Connect with us

#Culture

The Beginnings Of The Darul Islam Movement In America

I was raised in the Darul Islam movement; my father Shaykh Abdu-Karim Ahmad, was one of their Imams for a time in Philly. So was my cousin Shaykh Ali Ahmad. Both who are still alive today. There are many narrations yet to be told, that shed a little light and context, about Muslim America today.

Sh. Luqman Ahmad

Published

Much of the history about Islam in United States of America and of the pioneering Muslims upon who’s shoulders we stand, has never been told. Some of them unfortunately may never be told and may die with the death of those who were there. When it comes to American Muslim history, the narratives of those who lived it is more poignant than that of those who only heard about it. As in the hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), “He who is told is not like he who has seen”.

Much of what is written about Black American Muslim Sunni pioneers is written about us but not by us. 

One story that has remained largely unchronicled is that of the Darul Islam movement. Darul Islam was an early indigenous Sunni Muslim community made up of Black American Muslims and converts to Islam. At its height, it comprised 25-30 Muslim communities and masaajid across the country. It was started by Rajab Mahmood and Yahya Abdul-Karim, who were formally attendees of the famous State Street Mosque in Brooklyn, New York in the Atlantic Ave area west of Flatbush. The State St, Mosque which was started by was Dawud Faisal, a Black man who came to the United States from the Caribbean to pursue a career in jazz music, became a beacon for early Muslim immigrants as there was already a spate of Arab businesses along Atlantic Ave near third street, not far from the Mosque. My father used to take us to Malko Brothers bakery on Atlantic Ave in the early sixties where we would buy pita bread and halal meat from one of the other stores. It was one of the few places you could buy pita bread on the East Coast and there was no such thing as a halal store in America then.  

Help Us End Ramadan with 1000 Supporters!

Alhamdulillah, we're at 900 supporters. Help us get to 1000 supporters before Ramadan ends. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Partially because Shaykh Dawud was black, and perhaps because of his jazz background and affiliation, the Masjid also attracted Black American converts to Sunni Islam. Many early Sunni Muslims were associated with and came from jazz musicians.  The Legendary John Coltrane was reported to have been a Muslim, he was married to a sister named Amina and his daughter was named Na’eema. My father performed her marriage in New York in the 1980’s. It’s rumored that he never publicized his Islam because it would have damaged his career as it had done to so many others. Hajj Talib Dawud, who started a masjid in Philadelphia (not related to the Darul Islam movement), used to be a trumpet player for Dizzy Gillespie. 

Meanwhile, , there was a chasm between immigrant Muslims who were new to the country. Converts to Islam, who were overwhelmingly Black, were new to Islam.  In 1960, Shaykh Dawud hired a teacher who was Hafiz al-Quran named Hafiz Mah’boob — he was associated with the Tabligh Jamaa’ah movement— but he was Black or looked black. The young African American converts, Rajab Mah’mood, Yahya Abdulkarim, Suleiman Abdul-Hadi (my uncle and one of the founding members of The Last Poets), Muhammad Salahuddin, and others. were drawn to him, He was “down” with educating the brothers from America and he used to teach them Arabic and Islam. It was a different time then and the immigrant, mainly Arab Muslims, and the Black American converts to Islam were from two different worlds. There was an unspoken uneasiness. Eventually Hafiz Mah’boob suggested that the African American brothers go and start their own masjid.

Rajab Mah’mood and Yahya AbdulKarim eventually left the State Street Mosque and started their own Masjid in Brownsville, one of Brooklyn’s toughest neighborhoods, they named it Yasin Mosque, and that was the beginning of the Darul Islam Movement in the United States. That’s also just the beginning of the story.

I was born and raised a Sunni Muslim in Philadelphia, PA; my parents converted to Islam in the 1950’s.

I was raised in the Darul Islam movement; my father Shaykh Abdu-Karim Ahmad, was one of their Imams for a time in Philly. So was my cousin Shaykh Ali Ahmad. Both who are still alive today. There are many narrations yet to be told, that shed a little light and context, about Muslim America today.

History matters. 

Taken from the Upcoming Book. “The History of the Darul Islam Movement in America” 

Help Us End Ramadan with 1000 Supporters!

Alhamdulillah, we're at 900 supporters. Help us get to 1000 supporters before Ramadan ends. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

American born, Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad who comes from pioneering Muslim parents, has been an Imam for 24 years is an associate Imam and resident scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam, housed in the first building built originally as a Mosque in the State of Ohio. He is author of the book; “Double Edged Slavery”, a book about the civilizational status of Black American Sunni Muslims. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com and can be reached at: imamabulaith@yahoo.com Shaykh Luqman graduated from the language and usool ud-deen program at Omdurman Islamic University in Sudan and received his ijaazah in Hafs Quran recitation from the Quranic village of Wad al-Faadni in the Jazeerah Province of Sudan. Shaykh Luqman also studied at Umm Al-Quraa University in Saudi Arabia and at the Haram al-Makki. While in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in addition to the teachers at Um al-Qura, the Imam studied with Sheikh Suleiman al-Hazmi, Sheikh Sayyid Sabiq who was his sheikh of tafseer al-Quran, and Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazaali. Shaykh Luqman learned usool al-hadith from Sheikh Muhammad bin Humayad a classic era Az’harian trained in the Ottoman period. Imam Luqman also took lessons from the late African American Shaykh; Muhammad Ghulaam Al-Haarith, one of the first indigenous American Muslims to attend Azhar University.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Greg

    June 25, 2020 at 10:44 AM

    What’s notable here is the rift between the immigrants and the converts. Same story in Monterrey, for example. The Arabs just took over the mosque, preferring their own culture over local culture and cuisine, and pushed out the Latino converts. So why are you here, then? Did you immigrate here to bring Islam to this land, or for other reasons? Historically, Muslims adopted and integrated with the local culture they immigrated to and respected it.

  2. Avatar

    Wael Abdelgawad

    July 6, 2020 at 1:43 AM

    Really interesting. My high school Islamic studies instructor Bilal Philips taught me about some of this in the early 80’s. I visited New York as a teen and scoured the record stores for Last Poets albums (I found one.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

..
..
.
.

Ramadan Video Series

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending