MEMOIRS OF THE PIONEER OF SHIISM IN THE WEST

By

Yasin T. al-Jibouri
COVERING ATLANTA, GEORGIA 1972-1979
In the Name of Allh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful INTRODUCTION: WHY THESE MEMOIRS I declare, from the bottom of my heart and the deepest depth of my soul and the essence of my spirit, that I believe in the One and Only God, Allah, adored, blessed, praised, and glorified is He in the heavens and on earth by His angels, stars and moons and constellations, by His planets and asteroids, by His cosmos and everything in it, above it, and underneath it..., by the lightning and by thunder, by each and every wonder, by the day and the night, by everything dark or bright, black or white, or in-between, by the jinns and mankind, by every bird and brute, by the atmosphere that we pollute, by the insects and the bees, by the rivers and the seas, by the leaves and the trees, by everything He creates... I adore Him for what He is, for what He has done for us and for everything and everyone, believing first and foremost in His Oneness, and in His heaven and hell, in all His angels, Prophets, Messengers, Books and revelations. I believe in His Might and Power, in His Punishment at the time of the Hour, in His mercy to those who believe, in His penalty to those who disbelieve, knowing fully well that His Judgment is true and fair, that life after death is the real life while this one is only a brief journey to eternity. I place my hope for His salvation not on His Justice, for nothing I dread more than His justice, but on His spacious and encompassing mercy which is greater than any mother's affection towards her babe, and greater than anything in the world and beyond. It is this hope for His mercy that enables me 1

to sleep knowing that neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him, the One Who guards me when I cannot guard myself, Who protects me when I have no means whereby I can protect myself, and Who enables me to smile knowing that His forgiveness is a manifestation of His clemency, that no matter how many good deeds I do, it is He Who enables me to do them, and no matter how great my sins may be, His forgiveness is even greater. I pray Him and plead to Him to enable me and all other servants of His to get to know Him better so that I may worship Him better, for surely if any servant of His knows Who He really is (if anyone can ever do that), as much as one can conceive given his limited human capacity, he will worship none but Him and obey not but Him and think of none but Him and strive to please none but Him; he will then find an earthly heaven, bliss, and happiness besides which there is no heaven, nor bliss nor happiness in our world. I further declare that I am a believer in, and a follower of, the Ja'feri fiqh that explains the Sunnah of His Prophet and Messenger Muhammad ibn Abdullah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his progeny, his companions, the followers of his companions, and those who follow the latter... till the Day of Resurrection. Peace and blessings of Allah and his angels be upon Muhammad and his pure and purified itrat, descendants, those who knew him best and emulated him best, those who grew up in his lap and were brought up by him according to his Sunnah and under the care of his Lord, and upon his sahaba, his righteous companions who supported and strengthened him and became the very first bricks in the ever-towering structure called the Muslim Ummah, those who sacrificed a great deal for Islam, who disseminated its message, learned, practiced, then taught his Sunnah, and upon their followers, one generation after another, till the very last one that will ever live on the temporary refuge for humans called earth. May Allah Ta'ala reward His Prophet and Messenger and all those who follow him with abundant blessings in the life of this world, and with forgiveness and everlasting rewards in the life to come, Allahomma Aameen. Furthermore, I declare and testify in my own tongue, from the bottom of my heart or else it should stop beating, and from the depth of my soul or else it should part from my body, that Ashahadu alla ilaha illa-Allah wahdahu la shareeka lah, wa... Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasool-Allah, wa... Ashhadu anna Aliyyan waliyy-Allah, wa... Ashhadu anna Ameeral-Momineena Aliyyan wa awladahul Ma'someena hujajullah... This is my declaration of shehada which I daily pronounce and will always propagate, and if someone has a problem with it, well, it is his problem, not mine! I wholeheartedly praise and 2

thank the Almighty Who graciously permitted me to believe in Him and follow the Sunnah of His Messenger and Prophet Muhammad ibn [son of] Abdullah ibn Abdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim ibn Abd Manaf ibn Qusayy ibn Kilab ibn Murrah ibn Ka'b ibn Luayy ibn Ghalib ibn Fahr ibn Malik ibn Nadar ibn Kinanah ibn Khuzaymah ibn Mudrikah ibn Ilyas ibn Mazar ibn Nazar ibn Ma'ad ibn Adnan ibn Isma'eel (Ishmael) ibn Ibrahim (Abraham), peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny as well as the righteous among his ancestors especially his great grandfathers Isma'eel and Ibrahim... Few, indeed, have expressed interest in documenting the dissemination of Islam in this important part of the world, and fewer have relied on first-hand information to do so. In 1972, I came to Atlanta, Georgia to pursue higher studies, and my Islamic activities there lasted from the Fall of 1972 till the early winter of 1979. In Maryland, my activities lasted from the winter of 1980 till February 25, 1982 when I married Zainab and moved to live with her in Virginia. It was there that we both founded the International Islamic Society of Virginia, Inc. In order to circumvent any possibility of someone maliciously and inaccurately recording what I did during all those years, I decided to record them myself. Their events will narrate the struggle of a twenty-six year old former high school teacher who comes to the U.S. to study for a higher degree but soon finds himself unable to avoid involvement in Islamic missionary work to the extent that he almost forgot about, and certainly felt obligated not to consider, going home once his studies were over for fear of losing his life. They also narrate the difficulties some foreign students face here in the U.S. as they struggle to pursue their studies at their own expense, the pitiful living conditions in which they find themselves, and the hardship they have to undergo in a purely materialistic society, agonizing often from an inhospitable environment. The details of these events have been kept fresh in my memory for so long because I have been narrating them quite often to my native Virginian wife who told me once that I still live in the past. By writing them down, I hope I will be able to forget them! Part II of these Memoirs will Insha-Allah detail my tabligh activities from 1980 to 1993. I intend to publish both Volumes as soon as Allah enables me to.

3

THE FIRST AL-JIBOURI SHI'A? When I was a child, I was told that everyone should know his ancestors up to seven generations back, and that if he did not, he would be despised as a "foundling." My name, therefore, is Abu (father of) Ali Yasin ibn (son of) Tu'mah ibn Abbas ibn Muhammad Ali ibn Dawood ibn Salim ibn Hassan ibn Salman ibn Ni'mah Albu Tu'mah al-Ghazali al-Jibouri. If there is anything I can forget, it can never be one dialogue I had with my grandmother, may Allah have mercy on her soul. That dialogue took place when I was a child. I asked her once, "Why did you name my father `Tu'mah'?" I thought that such a name sounded funny and uncommon. I do not mean to be disrespectful to my father, God rest his soul in peace, whom I regard with respect the extent of which is known only to the Almighty; indeed, I was closer to him than any of his children, but it was the name I was inquiring about, since there were not many people at all in the area where I grew up with a similar name. I had no idea that my grandmother's answer would make such a deep impression on my mind as a child or on my behavior as an adult. My grandmother told me that she had chosen that name for my father in honor of one particular Tu'mah who was the very first person to accept the Shi'a School of Muslim Law in our al-Jibouri tribe; at least this is what she knew, and believe me she was quite knowledgeable of the tribes of her time and even before her time. "Who was he, and what was his story?" asked I. This is the story my grandmother told me:

"Tu'mah was the chieftain of his al-Ghazali branch of the populous al-Jibouri tribe. The alGhazali al-Jibouris were then residing mostly in Haweeja, a suburb of Mosul, north Iraq, and it was many, many years ago when Baghdad was, as it is today, the bride of the Valley of the Two Rivers. Harvest season was coming close, and the knives, sickles and shears had to be sharpened, and new knives were needed, too. It was suggested that the best place to sharpen the old tools and buy new ones was not Mosul but Baghdad. Tu'mah had been there before, and he loved to go there one more time, and this is what he decided to do; being the chieftain, his decision was always final. Everyone very much loved to go there, but none besides Tu'mah was privileged to have the final word. Anyway, Tu'mah took the old tools and a good amount of money and went to Baghdad. He was told that in Kazimiyya there were good blacksmiths, so to Kazimiyya, a holy Shi'a town in north Baghdad, he headed. Of course he had to wait for a couple of days before all the tools he had brought with him would be sharpened, since there was a lot of demand at that time to sharpen such tools, and he had to stay there till his mission was accomplished. One after-noon he strolled to enjoy the sight of the Tigris. A boat bridge linked Baghdad's al-Risafa section with its Karkh. 4

Boats had been tied to one another and a bridge was made out of them. Kazimiyya falls within al-Karkh. Women were washing their laundry and kitchen utensils at the river bank, fishermen were fishing, some were swimming, and a lot of children were playing, splashing water on one another and laughing. The mothers of those kids preferred to take them there rather than let someone baby-sit for them. A couple of policemen on horse-back came from al-Risafa, crossed the bridge, and reached the place where children were playing. Each policeman grabbed a little child, took his knife out, severed his head from his body, then threw both pieces in the Tigris without saying one word. Women screamed and beat their faces and chests, men yelled, children panicked, and there was a lot of commotion, but not one word was spoken to any of those policemen who took their time to ride their horses and stroll back as slowly as they did when they came there the first time, as if they were surveying their fields. Tu'mah was shocked, so much so that his tongue was tied, and he had to sit down because his feet could no longer carry him. His eyes remained widely open; the shock had taken its toll on him, and he lingered there for a while. Being a stranger in the town, he had no choice except to go back to his khan (inn or hotel). The next day he was still trying very hard to get over that scene, and he could not eat anything at all the whole day. He had never seen anything like that; it was simply too much for him. After two or three days, he was able to speak, and he started to inquire about what happened to those policemen, whether they were penalized, or whether the families of those innocent children were compensated, but nobody could give him any satisfactory answer. Many were too afraid to talk about it. Finally, an idea came to him: why not go to the most prominent dignitary in Kazimiyya and ask him if he knew anything about that incident? And so he did. The man he met was the official representative in Kazimiyya of the Supreme Ayatullah at al-Najaf al-Ashraf. "Why do you wonder about this incident, and why do you expect justice to be affected on behalf of two Shi'a children? After all, they are only Shi'as...," the representative said to him. "And what makes Shi'as so different from Sunnis that the latter allow themselves to slaughter them like that?" asked Tu'mah. The answer to this question came in installments. Tu'mah kept going to the majlis of that dignitary for a few days to hear more about the lengthy history of the persecution of Shi'as, the philosophical and ideological differences between both Schools of Muslim Law, a narration of the early history of Islam..., and a host of other issues. Tu'mah found himself in a state of mind which was almost similar to the one he felt when he saw those policemen commit their most heinous crime, and he felt then that he had to make a decision. It took him one whole day to think about all what he had seen and heard, as he himself later on narrated when he went back to Haweeja. The next day, he went one more time to the house of that representative of the Supreme Ayatullah and expressed his desire to embrace the faith of those persecuted, expressing his desire to learn how to say his prayers properly. He also asked that sage about the name of the person whom 5

he should contact if he needed an answer for a religious question or the solution for a theological problem. A few more days were needed to learn and digest all of that. Meanwhile, Tu'mah's family at Haweeja and the whole tribe became very worried about him, and a man was dispatched to Kazimiyya to inquire about him. Unfortunately, that man was not a dignitary like Tu'mah; therefore, not many remembered what his name was, but he, too, embraced Shi'a Islam there and then after a few days at the end of which they both went back home where hundreds of men and women were waiting for them, anxious to know what had happened to them. When they narrated their story as indicated above, their families and a small number of others immediately accepted Shi'a Islam, and the number of those who gradually accepted it started increasing as time went by till word spread that something "wrong" was going on at Haweeja. The chiefs of other tribes had to speak to the head (shaikh) of the al-Jibour tribe. After those talks, the latter went in person to Haweeja and ordered Tu'mah and all those who embraced Shi'a Islam out of Haweeja. Their number then must not have exceeded sixty. They were banished from Haweeja because of accepting Shi'a Islam. Moreover, those chiefs of tribes who had convinced the chief of the al-Jibour tribe to banish Tu'mah and all other Shi'as from Haweeja went ahead and took another step: they ordered all the hundreds of thousands of their loyalists who happened to live in the area stretching from Mosul to Samarra not to deal with those banished, not to sell them or buy anything from them, nor to marry their daughters, nor let their sons marry theirs. It was a total boycott. Thus, the banished party kept for many years roaming the area extending from Mosul to Samarra till Sabah, son of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Sa'eed, the last Prime Minister of Iraq's monarchy, intervened on their behalf with the Iraqi government, requesting it to settle them in Baghdad and help them lead a normal life. A law was issued according to which the only nomads to remain unsettled were those working for the government to patrol the country's borders." This is how my tribesmen ended up in Baghdad, their new home, and this is why my grandmother chose the name "Tu'mah" for my father. It was, I think, a very good choice. With so many sour memories of the persecution to which my extended family was subjected, my grandmother made sure that none of her sons or grandsons would be given a name indicative of the fact that they are followers of the Progeny of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) such as "AbdelZahra," "Abdel-Baqir," "Abdel-Sadiq," etc. My family could not trace our ancestors beyond Ni'ma, as indicated above, but I do not think that there is a big gap between Ni'ma and Tu'mah al-Ghazali. My grandmother named her younger son, my uncle, Ni'ma, who was instrumental in tracing the roots of our family tree. The area of Iraq where Ni'ma, my ancestor, lived was traced to Diloo'iyyah, near the town of Balad, Samarra, on the Balad-Mosul highway. This proves that my ancestors did not go beyond Samarra as they were deliberately kept roaming the area 6

extending from Mosul to Samarra. If one day I am able somehow to fill this gap with the names of my other ancestors, I will regard myself as one of the happiest people alive. The task of filling such a gap is almost impossible. I think my family did an excellent job tracing its roots so far back. Having such deep roots in the renown Arab tribe of al-Jibour also makes me feel good about my deep and pure Arab blood. I feel honored and privileged to belong to the nation that speaks the language of the Holy Qur'an and that produced a man like Muhammad ibn [son of] Abdullah, the last Prophet and Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his progeny, his companions, those who followed in the footsteps of his companions, and those who follow the latter till the Day of Resurrection... His family tree, which goes back all the way to prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him, is indicated in the Introduction above. EARLY LIFE I was born in a rural suburb under the jurisdic administration of the famous city al-A'zamiyya in north Baghdad, Iraq, on August 14, 1946. Al-A'zamiyya is named so because al-Imam al-A'zam, the greatest (Sunni) Imam, namely al-Nu'man Abu Haneefah, founder of the Hanafi sect, is buried there. It is located in the Risafa section of Baghdad on the Tigris. Across the river and facing it is the renown Shi'a city al-Kazimiyya where golden domes and minarets house the mausoleums of Imams Muhammad al-Jawad and Mousa al-Kazim, peace be upon them, where I spent most of my life at home. The part of the country where I was born is called Fahhama which faces al-Taji on the other bank of the Tigris, and it is a short distance from Tarmiyya. The latter gained a great deal of publicity following the 1991 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq due to the alleged presence of a nuclear facility there. I used to go to Tarmiyya quite often with my father during my childhood, and I do not remember anything particular about it other than its orange and date orchards. In other words, it looked just like the rest of our area. Al-Taji has always housed a huge military base, and I understand it is now connected to my birth-place with a modern bridge which enemy forces failed to demolish despite repeatedly trying to do so. This is what one of my sisters told me last year. It was very well defended. Had I had any authority, I would have decorated all those who defended it and proved to the enemy that there are in Iraq some tough people who know how to defend their country. My family moved from there to Kazimiyya when I was ten years old, and I did not like the urban areas at all. I missed the clean air and the fresh fruits and vegetables which abound in the country; I missed my relatives, hundreds of them, and my friends, and it was not easy for me to make new friends. We had relatives there, though; they were my mother's family, and it was at their house, the house of my grandfather from my mother's side, that my younger brother Basil was born. My father had bought a piece of land in Kazimiyya. A house was built on that lot so that we could continue our education. My father was always dedicated to his family and to the education of his children without distinguishing between boys or girls. Two of my sisters graduated from Baghdad 7

University. One of them graduated from the same department and college from which I graduated, and the only difference between us is that she chose German as her minor, whereas mine was Arabic. The other sister graduated as electric engineer. I never thought that one day my youngest sister would become an electric engineer! My birth certificate, and many other records, reflect my year of birth to be 1945, but this is inaccurate. When I was six years old, my father took me to the only elementary school available in our area to register. The school age then was seven, not six, so my father acted swiftly and had my birth date altered to 1945. This is why my records reflect two different birth dates. On June 30, 1969, I graduated from the English Department of the College of Arts, Baghdad University, with good grades, so good that they qualified me to teach at a high school instead of an intermediate (junior high) school as is customarily done in Iraq. I started teaching in the following year at al-Kifil Secondary School in al-Kifil, a suburb of Hilla (Babylon), on the highway between Hilla and Najaf. There, I taught English for one full year and part of another. PERSECUTION OF SHI'AS IN IRAQ It was not long before my students came to know about my religious inclinations; therefore, one of them, Nazeer (pronounced same as Nazir, who will be discussed later in these Memoirs), introduced me one day to the local representative of the Supreme Ayatullah His Late Holiness Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim who was then ailing and receiving treatment in London, U.K. That representative took me aside and talked to me for a while. He admonished me to be careful, that the odds against those who were religiously oriented were too many, and that Shi'as were too weak to face those who wished to antagonize them. I felt depressed, very depressed. Why should Iraqi Shi'as be too scared to worship the Almighty the way they know best, and why should they, the majority of the population that they are, fear anyone when all they want is to adhere to the tenets of their creed? Shi'as in Iraq are the underdogs; they have no say in the running of their country, and they do not enjoy its national wealth. They are discriminated against in all jobs, especially those in the Army and the Navy, unless they belong to the ruling Party. They are subjected to arrests and interrogation, and their literature is censored. HARD TIMES WHILE TEACHING My excitement about being a high school teacher did not last long. The monthly salary I was receiving was less than 42 Iraqi dinars, the equivalent of 140 dollars at the inflated and unrealistic foreign exchange rate set by the government... before taxes, including mandatory pension tax, were deducted. To my family I had to pay about a third of the net amount, leaving me with hardly enough cash to pay for accommodation at a hotel in downtown Hilla, daily transportation to my school and back, meals, and weekly bus expenses to go home for the one8

day week-end. No rooms could be rented at either al-Kifil or Hilla. It was almost impossible for me to continue to live like that, so I decided to go to Saudi Arabia where I would be making three times as much money. My plan was to teach there at least three years, save enough, go to England or the U.S. to study for a Master's or a Doctorate degree, then go back home to teach at Baghdad University. But plans do not always work the way we like them to. IN SAUDI ARABIA The existence of Muslim organizations in the U.S. was not news to me when I came to the U.S. for the first time in 1972. During the first academic year which I spent in Saudi Arabia teaching English at the predominantly Shi'a district of al-Ahsa (or al-Hassa), nobody at my school, the Huffoof Vocational Institute (which was upgraded in later years to what I believe came to be a junior college), knew that I was Shi'a. I kept my mouth shut and was aware of the animosity the Wahhabi rulers of Saudi Arabia had towards Shi'as, including their own citizens whom they have been giving the very worst of treatment. The second year, though, was different. I had a Sunni roommate from Diyala named Shukur al-Qaysi who "caught" me one day stretching my hands downwards while performing my prayers in my room as Shi'as are accustomed to doing. I requested him to keep what he saw to himself. Later on we had a dispute. The reasons behind that dispute were so insignificant that I cannot remember exactly what they were. Anyway, we split. Apparently he told other Iraqi teachers there that I was Shi'a, and soon Iraqis and nonIraqis at the school where I was teaching came to know about it. It was then that I noticed a 180degree change in the attitude of my school's administration towards me, and it was very difficult for me to understand why. Things worsened and I had a big fight with the Saudi headmaster who tried to have me sent to a school in the middle of their desert as punishment for my "lack of cooperation," but I outsmarted him. I sought and insisted on holding a meeting with the district's chief administrator of education. It was there and then that I unveiled all the illegal things that were going on at my school. The administrator immediately opened an investigation in all the numerous allegations which filled three legal-size sheets. The investigation went on even after my departure from the real estate of the Wahhabis of Al Saud. But I was not transferred to any school in the middle of the desert. Instead, I was transferred to a nearby intermediate (junior high) school where I saw more evidence of anti-Shi'a sentiments among the staff and some students... One fanatical Sunni teacher from the Sudan who was huge in size and who had a very thick beard. That buffalo told me once that Shi'as should not be permitted to live with Sunnis except after their payment of jizya, the protection tax paid by non-Muslims to Muslims. This is the extent of the unfortunate animosity some Sunnis bear against their Shi'a brethren; they equal them with non-Muslims. The attitudes of Wahhabis are no better. Yet all my life, I never heard a single Shi'a equalling Sunnis with non-Muslims. This tells you who truly is blessed with Islamic ethics and knowledge. If you take ethics out of Islam, what else remains? The holy Prophet of 9

Islam (pbuh) had said, and I quote his exact words in Arabic, Ad-Deen al akhlaq... man la khalaqa lah, la deena lah That is, "Creed is ethics; one who has no manners has no creed." In another hadith, he (pbuh) said, Man kaffara Musliman faqad kafar That is, "One who calls a Muslim kafir (apostate or infidel) surely commits kurf (apostacy)." A ROOMMATE FROM AL-IKHWAN AL-MUSLIMOON By then, I had another and a much more civil and civilized roommate who belonged to the AlIkhwan al-Muslimoon, the Muslim Brotherhood, movement named Sa'd ad-Deen al-Azzawi who introduced me, through correspondence, to Dr. Ahmed Totonji. The latter was then studying for his Ph.D. in the U.S. Dr. Totonji, a Kurd from my home-country Iraq, is one of the founders of the largest and most active Muslim organization in the U.S. and Canada then, namely the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA) which is now incorporated under the larger umbrella of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Two co-founders were: another Iraqi named Jamal al-Barzinji, and a Syrian member of Al-Ikhwan named Dr. Ahmed Sakr, who later established the American Islamic College in Chicago, Illinois, which unfortunately could not survive the odds. Dr. Totonji and I kept corresponding with one another for several months, and our correspondence was terminated shortly before my arrival in the U.S. By then, he had found employment in Saudi Arabia as professor at Dhahran's College of Petroleum and Minerals. IN THE U.S.; INTRODUCED TO ATLANTA'S MSA I reached the U.S. for the first time on August 12, 1972. I took the Greyhound bus from Manhattan, New York, to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to meet the faculty of the English Dept. at New Mexico State University where I had been admitted to study for my M.A. At the latter school, I asked for a transfer of my immigration file from Atlanta University, where I was also admitted to the English Dept., to New Mexico State University. Then I resumed my trip and arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, after about three or four days. The transfer form was then sent to me and I took it to the Atlanta office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) just to be told that the INS refused to honor it because the sender forgot to sign it! I was, therefore, stuck at Atlanta University, and that proved to be, after all, better for me. The will of the Almighty, 10

Who has His own plans for each and every one of us, are surely always better than the ones we invent for ourselves, for He has more compassion towards us and more concern than we have for ourselves. AU GIVES ME A SCHOLARSHIP AND AN ASSISTANTSHIP Having seen that the small amount of money I brought with me from Saudi Arabia had run out while studying for my first semester at AU, I applied for a tuition scholarship which I was able to get due to my good grades. Then I asked my university to help me find on-campus employment, and I was granted a research assistantship. NAZIR WARSI AND IQBAL UNUS While I was in one of the halls of Atlanta University's School of Arts and Sciences, a man came to me and greeted me with "Assalamo Alaikom." I answered his greeting. He was an Indian Muslim professor at AU who had somehow heard, probably from one of my professors, most likely Dr. Richard Long, that I was a Muslim, and his name was Dr. Nazir Warsi. Warsi, who was then teaching mathematics, had a close Pakistani friend who was studying for his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) named Iqbal Unus. Both Nazir Warsi and Iqbal Unus later on organized meetings for mostly Muslim students and supervised the progress of the activities of the Atlanta local chapter of the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Atlanta University's Canterbury House served as the place where members of the Atlanta local chapter of the MSA used to gather. Iqbal Unus has been with the MSA, then with ISNA, since then. Nazir Warsi arranged for me to move from the house of my first African-American land-lady, Mrs. Lovejoy, to be the roommate of one of his Indian students at a damp and stinky basement of a house a few yards from AU's Canterbury House. By then, I had almost completely run out of money, and Mrs. Lovejoy was the first person to know about it, but I assured her that I had enough rent money till the end of the semester. "Why don't you write to your family and ask them to send you some money?" she asked me. I told her I was afraid of the statement "I told you so" from my family. MY FATHER OFFERED TO HELP I always desired to seek higher education. Having started teaching at Babylon and earning an income (if you can call that income), I realized there was no way I could earn enough money to finance my studies abroad. The idea of studying abroad on the government's account never appealed to me. As a matter of fact, I chose to enroll in the College of Arts simply because its graduates were not obligated to teach in Iraq as was the case with graduates of the College of Education. So I thought that my best plan was to work in Saudi Arabia for 3-5 years, save some money then go abroad to get my degree. I told my family about it. My father, God rest his soul 11

in peace, with signs of anger painted all over his dignified face, asked me, "Why bother about going to Saudi Arabia and waste years of your life when I can give you as much money as you need? Just tell me how much you need. I will be glad to sell one or more of my houses and give you the cash. That should be plenty." I knew my father's sincerity of intention. He never said anything which he did not mean. We were financially in good shape. My father had by then built a good fortune of his own in real estate, and both of my older brothers were earning a respectable income from their jobs. My father was quite shrewd in investing his money and making it grow, and he was earning many times more money than the salaries of all three of his bread-earning sons put together. MY FATHER READ ONLY ONE BOOK Let me tell you something about my father. I always loved to read. I used to spend most of the daily allowance my father used to give me on buying second-hand books, and I was always thin. He often told me that he wanted me to eat to beef myself up. "Look at you, son!," he used to say to me, "You are so thin, my friends think I do not feed you enough!" To me, a good book gave me a lot more pleasure than any food could. One day I read a book which I very much liked, so I told my father about it and suggested that he, too, ought to read it. My father's beautiful dark blue eyes kept looking at me, and he had a smile on his glorious face showing his small and perfect teeth, and he waited till I was through raving about it. Having finished, I waited for his response. He asked me, "Is this book you are raving about better or more interesting than the Book of Allah?" This question made me realize how I forgot the fact that during all those years, and throughout all his life, my father had never read any book besides the Holy Qur'an, and that most certainly he never would. Indeed, he never did till he died in 1991. I do not know any other individual who was as fond of reciting the Holy Qur'an and who preferred never to read any other book whatsoever as my revered father was. In his memory, I will keep, as long as I live, distributing copies of the Holy Qur'an free of charge to all those who vow to recite the Fatiha for the soul of my great father... And he had a beautiful voice reciting it. On the day I was born, he was reciting Chapter 36 of the Holy Qur'an, that is, Surat Yasin. My grandmother, may Allah rest her soul in peace, commented when he was through about the beauty of that Chapter and suggested that the new-born should be named after it. This is how I came to be called Yasin. May Allah Almighty reward both of my parents and grand-parents for giving me a good name and for making me religiously inclined. As indicated above, the death of my father took place just as American troops and those who aligned themselves with them were gathering under the Wahhabi tent of Al Saud in preparation of attacking Iraq and reducing it to rubble. They dragged twenty-nine other nations, including 12

several Arab lackeys and stooges who depend on the Americans to stay in power, to reduce Iraq to rubble and shed the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the pretext of "liberating Kuwait," a pretext which only naive or ignorant individuals take seriously. Had Iraq had a leader who cared about his people more than about staying in power, enemy forces most likely would have been attacked right there and then. My father was diabetic, and the lack of medicine for diabetes in Iraq, due to the kafir-enforced sanctions, contributed to his death. He was one casualty of Saddam Hussein's wreckless policies as well as the West's desire to dominate the Middle East, especially oil producing countries. Due to the economic sanctions now in place against the people of Iraq, the latter cannot purchase medical supplies because Iraq's funds were frozen (and later confiscated) by the Americans and their European buddies. Even as I sit to type these Memoirs, infants, children, old men and women, and the youth, are dying in Iraq because of very severe shortages of medical supplies caused by the sanctions. These sanctions, which are enforced by many so-called Muslim countries that opted to side with the enemies of Islam, the countries whose turn will sooner or later come to be reduced to rubble and starved by the Americans and Europeans or by their Israeli surrogates, are starving my helpless people. Iraqis are proud people, and they refuse to take orders from the West as to how they should sell their oil, how they should spend their money, or how to deal with Arab lackeys and stooges. Eighteen million Iraqis have become hostages of America and Europe as the world community, including millions of so-called Muslims, sits idly by and watches, enjoying the scene. How do you think the next generation of Iraqis will deal with the West, particularly the U.S.? How do you think those children who have lost their parents, brothers, sisters, friends, relatives, neighbors, or who grow up handicapped, feel about any government in Iraq that tries to befriend the murderers of their loved ones or laxes in appropriately dealing with the rulers of lackey Arab governments, with the West, and with nations that preferred to sit and watch as they suffered? Average Iraqis, including those who vehemently oppose the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti, are paying the price of the latter's wreckless policies, the policies that threw him in the West's camp and made him a puppet of the U.S., a successor of the Shah of Iran in the region, and of the Zionist-inspired policies of the U.S. aiming at the total humiliation of the Arabs and the Muslims of the world, and the total control over the latter's God-given natural resources, especially oil. I predict average Americans and Europeans to eventually pay the dear price of what their governments did in 1991. I know my people; when it comes to the West, they neither forget nor forgive. They have no reason to. DID I ACCEPT MY FATHER'S OFFER? Let me take you back to my father's offer to finance my studies here in the U.S.; I always seem to digress. I thanked my father for his generous offer, but I declined it, and that made him extremely unhappy, so much so that for many days he was reluctant to say a word to me besides 13

the Salam. And I was in pain because of that. I was always attached to my father, and I accompanied him more than anyone else in the family. He never went to a ceremony like wedding, circumcision, or graduation of any of our relatives or friends without my company. My older brothers did not go to such get-togethers except if they really had to. For one thing, both of them were most often working out of town. My older brother, a leading geologist, was always looking for new oil-fields. Soil analysis was his field, and he was quite good at it. A day or two after that I said to my father, "Father! I am no longer a child. I am a man, and men accept hardship and get used to it. You have done your job; you have raised a large family [six daughters and four sons; my father was a full-time husband!], all on your own, without help from anyone except the Almighty. Now it is my turn to build my future..., on my own, independently." He lowered his head, and I was really afraid of seeing him cry, then he raised it, looked at me and said, "Who do you think I made money for? Do you think I am going to take it with me to my grave? Don't you know that I made it for you and for your brothers?" "Yes," said I, "I know all of that, Ya-Bah (Father), but I am only following your example. I thought a father feels flattered when he sees his sons emulating him. I wish you bless my plan instead of feeling angry about it." Having heard this, he, I noticed, felt better and somehow amended his attitude towards me. MY FATHER COULD HAVE BEEN A TRIBAL CHIEFTAIN My father and uncle were orphaned when they were quite young. My grandfather was a local tribal chieftain, a position of honor and prestige which was coveted by one of his cousins. That cousin rode his horse one day pretending to survey his fields which were adjacent to my grandfather's. Having come close to my grandfather, as my grandmother narrated to us, he said to him, "Abbas! What is there on your chest?" While my grandfather was looking at his chest to see what was wrong with it, a bullet rested in it from his cousin's rifle. That cousin took over as the chieftain, usurping power and authority even from his own first cousin, being closest to the slain chieftain in kinship. Had that crime not been committed, my father could have become a chieftain, and my oldest brother could have succeeded him as customarily done in our culture. One day I saw my grandfather in a dream. I was a child. I narrated the dream to my grandmother and told her about his height, movement and agility, and even facial features. You would be amazed how clear a child's memory can be. "I could not have described him better myself," my grandmother said as she sobbed. She later refused to choose a wife for my father from the tribe that orphaned him. She sought a bride for my father from a tribe called Shammar, a much more populous than but not as affluent as my father's. My father by then had been enlisted in the army. When his mother saw him carrying a rifle, she realized that her oldest son (she had only two) was now old enough to get married. Since he was on active duty, his marriage had to be conducted by proxy. One day he came back home from his barracks to find his bride waiting for him! Surprise! Both my parents were teenagers when they got married, and they quarrelled only 14

twice. I do not think that there are many men, especially in our part of the world, who respect their wives as much as my father respected his, and I always admired him for that. FASTING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE U.S. It was at the stinky basement of the house of the Baptist preacher mentioned earlier in these Memoirs that I observed for the first time in the U.S. the fast of the month of Ramadan in the company of my Indian brother-in-faith Aziz with whom I prayed jama'a. By then, my money had run out, and my course load was too much to permit me to work anywhere. After fasting all day long, I used to break my fast with either rice and bread or, if I could afford it, rice flavored with a little tomato paste. That was all I could afford to eat. Before the month of Ramadan, sometimes I could not afford to eat two meals, so I would eat late in the day a meal which I would regard as a combination of breakfast and lunch. I am not used to eating dinner or supper anyway. My weight then must have been between 100-110 pounds. Being 5 feet eight inches tall, I looked like an antenna when I walked. I had too much pride to talk about my condition to my roommate, and I do not think that that could have helped. Two days before the end of the month of Ramadan, I fainted. My roommate was startled. He revived me and asked me what had happened. I told him that I must have fainted because of being physically weak. He advised me to break my fast and make it up later, which I reluctantly did. OH THOSE TASTY FIG BARS! During my second semester at AU, I discovered a machine almost similar to the one I came across for the first time at Greyhound bus terminals during my very first days in the U.S. It was a cookie machine. One particular cookie brought me back to the days of my early childhood. It was a fig bar. The price was either 15 or 20 cents, but even such a seemingly insignificant amount of cash proved to be hard for me to come up with. I was living on a very strict budget which did not permit luxury items such as fig bars that "expensive," so I used to put my pennies aside, and after two or three weeks I would trade them for nickels and dimes and go to that cookie machine to treat myself to one tasty fig bar! To me, that was the highlight of my day! Having told this story to Zainab, my wife, one day, she brought me a whole pack of fig bars. I do not think I could have been able to afford in those days to spend on fig bars as much as she did except maybe in a year or so. But I did not complain to anyone. My Maker gave me more than I deserve of His bounties and blessings for which I can never thank Him enough. When officers of A Group of Muslim Brothers, now called World Organization For Islamic Services (WOFIS), visited me in Atlanta in 1977, one of them could not help crying at seeing the type of life I was leading. Those were the "hungry years" which, believe it or not, I now very much miss. It was only after filling my belly with food that my spirituality started to suffer... I truly miss those hungry years, and from them do I now derive inspiration whenever I find myself 15

facing the odds... KICKED OUT OF THE HOUSE But the place where I and Aziz were staying was smelly, damp, and cold. My room brought back to me the memories of the last house in which my family, including, of course, myself, lived. My oldest brother, who later became the country's top military officer, used to often brag about it. Whenever one of his friends called him and asked for directions to come to our house, he always refused to give him our address and insisted on saying, "Come to al-Nawwab Street in Kazimiyya, then look for the highest, largest, and best looking house; that is ours. Park on the side-walk's tiles; nobody will dare to touch your car or write you a ticket [for parking on the side-walk]. Everyone knows who lives here." I always thought that was the epitome of conceit and arrogance, and I guess this was one more reason why I and he never got along with one another as brothers. His desire was that I should study medicine in Syria or Europe, and he offered to pay for it, but I refused. Our house had so many rooms that some of them were empty, and it had as many as seven balconies. Its architectural style was ancient Turkish, and I really think that there is no similar house to it in the entire city..., now here I am in a smelly and damp room at the house of a weird Baptist preacher! We had a bath-room with a shower, but we had to go upstairs to use the landlord's kitchen. Our landlord was a fanatical Baptist preacher who inscribed verses from the Bible all over the exterior of the house, making it quite unique, even weird, as weird as he himself was, but his wife was awfully nice. It was located a few yards from the campus. When I was living at the house of Mrs. Lovejoy, the bus I had to ride to reach my school was hardly on time, so quite often I had to walk the whole distance in a hurry and be there breathless and late. Aziz was very polite, honest, and a hard worker. But he, like anyone else, had his shortcomings. I and our landlady enjoyed very much talking with one another. One day she said to me, "You know, I have seen how you keep the stove clean after you use it... I meant to tell you this, but I have been reluctant. Your roommate does not keep the stove clean at all. After every time he uses it, I have to remove the grease and other stuff which he leaves all over it. Could you please ask him to keep our stove clean?" I promised her that I would, which I did, but it did not help. Finally, our land-lord told us that he had had it with us, that he wanted us both out of his house by the end of the month, giving us about ten days to find accommodation somewhere else. I kept pressuring Aziz, who had been in the U.S. for two or three years earlier, to find another room or apartment, but he assured me that the man did not mean what he said, that he was saying so only because he
rMy oldest brother, Saadi (or Sa`di), became Iraq's Minister of Defense during the confrontation between Iraq and the U.S. that started in 1990 when Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. He was not kept in his job for too long.

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was fed up with the mess he (Aziz) used to leave on his stove. The deadline passed, and no accommodation was found. I came home one day to find all my belongings (which were not a lot, just a few clothes and books) piled up in the hall, and so were Aziz's. ON 172 VINE STREET, SOUTH WEST Luckily, Aziz knew a Palestinian student at AU who used to be the resident manager of one of the apartment buildings run by Lottie Watkins Enterprises. His name was Farouq al-Alami. We had only a few hours to find a place to spend the night; still, Farouq somehow managed to get us a vacant apartment on 172 Vine Street, S.W., off West Fair Street, and within a walking distance of the campus. All our belongings, mine and those of Aziz, fit inside a car belonging to a friend of Aziz, a guy who used to enjoy criticizing everyone and everything. I do not wish to reveal his name, so I will call him Badmouth (because his mouth was really bad). We were glad to find a place where we could sleep. It was an unfurnished, and we did not have pillows, mattresses, or blankets... Mrs. Beulah Bullard came and introduced herself as our next door neighbor. She asked us where our furniture and belongings were, and we told her that we had no furniture. "Are you going to sleep on the floor?" she asked us. "Better than sleeping in the street," we said. IT ALL STARTED AT THE CANTERBURY HOUSE Atlanta University campus starts at the intersection of Ashby and West Fair Streets. A small building on West Fair Street facing the main university's administration building was referred to as the "Canterbury House." It was a place dedicated by the university to religious functions. Warsi once approached the university authorities and requested permission to use the Canterbury House on Fridays as a place of worship for Muslim students and professors, and he was granted permission to do so. There, Warsi and his brothers Tawquir and Shafeeq, in addition to a small number of mostly Indian and Pakistani students and friends, started a Friday congregational prayer service. It was there that I delivered Friday sermons (khutbas) for the first time.

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CHRISTIANS HELPED US; MUSLIMS DID NOT. I was too shy to talk to Warsi about the situation in which I and Brother Aziz found ourselves, about the fact that we were kicked out, and that we did not have anything to sleep on, so I spoke with Iqbal Unus who stood before the congregation one Friday and told everyone that I and my roommate Aziz needed help urgently, any kind of help, including financial. Blankets were needed badly, he told them. Both I and Aziz, meanwhile, piled up our clothes and used them as pillows and blankets. We waited for a few days, but no help came from our brethren. Mrs. Bullard, meanwhile, was making an effort of her own. She contacted a couple of churches in the area and told them about the dilemma of two graduate students who did not have money to buy mattresses, pillows, or blankets, nor did they have kitchen utensils. A few more days had passed before Mrs. Bullard came again to visit us with boxes full of items which we very badly needed: dishes, plates, spoons, cups, drinking glasses, sheets and blankets. I was very excited, but I noticed that my roommate was not as enthusiastic. We both took what we wanted, and we were grateful for our Christian neighbor who did for us more than what our Muslim brethren did, which was nothing. Few more days had passed before Mrs. Bullard brought us something we could sleep on. Mine was a stretcher like the ones used by ambulances to evacuate the wounded. It was very filthy. Blood and urine had stained it, and it was about two feet shorter than my full length. I cleaned it using Ajax, purified it (made it tahir), then slept on it as my feet hung in the air, but it was better than nothing. Yet we still very badly needed pillows, mattresses, and more blankets. The weather was cold, very cold. ARE CHRISTIANS NAJIS? A couple of days later, Mrs. Bullard came to visit us. Aziz was at work. He was working as cashier at a grocery store. You see, Aziz had neither scholarship nor assistantship, and he needed every penny he could earn. Anyway, I did not miss the opportunity of Mrs. Bullard's visit to thank her for what she had done for us. After a period of silence, she looked at me and said, "I hate to tell you this, but either you or your roommate has done something which neither I nor the ladies at both churches appreciate." I opened my mouth in astonishment. We both are good Muslims, and we certainly watch our behavior...; so, what could have we done? Mrs. Bullard told me that she was about to dump her trash in the apartment building's dumpster before she saw some sheets and other items there. She took them out of the dumpster and had no difficulty identifying them. They were part of what she and the other good ladies were able to collect for us. "Why did you throw them in the dumpster? If you do not need them, maybe someone else does," she added. "I did not," said I, adding, "maybe my roommate for some reason threw them out... Let me talk to him and find out." "If you do not need something, why do you take it anyway then throw it away later?" was her next question. "I do not do stuff like that," I told her... 18

That was very embarrassing. I could imagine how those good ladies must have felt when they came to know that some items they brought us ended up inside a dumpster. I could not wait to ask Aziz about it. It was after midnight when Aziz finally showed up. "Brother," I said, "why did you throw the sheets Mrs. Bullard brought us into the dumpster?" "Because..., Brother, because they are najis (impure)." I asked him to explain. He said he told the brother whose car transported us and our belongings (i.e. Badmouth) that he and I had received such and such items from some Christian ladies. That "brother" told Aziz that those items were najis, since they had been used by Christians. I asked Aziz whether he regarded Christians as najis and whether he knew anything about purification methods in Islam. I even brought him the example of how we, Muslims, wash our hands, accompanying the washing by silent recitation of certain sacred phrases in order to purify ourselves from najasa. I explained to him that we could wash those items the same way and make them tahir. But it was no use talking to him, or to Badmouth who gave him that stupid piece of "advice." I always wondered why a good man like Aziz had such a bad company, an excuse for a man, for a friend. I made it a point then to preach to my brethren about the Muslim-Christian relations and about methods of tahara. KINDNESS TO ROACHES I liked and respected Aziz, and so did everyone else, but there was one thing about him which I did not like at all. One Sunday morning when neither I nor he had to go to work, I came to the living room where he used to sleep to ask him a question. I noticed that he was standing and holding a shirt in his hand. Using two fingers, he was taking something out of his sleeves very gently, as if he was handling fragile eggs which he did not want to break. "What are you doing, Brother?" I asked him, adding, "What are you pulling out of your sleeves?" "Roaches, Brother, roaches," was his answer. In a state of disbelief I came closer to see what he was really doing, and I could hardly believe my eyes. He was being very careful and gentle in pulling roaches out of his sleeves, taking them outside the apartment and releasing them unharmed so that they might go somewhere else and get into someone else's shirts and pants. They might even go to pay Badmouth a visit and be his roommates. I was sure they would be welcome there. So; were those fragile eggs laid by roaches? Had Aziz, or Badmouth, been a Hindu or a Buddhist, his desire not to harm roaches would not have surprised me, but he was a good and devout Sunni Muslim. It was then that I blasted Aziz, in a polite and restrained way, for not keeping things clean. He admitted I was right but added saying that he was too busy to look after himself or his belongings.

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NEWSPAPERS FOR TISSUE PAPER Aziz and I were pressured by some of our Pakistani friends to admit a third roommate: a Hindu from Pakistan named Udeshi who was the cause of a rift later between myself and Aziz. All three of us used to take turns buying bathroom paper. Whenever Udeshi's turn came, and if he happened to be out of bathroom paper, he would take newspapers to the bathroom and use them instead. It was difficult for me to imagine anyone rubbing himself with newspapers and getting ink on his body..., but it seemed to work fine for him! First I thought he was taking them to read them, but the evidence was incriminating, so I asked him about it. This is the meaning you can find in the dictionary for the word "gross." I had finally to kick him out of my apartment after giving him time to find residence somewhere else, a warning which he totally ignored. And it was only after the departure of both roommates from my apartment that I could keep my place immaculately clean. I put rat poison around all the apartment's walls. But I tell you, touching roaches would give anyone the creeps..., that is, anyone but Aziz! INTERVIEWED DURING THE 1973 OIL EMBARGO During my second year at AU, that is, 197 American oil companies created an environment, based on an oil embargo by some Arab countries, to skyrocket the prices of oil in the U.S., reaping astronomical profits and creating hostility against the Arabs, capitalizing on the embargo. One local television station came to AU to interview some Arab students and ask them whether they thought the Arabs should use oil as a weapon against the U.S. to punish the latter for its blind support of the Zionist entity called "Israel." They interviewed only a couple: Farouq, my Palestinian friend, and myself. Farouq spoke better, and he was more diplomatic. Having been in the U.S. only for a short period of time, I did not know how to be shrewd in handling the news media. One particular black student pulled me aside after seeing me chat with those reporters and news team. He warned me against speaking freely to them and told me that they had recording equipment, adding that the media was used as one of the main sources of intelligence gathering in the U.S., and that it worked hand in hand with the government. I was complaining to those reporters about the bias in favor of the Jews and animosity against the Arabs and Muslims by the news media, and I was quite frank and honest. Anyway, what that student said to me lingered in my mind for a long time, and I tried my best to verify whether what he had said was true. My conclusion, which I reached after only a few months, was that he was indeed 100% right. People in America do not realize that the public enemy number one is the news media, and this is why I became since then cautious in dealing with the news media; I will always be so, and I advise my Muslim brethren to be likewise. I think we, Muslims, have to expose the identity of the "special interest group" owning and managing the most significant news media apparatuses in this country and highlight the fact that such a group is not using its might for the good of the American people. Instead, all it is concerned about is the welfare of its own people, namely the 20

Jewish people, even if that means sacrificing the welfare of all other gentiles, including gentile Americans with good intentions. NOBODY LIKES COMPETITION There were no more than two organized (Orthodox) Muslim groups during that time in Atlanta: our local chapter of the MSA and a group organized by African-Americans called "Masjid Talib." Unfortunately, there was nothing but feuding between both tiny assemblies of the faithful although they both followed the Sunni School of Muslim Law. I kept thinking of the reasons behind that feud, and I became convinced that it was due to the fact that Nazir Warsi and Iqbal Unus could not tolerate competition from anybody. Those African-Americans took religion a lot more seriously, and they sacrificed a lot for its sake, whereas those "protectors of the faith" were not the type of people who would sacrifice anything. Many African-Americans lost their jobs because they could not perform their prayers at work. They could not get two breaks: one for the noon-time prayers and one for the afternoon prayers; so, they preferred to quit rather than compromise their beliefs. Nor did those "protectors of the faith" offer them any solution to this problem that caused them and their families a great deal of hardship. WHO COMPRISED THE MSA? A large number of MSA members were from North Africa; so, they were either Malikis or Hanbalis; few might have been Shafi'is. Indian, Pakistani, and Arab members of the MSA were mostly Hanafis. A very small number of Iranian Shi'as attended their functions from time to time but were never part of the managing team. That team comprised none besides Nazir Warsi and Iqbal Unus. I led the prayers before and delivered speeches, under the sponsorship of the MSA, not only to the local Atlanta community but also to communities in other cities and towns such as those in Athens and Marietta. At the latter city, and without knowing the sectarian or ethnic background of my audience, I delivered a speech once about freedom and democracy in Islam, and I assaulted the then shah of Iran Mohammed Reza Pehlevi. My speech caused an uproar which almost turned violent. Those students were Iranians sent by their government to study how to maintain American-made aircraft, and they were loyal to the Shah. I think that they considered what happened as a deliberate attempt by the MSA to alienate them. It is quite possible that that incident caused Shi'as from Iran to establish their own group within the MSA which they called the Muslim Students Association, Persian-Speaking Group (MSA PSG).

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STRUGGLE OF MASJID TALIB Masjid Talib kept changing its physical location either due to the inability of its members to pay the rent or because the brothers and sisters did not like the neighborhood. At one time, Masjid Talib was located in downtown Atlanta on Forsyth Street. The brothers had divided the space into three major areas: one for the prayers and religious lectures, one as sleeping quarters, and one for a shop selling juices, incense, beads, head-wear and such sundry items. The idea was to introduce those who bought something there to Islam. The Imam was Antar Kabeer Smith of Cleveland, Ohio, a very quiet man who spoke very little, only when someone was supposed to say the "last word." A MOSQUE AND A RIFLE The faithful at Masjid Talib were also training their male members in martial arts such as karate. And rumor had it that they always kept a rifle to defend themselves against robbers, intruders, anti-Islamic terrorists, or the like. Atlanta then, like Washington, D.C., these days, was not a safe place to live. I truly believe that time will come when Muslims in America in general and Shi'as in particular will deeply regret the fact that they did not follow in the footsteps of the Jewish Defense League and learn how to defend themselves against non-Muslim terrorists and fanatics. I predict they will be subjected to a great deal of atrocities due to the systematic attacks to which the Jewish-owned and managed news media has been subjecting them. A new holocaust will take place in the U.S. the victims of which will be the Muslims and the victimizers the Jews. What is happening these days in Bosnia may happen here in the U.S. when Americans look for scapegoats for their economic disasters, and the Jews will point a finger at the Muslims. Persecution of Muslims has already started in Europe, and it will not be long before it reaches the U.S. Remember: Bosnia falls within the European continent, and the massacres to which Bosnian Muslims are being exposed receive the full support (though thinly veiled) of Europe which has let the Serbs and Croats arm themselves to the teeth while tying the hands of the Muslims and not permitting them to defend themselves. When our Shi'a brethren in the Islamic Republic of Iran tried to drum up support for lifting the arms embargo from Bosnian Muslims, they were attacked in the news media both here in the U.S. and in Europe. And what have our Sunni brethren done for them? What have the lackeys of the West, such as the Turks who do not live far from them, King Fahd Al Saud, the emirs of Kuwait, the U.A.E. and other Gulf shiekdoms and fiefdoms, and the Zionist President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak... etc., done for their Serbian brethren? It is the most vicious plot against the Muslims in the twentieth century, and its final chapters are yet to be concluded. The Muslims of the world have been rendered powerless by the fact that their voice at the United Nations does not count; only Pakistan is a member of the UN Security Council, and it 22

does not enjoy the power to veto any decision as is the case with non-Muslim and anti-Islamic European countries, the U.S. and Russia which is openly siding with the Croats against Serbian Muslims. It was for the benefit of these non-Muslims that the U.N. was established in the first place. Also remember that Europeans, particularly the French, were the ones who put an end to Islam's power and presence in Andalusia (today's Spain) after more than 850 years of peace and prosperity, and in the Ottoman Sultanate (today's Turkey) after centuries during which the Muslim Ummah was united, and its unity was the source of its strength. [I have dealt with the reasons behind the weakness of our Muslim Ummah nowadays in my treatise "Hey Bro! Let's Organize, Ediortialize and Socialize!" and I think I made my point crystal clear.] A coalition of European countries, the same that ruined my home-country Iraq in 1991, joined forces to deal the death blow to the Ottoman Sultanate, divide it into several tiny countries, establish artificial borders between each one of them without even giving them a say (as is the case with Iraq's borders), and put the final touches of their hellish plan by creating "Israel" as their agent in the area and a cancerous cell in the body of the Arab and Muslim Ummah. This is what the Europeans have already done, so imagine what they will be doing. I hope and pray that this will never materialize, but one must not rely only on hope. Allah is the Protectors of Believers, men and women; this is what the Holy Qur'an tells us, but we, too, have to take some measures to protect ourselves. The fact that the brothers at Masjid Talib had a rifle contributed to the attacks to which they were systematically subjected by the policy-makers of the Atlanta local chapter of the MSA. Their keeping a rifle at the mosque could have also been one of the lies circulated by their "competitors" who later circulated a lot of lies against me as well. ZEAL OF MASJID TALIB The brothers and sisters at Masjid Talib were creative in designing their clothes: a mixture of Arabic, American and African garb to which they referred as "Sunnah clothes." They wanted to imitate early Muslims by talking like them, praying like them, and wearing clothes like theirs. At least this is what they thought. To me, an Arab who is familiar with his nation, those outfits looked ridiculous, but I nevertheless admired their zeal and made friends with them. I never had difficulty getting along with my black classmates or neighbors. I guess we, Arabs, share a lot with them. Arabs are brown, and some of them are as dark as African-Americans, if not more so, but the color of the skin is not the common denominator between us. I was able to get along with them very well despite my light complexion which passes me in the U.S. or Europe as a "white," which I am not. Whites are Anglo-Saxons, and I am a full-blooded Arab. Our Arab people as well as blacks have been subjected to the slavery of white Europeans, and in recent years to that of the Americans and their Israeli surrogates. This is the common denominator between Arabs 23

and African-Americans. Anyway, my brethren at Masjid Talib were Americans wearing their own version of "Arab" clothes. In the local chapter of the MSA, Arabs and non-Arabs wore American clothes. They had neither tailors nor seamstresses. MASJID TALIB ABOLISHED Warsi was telling the members of his group that in early Islam, the Prophet (pbuh) ordered a mosque to be demolished because it was not built on sound Islamic bases. By the same token, he said, Masjid Talib had to be abolished..., as if he had the wisdom or the Divine inspiration to do so... And so it was. In the heat of controversy, and when Antar Kabeer Smith, Imam of Masjid Talib, realized that the ground was slipping from underneath his feet, he decided to leave the community and go back to his home state Ohio where he took courses at Ohio State University in Columbus, obtained his Master's degree, then went to Michigan and continued his studies in Islamic history and Arabic and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1985. This is a testimony to the fact that both Nazir Warsi and Iqbal Unus had underestimated Antar Kabeer, and I think they had underestimated what I, too, could do. Dr. Antar Kabeer Smith is now professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Atlanta University where I had graduated from, where Nazir Warsi is still teaching, and where Iqbal Unus had his first experience as organizer of the MSA. The ironic fact that Antar Kabeer, not Nazir Warsi, is now teaching Islam at AU is by itself a testimony to the fact that converts to Islam can acquire more knowledge of the faith, and become more zealous about it, than those who were born in a predominantly Muslim society. But the abolishment of Masjid Talib, from my viewpoint, testifies to the existence of ugly intolerance of and narrow-mindedness on the part of many Muslims who come from the East and who are not used to living in a democratic society that tolerates various religions and creeds. Masjid Talib was not only one of the first genuine attempts to organize AfricanAmerican Muslims in Atlanta, but also one of the very first of such attempts in the history of the Muslim community in the U.S. But that attempt was aborted, thanks to Warsi and Unus who failed to abort my activities but actually indirectly encouraged me to intensify my efforts and the efforts of those with me at the Islamic Society of Georgia to propagate our beliefs and win converts. AS IMAM AL-JUM'A One day Warsi asked me to deliver the Friday khutba the next week. I told him I had never delivered such khutba before, but he said that he had a prayer training manual which he would lend me, adding that my command over English, plus the fact that I spoke the language of the Holy Qur'an, qualified me more than anyone else to deliver the khutba. I reluctantly agreed, being aware of the tremendous responsibility an Imam bears if he does anything wrong during the service. He will then bear the sins of each and everyone praying behind him. I took the 24

manual he had given me, studied it carefully, and kept thinking of the tremendous challenge I was foolish enough to accept. I researched the topic of my first khutba thoroughly, deriving most of its text from the Holy Qur'an and the ahadith (statements of the Holy Prophet, pbuh) which I vividly remembered. When I stood to lead the congregation, my pulse was so high that I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Since they were all Sunnis, I led the prayers the Sunni way. The responsibility was simply overwhelming, but Alhamdu-Lillah everything went well. After a few weeks, I was requested again to deliver another sermon, which I did, followed by another request a few weeks thereafter. My sermons were full of fire, zeal, and enthusiasm, and they improved as I little by little gained confidence. One day, Warsi handed me the prayer manual and said, "Take this manual, Brother, and please do deliver your Friday khutbas for as many Jum'as as you like... till you feel tired." I thought it was a great honor for me to do so, and I thanked him for his confidence in me. BUILDING POPULARITY Week after week, and month after month, my sermons were getting better and better, and our number was increasing. One day, while delivering the sermon, I noticed a number of young men standing listening attentively to my sermon. They were five or six students of other colleges on the campus: Morehouse, Clark, Morris Brown, Spellman, and some came from the ITC, the Interdenominational Theological Center. Warsi's house on 600 Beckwith was across the street from the ITC, and my apartment on 172 Vine was a few yards away. Muslim students at Georgia Tech came and joined our group, too, and some probably came from Emory University or Georgia State University. Non-Muslim students had heard about my sermons and wanted to learn more about Islam from someone who spoke the language of the Holy Qur'an. All this happened even before Alex Haley's novel Roots was made into TV series which stimulated a great deal of interest in Islam as the original creed of many Africans who were brought to the U.S. as slaves. Those students were also interested in knowing the so-called Orthodox version of Islam and comparing it with the brand new racist version introduced by the Georgia-born Elijah Poole. A few weeks later, I noticed that some brothers were bringing their tape recorders to tape my sermons. One of them was Tariq Abdel-Salam who later became the first person from our congregation to accept the Shi'a School of Muslim Law. WHAT WERE THOSE SERMONS ABOUT? One may wonder what made the sermons I delivered so different. Two things set them apart from other Friday sermons: one is the genuine zeal in them, and the other was the variety of topics. To understand the zeal, let me demonstrate an example: One of my roommates was a Marxist Iranian undergraduate student named Eraj. He was an avowed playboy who worked as a bartender. He had many Persian friends studying at schools in states surrounding Georgia, and 25

he used to tell them and everyone else he knew that "There is a new prophet in Atlanta!" Astaghfirullah! That was his crude way of saying that I was not living like other foreign students like him. Luckily, he did not stay at my apartment for too long. Despite being a playboy, he had too much respect for my Islamic zeal to bring any of his bunnies to our apartment, contrary to what my former roommate Udeshi was doing despite being told not to. TOPICS OF MY KHUTBAS Subjects covered by those sermons were diverse: anecdotes from the life of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and his family members and companions, may Allah be pleased with them, Muslim-Christian relations, status of women in Islam, angels in Islam, how to thank the Almighty for the many blessings which He has bestowed upon us..., etc. The sermon about the angels in Islam was so well received that there were many requests from those who heard it to either repeat it or deliver another one like it, and even Warsi expressed his admiration of its text. In another sermon I emphasized the significance of thanking the Almighty for the blessings which He bestows upon us, enjoining the faithful to eat and dress well without extravagance, and to look their best before attending Friday prayer services. One attendant of that sermon told me later that he had never heard anyone preach like that. He said he always heard preachers admonishing the believers to renounce this world, to put on the most simple clothes, and not to make a show of anything nice they have; in other words, they should look like the fellahin of Egypt, the faqirs of India..., or the bums of Manhattan! Make your pick. OTHER MSA ACTIVITIES Friday sermons were not the only activity undertaken by the MSA. Iqbal Unus suggested we should publish a newsletter, and I was chosen to edit it. Only two issues of the MSA News, as it was called, were published. A few copies of it were duplicated, and Iqbal told everyone that he was sending samples of it to the Headquarters of the MSA (then at Gary, Indiana). They were duplicated free of charge through the use of the facilities available to Iqbal at Georgia Tech, his school. Those two issues were poor in quality and quantity, but they provided me with my first chance to learn editing, design and lay-out. In addition to the newsletter, the MSA conducted regional conferences throughout the U.S. It was, from my personal opinion, there that the star of Iqbal Unus as an organizer brightly shone, and it has been shining ever since. He was extremely keen to details, very diplomatic, and he had a sense of humor. But he stayed away from delivering speeches. I think he new his limitations. One of those conferences was conducted at a camp called the Future Farmers of America where I delivered a speech which was not wellprepared but helped, as Iqbal Unus said to me, wake up the audience. Those conferences have always been lucrative fund-raisers for the MSA. 26

RELATIONS BETWEEN MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS Those who prayed behind me were brilliant and highly educated Muslims, but apparently they had numerous misconceptions. It deeply offended me when I came to know that many of them believed that Muslims must not even touch non-Muslims, and that if they did, they should take a ghusul, ceremonial bath. In one of my Friday khutbas, I went into detail preaching about the importance of maintaining good relations with non-Muslims, especially those referred to in the Holy Qur'an as Ahl al-Kitab, People of the Book, namely Christians and Jews. I also indicated the fact that the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) had married a Christian lady, Mariam (Mary) the Copt, mother of Ibrahim son of Muhammad (pbuh), and a Jewish lady, Safiyya daughter of Huyayy ibn al-Akhtab. Her father was the arch-enemy of the Prophet (pbuh) in Khaybar, Medina. Having said so, I noticed some of them looking in disbelief at one another. They could hardly relish the idea that a Muslim could marry a Christian, much less a Jewish, woman. Imagine the religious misconceptions in the minds of average uneducated Muslims. Ignorance and fear have always been the most vicious enemies of mankind. RECOMMENDATION TO PRESIDE OVER THE ATLANTA LOCAL CHAPTER Ali Shembesh, who was studying for his Ph.D. in Political Science at Emory University, invited me once during the month of Ramadan to have iftar with his family. After the iftar, he told me that he was getting prepared to go home (Libya) in the near future, immediately after his graduation, and that several community dignitaries had suggested that I should succeed him as President of the chapter. I told Ali that I did not have the ambition to be president of anything. All the ambition I had, I added, was (and still is) to be a good Muslim. I also told him that most brothers were getting financial help while studying for their degrees in the U.S. either from their families or from the governments of their countries, and that I was receiving no financial support; therefore, I had to earn my living the very hard way. In other words, I could not afford to spend time organizing the various activities of the chapter, although in all reality there was not a whole lot going on. FOLLOWERS OF ELIJAH MUHAMMAD WERE NICE TO ME One of my classmates at AU asked me once whether I would be interested in talking to Clark College students about Islam. She was teaching a course in theology there while studying fulltime for her Master's at AU. I told her that I would always welcome the opportunity to share what I know, though it is not much, with others. Her next question was whether I would object to her taping it, and I told her that I would not. "Why do you want to tape it?" I asked her. She told me that she wanted to play that tape to a congregation of the followers of the Elijah. Apparently, those followers listened to my taped speech to Clark College students, and one 27

day, a black man wearing a clean and neat suit approached me almost in the same manner and certainly at the same place where Dr. Warsi introduced himself to me. "Assalamo Alaikom!" said he. "Wa Alaikomis-Salam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh," was my response. I articulated it slowly so that he would be able to detect the fact that despite my fair complexion, I am a fullblooded Arab Muslim. He asked me whether I wished to visit the "temple" set up by the "Honorable Elijah Muhammad," as he put it. "Yes! I would like to visit my other Muslim brethren there. Sure!" So I gave him my address. I was not told then that those folks could very easily turn violent against those who did not subscribe to their beliefs, but in my view, a good Muslim should fear none other than the Almighty. One day he came and knocked at the door of the house of my land-lady Mrs. Lovejoy, a widow who was living alone in a fairly large house, and the poor old woman was perturbed. "Who are you, and what do you want?" she screamed at him. Hearing her speak so loudly, I rushed to the door to find out who was there; after all, a man under any circumstance has to protect a helpless old woman. When I saw who he was, I told Mrs. Lovejoy that I knew that man, and that he was one of my brothers. "Brother?! Are you kidding?!" she asked me. I rode with him in his pickup truck the short distance from there to the "temple" on 1225 Bankhead Highway North West. AT THE "BLACK MUSLIMS' TEMPLE" When the brothers at that place saw me greet them with "Assalamo Alaikom, Brother," they did not display any hostility to me at all. My escort took me inside one of their lecture halls. A podium stood in the foreground of a semi-circular wooden stage. I noticed that every sister who walked by that podium was kneeling before it..., as if there was a holy ghost of some sort invisible to the eyes standing right there and getting ready to deliver a lecture. A brother in an elevated position of the auditorium initiated the greeting: "Assalamo Alaikom!" I responded appropriately as my escort looked on. Another brother joined us, and a discussion about my background and beliefs was only natural. I suggested to them to grant me the opportunity to teach them Arabic, since the Holy Qur'an is written in Arabic, and since I was a native Arab, and they told me they would write to their leader in Chicago to ask him for permission to do so. I think my next question to them was quite stupid: "Who is your leader in Chicago?" They told me it was "the Honorable Elijah Muhammad." Time for noon prayer had already passed, and soon it was time for afternoon prayers, yet nobody was saying a word about prayers. I asked my escort when they would congregate for afternoon prayers. I was shocked when he told me that they did not perform their prayers there. "Why not, Brother?" I asked him. He explained to me that they were living in an adverse and hostile environment, and that they did not feel secure enough to congregate for the prayers. I did not buy his argument, but I was wise enough this time to keep my mouth shut. 28

FIRST DOUBTS ABOUT THE MSA The fact that I and Aziz did not get any help whatsoever from our fellow MSA members and other Muslims when we very badly needed it served as an eye-opener for me. It hurt me to see how Christians were so swift in coming to our aid when we needed it so urgently, and how Aziz must have made many Christians talk negatively about Islam and Muslims. I asked myself if either Islam or Muslims should receive the blame. That actually was the first blow to my faith in the MSA and in the wisdom of those who organized its activities. What is the use of Islam if it does not cause Muslims to help one another? Another question which vexed me was: "Why couldn't the leaders of our community educate their followers in Islamic ethics and morality and make them generous in giving, ready to help one another, and always there whenever there was a crisis affecting or a calamity befalling any of them?" I became convinced that there was something wrong. First of all, those leaders were self-imposed. Second, they seemed to enjoy flattery and compliments more than anything else. Their level of Islamic awareness was not high at all, and their share of Islamic knowledge was quite modest. There were times when religious questions were directed to Warsi who had to turn to me for answers. One of our community members died, and the funeral prayers were to be conducted at Georgia Tech. There, everyone found out that no Imam had been chosen to lead the funeral prayers. Warsi came to me and asked me to lead the janaza prayers. I told him how those prayers were to be conducted, suggesting that either he or Iqbal Unus, being the leaders of our small community, should lead, not I, a 27-year old student. But he suggested it would be easier if I led the prayers, since I knew how to, and so I did. One day I asked my roommate Aziz to explain to me the apathy in our community towards our acute need for help. He said, and I will never forget his words, "Brother! Listen to me: These guys are away from home. They want to make the best of living in a foreign land, so they have to do something to have a good time!" Having a good time was not exactly my idea of preaching Islam. Moreover, Islam requires its adherents not to be talkative but to concentrate on worshipping their Lord and on helping one another. RESIGNING FROM MSA It was at the residence of Iqbal Unus, not far from Georgia Tech, his school, that I felt it was time to quit the MSA. I had a very important exam the next day; I was not given any idea about the meeting's agenda, and nobody else was. Prior to that meeting, I had come up with a few suggestions for Iqbal Unus to attract other Muslims and involve them in our activities. One of them was to conduct a random poll-type survey of the Muslims of Atlanta, using the telephone book as a directory, to find out why others were not interested in joining or supporting the MSA. But that meeting turned out to be no more than a preparation for a local picnic. Discussions 29

revolved around the selection of site, date, and food to be served. Too much time was spent on comparing the merits of hamburgers versus those of hot dogs. I was listening and my blood was boiling, knowing that every minute of my time was precious, while here these folks were wasting time talking about hamburgers and hot dogs. Finally, I could not listen any more, so I stood and told everyone how I felt about what they were doing, that the MSA was no more than an organization to have fun and waste time, that it was not doing anything serious worthy of my time..., etc. I concluded my unexpected statement by telling Iqbal Unus that I resigned from the MSA effective immediately, and that my decision was irrevocable. He tried his best to discourage me from resigning, but I had already made up my mind. ISLAMIC CENTER OF ATLANTA My resignation from the MSA did not mean abandonment of the Friday prayer sermons which continued smoothly, so much so that the number of those who wished to attend our Friday service kept increasing, and there was no room to accommodate all of them at the Canterbury House. The need emerged to have a place of our own. Special meetings were conducted in preparation of the establishment of the Islamic Center of Atlanta, and an intensive fund raising effort was heralded by both Nazir Warsi and Iqbal Unus. I think Iqbal Unus was able to get some money from the MSA to help with the rent deposit of a small house on Ashby Street, a few yards from the main administration building of Atlanta University, almost facing the girls' dormitory. A date was set for the inauguration, an event that changed my life and the lives of many other people for all time to come. ROACHES, ROACHES EVERYWHERE...! Let me digress here for a minute. Have you forgotten Badmouth? He was a very close friend of Aziz, my roommate. One day Badmouth invited me and Aziz to his residence. I went to his kitchen for some reason and was shocked to see the swarms of roaches crawling everywhere: on his hands and feet even as he stood to prepare something for us. I was disgusted at the sight and at the possibility of his accidentally getting some of those roaches in whatever food or drink he was preparing for us. "How can you live like that, Brother?" I asked him, adding, "Why don't you do something to get rid of these ugly and unhealthy creatures?" "I have tried everything (?!), but nothing seems to work," he answered. A few days later he asked me if it would be alright for him to live with us as our third roommate. That was something I could never tolerate, and I had to convince Aziz that if Badmouth came to our apartment to live, he would most surely bring his roaches with him.

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ANTI-SHI'A LIES CIRCULATED Apparently feeling slighted and indignant with me, Badmouth started his campaign to publicize the fact that I was a Shi'a, that Sunnis should not pray behind a Shi'a, and that Shi'as were not on Islam's right track... Many other lies were circulated by him (enumerated in the pages ahead), and their poison started working in the minds of many members of our small community. INAUGURATING THE ISLAMIC CENTER OF ATLANTA In the summer of 1973, I inaugurated the Islamic Center of Atlanta and delivered the first congregational Friday prayer sermon (khutba) there, being the Imam of Jum'a for several months by then. As I was leading the prayers, three individuals suddenly yelled "Astaghfirullah!," split from the congregation, and said their prayers separately. All were blacks. I continued the service as usual till the end. One of those who had split came to me and asked me about Shi'as and Shi'ism. He was Ishaq, one of the founders of the Dar al- Islam Movement, an African-American group that organized itself as a protest against the treatment African-American Muslims were receiving at the hands of Atlanta's organizers of the MSA. When I have time to edit these Memoirs, I will Insha-Allah discuss this Movement in detail. I told Ishaq that that was neither the place nor the time to discuss such issues, that he knew very well where I lived, and that he could visit me there any time and get the answers to all his questions. But my answer did not satisfy him. He suggested the newly inaugurated Center to be the place where other brothers and sisters would meet and discuss pressing questions vexing them about Shi'as and their beliefs. I told him I was aware of the rumors being circulated against Shi'as, and that it would be best if the discussion of such sensitive issues were to be held at my apartment. He suggested to consult with other brothers and get back in touch with me. He went ahead and discussed the matter with Iqbal Unus, since Iqbal's partner, Nazir Warsi, was out of town and was due back by next week. A date was set and a time for me to appear before what turned into a war tribunal the second Friday since that inauguration. That week's Friday prayer service was conducted by Iqbal Unus, and I smelled something fishy in the air. QUITTING THE ISLAMIC CENTER It was evening time when the "discussion" started. I had to briefly mention the early history of Islam and how Muslims split into two groups because of the issue of who would succeed the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, his progeny and companions, as the leader of the Muslims of the world. It was not long before Warsi and Unus had found out that I was a follower of the Ja'feri Shi'a School of Muslim Law. Since they considered themselves to be the "protectors of the faith," that is, the Sunni faith, they apparently became paranoid about the possibility that I might use my influence as Imam al-Jum'a to convert some Sunnis to my Shi'a school of Muslim thought. Iqbal Unus was holding a small piece of paper in his hand 31

which he kept reading or examining. To cut it short, the outcome of that "meeting" was a set of "suggestions" contained in the small piece of paper Iqbal Unus kept looking at for quite some time. One of those "suggestions" advised the Center's board to freeze all my activities for a minimum of six months and reconsider whether or not I should at any time in the future lead the Friday prayers. I understood what that "suggestion" meant, so I turned to both Nazir Warsi, who had by then come back from his trip, and Iqbal Unus, and told them that they had cooked a recipe which they were serving the community that evening, and that the recipe was no more than tarnishing my image in the community. I said many things which I had kept to myself for a long time regarding the total control over Islamic activities by both Nazir Warsi and Iqbal Unus, how both men refused to involve even one more person in their decisions, and how they both were very hungry for power and position. "I quit the Islamic Center, Brothers and Sisters," I said as I addressed the rest of the assembly, "because these two brothers have started fearing my rising popularity... It is not about Shi'as and Sunnis. It is me versus both of them," and I pointed at the culprits who sat speechless, not believing that any individual in the community would one day dare to tell them who they really were. You see, both men were used to being followed blindly, assisted by the simple-minded audience that let them be the leaders. I realized then that popularity, like anything else, has its price... During that meeting, and in the middle of the war between myself and Warsi in particular, the latter went to as far as implicitly charging me of being an agent of the CIA... That was the worst charge I ever heard from Warsi or anyone else since I came to the U.S. Making such a serious charge convinced me that the man was intent on getting rid of me, and at any cost. With the help of Unus, who was always his yes-man, he got what he wanted. My last words were directed to him; that is, to Iqbal Unus. "I am leaving," said I, "but there will consequences to my departure which will affect not only the Muslims of Atlanta but the Muslims all over the U.S." Those words, I believe, played a significant role in my zeal to propagate our beliefs. I think that Iqbal Unus remembers those words as vividly as I do. ANTI-SHI'A CAMPAIGN INTENSIFIES Once I quit the Islamic Center of Atlanta, community members started wondering what happened to me, why I was not being present there, why I was no longer leading the prayers..., and these questions had to be answered. The inquirers were told that because I was Shi'a, a decision was made by the Center's board to freeze my activities for a period of a few months, and that I preferred to quit. That brought the question as to what Shi'a Islam is all about, and the answer came in the form of a pack of false charges made, packaged, and distributed wholesale by both Nazir Warsi and Iqbal Unus. Those false charges, as I came to know later on through those who visited me at my apartment seeking the truth, and which were readily circulated by men like Badmouth, may be summarized as follows: 32

* * * *

Shi'as do not follow the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh); Shi'as derive their beliefs (such as belief in the Mahdi) from Christianity and Judaism; Shi'as have more respect for Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) than they do for the Prophet of Islam (pbuh); Prayers of Shi'as are not accepted because they do not perform their ablution properly, and they do not use water to wash themselves after using the privy...

I exerted utmost effort to disprove these charges to all those who came to my apartment to inquire about how much truth there was in what they were being told. A few months later, I requested one of the brothers who used to visit me often to go and convey a message from me to Nazir Warsi saying, "Please keep your mouth shut and stop circulating false charges about Shi'as. Those who wish to know what Shi'a Islam is all about are welcome to visit me at my apartment and I will answer all their questions." Iqbal Unus was wiser than Nazir Warsi. He let the latter do all the talking while he himself steered the helm of MSA activities as well as those of the Islamic Center of Atlanta. "BURY OR BURN THEM, SISTER!" While preparing for the establishment of the Islamic Center of Atlanta and working closely with both Nazir Warsi and Iqbal Unus, I suggested that there was (and still is) a great deal of ignorance about Islam in our community, that a library should be set up at the Center; so, I was asked to take the initiative to solicit literature. They were not ready to spend a penny on either postage or book orders; therefore, I had to do it all on my own, with my meager financial resources. First I paid Warsi a visit and took the addresses of publishers of whatever Islamic literature in English there was in his small library. Then I wrote a circular which Mrs. Bell, my supervisor at AU's Dept. of Afro-American Studies, where I used to work, was kind to let me duplicate, using their mimeograph machine. I was able to obtain more addresses of Muslim organizations from various sources, including the telephone directory. Southern Bell Telephone Company had an office in downtown Atlanta where the telephone directories of all American states were displayed. That was a great source of addresses, and the post office sells zip code directories. A combination of both, I told myself, should produce some results. The total number of circulars I could afford to mail on my own was two hundred and thirty. We were soliciting funds and literature. Only one single response came out of more than two hundred circulars mailed to the faithful throughout the U.S.: someone at an Islamic center sent us a dollar bill with an apology that the center did not have literature or funds to send us (see my separate treatise titled "Hey Bro! Let's Organize, Editorialize, and Socialize!"), and that that dollar was his own. I was deeply dismayed for such a chilling response but not totally discouraged. One of the 33

overseas responses came from Iran. A Group of Muslim Brothers (now WOFIS) sent us a book parcel. Since the effort was being done on behalf of the Center, received literature was handed to one sister who was on its Board to keep while the "defenders of the faith" were setting up the library. Warsi found something in that literature which he did not like. It was a phrase saying "... the Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny..." Reference to the progeny of the Prophet, peace be upon him, his progeny and companions, offended Warsi, and he decided that that was Shi'a stuff. The Muslim sister who was given custody of that package of literature was told, "Bury or burn it, sister." When I came to know about that, I wrote the donors and requested them to be kind enough to send me, on my own address, another package, and I even included an international draft to cover the shipping expenses, a draft which they returned to me saying that the last thing they could ever do was to accept money from a struggling student. Those donors later became the source of the largest number of Shi'a publications circulated by the Islamic Society of Georgia, Inc. THE BITTER TASTE OF HUMILIATION That Friday was the last one I spent at the Islamic Center of Atlanta which, like Masjid Talib, kept changing address, for one reason or another, till it proved to have a shorter life-span than that of Masjid Talib. I think it functioned only for a few months. Anyway, despite my acute financial situation, I kept sending the Center, using Nazir Warsi's address, monthly donations which were, in the words of Nazir Warsi himself, more regularly sent than those of anyone else. I told myself that I was doing it for the sake of Islam, not for those "brothers" whose main concern was power and authority. I spent days almost mute, hardly uttering a word. The feeling of humiliation over-powered me and controlled every cell in my brain. There was nothing else I could think of. I kept remembering how I used to enjoy preparing for those Friday sermons which became so popular, how much I learned about Islam, how happy I was with what I had learned, how Badmouth did not find anyone to shut him up, and how the love for power and authority could control the minds of some people. The peak of my feeling of humiliation was reached on one memorable Friday. I was walking down the street to a nearby grocery store to buy a few food items when, at the distance of a few feet, I was almost face-to-face with one member of our congregation. The minute he recognized me, he ran across the street as if he saw a demon, or a token of bad omen. He wanted to avoid looking at my face, the face of the man whose mere presence was no longer welcome in our small community, the face of the man behind whom he prayed so many times and whose sermons he used to enjoy. It was then that I came to realize the extent of my humiliation and the depth to which my reputation had sunk, and I decided never to visit those "brothers" again; I would simply then make a fool of myself. Thus did the bitter feeling of being an outcast in the eyes of the community live with me day and night, every day of the week. Needless to say, Fridays were the very hardest for me since they 34

reminded me of the sermons I used to deliver and how they were appreciated... But now it was all gone; only agonizing memories lingered to burn my life away and turn my days into their smoke... WHAT HUMILIATED PEOPLE WOULD DO Feeling thus rejected and humiliated, there was not much in life that I desired anymore. I had by then changed my plans about going home soon after graduating and deliberately took more and more courses in order to stay in the U.S. longer, turning myself into a "professional student." Being distanced from the spirituality in which I lived for such a fairly long time, I became an easy prey to Satanic impulses and all types of temptation. I found myself changing my attitude about life and people. Even my conviction and belief in Islam started weakening. A Muslim without a community is like a fish without water. I hope and pray Allah Almighty to forgive me for what I did and for what I thought. That was undoubtedly the darkest chapter of my life. It was then that I desired to fulfill what my roommate had chosen as his motto. He always used to repeat this statement: "Brother! Work hard, make money, and be happy!" I used to laugh whenever I heard him say so, but I was laughing no more. Aziz was right. One should work hard, earn as much money as he can and live to enjoy every minute of his life. LIVING IT UP IN AMERICA I waited patiently for the semester to end. When it did, I headed to the Holiday Inn in downtown Atlanta and applied for a job as a room service waiter. Menial jobs at hotels and restaurants are the only ones available for foreign students in the U.S. I was confident, smiling, teasing and complimenting everyone and building a brand new popularity with the society from which I isolated myself almost completely since coming to the U.S. Soon I found myself working there as many as 16 hours a day, seven days a week, earning tips from guests who were never served by a waiter wearing clean clothes and neck-ties! Some hotel guests thought I was living there, since they saw me there all the time. Before the summer was over, I had paid all my debts, bought some pieces of furniture, and had a balance of about two thousand dollars in my bank account. To me, that was a huge amount of money which I never thought I would be able one day to earn especially after having worked at Atlanta University for almost nothing. There, I first worked at the office of Dr. Richard Long, head of the Dept. of Afro-American Studies, doing sundry office chores, then as research assistant for Dr. Charles Duncan who later became my thesis advisor which discussed William Shakespeare. The first translation I ever attempted was the Arabic translation of a summary of one of Shakespeare's plays. Then I worked in the periodicals section of AU's Trevor Arnett Library. How much was I getting paid? One dollar and sixty cents an hour, before taxes were deducted... Now I was earning in one day in tips as much as I used to earn working at AU for a week. Whenever I remember those days, however, I si35

lently implore to my Lord to forgive me for "living it up in America," and to fare with those who killed my spirituality as He pleases... Alhamdu-Lillah, I never stopped for one single day saying my daily prayers, or performing any other religious obligation. Sometimes, I would meditate for hours. WAKING UP Finally, I had to gradually wake up. I told myself that I did not leave my family and country and go to the U.S. to make money, kill my spirituality, and be corrupted. One can make money, kill his spirituality, and be corrupted anywhere in the world. He could do all of that at home. By then, the economic situation in my home country had changed drastically, and people started living a much better and more fulfilling life after forcing greedy foreign oil companies to pay them for their oil as much as they really deserved. I had by then enough time to relax, sit and read, and my library contained many very interesting books. All those books were clean, and they were mostly written and/or published by Shi'as. Through their guidance, I was able to slowly wake up from my dream and think of a positive change in my life. After all, I am an admirer of William Shakespeare who wrote once that man is the maker of his destiny; therefore, I had to make my own destiny rather than accept to be like a ship in the middle of the ocean without a captain. PROSPECTS: MY GUESTS Muslims, mostly black natives, used to frequent my simple apartment to discuss religious issues and enjoy some Arabic dishes. Yes; I could then afford even to feed others. Some of them were apparently sent by the same guys who succeeded, at least for the time being, to put an end to my Islamic activities, to spy on me. Others came to admonish me to abandon Shi'a Islam and join the Sunni majority, while others came to satisfy their curiosity. They simply wanted to know what Shi'a Islam was all about. It was then that I considered trying my luck to win some of them to our side. In other words, I wanted to bring the nightmares of those "protectors of the faith" into reality. OTHERS BEFORE ME WERE ALSO HUMILIATED I was not the only one in Atlanta who adhered to the Shi'a school of Muslim Law. There were quite few others in and around the city who came to know about my story. Finally, I made the first move and invited three Pakistani Shi'as who had a history in Islamic work in the city and about whom I used to hear a great deal of derogatory gossip from my former Sunni religious colleagues. Two of them became the co-founders who actively contributed to the promotion of the Islamic Society of Georgia, Inc. One of them was Akbar Ali Zaidi who had finished his Ph.D. work and was being given a hard time by Emory University to obtain his certificate. 36

Another was Muhammad Zafar Mahdi, a relative of Akbar Ali Zaidi, who was working at Georgia State University and making plans to study for his Ph.D. in Michigan. It was in the Fall of the same year (1973) that we founded the Islamic Society of Georgia, Inc. primarily to propagate Islam without emphasizing sectarian differences or preferences, a policy which we could not maintain for too long. PLAYING CORPORATE ATTORNEY Our Society's attorney was trying to get us the tax-exemption status, and he seemed to have been going nowhere. He had taken about eight months without being able to have the ISG taxexempted. I am the type of person who hates waiting more than anything else. Call me hyperactive. To me, there are basically three types of people: 1) those who leave the world better than they found it; 2) those who leave it worse; and 3) those who leave it without making any impact on it, good or bad. The first two types live, whereas the last one simply exists. Those who exist are not better than any inanimate object in nature. Anyway, I felt I had to do something. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had an office on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta which I decided to visit to inquire about our application. "May I help you?" a lady there asked me. "Yes, please," I answered, adding, "I would like to ask you a question, if I may. Our attorney has been trying for several months to obtain for our incorporation the tax-exemption status, and it seems to me that he is taking too long... Could you please tell me if I can act as my Society's attorney instead? I mean, can I act as an attorney on behalf of my Society?" The lady smiled. She asked me what my society was and what my title in it, then she said that my question was one which she never heard before. She went to the back area to ask someone else, and she came back after about ten minutes which seemed to me like ten hours. I could not interpret her smile the second time. First I thought it meant a smile of derision, then I said to myself maybe it was not. Her answer was in the affirmative, so I felt very glad and asked her why our application was deadlocked. She pulled our file and handed me a few forms to fill. She was very helpful, and I thanked Allah. The rest of the routine was done by mail. After only 6-8 weeks, our Society obtained its tax-exemption status. Alhamdu-Lillah; I succeeded where a licensed attorney seemed to have failed. ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF ATLANTA Before then, when we applied to register our Society (the ISG) with the office of the Secretary of State, we were informed that another Muslim organization with almost a similar name had just been registered, and that we needed its O.K. to use the name "Islamic Society of Georgia" for our organization. It was the Islamic Society of Atlanta; its members were mostly professional Muslims who opted to settle in the U.S. and make it their home. Predominantly Sunni, it was located in the affluent North East section of Atlanta where it was safer to live... The most 37

prominent among its members were: Dr. Muhammad Futurat, an Afghani, Dr. Ja'far Tabatabai, an Iranian physician, Dr. Atif Abdel-Salam, a Syrian physician, and Dr. Abdullah al-Najjar, a Lebanese Druse. Are Druse Muslims? The answer to this question lies outside the scope of these Memoirs. We did not have any difficulty obtaining their O.K., and they were glad to know about us. They did not look at us the same way the policy-makers of the MSA looked at Masjid Talib. I particularly enjoyed talking to Dr. Futurat. One day I asked him what he thought of Dr. Nazir Warsi. "I was not impressed by him," was his answer. That did not surprise me. I gradually came to know more and more about this sister Muslim organization, and I and other believers attended a couple of its meetings. At one of those meetings, Dr. Futurat and one of his brothers played music to entertain their guests. I guess this is how they were able to "attract" other attendants, Muslims and non-Muslims. Some of their members did not hide the fact that they were dating. Some of their sons and daughters, as I came to know later on, used to take home lessons in piano and other musical instruments, both from the East and the West. Of course, I and my poor black brothers and sisters were not impressed at all by what we saw. We neither played musical instruments nor cared to listen to music. As a matter of fact, the Islamic Society of Atlanta is mentioned implicitly in another treatise I wrote titled "Hey Bro! Let's Organize, Editorialize, and Socialize!" That treatise complements and supplements these Memoirs. Anyway, we decided not to waste our time by attending any of their meetings or "functions." To us, that society was no more than a social club, but we did not have any direct confrontation with them. Dr. Akbar Ali Zaidi, in fact, attended many of their meetings and "functions," since he has been for many years living in that affluent part of Atlanta. The black brothers and sisters simply felt out of place among the members of the Islamic Society of Atlanta where women put on short dresses and did not cover their hair. That is not our concept of what a Muslim organization should be. PUBLISHING ISLAMIC AFFAIRS The news of the establishment of our Society became public after our publication of the first issue of Islamic Affairs (January 1, 1974). I wrote its editorial which reflected the bitterness I felt at what had happened (i.e. the sectarian split) and how badly our local community needed good manners and discipline. But there was no reference to Shi'a/Sunni issues in it. Its second issue carried an implicit appeal to the Shi'a community of the U.S. and Canada for moral and financial support, and its feature article narrated the highly emotional and tragic events of the martyrdom of Imam Husain son of Ali (as) at Kerbala, Iraq. It also contained quotations from other Imams held infallible by Shi'as. BACK-STABBING GUESTS My family at home had a close friend named Salman al-Obeidi, a wealthy businessman who traded in electronics, watches, and expensive imported household items. One of his sons came in 38

the 1970s to study at the College of Space and Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for his B.Sc. His family contacted mine and got my address, so he sent me a letter and said he would like to visit me. I remembered him and his father very well, and I had a great deal of respect for his father. I answered his letter and told him that he would be welcome to visit me in Atlanta, and I even sent him copies of Islamic Affairs where my home telephone number was published, so he started calling me. First he said he would bring a couple of friends with him, and I said fine, then he kept adding more and more guests till he and they rented a Ford Pinto and came to visit me in 1976; their number by then had increased to six. Of course I did not have enough pillows or blankets for them, nor did I have enough beds. I had to buy blankets and pillows and they slept on the floor. They stayed with me for several days. Needless to say, I had to cook for them and look after them... In order to show their appreciation, they bought me a sweater. A few weeks after their visit I called that young student and chatted with him for a few minutes. He advised me that it would not be wise to mail him the future issues of Islamic Affairs, adding that one of the young men with him (or probably he himself) wrote a lengthy report to the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C., detailing my Islamic activities and the contents of my library. The said Embassy sent three of its diplomats to Tulsa to conduct interviews with those who had been to my apartment and collect more information about me. Having come to know all of that, and knowing how every government in Iraq since the assassination of Gen. Abdel-Kareem Qasim (who was Shi'a) was antagonistic towards the Shi'as, I realized that going back home would be suicidal, so I decided to stay in the U.S. as long as I could, taking additional courses in order to maintain my visa. This is why it took me so many years to graduate. When I graduated, I had piled up almost twice as many credit hours as was required to obtain a Master's degree. But the experience I had with those "guests" who turned into back-stabbers taught me a lesson. Since then, it has been my policy to avoid making friends with any Iraqi individual except after thoroughly knowing his background. A ROOMMATE FROM AL-DA'WAH Hizb al-Da'wah al-Islamiyya is one of Iraq's leading opposition parties. One of its founders was the late Martyr Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, the greatest economist, thinker, and political figure in Iraq's modern history. One of the members of this party came to be my roommate the next year, i.e. 1977, as I was busy running the Society, editing and typesetting Islamic Affairs. His name was Hassan. I trusted Hassan only after knowing his background very well. Iraq's Ba'thists had beaten him up because of his views, and he was able to flee the country and work in Libya for about three years. When I knew that Ba'thists had subjected him to their terror, I knew I could trust him, and he proved to be worthy of my trust. Not all Iraqis are the same, you know. One day Hassan gave me a book in Arabic written by al-Sadr. I think I finished reading it either in 39

one or two days. It captivated me with its lucid style, strength of argument, and evident logic, and I immediately decided to translate and serialize it in Islamic Affairs. Hassan was very glad that it met my approval, so I requested him to do his best to get a word to the author that one of his books was being translated and published in series in the U.S., and to request him to pray for the success of this endeavor. The first installment of the English version appeared in issue 18 (May and June 1977) of Islamic Affairs. After that, it was published, together with a translation of another work by the same author and which I also translated, in the same year (1980) when the great author was tortured then murdered at the bloody hands of Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti. In successive years, Allah enabled me to translate the unfinished biography of his criminal assassin, namely Saddam, a translation which was published first by the Islamic Union of Iraqi Students, then portions of it were published in series by The Da'wah Chronicle, a London-based English publication of Hizb al-Da'wah al-Islamiyya, and also by Echo of Islam magazine in Tehran. I thank the Almighty for making me the very first person ever to translate the works of al-Sadr into English. This is just one of His countless blessings on me, the undeserving servant of His that I am. OTHER ACTIVITIES Asides from publishing Islamic Affairs, which became the mouthpiece of Shi'a Islam and the most powerful advocate of Shi'ism in the U.S., our Society conducted other activities. Several schools, colleges, universities, and churches gave us the opportunity to explain Islam to their students or members, and a local church-sponsored radio station aired an interview with me. Some of those speeches were taped. During those years, the late Elijah Muhammad was alive and his fake version of Islam was thriving; therefore, it was only natural that we were encountered by the controversy revolving around the brand new version of racist Islam being circulated among simple-minded and uninformed black American natives. OUR FIRST CONVERTS Due to the zeal of the Society's founders and the literature they circulated, several Sunnis did, indeed, find in Shi'ism the answers they had sought since embracing Islam. They became Shi'as and before too long started disseminating the faith to others. Entire families, mostly black, became Shi'a, and their number slowly but steadily grew. Volume 4, Issue 20 of Islamic Affairs (October 1977) contained a list of some of them. The negative attitude of some intolerant Sunnis of the city helped strengthen their faith, and they felt obligated to gather together in order to discuss their common views and enjoy a sense of a unified community. The earliest of those converts was Br. Tariq Abdel-Salam. Then Br. Abdel-Qahhar took his time debating, researching, and studying our literature till he was finally convinced of the superiority of our School of Thought (contrary to what he had heard). He was not happy about the life I was lead40

ing, and he could not do much to improve it except bringing me, from time to time, a tiny bag of rice, a can of tomato paste, a couple of fresh tomatoes or onions, and I thanked him for that. By then, I and Aziz had received a significant donation: an ancient refrigerator, which should have belonged at an antique museum because of being so old, donated by our neighbor who lived next to the Bullards. I remember how once Abdel-Qahhar visited me to borrow a book, as he used to do quite often, and when he opened that refrigerator, there was nothing in it. He looked at me but I was faster than him in saying something. Imitating the black jargon, I said, "Well, Bro, we ain't got nothing!" He laughed and said, "Well, Bro, you better get some!" Br. Abdel-Qahhar was a book worm, a man who would read a book three or four times in order to fully digest it. He and Br. Tariq Abdel-Salam are, in my opinion, the most highly intellectual converts we were able, Alhamdu-Lillah, to win. Just as he was never tired of reading, he was never tired of debating. I learned from his debates probably as much as he did, and his method of debating opened my eyes to many challenges a missionary like myself should be able to meet. In fact, debating with him was an intellectual and spiritual experience for both of us. His desire for knowledge manifested itself gloriously once when he accepted a low-paying job only because it would provide him with a unique opportunity to read and learn; he became a fire-fighter despite the fact that he had a B.Sc. and good education qualifying him to obtain a much more financially rewarding job. But money was to him, as it has always been to me, a means towards the achievement of an end, and if that end can be achieved with less money, so be it. "Remember the fire of hell, Brother, whenever you have to fight a fire, and never think that the challenges in this life are worth your concern as much as the challenges and situations awaiting all of us in the life to come," I told him many times. Even after going to Germany upon enlisting in the Army, Br. Abdel-Qahhar stayed in touch with me and even sent me from there a small contribution. WHAT ATTRACTED SUNNIS TO OUR FAITH? One may wonder why anyone would change his school of thought particularly to one so mercilessly and brutally attacked daily by the Zionist-controlled news media in the West in general and the U.S. in particular. One may also wonder what method I employed to attract these intelligent brethren to my creed. But to answer the first query, let me say that the review of the events of Islam's early history contributed the lion's share to the decision these brethren made to embrace the Shi'a School of Thought. This School derives its teachings from those who were the closest to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), that is, his own flesh and blood, those who were blessed with an intellectual calibre and spiritual might greatly resembling his, those whose asceticism and renunciation of the temptations of this world were modelled after those of his, 41

peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his progeny and companions. Those converts realized that you cannot be a Shi'a if you have no interest in what happened during the life, at the time of the demise, and after the demise, of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). You cannot be a Shi'a if you are close-minded, or if you get tired of seeking knowledge and spirituality. You cannot be a Shi'a if you do not have enough patience and love for your Sunni brethren who antagonize you, and for all beings, human and non-human, on our planet and elsewhere. Our converts switched to our Shi'a School of Muslim Law only after getting to know how certain Muslims went against the very will and instructions of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) with regards to the issue of who should succeed him as the number one leader of the Muslim ummah. They converted after coming to know about the very small number of Muslims who were around the death-bed of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) while those who were hungry for power and authority were at Saqeefat Banu Sa'da pulling each other's beard fighting for power and vying to succeed him. They became Shi'as after coming to realize that they were given neither a true nor a complete picture of how politics played havoc with the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and how certain rulers in the early Islamic history paid "traditionists" to fabricate and manufacture custom-designed hadith in order to mislead the Muslim masses and justify the atrocities they committed in the name of Islam against non-Muslims as well as non-Arab Muslims. They persecuted those who knew Islam best, claiming to be following and enforcing the Sunnah of His Messenger (pbuh) while in fact they were distorting it and sowing the seeds of antagonism towards Islam in the hearts of adherents of other creeds. One government after another turned Islam, which is the religion of peace and harmony with all beings, into a religion of blood-shed, destruction, injustice, and slavery. Racism and iniquity were encouraged and justified by fabricated ahadith which neither the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had uttered nor those alleged muhaddithun (traditionists) had in fact recorded. Yet not many scholars, for whatever reason, are even willing to take the "risk" to research this tradition or that for fear of discrediting this ruler or that, thus undermining the very foundations upon which their concept of Islam's form of government is based. What method did I employ to attract Sunnis to our Shi'a faith? And what did I do to prepare the new converts to go ahead and convert others? The answers to these questions are the "secrets of the trade" which were given to the same converts who accepted our creed, and they have been employing them ever since. Only Allah knows how many non-Muslims or Sunnis have so far converted to Shi'a Islam through their tabligh efforts. Each and every one of them, I had to make sure, turned into a da'iyah as soon as he accepted to follow into the footsteps of Ahl al-Bayt (as) who are praised in 33:33 of the Holy Qur'an like nobody else. Shi'a Islam is not for everybody, I told them. The quality of our converts is much, much more important than their quantity; numbers do not impress the Almighty; the innermost of the heart and the soul does. I do not 42

think that they will ever forget that. "GIVE ME A NEW NAME, BROTHER!" It is customary for non-Muslims to change their names to Muslim ones when they embrace Islam for the first time, but these brothers were already Muslims when they accepted the Shi'a School of Muslim Law. Yet they felt that they acquired a new identity, and a new identity called for a new name. Neither Br. Tariq Abdel-Salam nor Br. Abdel-Qahhar, however, changed his name after becoming Shi'a, but other brothers did. Br. Mahdi Abdel-Rahim became the third person to join our small but growing community. First I used to give him lessons in Arabic, then those lessons turned into debates and researches. When he accepted Shi'a Islam, he asked me to choose a name for him, one that reflected his Ja'feri Ithna-Asheri faith, and I chose "Mahdi" so that he would remember our Twelfth Imam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the Awaited One, the Savior of mankind. And he was very happy about it. After my departure from Atlanta, as I heard later, he moved to Massachusetts, whereas Br. Abdel-Qahhar moved to Texas. Then came one young brother whose wits and sense of humor everyone enjoyed, and who was the youngest in our group. He was brilliant and highly intellectual. Upon accepting the Shi'a School of Muslim Law, he, too, asked me to choose a new name for him. I told him I would after he read a few biography books and he, himself, would most likely choose a name for himself. I handed him some books dealing with biographies of some of the Fourteen Infallible Ones (as), and he was very excited. A few weeks passed and he came to me with a big smile on his face. "Now, Brother Yasin, I have come to choose my name; please from now on call me Baqir!" "Yes, Brother Baqir, I will, Insha-Allah, start calling you Baqir Abdel-Haleem." His name was officially and legally changed to Baqir Abdel-Haleem. His wife, Sr. Maleeka, preferred to keep her old name as she, too, embraced the faith. When their first daughter was born, Baqir again came to me and said, "Last time, Brother Yasin, you did not choose a name for me; I did. This time, please choose a name for my daughter," and I chose for her the name "Zahra." DEALING WITH CONVERTS Needless to say, winning converts does not mean the end of a missionary's work; rather, it means the beginning of a new and equally important stage in his tabligh efforts. One can easily lose supporters if he does not look after them and be mindful of and sensitive about their needs and aspirations, problems and challenges. I kept company with our new converts, ate with them, went to places with them, and visited them quite often. I talked to them constantly, and when they needed a suggestion or an advice, I tried my best to offer it to them. When they needed financial help, I offered them whatever little funds I had and made them realize that no matter 43

what, we, Muslims, have to show concern about whatever befalls anyone among us. I remember how one of them was once in an imminent danger of going to jail if he did not pay a fine to the police (because of a host of traffic violations) totalling more than sixty dollars. That amount during those days was huge to him, and it was huge to me, but Alhamdu-Lillah I managed to get it to him, and I was with him when he went to court. He was, after all, my brother, and he will always remain so. I noticed that the most urgent need felt by those brethren was not financial as much as it was psychological. They lacked direction and self-confidence. And they did not utilize their innermost energies because they were not aware of them. I had to help them get to know themselves, just as I did with others after getting to know my own. And I had to make my own set of statements which I used to quite often repeat to them, just as I used to do to my students before preparing them for an examination in the hope that the largest number of them would pass it. Those statements may be summarized as follows: Anyone who is ashamed of who he is, or who his nation is, or which ethnic group he belongs to, is not worthy of respect at all. He is already dead and is not worthy of enjoying the Almighty's bounties. Only the Almighty knows who among us is better than who. If one doubts His justice, he then deserves neither His blessings nor mercy. Like an impartial father, the Almighty is just and fair and does not favor anyone of His servants over another except when he/she exerts a real effort to please Him and be worthy of an increase in His blessings. Never think of yourself as being less important, or more so, than anyone else. You may be deficient in one area, but certainly you must be superior in another; so, try to identify your points of weakness and those of strength, work and improve, or at least hide, the first while enhancing the other. Start from your own self. As Aristotle had in ancient times said, selfknowledge is the root of all knowledge; so, "Know thyself!" Get to know what you can do and what you cannot; love yourself so that you may be able to love others and so that others may get to love you; trust yourself so that you may be able to trust others and others may get to trust you; improve yourself so that you may be able to improve others. Above all, define your role on this planet, in this life, during this time and at this place of His spacious and endless cosmos. The Almighty has a plan for everything He does, for everyone and everything He creates. He did not create you in this part of the world, or in this time and age, except for a reason, a purpose, and a wisdom which He, and only He, knows; so, thank Him for all of that by making the most of what He has bestowed upon you, and do not covet what others have. Rest assured that the Almighty is ever watching over you, that He cares about you, and that He is pleased when you do something good and is offended when you hurt your own self by your own wrongdoing. Everything we have comes from Him; it is His, while we have only one 44

single thing which we quite often abuse, and that is "free will." We are created free to make our way in this life, to opt between doing what is right or wrong, between following our hearts or minds. Your freedom of will can either bring you happiness or perdition; it can make you prosperous or indigent, and it can work for you just as it can against you; so, see how you fare with it. Nobody in this world knows you better than your Maker, then your own self; so, try to be honest with yourself. Beware of the insinuations of the devil within you that eats as you eat and drinks as you drink and goes with you wherever you go. Your own self, your nafs, is your very worst enemy. An enemy within is surely more dangerous than one without. Likewise, the Almighty has showed you the path to happiness and bliss, to everlasting felicity and salvation, and He has left it to you to tread upon it and to be worthy of His rewards, but you have to take the first step...; rest assured He does not do it for you... HOW CONVICTION CAME How did these brethren become convinced that the Shi'a School of Muslim Law deserved their following, that it is pristine Islam, and that following it would give them a better chance for salvation? Several points impressed these intelligent, inquisitive, and, above-all, open-minded brethren which may be summarized as follows: The Issue of Succession These brethren had been told that Abu Bakr, Omar ibn al-Khattab, and Othman ibn Affan, the first successors to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), may Allah be pleased with them, were "democratically" and properly elected by the Muslim masses following the death of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh). They came to know, however, that that was not the whole truth; rather, the following relevant facts became evident to them: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had already appointed a successor to him who was chosen by the Almighty, not by himself, to be the khalifa, caliph, of the Muslim ummah. Verse 67 of Surat al-Maaida was revealed in the tenth Hijri year, immediately after Hijjatul-Wadaa, the Farewell Pilgrimage of the holy Prophet (pbuh); it reads: O Prophet! Deliver what has just been revealed to you from your Lord, and if you do not do it, then you have not delivered His message (at all), and Allah will protect you from the people; surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people. By the time this verse was revealed, the holy Prophet (pbuh) had already taught the Muslims the tenets of their faith, and even went beyond that to establish the first Islamic government, with all its economic, social, political, and judiciary systems, and Islam was by then practiced as 45

a way of life..., so why did the Almighty order His Messenger (pbuh) in such a tone which was almost threatening and tell him that if he did not convey the latest instruction he had received, he would be regarded as though he did not convey the Islamic message at all? And what was that new instruction? It was nothing other than the nomination of a man chosen by the Almighty to succeed him (pbuh) as the master of all Muslim men and women. On the very same day when that verse was revealed, and without any undue delay, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) halted the march of those who were accompanying him on his way back from Mecca to Medina after having performed his very last pilgrimage (Hijjatul-Wadaa), ordering those who had lagged behind him to catch up, and those who had been walking ahead to come back, and the site was a swamp known as Ghadeer Khumm. A make-shift pulpit was set up for him, and he (pbuh) delivered his famous sermon, the last one he delivered and the details of which are very well recorded in books of seerah, after which he raised the hand of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) and uttered the following before the huge crowd: Whoever has accepted me as his master (mawla), this Ali is (henceforth) his master; O Allah! Be the friend of anyone who befriends him, and be the enemy of anyone who antagonizes him! The crowd stood in a long line, the men first then the women, and one by one swore the oath of allegiance to their new ruler. Ironically, the first man to stretch his hand to congratulate him (as) was none other than Omar ibn al-Khattab. His congratulatory statement, as preserved in numerous books of history, included the following words which we would like to quote here verbatim for you: Bakhin bakhin laka abal Hassan! Qad asbahta mawlana wa mawla kulli Muslimin wa Muslimah! (Congratulations, congratulations to you, O Father of al-Hassan! You have become our master and the master of every Muslim man and woman). When the Prophet (pbuh) secured the oath of allegiance from those present there and then, including the most prominent among his sahaba, the Almighty congratulated the Muslim Ummah for doing so, saying, as verse 3 of Surat al-Maaida reads: This day have I perfected your religion for you, and completed My favor on you, and chosen Islam as your religion. This verse is the very last verse of the Holy Qur'an according to the order of its revelation, just as verse 1 of Surat al-Alaq (Chapter 96) is its very first. The tragic fact that some of those 46

sahaba reneged in their promise and oath to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and that some of them went as far as shedding the blood of one another, indicates that there were sharp differences of opinion among them which they could not reconcile, that many of them were simply power hungry, and that Muslims ought to distinguish the good ones among them from the bad. A most informative and detailed narrative of this incident is provided by a great Sunni historian, namely Imam Hakim who records it in Volume 3 of his renown work Mustadrak alSahihayn. As a matter of fact, the number of Sunnis who recorded this incident is much greater than the number of those who did likewise among the ealiest Shi'as in Islamic history. Among reliable Sunni historians and biographers who have reported it are the following: al-Tabrani (who relies on the authority of Zaid ibn al-Arqam), al-Hakim in his Mustadrak, as indicated above, who provides an extensive list of his sources containing names of some of the most highly respected and reliable sahaba, companions, of the holy Prophet (pbuh) who accompanied the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) during that pilgrimage, al-Thahbi, Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal who records it on p. 372, Vol. 4, of his Musnad (by the way, he is the founder of the Hanbali sect, one of the four major Sunni sects, the other three being: the Hanafi, the Maliki, and the Shafi'i; all four of these Sunni Imams were students of our Imam Abu Abdullah Ja'fer al-Sadiq, peace be upon him; Shi'as who follow Imam al-Sadiq's fiqh are called Ja'feris or Ithna-Asheris, Twelvers, believers in the 12 Infallible Imams, peace be upon them), al-Thahbi in his Talkhees, al-Nisaai who details it on p. 21 of his work Al-Khasais al-Alawiyya, and the renown traditionist Muslim who records it on page 325 of Vol. 2 of the original Arabic text of his Sahih, although he chops its text off. Al-Bukhari, due to his prejudice against the progeny of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), does not go into detail in narrating this historic event, and it is because of such prejudice that he has been made the most famous traditionist to English-speaking readers. The famous book Al-Muraja'at, which is translated into English under the title The Right Path and which I have personally translated, and which I am presently editing to follow in it the commonly recognized transliteration rules for Arabic names, under the title Al-Muraja'at: A Sunni-Shi'a Dialogue (write me if you want to procure a copy of it), discusses this and many other relevant incidents and issues. It also lists one hundred renown Shi'a muhaddithun, traditionists, relied upon by Sunni scholars and verifiers of hadith. If you are seriously considering accepting the Shi'a Ja'feri Ithna-Asheri School of Muslim Law, this book is a must for you and for all openminded Sunnis who sincerely desire to bridge the gap between Sunnis and Shi'as by fostering respect among them for each other's views and fiqh. Due to the tremendous historic significance of the event Ghadeer Khum, an 11-volume encyclopedia titled Al-Ghadeer was compiled in Arabic by al-Amini. It deals with this event in thorough detail, and our library is very proud to have a copy of it. The author of Al-Muraja'at 47

used it as his primary source. It contains names of thousands of sahaba and tabi'een, as well as poets among them, who either witnessed the swearing of allegiance to Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) or who personally knew those who did. It contains hundreds of poems composed in honor of it, including one by Hassan ibn Thabit, poet of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Remember that he, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his progeny and companions, used to have two poets whose poetry defended Islam and helped promote it, and they were al-Khansaa, the famous poetess, and Hassan ibn Thabit. Al-Khansaa had by then died, but Hassan was still alive, and he was lucky enough to perform the pilgrimage in the company of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and take the oath of allegiance to his successor. I personally think it is the most beautiful poem ever written on that auspicious occasion, one which no other poet in the history of the Arab nation can ever match it or even come close. I can safely say so simply because not only am I an Arab who knows his mother tongue very well (how else can I translate it into English?!), but also because I have studied Arabic poetry and its critique and even made attempts to compose it during my high school years. Yet the questions that force themselves here are: Why did Omar ibn al-Khattab violate his oath and suggest Abu Bakr to succeed the Prophet (pbuh) instead? Did he forget? Did he not know that the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) simply conveyed the divine order he received from his Lord? How many days did the Prophet (pbuh) live after that historic ceremony to which historians refer as Yawm Ghadeer Khumm, or did he pretend to have forgotten? Why did the socalled "election" of the khalifa take place at Saqeefat (shed of) Banu Sa'da instead of the Prophet's Mosque where more Muslims could have participated in it? Did those who participated in that so-called "election" represent all the Muslims of the world at that time, or at least most of them, or were those present simply power grabbers? Were Muslims outside the saqeefa given the chance at all to elect the successor to their Prophet (pbuh), or were they deprived of having a say about it? The very fact that Saqeefat Banu Sa'da was chosen for that "election" proves that the intentions of those who went there were not pure. That place used to be a hide-out for highway robbers and thieves, as well as for those who wished to commit adultery or even murder under the cover of the dark. It was simply a place of ill repute located in the outskirts of Medina on the Mecca-Medina caravan route. All political decisions, important meetings, and public announcements were made at the Prophet's Mosque, not at that haven of crooks and criminals. The last question in this regard is: "If those who attended that `election' cared about Islam and about the Prophet of Islam (pbuh), why couldn't they wait till his burial was over before calling upon the Muslims throughout the Islamic world, which extended then from Mecca to Yemen, to send their dignitaries to Medina in order to participate in it...?" Surely those who accept what they are 48

told without investigating it are duped simpletons... Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi raji'oon. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tabari, Abul-Fida, Ibn al-Athir, and Ibn Khaldoun, who all are very highly respected Sunni historians and biographers, and many others of their calibre, have narrated the events, hour by hour, from the time when the Prophet (pbuh) was breathing his last till the inauguration of Abu Bakr as the first successor to the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Books such as Madarij al-Nubuwwah, Tarikh al-Khamis, Rawzat al-Ahbab, Rawdat al-Safa, Al-Seerah alHalabiyya, as well as many other reliable books of seera, may be reviewed to see how the Prophet (pbuh) was prohibited by the second caliph from recording something for the Muslim Ummah that would be of benefit for it till the end of time. He (pbuh) said, according to Rawdat al-Ahbab, Rawdat al-Safa, Madarij al-Nubuwwah and to the history books of both Ibn Khaldoun and Abul Fida, "Bring me paper and ink so that I may record for you a document that will prevent you from ever backsliding into error." The reaction of Omar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph, was, according to these and other references, verbatim in Arabic: "Daooh...; innal rajula yahjur," that is, "Leave him..., the man is hallucinating." It was then that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, "Be gone, and leave me alone, for my present condition [of ill health] is better for me than the name you are calling me." How can any messenger of Allah hallucinate, much less their master, leader, the last and the most honored among them? Prophets of Allah are protected by Him against uttering nonsense, and they are infallible from the moment of their birth till the moment of their death..., but some of our Sunni brethren hold a different view... Readers and researchers may also verify the following: It was shortly after midday on the 28th of Safar (or the 12th of Rabi' al-Awwal according to other narrators) that the Prophet (pbuh) breathed his last. It is unanimously agreed upon that his death took place on a Monday. Only a handful of the Prophet's nearest relatives, a dozen according to the best account, were present around him (pbuh) when he died. It was Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) who washed his body, performed the janaza prayers, and laid him to rest in his grave, assisted by the same dozen or so who were mostly from Banu Hashim, the Prophet's clan. Towards the afternoon, a friend of both Abu Bakr and Omar named Abu Obaidah came hastily to the mosque (where the Prophet's corpse lay in state) to inform them that many chiefs of Medina had assembled at Saqeefat Banu Sa'da and were proceeding to elect Sa'd ibn Obadah as their supreme leader, their caliph, adding, "If you have any desire to secure authority for your own selves, you should not waste one minute to get there before the matter is settled and opposition to it becomes dangerous." Receiving this news, both Abu Bakr and Omar rushed to the Saqeefa accompanied by their informer, forgetting all about the burial of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) whose corpse stood before their eyes... 49

Can You Really Call That Election? Instead of burying their Prophet (pbuh), some power-hungry sahaba preferred to go to Saqeefat Banu Sa'da to participate in the issue of succession, i.e. khilafa, caliphate (Islam's form of government), to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and usurp it from its rightful owner. The crowd was constituted mostly of the Ansar and Muhajirun. Each member of these parties considered himself more worthy of being the caliph than anyone else. The Muhajirun of Mecca argued that they were more worthy of ruling the Muslims due to being the first to accept Islam and sacrifice for it a great deal and even leave their homes and families behind to be with the Prophet (pbuh) when he needed them most. The Ansar of Medina argued that they had as much right to the caliphate as any other group of Muslims due to receiving the Prophet (pbuh) after his migration from Mecca where his life and the lives of those who believed in him were at stake, that they protected him and his supporters during the time of adversity, and that they strengthened him against his powerful enemies. They even threatened to seek revenge on anyone who would dare to exclude them from caliphate. In order to refute the claim of the Ansar, Abu Bakr argued that Quraish did not deny the valuable services rendered by the Ansar to the defense and promotion of Islam, yet despite all their merits, he added, they should not regard themselves entitled to monopolize authority over Quraish. The Ansar then said that they would be satisfied if one caliph from each of the two parties (the Ansar and the Muhajirun) was selected to exercise authority jointly, as Ibn Qutaibah narrates, and they even nominated Sa'd ibn Obadah, their leader, to be their man. But Abu Bakr and his party would by no means approve of such a proposal, and they persisted in their stand that the government must remain in the hands of Quraish while the Ansar should be its ministers. But that did not appeal to the majority of the Ansar who almost drew their swords, and it would have gotten out of hand had Abu Bakr not intervened again and reminded them of the statement of the Prophet (pbuh) in which he said, "None was apt to exercise authority over Quraish other than a Quraishi." Bashir ibn Sa'd, one of the Ansar who shared the views of the Muhajirun, immediately endorsed the view held by the Muhajirun, thus encouraging Abu Bakr to resolutely exclaim that Quraish would not accept anyone except a Quraishi to rule over them. Stepping forward, he singled out Omar ibn al-Khattab and Abu Obaidah and gave the Ansar the option to choose either of them as the new caliph. Now the Ansar started saying that they would prefer to pay homage to Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) who was the best of Quraish. At this point, Omar impatiently cried out, "Stretch forth your hand, O Abu Bakr, for surely I will swear allegiance to you!" Abu Bakr replied, "You are stronger than me for it," and again he repeated his statement so that everyone would hear it. Omar then seized the hand of Abu Bakr and said, "You are better fit for it than I am, and surely you have my strength to add to yours, and my merits to yours...; therefore, I swear allegiance to you." Thus, Omar declared in a loud voice that he recognized Abu Bakr as the supreme leader and took the 50

oath of fealty for him from those present there and then. Now tell me, dear reader, if you can call this an "election" representing the views of the majority of the Muslims there and then...! Omar recommended Abu Bakr for the caliphate because he knew he would be the one to inherit it from him... It is a power play very skillfully played. DID IMAM ALI (AS) ENDORSE WHAT HAPPENED AT SAQEEFAT BANU SA'DA? Of course he did not. Neither he nor any of his supporters, his Shi'as, the earliest Shi'as in the history of Islam, were even present at that place of ill fame. They had a more important task to tend to: the burial of their Prophet (pbuh). They were still grief-stricken. They never went to places around which suspicion hovered. By the time the burial of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was over, the curtain had been pulled down over the final act of the power play narrated above. Abu Bakr had already been sworn as the new caliph of the Muslims. To go against the decision of the majority of Muslims would not only be foolish, it would be suicidal, and it would cause the Muslims to kill one another, something in which they would not for any reason be involved. Had it been contrariwise, those who opposed the new creed would have become united to deal a death blow to all those who believed in the new Message. These included the hypocrites, the infidels, the pagans, and even the Christians of their time who saw in the rise of Islam the decline of Christianity... The Jews of Medina had by then kicked out of Khayber in disgrace following their defeat in the last battle they waged against the Muslims and the Prophet of Islam (pbuh). Can People Appoint Successors to Prophets? Prophets and their successors are appointed by the Almighty, not by people. Since all the Messengers of God, peace be upon them, were chosen by the Almighty, did human beings ever choose their successors? Can anyone narrate a single incident wherein a successor to any prophet was chosen by people? Since the answers to these questions are negative, what gave those sahaba the right to "elect" one of them instead of the one already nominated for it, namely Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) who did for Islam and its message more than what all other sahaba had done put together? Surely Shi'as do not have any feeling of animosity towards those sahaba; on the contrary, they respect them a great deal, and they give them credit for all the contributions they made to Islam. But the issue of who should succeed the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is much greater than anyone of those sahaba; it simply is a matter tantamount to the life and death of the Muslim Ummah. 51

The Sunnah The Islamic legislative system derives its injunctions from two sources: the Book of Allah (the Holy Qur'an) and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), that is, the statements (ahadith) made by the Prophet (pbuh) and his actions as well as those endorsed by him (pbuh). This Sunnah, from the Shi'a viewpoint, has been distorted by those who in one way or another ruled the Muslims of the world and permitted themselves to alter the Sunnah to fit their own whims and desires. In particular, the Omayyads made so many changes to this Sunnah that Muslims almost reverted to the pre-Islamic period of jahiliyya, the days of ignorance. Because the Omayyads spent a great deal of their resources distorting the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), Shi'as are extremely careful whenever they study hadith to decide whether they should accept this hadith or that. Because of their refusal to blindly accept many ahadith simply because Sunnis believe in them, Shi'as have been unfairly accused by some ignorant folks of neither accepting nor following the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). If you read a book and happen to disagree with some of its contents, you will not be regarded as holding views opposite to those recorded in it. Yes, you will then be opposing some of its contents, not all of them. What can be said about the Omayyads can also, to a certain extent, be said about the Abbasides. Persecution of the Family of the Prophet (pbuh) When these converts came to know about all the atrocities inflicted upon the immediate family of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh), they had second thoughts about what they were told. The barbaric way in which the younger grandson of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), namely Imam Hussain ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib, peace be upon them, was butchered, how he and his small band of supporters were deprived from water, how his seven-month old son Abdullah was shot with an arrow while crying because of thirst, how Hussain's head was severed from his body, put atop a spear and paraded the whole distance from Kerbala, Iraq, to Damascus, Syria, then thrown before the "khalifa" Yazid ibn Mu'awiya ibn Abu Sufyan as a trophy..., all these events forced these converts to wonder how civilized those rulers were, and how stone-hearted. How can anyone, be he Muslim or non-Muslim, justify such barbarism, and why did they bear so much animosity towards the immediate family of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh)? Their search for answers led them to know what others would prefer to be forgotten if not even justified... The tragedy of Kerbala, where those horrible events referred to above took place, served as an eyeopener to those converts who were told that Islam is the religion of peace and love, not of hatred or barbarism. When they came to know about the practice of slavery by various Sunni governments, up to the Ottoman Sultanate (and its Mamluke slaves) and the ruling clan of Al Saud only a few years ago (where Ibn Saud, founder of the Saudi ruling dynasty, kept as many as six hundred slave women at his palace at Nasiriyya, a suburb of Riyadh, a magnificent palace which 52

I photogarphed in 1972), they wondered what happened to Islam and its insistence that all men are created equal and are born free... The Prophet's Progeny in the Holy Qur'an Verse 33 of Chapter 33 of the Holy Qur'an is not the only one which refers to the status enjoyed in the sight of Allah by the Prophet's progeny, that is, his Ahl al-Bayt, members of his household. The followers of Ahl al-Bayt, i.e. Shi'as, have always been mercilessly butchered, persecuted, beheaded, jailed, banished, buried or walled-in alive..., and this was something which made those converts more curious, more inquisitive, about the reasons behind such injustice. They also researched how the Almighty regards the family of His Prophet (pbuh), who the members of that family were, and why should anyone, not necessarily a Muslim, antagonize those purified Ahl al-Bayt and their Shi'as in such a way. I had to prove to them from both the authentic Sunnah and the text of the Holy Qur'an that the status, knowledge, asceticism, practice of Islam, and sublime ethical codes of Ahl al-Bayt were all much, much higher than those of all other Muslims of their time or any time. I had to prove to them that there are numerous Qur'anic verses which glorify and praise these Ahl al-Bayt in the most beautiful way, and that asides from 33:33, the following numbers of chapters and verses (the first number is the number of the chapter followed by the number of verse) of the Holy Qur'an refer to these sages: 42:23, 3:61, 3:103, 9:119, 6:153, 4:59, 21:7, 4:115, 13:7, 4:69, 5:55, 20:82, 33:72, 2:208, 102:8, 5:67, 5:3, 70:1-2, 37:24, 43:45, 7:172, 2:37, 4:54, 3:7, 7:48, 33:23, 24:36-37, 30:27, 56:10-11, 4:69, 7:181, 69:20, 38:29, 46:21, 98:7, 22:19, 32:18-20, 9:19, 2:207, 9:111-112, 2:274, 39:33, 26:214, 8:75, 33:6, 52:21, 17:26, 8:41, 59:7, 37:130, 33:56, 35:32... Of course, nobody can sift the deep meaning of any of these verses without a good book on exegesis, tafsir, one written by a scholar whose heart is not sick with prejudice. Sunni brethren who demand proofs supporting the arguments raised here are more than welcome to write me, and I will Insha-Allah oblige after getting to know that they are true seekers of knowledge, and that their objective is not to drain our resources or waste our time.

53

THE PROBLEM-SOLVING HERMIT Living on an almost empty stomach is a basic requirement for spirituality, and spiritual I remained as long as those "hungry years" lasted. Once I could afford to eat enough, I gradually lost that spirituality. More blood went to my stomach to digest the food than to my brain. Whoever reads these words ought not to forget them. During those "hungry years," due to my very simple life, and my fondness of reading and contemplating, I was granted by the Almighty a good deal of wisdom, so much so that Muslims as well as non-Muslims sought my solutions for their problems. For example, a married Christian couple visited me once. They were waiting inside their car when I ascended the stairs to my apartment. I had never met them before, but someone suggested that they should seek my suggestions regarding the problems that threatened their marriage. I asked the wife to speak first, then I asked her husband to comment. After examining their statements carefully, Allah helped me suggest a solution for their problems, and they thanked me for that many more times than I can remember. I told them I did not deserve their expressions of appreciation, that they should thank the Lord Who brought us together and helped us seek and find solutions for our problems. And a Jordanian who had raped a stewardess then married her proved to be a much bigger challenge for me, but I nevertheless offered him the best suggestions I could think of. He had left his wife in Jordan, and since the day he reached the U.S., he kept worrying about the possibility of her cheating on him. These are only two examples of how strangers sought my solutions for their problems. Yes, I became known as the problem-solving hermit, but now I feel that I have lost the wisdom whereby the Almighty once blessed me. No longer can I solve my own problems, let alone those of others... WORKING ALL NIGHT LONG Having to study while making a living did not leave me any spare time to relax. Islamic Affairs was becoming increasingly popular, and I could not afford the luxury to relax and "take it easy." It came to my knowledge that the African-American community members affiliated with the Islamic Center of Atlanta or with the MSA, and who were on our mailing list (which had to be computerized due to its length), were secretly passing it on to one another. They were apprehensive of being "discovered" by Nazir Warsi or Iqbal Unus. I came to the point that no matter what, we had to continue its publication and circulation. There were times when my schedule was extremely busy; therefore, many were the nights which I had to spend folding, stapling, sorting and preparing the copies of Islamic Affairs to be mailed out. During those nights, all the memories of the "good old days" when I used to deliver Friday sermons at the Canterbury House kept coming back to me, fueling my enthusiasm, keeping the fire of zeal burning, providing me with the strength and energy which I badly needed especially after working sometimes many long hours doing menial jobs and earning very little. Tip days were gone. I also used to pray the Almighty silently to accept this effort which we were exerting solely for the sake of achieving 54

His Pleasure. No act of worship, or any good deed whatsoever, of anyone can ever be accepted if it is not solely for His sake, and His alone. I did not mind staying all night long. As a matter of fact, almost two decades after that (1974-1993), I still sometimes do so, staying awake all night long editing, typesetting, researching, or translating. And it gives me a great deal of pleasure to do so. I wish and pray the Almighty to enable me to keep doing so till the last day of my life. CIRCULATION OF SHI'A LITERATURE Another very significant activity undertaken by the Society was the distribution of literature received from other sister organizations worldwide, especially from Iran and East Africa. From Iran, A Group of Muslim Brothers, which is now called the World Organization for Islamic Services (WOFIS), used to frequently send us large numbers of books and pamphlets to distribute throughout the U.S. One shipment carried the largest number ever received from one Muslim organization: 7,500 items. Eastern Airlines had to send one of its trailers to deliver that air freight shipment. It took us no more than three months to circulate them to those who requested them as well as to other Shi'a and non-Shi'a organizations in the U.S. and overseas. U.S. Customs officials twice held two large shipments of large size bound books, mostly copies of Nahjul Balaghah (compilation of sermons and epistles of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, peace be upon him) before releasing them after verifying the fact that they were sent not for sale but for free distribution. From East Africa, Shi'a literature came from Bilal Muslim Missions of Tanzania and Kenya. Indian and Pakistani Shi'as, too, mailed several thousand copies of books and pamphlets. By July 1977, as many as 55,770 copies of books, booklets, and copies of Islamic Affairs had been mailed out. Recipients of our literature were mostly Afro-Americans who could not afford to buy Islamic literature and therefore appreciated receiving it free of charge. Several libraries of American colleges and universities requested it, too, and there was even a letter from the Library of Congress requesting the same. A THREAT ON MY LIFE Our Society acquired a reputation of being self-sustaining, independent of any political group or government. All issues of its organ Islamic Affairs were impressive in their contents as well as format and production. In short, it gave a good impression. Lured by this impression, one particular Afro-American Muslim who had just been released from jail was brought to my apartment one day by another brother. After a few minutes of talking to me, he asked me for $65.00 without specifying for what purpose he needed it or why he thought we should give it to him. I explained to him that all our funds are collected from donors who voluntarily contributed for the publication and free distribution of Islamic Affairs, that unfortunately we were not receiving zakat funds from which he most certainly was eligible to receive a share, and that we had no funds for any members outside our small group which did, by the way, contain some 55

indigent Muslims. But the newly released ex-convict became very angry and, as I was escorting him to the door, turned to me and said, "I am afraid you yourself may end up paying for this... with your own life." That was a threat alright, but I brushed it aside and did not comment. A few days later, one young Muslim brother came to my apartment. He was Habibullah. I and he were good friends besides being brethren in Islam. He adopted Sunni Islam after forsaking the Elijah's teachings, and I regarded him as a prospect who might one day embrace our faith. Even if he did not, I cherished his friendship as I cherish the friendship of many of my Sunni brethren. Anyway, Habibullah sat at the kitchen table and said to me that I better take that brother's threat seriously, that that "brother" was not bluffing and was armed, and that he was the type of person who would not hesitate to kill. Knowing Habibullah and his discretion, I decided to do something about that threat. The next day I called the homicide section at Fulton County's Police Department and scheduled an appointment to register a threat on my life. To be on the safe side, they took, on the phone, basic information about the threat "for the record" in case something happened from then till my appointment. I was able to make it to that appointment and a detailed report was filed with the police. The police swiftly and efficiently acted to avoid a new sectarian strife in a city already riddled by strife. Plainclothes police went to the address of the tiny community with which that ex-convict was staying and conducted a thorough investigation. As soon as the man who threatened me came to know about the presence of the police, he left that community, or he might have been asked to leave, and went to Canada. OUR FRIDAY SERVICES Friday congregational prayers were held at my apartment which became the official address of the Society only a few months after its establishment. Its first address was a post office box belonging to Muhammad Zafar Mahdi, one of its founders. Sometimes I would lead the prayers, and other times Muhammad Zafar Mahdi would. No Eid prayer services, however, were conducted simply because we preferred to pray with other Muslims of the city and thus demonstrate our solidarity and brotherhood. THE NEED FOR AN 'ALIM The number of those who came to embrace Shi'a Islam increased, and they were scattered throughout the U.S. We could not answer all their theological questions, and the need emerged to invite a learned scholar for this purpose. In cooperation with other Shi'as in Texas and New York, letters were sent to his late Holiness Ayatullah al-Uzma Abul-Qasim al-Khoei requesting him to send an 'alim, a trained theologian, to the U.S. to provide religious guidance for the Shi'a faithful. Shaikh Muhammad Sarwar, of Quetta, a small town on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and a man who had been receiving religious education at Najaf, Iraq, was chosen to go to the U.S. 56

The Shaikh applied for an entry visa to the U.S. as a religious scholar solely to provide spiritual guidance for the Muslims in America, but his application was turned down by the American embassies in Baghdad, Tehran, Bonn, London and Beirut. He remained in Beirut in late 1975 and early 1976 and narrowly escaped an attempt to kidnap him and hold him as a hostage for political ransom. I started corresponding with him from the time when he was in London till he fled Beirut. When he was in Beirut, he received a package I sent him which proved to be quite valuable. It contained a sponsorship letter which I signed detailing how his living expenses in the U.S. would be met, in addition to copies of Islamic Affairs and photo-copies of the Society's official certificate of incorporation as well as bylaws. When the Shaikh fled Beirut, seeking refuge in nearby Damascus, he took the package with him. Once more he submitted his credentials, including the items I had sent him together with bank statements reflecting funds put by the Supreme Ayatullah at his disposal, to the American Embassy in Damascus, Syria. SHAIKH MUHAMMAD SARWAR ARRIVES IN THE U.S., BECOMES MY ROOMMATE Shaikh Muhammad Sarwar was finally granted an entry visa to the U.S. which he reached on January 25, 1976. Never before had a representative from the highest religious authority in the Shi'a world been officially sent to North America to represent His Holiness the Ayatullah alUzma, the spiritual leader of more than two hundred million Shi'as of the world... This is why we believe that the twenty-fifth of January of the year 1976 marked a milestone in the history not only of Shi'a Islam, but of the U.S. as a nation. The Shaikh soon proved to be a perfect candidate for his position when he started conversing with his Muslim audience in English, Arabic, Pashto (his mother tongue), Farsi, and Urdu. To his non-Muslim audience, the young Shaikh spoke English and French and wrote books in both languages. Having met with Shi'as in New York and Texas for ten days, Shaikh Muhammad Sarwar finally became my roommate in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 5, 1976, and he stayed with me as my roommate for about four months during which he and I worked on the first two issues of his magazine The Message of Islam. Only four issues of this magazine were published. Issues three and four were published in New York after the Shaikh was persuaded to move there due to the large number of Shi'as in New York. It was at my apartment that I gave him his first lessons in typesetting, using the now outdated IBM Composer which the Shaikh first used as a typewriter. The IBM company did not fulfill its promise to send our Society someone to train me on the use of that machine because the area where I was living was considered the highest risk area in the whole city. I was then paying $97.50 per month in addition to the utilities for a two-bedroom apartment (which was increased to $102.50 by the time I moved out of it in 1979). That was all I could afford to pay with the help of one roommate or two. I had once two roommates one of whom slept in the large 57

living room. But I did not charge the shaikh any rent; that would have been very disrespectful to his status and to the status of the great sage who sent him. And I really enjoyed his company. Despite his status and calibre, he had a sense of humor..., and he was a good cook. In later years, after his departure from my apartment, he bought an expensive multilingual A.M. photo-typesetting machine. The Shaikh also had a chance to improve his English and translate some Arabic articles for his magazine. He also told me about his project to translate the risala of his boss and also the Holy Qur'an into English in a new method which nobody else had employed before. His translation of the Holy Qur'an has been in circulation since 1979 (I had to ask its publisher to provide me with this date, since the work itself did not carry one). It was published by Tahrike-Tarsile-Qur'an, Inc. (Distribution of Holy of Qur'an, Inc.) of Elmhurst, New York. The publisher, Br. Aun Ali Khalfan, is one of our Shi'a brethren who had originally come from Dares-Salam, Tanzania. It was Khalfan who persuaded Shaikh Sarwar to leave Atlanta and settle in New York. Volume Two of these Memoirs will Insha-Allah detail the problems the shaikh later on caused to himself and which ended the period of his mission and brought His Eminence Hujjatul-Islam Shaikh Fadil al-Sahlani, an Iraqi, to replace him. Sarwar left the U.S. for his home town Quetta after losing a legal battle against his former boss the story of which is really ugly and depressing, but when you write about history, you cannot exclude the ugly things. SHI'A DIGNITARIES PAID US VISITS Our Society maintained close contacts with other Muslim organizations, Sunni and Shi'a, throughout the U.S. and overseas. The largest volume of mail we received was coming from Africa and the Middle East. Muslims in the Soviet Union contacted us after receiving copies of Islamic Affairs and letters were exchanged between our Society and the Muslims of Tashkent through the Muslim Religious Board for Central Asia and Kazakhistan. We even received a very precious gift from this Board: an Arabic copy of the Holy Qur'an printed in Moscow. The latter's magazine Muslims of the Eastern Soviet Union was mailed to us regularly in three languages: Arabic, English, and French, till we had to advise the Board not to send us the French version since we had no French-speaking members. Shi'a dignitaries paid us visits, and their visits introduced them to the members of our group and helped shed a light on our activities. Among the most prominent guests we received was his late eminence Hujjatul-Islam Sayyid Mahdi al-Hakim son of His Late Holiness Ayatullah alUzma Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim. He was assassinated in Khartoum, the Sudan, by Iraqi "diplomats" working for the bloody government of Saddam Hussein, and he was escorted by his nephew Dr. Khalil al-Tabatabai al-Hakim, Secretary-General of the international Shi'a organization the World Ahl al-Bayt Islamic League. We were also visited by Shaikh Fadlallah al-Haeri, founder of the Zahra Trust of Texas and a very active missionary, and by representa58

tives of the Federation of Khoja Shi'a Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities (presently headquartered in London, England), of Dar Rah-e-Haqq of Qum, Islamic Republic of Iran, and of A Group of Muslim Brothers (now WOFIS). We welcomed a professor of philosophy at Tehran University, and an Iranian graduate student who became the Charge d'Affaires at the Iranian Embassy in London after obtaining his Ph.D. from a university in East Lansing, Michigan. We were also visited by the first Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, namely Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi, and former Iranian Minister of Commerce Agha Reza Sadr. Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi was then living in Houston, Texas, and Br. Reza Sadr was living in New York; both were recipients of Islamic Affairs. Their visits came while our brethren in Iran were struggling against the corrupt regime of the U.S.-backed Shah. Br. Yazdi had covered almost all his teeth with gold. There were some dignitaries who wanted to meet me but whose meeting I neither sought nor welcomed. One of them was an important member of the Agha Khan Isma'ili group in California. Having skillfully avoided meeting him, he got the message that I was not the type of person who would sell or compromise his beliefs for any price or to anyone. The frequent contacts with Iranians and the quoting of literature from books published in Iran misled many people into thinking that I was an Iranian! Little did those people know about the damage the Society had to suffer at the hands of one particular Iranian physician in Atlanta, namely Dr. Ja'fer Tabatabai, whom I was able, after trying for about three years, to involve in our Society's activities. I have referred to him above while referring to the Islamic Society of Atlanta. His skirmishes and disputes with me in front of everyone convinced me that I had made a very grave mistake when I involved him in our Society, and that it was time for me to peacefully withdraw and go somewhere else. BUT WHY THE CONFRONTATION? One may ask, "Why did Dr. Ja'fer Tabatabai confront you? Surely he must have a reason." Yes, he did. He had, in my opinion, not one reason but two: One reason I can think of is his dissatisfaction with my enthusiasm to promote our Shi'a faith. Preach Islam, he said, but do not emphasize your School of Thought. He has a lot of Sunni friends, and he does not want to alienate them. To me, promoting Islam without putting emphasis on any particular school of thought is easier said than done; it simply is too idealistic, impractical, unrealistic. We never attacked the beliefs and convictions of our Sunni brethren; we simply did not appreciate it when they attacked ours. As regarding friends and/or family members, Islam is above all of them, and the interest of Islam should be served first and foremost. How many friends and relatives did the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) antagonize and alienate when he started his da'wah? Did that stop him? The same situation applies to us now when we see some Muslim women reluctant to cover their hair, or when we see how some of our 59

Sunni brethren mercilessly assault our Shi'a faith and spend a great deal of their resources attacking our beliefs. The other reason, I believe, served as the last straw. It was as follows: One day Shaikh Muhammad Sarwar asked me whether we would like to have a mosque. Sure, I said, who would not love to see a mosque in his town? "There are two major problems, though," I added. "First, our number is very small," I continued, "and the number of Shi'as who have American citizenship or who are permanent residents is even smaller. I am not sure if such a tiny group of the faithful can take care of a mosque which requires a great deal of attention to man and keep functioning. Second, a very, very small percentage of them follows Islam to the letter. They are mostly uninformed, corrupted by the un-Islamic environment surrounding them, and unreliable when it comes to an effort requiring sacrifices." At one of our meetings, Shaikh Sarwar had to ask the wife of one of the officers of our Society to cover her hair. If the leaders of a Shi'a community are too weak to implement Islam themselves, how can they be trusted with the task of urging other members of their community to do so? Such leaders have to be strong enough to apply the Islamic injunctions relevant to their own selves and their families before they can be trusted with enforcing them on the rest of the community. Dr. Tabatabai disagreed, and he was angry because we did not get funds from the Grand Ayatullah for a mosque. All this soured our relationship and ruined our once beautiful friendship. Building a mosque does not take a lot of effort; what does take a lot of effort is building a practicing Muslim community. Early Muslims spent years without having a mosque of their own. One can write an interesting book about the earliest mosques built in Islam, and one issue he will have to deal with is whether any mosque at all was built in Mecca after its fall in Muslim hands. Quba Mosque was the first, but when was it built? After how many years of the dissemination of Islam? Allah will be the Judge between myself and any of my brethren, and He knows that I have no rancor towards any of them, and it is His judgment, and only His, do I accept. REBUTTING MEDIA ATTACKS Rebutting attacks, implicit or explicit, on our Islamic faith in general and Shi'ism in particular received the top priority in our consideration, and letters we sent, publishing the same in Islamic Affairs and circulating them world-wide, defending our creed. The number of countries Islamic Affairs was mailed to increased to 67 before it was suspended, and the total number of its copies printed and reprinted during those five and a half years, in addition to the thousands of publications received from our overseas supporters which we circulated throughout the U.S., was nearly one third of a million. Sometimes we had to reprint one particular issue of our 60

newsletter as many as three times. Among our rebuttals was a letter written by Br. Asgher Ali Rizvi, once co-editor of Islamic Affairs, falsifying some of the contents of The Great Arab Conquests by Lieutenant-General Sir John B. Glubb. Another was an open letter I wrote commenting on a special report published in the Time of April 16, 1979 titled "The World of Islam." It was the most bitter letter I ever wrote and probably will ever write. That letter was later reproduced by Bilalian News of the followers of Wallace D. Muhammad (Warith ad-Deen Muhammad, son of Elijah Muhammad) in its entirety without giving credit to its writer. One of its statements revealed the fact that during the so-called six-day war, U.S. carriers of the 6th fleet stationed in the Mediterranean provided the Israelis with an air umbrella of U.S. jets which actually entered in active combat with Arab pilots. On significant religious occasions, we had to meet at the halls of local universities, then we had to rent the basements of banks in the area. My two bedroom apartment became too small to accommodate the throng. WHAT SET THE ISG APART? The Islamic Society of Georgia, Inc. (ISG) was surely not the first Muslim organization in the U.S. to propagate Shi'a Islam. There were many before it; so, what was so particular about it? What distinguished the ISG was the fact that it became international in nature, and it did not try to hide the fact that it adhered to and propagated the Ja'feri Ithna-Asheri School of Muslim Law. Most other Shi'a organizations in the U.S. have, in fact, been a little more than social clubs, and their activities are localized. They are hardly heard of outside their areas. To demonstrate how internationally famous the ISG became, let me give you a couple of examples: 1) A letter once reached us from overseas. I do not remember which country it was sent from. All its sender wrote on its envelope was: Islamic Society of Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.; that's all. There was neither a street address nor a zip code number. Nevertheless, we received it! 2) One Kuwaiti brother apparently cut the imprint of our mail permit number, which appears on the outside of all issues of Islamic Affairs, and tucked it inside his pocket while returning home. He knew that Kuwaiti government authorities, like those in Saudi Arabia and many other countries, are very much anti-Shi'a, and he did not want to be caught carrying issues of Islamic Affairs; so, he just cut that square piece of paper and "smuggled" it into Kuwait. Then he pasted it up on an air mail envelope and mailed it to: "Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A." We received it! It carried a request to add his name and address to the list of recipients of Islamic Affairs. Unfortunately, most Shi'a organizations in the U.S. exhaust their resources during the 61

Muharram celebrations, and during the month of Ramadan. During both of these holy months, they spend as much as they do during the rest of the year. A very small number of them set aside some money to publish something about their creed. None of them has continued their publication of a newsletter or bulletin, or whatever, for any significant length of time. Islamic Affairs is still being published and circulated since 1974 (almost two decades) despite some periods of cessation caused either by depletion of funds or my involvement in translating classic material from Arabic into English. We truly believe that Islamic Affairs will enjoy a unique place in the intellectual history of the Muslims of the U.S. in general, and of Shi'a Muslims in particular. All of this is achieved by the Grace of the Almighty Who is more concerned about His creed and the well-being of His servants than anyone among His servants; Alhamdu lillah haqqa hamdih (all Praise is due to Allah as much as He deserves to be Praised). CONCLUSION: QUITTING THE SOCIETY AND LEAVING ATLANTA The burden of running such an organization fell mostly on my shoulders, although I was neither the president nor the vice president, but simply the general secretary. The incoming mail was huge in volume, and each letter demanded special attention. Donations were pouring in, and they had to be acknowledged. We did not have a computer to help us respond to the great influx of letters (an average of twenty a day), and I started seriously thinking about my life after graduation, the need for a family and home, the financial burden of living in this part of the world... I also got tired of the fact that there was no solution on the horizon to the public disputes between me and Dr. Ja'fer Tabatabai. Nothing is worse in any organization than feuds among its officers before the eyes of the public. I decided that I had to move from Atlanta and make a fresh start elsewhere, not knowing that that would be the end of the Society's hey-days. The Society maintained its existence, and it was only natural that those who replaced me on its staff would find fault with almost everything I did. But I did not do it to impress anyone. The Almighty knows my intentions, and my sacrifices, and He knows theirs. Rewards come from Him, and only from Him. Moreover, it did not surprise me when I came to know about all the rumors against me after my departure. But I forgive those who circulate them, praying Allah Almighty to forgive them, too, and to reward their good deeds and overlook their bad ones. Alhamdu-Lillah, the period during which I remained inactive did not last long. My establishment first of the Islamic Revival Movement, then of the International Islamic Society of Virginia, Inc. were steps I never thought I would one day take. Having learned a great deal from my experience in Atlanta, I decided to build on that experience and serve our Muslim community in general and our Shi'a Ja'feri Ithna-Asheri brethren in particular even if they backbite or slander me. As long as one's effort is purely to seek the Pleasure of Allah, he/she is not hurt by what others say. Presently, the Islamic Society of Georgia conducts a few local services of great importance particularly for the children, the new generation of Muslims, such as teaching them 62

the language of the Holy Qur'an, Islamic principles and ethics, and preparing them to lead the rest of the Muslims in this very important part of the world into the next century. It, however, proved unable to continue the publication and circulation of Islamic Affairs, and, most importantly, it did not stay in touch with our first converts whose whereabouts I have been trying to trace. With the exception of Br. Tariq Abdel-Salam, the whereabouts of the others are unknown to me. Also, there were some Shi'a communities which were established, under the Society's auspices, at some American prisons, and I have no idea what their status now is. Dr. Akbar Ali Zaidi has been its President since its inception, and Alhamdu-Lillah he and I are still good friends. I have no contacts with any of the other "officers" of the Society. How famous is the ISG these days? I looked for its address in several directories of Muslim organizations, old and new, since so many of them are being published these days, but I did not see it listed in any of them. Last month (April 1993), I asked Dr. Antar Kabeer Smith of Atlanta University whether he was aware of the existence of any Shi'a organization or community in Atlanta, and his answer was negative. Apparently, the ISG has joined the list of several localized Shi'a organizations not known beyond their limited geographical areas. Recently, Alhamdu-Lillah, I have met partial success, as indicated above, in tracing the whereabouts of our first Shi'a converts. Success comes only from the Almighty Who supports the cause of those who truly believe in Him and fear none but Him, and He makes things happen at the time He chooses, not we. I plead to Him to shower the Muslims of the world in general and those living in the U.S. in particular with His mercy and grace, guidance and bliss, and with rewards in this life and the life to come... Allahomma Aameen, Wassalamo Alaikom wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. Yasin T. al-Jibouri Falls Church, VA 22044 U.S.A.

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