   12 YEARS, SANAA  ABDUL-HALIM. SHE BATTLED CANCER FOR MORE 

THAN TWO YEARS.  MAY ALLAH FORGIVE HER EVERY SIN AND  HAVE MERCY ON HER, 

AMEEN. 

SHE WAS A  WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING WHO ENHANCED THE LIFE OF ALL  WHO MET 

HER, AND SHE  CONTRIBUTED GREATLY TO THE BEAUTY OF OUR JAMAAT 

(CONGREGATION) AT THE MOSQUE  OF ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD.   HER PASSING IS 

HUMANITY'S LOSS. MAY ALLAH FORGIVE HER SINS AND SHORTCOMINGS, MAGNIFY ALL OF 

HER GOOD DEEDS, HAVE INFINITE MERCY ON HER, FILL HER GRAVE WITH LIGHT AND 

REWARD HER  WITH PARADISE, AMEEN


WE WERE MARRIED FOR 12 YEARS
THIS IS AT AN 'EID CELEBRATION
AT HOME, SMILING BEAUTIFULLY
AS SHE ALWAYS DID
HER SMILE EVEN LIT UP THE OUTDOORS
IN THE DAYTIME SUNLIGHT
HERE WE ARE WITH (NOW) PUBLIC ADVOCATE
'TISH JAMES, AT A HEALTH WALK IN HARLEM
BEFORE SANAA BECAME ILL
END STOP AND FRISK !
WITH MUSLIM SISTERS AT NYC MARCH
ENJOYING HERSELF DURING OUR
TRIP TO LONDON A FEW YEARS BACK
"I WANT TO SEE THE TOWER OF
LONDON" SHE SAID

MY BELOVED WIFE AT A FAMILY BIRTHDAY GATHERING
FOR MY BELOVED DAUGHTER, HAWWA


AND BELOW WITH HER BELOVED BEST FRIEND
SHAKIRA SAAHIR


I AM THE ONE WHO WAS BLESSED
AND SHALL ALWAYS LOVE HER
AS SHE TOLD ME ONLY LAST WEEK
THAT SHE'D ALWAYS LOVE ME
THIS IS US AT THE GOREE ISLAND
SLAVE FORT OFF DAKAR, SENEGAL, WEST AFRICA
HER REGAL SPIRIT IS ON DISPLAY HERE
SANAA & HER BELOVED SISTER ANITA,
BOTH OF THEM SUCCUMBED TO CANCER

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"HANDS UP - DON'T SHOOT" Young Protestors Surrender and Fight Simultaneously




As- Salaamu 'Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu (peace be unto you and the Mercy of Allah and His blessings)

Since the attack upon protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, the "hands up - don't shoot" gesture has become a symbol of national protest and defiance, especially amongst young people. This has generated different opinions in communities of Americans of African descent. The reason for this is not that there isn't wide-spread righteous indignation at the ongoing injustice of police brutality and use of excessive force resulting in the deaths of innocent, unarmed people, because there is that prevailing spirit in communities, nation-wide. What has generated the difference of opinion is the "hands-up" gesture itself.








On the Friday following the events at Ferguson, after Friday worship service at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood (Harlem, New York), where I am the Imam, a number of worshippers joined me in an act of solidarity.




Our community elder, a Black American man, expressed reservation about this gesture, since the hands-up gesture is after all, one of  universal  surrender. Then a couple of weeks later at a support rally for Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, the fiery veteran activist Pam Africa , expressed a similar view, suggesting that elders are dis-empowering  our youth by encouraging hands up, rather than say, a clenched fist of defiance. 


THE MAIN MEN - TOMMY SMITH (left) and John Carlos (right)
at the 1968 Olympics
MADIBA NELSON MANDELA
NOBODY COMPLAINED WHEN HE DID IT
ANGELA DAVIS BACK IN THE DAY
BLACK POWER IN THE WHITE HOUSE
OH, THE OPPOSITION HAD A FIT !
RIGHT ON, FIRST LADY MICHELLE !
BOTH STYLES OF DEFIANCE AT FERGUSON RALLY

I thought that  their views were well stated and valuable.

My own view is that  there is validity to this view, and that is why artists are so important in struggle. They clarify truths through the medium of their art. Thus, artists must be connected to such grassroots struggles (just think of the revolutionary visual art of the past. I have grown up with it as exemplified in the 1960s and 70s art from various struggles, and I would include the graffiti protest art of the 90s) Nowadays images jump out at hyper speed into public consciousness, and that is inevitable because of the technology. It has advantages and disadvantages during this time when spontaneous movements can be born and leap to national or global proportions almost overnight, through social media.

However, self-expressive gestures and other expressions by groups are inevitable. Over the years I have watched some of them with curiosity, like the unique version of the peace sign made with the fingers turned around, that we see in mostly but not exclusively Black and Latino communities. Its called a backwards peace sign and means different things to different people, as is the case with many symbols. 


Some have, incorrectly I believe, identified this gesture as a gang symbol. But its not that to my knowledge, but rather a demonstration of what the late John Ogbu, a Nigerian-American educator described as "cultural inversion".

Here's a quote from his paper "Understanding Cultural Diversity", available on line:

"Cultural inversion is the tendency of involuntary minorities to regard certain forms of behaviors, events, symbols and meanings as inappropriate for them because they are characteristic of White Americans. At the same time the minorities value other forms of behavior,events, symbols and meanings, as appropriate for themselves". 


Dr. Ogbu goes on to state that this principle lies at the center of a collective, oppositional identity, which Dr. Abdul-Hakim Sherman Jackson (Islam and the BlackAmerican: The Third Resurrection) identifies as that of a "protest people" rooted in a "cosmic 'no'.". Ogbu's paper is  brilliant and informative, and perfectly expressive of a perspective of  people that in my opinion, helps clarify the issue.

Holding this view, I immediately recognized what sister Iman Drammeh Nur (see her blog "Violence and the Power of Logo" for a different though not dis-agreeing view of the phenomena") has accurately described as a "sign of mock surrender". 




The hands-up gesture, is in my opinion, an expression of cultural inversion within a protest context. I would place it in the same category as "die-ins" and other such expression currently occurring. These are culturally inverted expressions, gesture, speech, etc. being wielded by mostly young people, even as they take to the streets in defiance of our oppression and oppressors - demonstrating, marching, raging, "spitting" lyrics, shouting, chanting etc. Its all an organic, spontaneous expression, just as useful as other expressions  of freedom of speech and verbal jihad.


MEMBERS OF ST LOUIS RAMS SHOWING INTEGRITY
LEBRON AND TEAMMATES DOING THE SAME
MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF NY
ON THEIR WAY TO  CONDUCT GOVERNMENT BUSINESS
KEEP IT REAL
So yes, while I understand those who hold a different view, I nonetheless see the entire matter in the light I have expressed above. Being an elder now myself, I'm willing to cut the young people some slack and let them do their thing in opposition to injustice, even as I once did and still do (look at the way that I'm dressed in the above picture. A young person made the garment for me and presented it to me as a gift). In other words, I'm feeling them . 

After allowing them their spontaneous expression, its then up to us "elders"  to perhaps guide the next generation to even more potent and lasting expressions of long term and lasting ideological utility,  in the ongoing struggle of Black Americans and others for freedom, justice and equality, civil, constitutional, and human rights, and sovereignty. Perhaps this can and should be done through elder artists mentoring the younger generation in the art of political expression through art. And Allah knows best.

GO TO FACEBOOK PAGE, MOSQUE OF ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD



Friday, November 21, 2014

BROTHER ABDULLAH ABDUR-RAZZAQ (TOP)

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR (left)
ABDULLAH ABDUR-RAZZAQ
(JAMES 67X, CENTER)
EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ
(MALCOLM X) RIGHT
ABDULLAH ABDUR-RAZZAQ (left)
EL-HAJJ MALIK/MALCOLM X
BABY, ILYASAH SHABAZZ
(now an author & lecturer)

November 21, 2014
by: Imam Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid
Imam, The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc.


Tonight at approximately 7:45 pm Abdullah Abdur-Razzaq, formerly known as James 67X , passed away in Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He had been hospitalized there for a month before passing quietly and peacefully in his sleep. Brother Abdur-Razzaq had been an aide and confidante to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz/Malcolm X, during his days as a minister in the Nation of Islam under Mr. Elijah Muhammad, and after his break with the Nation and founding of both the Muslim Mosque Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Over the past several years, Abdur-Razzaq had been an inexhaustible source of information , particularly of the 1950s and 1960, with his archival memory and passionate love for freedom. Historically he can be seen in a rare photo, standing to the immediate left of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his once in a lifetime meeting with El-Hajj Malik/Malcolm X in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. It was Abdur-Razzaq (then known as James 67X, the secretary of the Muslim Mosque Inc.) who facilitated the meeting when the two giants found themselves in the Capitol Rotunda at the same time, during Civil Rights hearings. Two giant supporters of Shabazz/X have now passed within months of each other. Sulaiman Sealey, former bodyguard for the famed African American leader, passed just a few months ago. Janaaza (traditional Islamic funeral) for  arrangements for Abdullah Abdur-Razzaq have not yet been announced.