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Exclusive: Stephen Jackson Discusses His Journey to Islam

Hamzah Raza

Published

In a Muslim Matters exclusive, I sat down with NBA Champion and activist, Stephen Jackson, to speak about his conversion to Islam, along with Tone Trump, a Philadephia based rapper who has been a mentor and friend to Stephen Jackson in his Journey to Islam.

Hamzah Raza [HR]: Assalam Alaykum. It’s a pleasure to be in touch with you. I have been following your work for awhile. From your NBA career to your activism to your recent taking of your Shahadah…I used to play with you in 2K back in the day also. 

Stephen Jackson [SJ]: It’s an honor man. I am just doing everything I can, and leading with my heart. I don’t know everything I am doing, but I know that Allah is guiding me, so I’m satisfied with that Alhamdulillah. 

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HR: So where we’ll start is, what was your first exposure to Islam? 

SJ: I think the first time I was exposed to Islam was in high school through a friend of mine named Maya Abdullah. Me and his family grew up together. Through him, I saw the structure and balance of this religion, and just the way he stood on his deen. I also saw how his dad stood on his deen at the time. It was something different from everybody around my city. I knew there was something special there. 

And as I got older, I started doing homework for myself. I became close with what would become a very close friend of mine from Philadelphia named Nees. He’s also Muslim. I had a number of conversations with him as we travelled. I used to tell him how I always lived my life like a Muslim man, and how it won’t be long until I accept Allah. We always had this conversation. It got to the point where another close friend of mine named Mazi…His name was Jabril.

Tone Trump [TT]: Yo Jabril was my brother, man. That’s my bro. Mazi’s my bro. 

SJ: Man that was my brother, man. Mazi lived with me for almost three years. It got to the point where he would congregate a lot of dudes at my house. And my relationship with him and wanting to see him make it in rap and off the streets and to see him live a prosperous life with all that was going on in the streets. As I spent more time with him, my love for him grew. And as my love for him grew, my love for Islam grew. 

As the time passed, we had become so close and he was living with me. Then he ended up getting murdered. And I went to his funeral. This was my first time ever at a Muslim funeral. And it changed my life. To see how personal it was changed my life. 

“If you love me, grab that shovel and put the dirt on me yourself.” 

That touched me. And I remember his momma saying that,

“Before you pick up the shovel, open up the casket. I want that dirt to get on my son. I want him to remember that we were made from dirt and we will go back to dirt. I want him to know that “From Allah we come and to Allah we must return.” 

All of that. It all touched me. And I have never been the same after that. To see the respect that I got from standing with him…To see the respect that his momma received. I have never seen a woman so strong and so honored. She did not shed a tear at her son’s funeral. Because she had this confidence and strength. She understood what Allah was doing for her child. She had this trust in Allah. 

It was deep. I have just never been the same after that. It grew to the point where I had the chance to sit down with the Minister a few months back. I told him about these things and how I have always tried to live my life like a Muslim man. And just all of those things. They touched me. From my brother, George Floyd, being murdered to me finding more truth about myself, about this earth, about what we come from, about what we owe, about who I am, about who Allah is…All of this came together in me taking my Shahadah. And this decision has been in place for at least seven to eight years, but only Allah knows when the time is right. 

TT: Alhamdulillah, that’s beautiful, man. 

HR: SubhanAllah, that’s beautiful. This actually reminds me of my father, who is a doctor. He has a doctor who works with him who is Christian. I actually am not sure if he’s even Christian, but he is not Muslim. And he asked my dad,”Is there something in Islam, that when someone dies, you are supposed to keep it together? Is there some sort of rule?” And my dad said “No, not really.” And the other doctor said, “I don’t know why. But with Muslim families, no matter what bad happens, I have observed that they just keep it together more than others.” 

SJ: Absolutely. That’s what I saw. 

HR: And I think it goes back to this tawwakul–This trust in Allah. 

I came to Islam for Allah and Allah alone @DaTrillStak5Click To Tweet

SJ: Mazi used to always say this. This is part of the reason that he was never afraid of anything. He knew that Allah was always with him. He knew the protection that Allah gave him. So when it was time to go, there was no need to be afraid of that. There was no need to be afraid because you know where you are going. I can honestly say that. I just took my shahada, but I can honestly say that there is no one who loves Allah more than me. 

TT: Alhamdulillah. We should all feel like that in our belief. 

SJ: You are bringing tears to my eyes, Tone. 

TT: Man mine too. That’s why I like texting you. I don’t even like talking to you. Because you always do this. Every single time, Wallahi man. 

And one thing about Mazi. He survived so much. He was a real dude bro. I first met him in like 2012. And he was just a country talking Philly nigga. And he just reminded me of home. When I was up there, I used to be homesick. And him being Muslim and so authentically street, but also so loving. He was so caring. I watched him take care of so many people. 

SJ: Me too bro. His heart was huge. 

TT: He was a good dude, man. I just had to speak on my brother. May Allah be pleased with him and grant him Jannah. 

SJ: Ameen. 

HR: Ameen. 

HR: And Brother Stack, what is your Philly connection? How did that come about? 

SJ: Well it started with when I was doing music. I grew a relationship with Chris and Nees. I had reached out to them. I told Chris that I am playing in Philly, but I also want to get into the studio with him. Then we were at some club. I just went to the club where they were, and I was just standing outside. 

And they were like, “Yo what are you doing?” 

And I was like, “Y’all told me y’all would be here. So I am just waiting outside for y’all to come out.” 

They were like,”You are just out in North Philly, posted up alone on a corner at night.” 

And I said,”Hey I am protected by God. I am not worried about any human being.” 

And just the humility and how authentic I was…That seemed to connect with them. The relationship grew to the point that when I started doing music with Chris, Nees was doing music too. But me and Nees had a deeper relationship because it was about more than music. We talked about life. We talked about Islam. We talked about family. We talked about the real things in life. I grew a relationship with them in two different aspects. 

And that’s how I became in love with Philly, to the point where, after time passed, I started following Tone. And I think a lot of the guys who come from the struggle that we come from, we see Tone. And when we see him, we see a brother that is standing up and leading by example, and not hiding his flaws. He is standing up and embracing everything that he has been through to shine brighter than ever. I think any person who comes from what we have come from—the demographic we come from—they have some type of love in their heart for him. So he has to be respected. 

That’s what drew me to Tone. It was that alone. It was the respect that I had for him as a man. And it was his embracing of the good and the bad. I respect people who can stand up in public and admit that he made love to the good times just as much as he made love to the bad times. I saw that. And that is what made me want to follow him and follow his journey. And that is what led to us becoming brothers. That is what led to me reaching out to him.

Alhamdulillah, Allah gave me the strength to reach out to him, and tell him that I want him to introduce me and walk me into taking my Shahada. And that was only Allah’s will. That was the way it was supposed to be. And now I have two feet, ten toes down stability in Philly, with different relationships and different people. I have different people out there that I can talk to and get educated from. 

I have deep roots in Philly now. I plan on getting a condo somewhere in Philly, but it started with Chris and Nees and ended with Tone Trump. 

HR: Alhamdulillah, that’s beautiful. And I know that you can speak to this. And Brother Tone can most definitely speak to this. There is a very rich Muslim community in Philly. It is a very sizable and historic community. They call it the Mecca of the West, and also Philastan. 

SJ: That’s right.

TT: Let me correct you on that. They do not just call it Philastan. I named it Philastan. That came from me. Philastan is my neighborhood. And then everybody adopted it. Because when you put the -Stan like Pakistan, it means “land of.” So Philastan is the land of Philly. To be perfectly honest, it was first on some street stuff. And then we went with the more positive thing.

When I say “Muslim Don,” a lot of people don’t know that Don stands for “Deen over negativity.”

But because of my tattoos and my criminal background and the people I am around and stuff like that, people often assume that we are trying to bring some gangster stuff to Islam. And that is absolutely not true. Not at all. We are talking about positivity. We are talking about the transformation of human beings. If people listen to my message, I am trying to talk to kids about staying in school, and staying out of the streets. Jail is for suckers. This whole movement is positive. 

The Philastan thing is also to connect our people to Palestine.

People in my position are often scared to talk about Palestine because, let’s be honest, you could get blackballed. But we understand the connection between our struggle in North Philly with their struggle in Palestine. And where I come from, we don’t believe in ever biting our tongue. And anybody that follows Stack definitely knows that he doesn’t ever bite his tongue. He has one of the biggest platforms in the world, and is saying and doing things that no one in his position would ever do or dare to say. That’s why he is so loved in the trenches. 

A lot of people might get love from White people or with even…no disrespect, but with Arabs. But the brothers in the trenches, we have a different type of love for Stack. He’s been one of ours. And now that he has taken Shahadah, that was just the icing on the cake. And like he said, he already felt like he was Muslim, and we already felt like he was our brother. 

When he took Shahada, it felt like a reunion more than it felt like a first anniversary. It felt like, “Bro came home after being on the road.” It did not feel like, “Bro just moved in.” That’s how it felt. That connection is just supernatural. It is greater than anything in this world. 

Even when I travelled, most people thought that he was from Philly. I realized that when I go places, most people will be like, “Yeah I knew that he was from Philly.” And I’m like, “No he’s not from Philly.” But he’s from here now. We’ve adopted him. That’s how close that connection and that bond is. He’s from PA. That’s how close that bond is. 

HR: Alhamdulillah. What percentage would of people would you say from North Philly are Muslim? 

TT: In Philadelphia, I will put it like this bro, when you walk out of your door, you are going to have to give your Salaams…Pretty much every 25 yards you walk in Philadelphia, you have to give your Salaams. So I would say that the Muslim community is over 80% African-American. But as far as the overall city, I would say about 40% of Philadelphia is Muslim. And I am pretty sure we are the largest religion in Philadelphia. Everything from our politicians to our fighters…Pretty much all of the boxers are Muslim here. Everybody here is Muslim. Our police commissioner used to be Muslim. 

But as far as the overall city, I would say about 40% of Philadelphia is Muslim. And I am pretty sure we are the largest religion in Philadelphia.

We’ve had Muslim mayors. We’ve had Muslim senators. The first Muslim woman to wear hijab in the state senate was from Philadelphia. It’s very rare not to be Muslim in Philly. Everybody’s Muslim in Philly. If you live in Philadelphia, someone in your family is Muslim, if you’re not Muslim yourself. Everybody has a Muslim in their family. 

HR: I remember I saw an interview with AR-Ab and Dark Lo, and they said that there aren’t a whole lot of people here who aren’t Muslim. 

TT: There is not. We have a whole bunch of halal food. We have a whole bunch of good things going on here. And free AR-Ab and Dark Lo. Free my akhs. 

HR: And Brother Stack, what was your spirituality growing up? 

SJ: I grew up Christian. I grew up in the South. Religion was what everyone was schooled with in the South. It was what everybody was taught. It was what everyone was brainwashed with. And as I grew up and became a man, I began to think for myself. I came to stop believing in a lot of the things that I was taught as a kid. I knew for a fact that a lot of the things I was taught as a kid were not true. So I took the liberty of educating myself. 

And I think when I was a Christian, I did know right from wrong. My parents taught me a lot. And I think that the morals I was taught as a kid did not really come from religion. I think it came from my parents and grandparents just knowing right from wrong, and giving us love and affection. And then just teaching us how to treat people. I don’t think that came from religion. I think my family just had good hearts and they wanted to see us succeed. Teaching us hate was just not the way. They had seen so much of that growing up, that they knew that was not the way. 

So I was taught anybody and everybody that comes in my path should be treated with love. That is the way that I was taught. And I lived my life like that. I tell people that the benefits of being real are so beneficial. And my life has been that. I have always treated people with respect. I have always been a stand up guy. What I say is what I am going to do. And I’ve always treated people how I want to be treated. And I’ve lived by that. And Allah has taken care of me. My whole life, I have always been put in the right situations. I have always had the right people around me, because I have always treated people the way that I wanted to be treated. I just dedicate a lot of my upbringing to my family. My grandparents basically founded the church. I was in church three times a day growing up. It shaped me. I do not regret any of it because it made me the man that I am today. But I am also glad that I was able to teach myself, and grow into the man that I am now. 

HR: And in your adulthood, would you still go to church? Or did you kind of step away from that? 

SJ: I haven’t been to church in probably around five years. I got away from that awhile back. I have to blame that on Mazi. Because I started getting so intrigued in Islam that I stopped going to church. I prayed a couple of times with Mazi. Just being with him put me in deeper thought and made me want to research more. 

HR: So you’ve been thinking about taking Shahadah for like five years now? 

SJ: Almost seven years. 

HR: And when did Brother Mazi pass away? 

SJ: Mazi passed away about three years ago. 

HR: SubhanAllah. May Allah give him Jannah. 

TT: Ameen

SJ: Ameen. 

HR: Also, I saw on your Instagram that you post a lot of Malcolm X quotes. And Malcolm X is probably the most influential Muslim of the 20th century…Most definitely the most influential American Muslim of the 20th century. So did Malcolm X influence your decision to accept Islam in any way? 

SJ: That ain’t even a question. Every Black man is influenced by Malcolm X. When you are growing up and hear the story of Malcolm X, you are influenced by Malcolm X, and by Islam, in some type of way. For me, I am of course influenced by Malcolm X. It is impossible for me not to be. 

HR: And do you see yourself following in the legacy of Malcolm X? 

SJ: I do not see myself just following him. I want to be greater than Malcolm X. Even when I say that, it might be damn near impossible, because the man was so special. Malcolm X was so special. I strive to be like him or even better than him. And for you to say that he is the most respected American Muslim ever, I strive to be that. I plan to be that. 

TT: Inshallah. 

HR: Inshallah. I also think of someone like Muhammad Ali. I remember, when he passed away, me and my friends were talking. And we were reflecting upon what it meant to be Muslims in the 1960s and 1970s. The greatest athlete on Earth at the time was a Muslim. Like imagine today if the best athlete on the planet was a Muslim. That’s what things were like back then. 

SJ: You know what’s crazy though? They didn’t give Muhammad Ali his props until he couldn’t talk anymore [due to Parkinson’s]. We have to, as Muslims, change the narrative. As Tone says, we have to make praying cool again. We have to let people know how important it is to get on your knees and pray five times a day. 

As Tone says, we have to make praying cool again. We have to let people know how important it is to get on your knees and pray five times a day. 

There is nothing uncool about it. Everything I have today is because I get on my knees and pray five times a day. I wouldn’t be able to wake up, breathe, and provide for my child, if I didn’t get on my knees and worship Allah. Allah is the one in control, and each and every one of us in creation are reliant on Allah in each and every moment. It is only when we realize this that this inner peace descends upon us. And that’s what Islam is about–Salaam–that peace. 

TT: That’s right. Salah changed my life akh. 

HR: SubhanAllah, this is such a beautiful exchange. And did the murder of your twin, George Floyd, also influence you to turn towards God? Because you saw the finite nature of this life. That this life will eventually come to an end. 

SJ: Like I said, I already had a deep relationship with God. I was one person who always understood that my relationship with God has nothing to do with nobody on this earth. I don’t care what any human being thinks about it, as long as my relationship with Him is intact. That’s how I always lived my life. 

Definitely, losing George had a lot to do with it. Because during that time, I was going through it. At one point, I went four weeks with no sleep. I mean four weeks straight with no sleep. It got to the point where I couldn’t confide in anybody or talk to anybody except for God…Because nobody could understand my hurt. Nobody could understand my passion. Nobody could understand the helplessness that I felt at that time. So I started praying more. 

And I’ll even be honest with you. I had talked to one of my big brothers, Mahmoud [Abdul-Rauf]. He had DM’d me during that time to see how I was doing. And I told him, that if any time I need you to ask Allah for strength for me, I need you to ask Him now. 

Because I was out there and didn’t know what I was doing. I was just out there leading with my heart. I knew that there are a million people every year who are murdered by police, but no one has the celebrity to be out there and be their voice. And I knew that I was losing everything. But at that time, Allah gave me so much strength that none of that mattered. I didn’t even think about what I could lose or what I was risking. I went out there head up and chest out because I knew that I would be alright. During that time, as I started getting more in tune with myself and with God, everything started coming back to my mind. I thought of all of those conversations I had with Nees and Chris. I thought of all of the praying that I did with Mazi. 

I thought of the first time I saw my friend Mayah Abdullah’s dad wear a thobe to a basketball game. All of this stuff played in my mind to the point where it hit deep in my soul, to hit Tone and say, “Tone, I’m ready bro.” I’m ready to take this step. I’ve been through a lot. You know I’ve been through a lot, and it’s that time.” 

HR: How long have you known Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf? You knew him even before when he was Chris Jackson? 

SJ: I’ve known for about four or five years now where I can say that we regularly talk. 

HR: And what was the moment where you contacted Brother Tone? 

SJ: Even before I contacted Tone, I had really been studying. I had been reading for four months. I can look right in front of me, exactly in this moment. I have thirteen books in front of me right now that I read about Islam. I waited until the time that Allah had written for me to take my Shahada. I was not going off of my mind or emotions. I was waiting until it was in my heart. I had to submit to the will of Allah. At that moment, I didn’t hesitate. I called Tone, jumped on it, and I was on. And I have never looked back. It’s the best decision I ever made. 

TT: And I was on it too. At that moment, I said tell me what day you’re coming. I planned my whole day out. I told him that we’ve got you as soon as you land. It was one of the best days of my life, man. I still can’t believe it. It still seems so surreal. And I relive it everyday because people always bring it up. Everybody I talk to wants to talk to me about Stack, and him taking Shahada. 

He has inspired so many people from so many walks of life. This is just so big for the entire Ummah. And I knew that. As soon as he called, I knew that. I already saw what the outcome was going to be. I knew that my phone was going to ring. Stuff like this interview, I knew that it was going to happen. I knew the impact that it was going to have. 

Because everything that Stack does is authentic. Everything he does is sincere. And I knew that sincerity and authenticity was going to reek out. People see that. That’s why when he took his Shahada, there was nothing but positive feedback. No one had anything negative to say. That’s unheard of on social media. Everybody was happy for him. Even non-Muslims were happy for him. Everyone has seen his journey. Everybody has seen what he’s gone through, with his twin. 

How can you not see that and be happy for this man? He could’ve gone crazy after all of that. He could have lost his mind, and we would all have to understand it. We couldn’t even have blamed him for it. He went from being a basketball player to having to be damn near Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr overnight. Nobody signs up for that. Nobody chooses that. 

Nobody goes to sleep at night and says “Tomorrow, I want to lead millions of people overnight that I’ve never even met before.” People were out there getting maced and beat, and arrested and all of that stuff. And this brother was seen as the helm of all of that. That’s crazy, bro. You have the President of the United States watching your moves. That’s not normal or regular. You have to have a mindset to only fear or love Allah, because nobody that doesn’t fear Allah can handle that and not lose their mind. 

That’s why you see so many celebrities lose their minds. These people have so much money, so much fame, and so much of everything in this world. But this world will never satisfy you. They go nuts. They take pills and all of this stuff because they don’t have Allah. They don’t have their oneness with Allah. 

Stack took a lot on. I knew how big it would be for the Ummah. I knew how big it would be for Black people. I knew how big it would be for Black Muslims. And I also think: Imagine how nice it would be if Muslims treated every revert as nice as they treated Stack. 

I understand that he’s a celebrity, but I posted a gang member from Chicago who took his Shahadah three days before I posted Stack. And I got a couple of DMs. But when I posted Stack, man my DMs are still being flooded. 

They’re saying “Let me know if the brother needs anything.” 

But y’all didn’t tell me that when the brother from Chicago took Shahadah. Because we’ve got Stack. Stack is taken care of. He’s got a support system. But that other brother from Chicago needs some stuff. We’ve got to do this with everybody. That’s what will make our Ummah one. Let’s treat everybody like they were in the NBA, or an entertainer, or a mufti, or an imam. Let’s treat everybody like that because that’s true brotherhood. All my brothers are stars. All my brothers are kings. I don’t have any little homies around me. My security is a king. He’s not treated like a pawn. We have to treat everybody like we treat Stack. That’s what Islam is. That’s what Tawheed is. That’s what it means to be one Ummah. 

If it’s not that, then being one Ummah becomes like All Lives Matter, some nonsense. Just some words with no meaning. 

HR: It’s like Allah says in the Quran, “Hold tight to the rope of Allah, and be not divided.” 

TT: That’s right. 

HR: It’s a major issue. People take their Shahadah. Everyone hugs them. We make a video, and take some pictures. But then the next day, no one is there for them. It’s almost as if we see the Shahadah as an end as opposed to a beginning. 

TT: That’s the DMs I get because there are people too scared to go to the imams. But they know who I am and where I’ve been. And so I’m just like them. So they’ll come to me. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build Shahada classes and new Muslim classes and Arabic classes for the brothers and sisters who don’t feel welcome inside these big temples and all of these big establishments where it feels like you have to be perfect just to walk in. We have to let those people who aren’t perfect know that there’s a home for you too. 

No matter what your status is, no matter where you’ve been, you’re going to be side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in the ranks standing and praying with us. You are going to be eating with us. We are going to be treating you just like you were born and raised with us. We let you come as you are to Islam as it is. That’s how we’re going to do it. 

HR: And Brother Stack, was your conversion to Islam in anyway connected to understanding the intersections of Islam and justice? 

SJ: I came to Islam for Allah and Allah alone. My journey to Islam came because of my heart. It was strictly between me and my heart knowing that it was time. It was something that I had thought about, and that was in my soul for a long time. Like I said, I had approached life as a Muslim for so many years. My soul and my heart got tired of thinking about it. I had to accept it fully. I had to put these thoughts into action. And that’s why I took that step. 

HR: And what is next for you? You said that you strive to be bigger than Malcolm X. And we ask Allah that you have that impact. 

TT: Ameen. 

SJ: With what I’m doing right now, I just want to continue to build. I have as of now…When did I take my Shahada Tone? Like a month ago? 

TT: It feels like a month, but I think it’s probably been like a month and two weeks. 

SJ: I’ve already had four or five NBA players call me and ask me to send them books, and ask me to educate them about Islam. They want me to educate them before they take their Shahada. They’re really thinking about it. Alhamdulillah, that really makes me feel good.

TT: I knew that was going to happen. 

SJ: And we’re 12 in out of 50 states. I made a pledge to visit all 50 states, and help those that are in need. There are so many areas that are in need around the country. I want to fulfill that. We have already done 12 states, Alhamdulillah. I want to continue to be the best Muslim man that I can be. I want to continue to lead. And I think that by what I am doing, in getting calls from all of these other NBA brothers and being the face of the biggest civil rights movement around right now, I hope to make an impact. 

TT: And let me add to that. I am actively recruiting him to go to Africa with me in April inshallah. So Inshallah, he is going to be making international moves for the Ummah as well. If his scheduling works, he is going to be in Africa with me. And I think that is going to really show people even another side of Stack because we are going over there to do cataract surgeries during the month of Ramadan to help people get their vision back. So imagine how huge that will be to have the legend out there with us in Ethiopia inshallah, during Ramadan. So there’s a lot of big news coming man. And that’s just in the immediate future. So I know there’s a lot of stuff happening. He’s set to do major, major work. 

HR: So when NBA players hit you up, what exactly do they say?

SJ: They ask me what made me convert, how long have I been thinking about it, to send them some books, if they have any questions, can they call me? When they’re in Atlanta playing the Hawks, they’ll want to have dinner with me. They want to be educated and they have questions just like I had questions. They want to ask me just like I asked Tone…Just like I asked Nees…Just like I asked Mazi. 

When you have a certain respect for your brothers and know that they’re going the right way, and you’re a real man, you have no pride in following them because you know they’re going in the right direction. That’s how me and my brothers all move, Alhamdullillah. 

HR: So inshallah, by the will of Allah, we’ll be seeing a lot more NBA players taking Shahadah soon. 

SJ: Inshallah, brother, I guarantee it. 

TT: And you’re going to be seeing a lot more than just NBA players. Stack is bigger than an NBA player. He is bigger than an athlete. He is respected beyond the lines. You have boxers, and football players, and activists looking up to him. That George Floyd thing was bigger for him than winning the NBA championship. 

SJ: By far. 

TT: His impact is far beyond the NBA. You have gang bangers. You have brothers in the streets. You have brothers who are just Christians who didn’t even know that you could revert to Islam. He’s waking up people in a manner that’s way bigger than the NBA. Basketball is just the tip of the iceberg Mashallah. This is bigger than that. This dude represents so much more than that. When the thing happened with George Floyd, there were people who followed him that didn’t even know he played basketball. They just thought he was George Floyd’s brother and that was it. They later found out that he played basketball. This movement and this following is way bigger than that. A lot of people who follow him are asked, “You didn’t know that was Stephen Jackson, NBA Champion?” Now they learn about that. 

This is huge, man. I get a lot of brothers who are basketball fans. And I just get a lot of brothers who are just out there in the struggle. Real recognize real. I told you he was in the streets of North Philly. Just so you can know how dangerous it is, the reason Chris and Neece were asking what he’s doing out there. That’s murder-death-homicide out there. And he’s there as a known millionaire with jewelry on, but he’s respected and loved. Not too many NBA players could have been out there, and been okay. 

Philly is a dangerous city. I’m telling you, bro. It’s hard to even explain. We had 500 homicides last year. That’s 365 days. That’s almost two bodies a day. And back then, it was even worse. There weren’t cameras or anything around back then. So people were really getting their heads knocked off. So his movement and following is so much bigger than basketball. Basketball is just a small part of it. 

This is so big for the Ummah. It’s huge. Let’s not underestimate what it means for young Black Muslim boys to see someone who they know who is successful. They see an NBA champion who fights for Black people. They see Stack put that rug down in the morning because we have a lot of famous Muslims who are very private about their Islam. So to see someone on his level being so proud makes us all so proud. It makes me proud, and I’ve been Muslim for so long. And I’m a known Muslim. 

HR: My final question is what do you all see as the future of Islam in Black America? Studies have shown that Islam is the fastest growing religion amongst all Americans, but specifically amongst Black Americans. So much that studies have shown that Islam will be the most followed religion amongst inner city Black Americans. How do you all plan to contribute to that spread? And what does that mean for the future of Black America? 

SJ: It means everything because us being stand up guys, it’s imperative that we make it cool to  be a stand up guy. It’s imperative that we make it cool to be good to your family, and be responsible for your kids. It’s imperative that we make it cool to better your neighborhood, and take care of the elderly. It’s imperative that we make it cool not to shoot each other, and love one another. It’s imperative that we make all of these things cool again, that they made uncool to make money. 

TT: And what I will add to that is that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), he spoke the language of the people. So when me and Stack go to North Philly or Atlanta or Compton or wherever we go, we can speak the language of the people. We have a lot of these scholars who get all of this knowledge, and then they just sit around with other scholars. You have to come to the people. The people who need us most right now are not going to be coming to those Zoom meetings or hitting those links in the bio. They are out there in the streets. They are out there fighting. They are out there dying. The future of Black Muslims in America is that we are about to be the leaders of the Ummah. We are about to not be quiet anymore. We are not going to be stepped on. We are going to be loud and bold and unified. We are going to be following the Sunnah. We are going to be loving for our brothers and sisters what we love for ourselves. 

And like the brother said, we are going to be making these things cool again. And by cool, we don’t mean trendy. We are going to be making these things the law. We are going to make it clear that there are some things in our community that no one should be doing. There are certain things you shouldn’t be doing around your elders. That respect and honor has been lost in our community. And we are bringing it back. It starts with us and then will spread out far and wide. We have to unify first, and then we will unify with our brown brothers and our white brothers and everyone else. But we have to build our firmness and tighten our rope. And we have to pull others out with that rope. 

And if these billions of Muslims unify, we can change the world. We need to truly become unified and show that we are the best Ummah that follows the best of creation, the Prophet Muhammad(Peace be upon him). If we do that, we will be the ones to change the world. 

HR: It reminds me of verse 11 of Surah Ra’ad: Allah doesn’t change the condition of a people until they first change what’s in themselves. 

TT: That’s right. 

HR: This is also something that Imam Jamil Al-Amin would say: The first step to changing the world is to turn yourself around. 

TT: That’s facts. 

HR: Jazakullah khayr. Thank you so much for your time. Do you all have any final words? 

SJ: I have some last words. There is nothing more important than what I am about to say:

Ashadu An La Ilaha Ila Allah Washadhu Ana Muhammadur Rasulullah. 

[I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah and that the Prophet Muhammad is his Messenger].

TT: I have nothing more to add in. I gotta get back in the streets. Stack’s probably busy too. There’s nothing better to end beyond those words. Brother Hamzah, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much. I know both of y’all have busy schedules. 

SJ: I love you brothers, Assalamu Alaikam. 

HR: Walaikam Assalam

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Hamzah Raza is a graduate student at Harvard University and an alumnus of Vanderbilt University. At Vanderbilt, he received highest honors for his thesis on the role that South African Muslims played in the anti-apartheid struggle. He has been previously been published at the Huffington Post, Alternet, the Grayzone Project, Raw Story, and the Tennessean. Follow him on Twitter @raza_hamzah

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Osman Umarji

    February 8, 2021 at 11:48 AM

    JazakumAllahu khair for this excellent interview. There are so many deep thoughts in this piece that can be pondered over for a long time. The optimism and vision expressed is inspiring. In a time where it seems like all we hear is bad news, this is a breadth of fresh air.

  2. Avatar

    ansar

    February 11, 2021 at 8:01 AM

    Tony Brice, better known by his stage name Tone Trump, is an American Muslim rapper who recently took it to Instagram to announce Stephen Jackson’s conversion to Islam.
    https://youtu.be/deqQ7c6my28

  3. Avatar

    true muslim

    February 15, 2021 at 1:31 AM

    This is a Islamic blog for more visit Present Caliph of Islam

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