If you are anticipating another “down and out – How I discovered God – after being such a loser” story, than this is not the one. I’ve read many, discovering religion stories and most of them are either from people who considered themselves ‘lost and found’, seekers of truth, or people whose lives were so miserable they had no other options to turn except to God or religion. My story is a little different.

My parents both heard Malcolm X speak and joined the Nation of Idiots/Ignorance so-called Islam, when they were teenagers. They met and married as young adults. Their marriage ended in 1975 when I was 4 years old, around the same time the NOI crumbled apart. The downfall of the NOI after the death of it’s leader Elijah Poole (Muhammad) and the effects it had on it’s members were similar to how Umar Lee describes the social breakdown of the hizb/movement aspects of the Salafi Dawah in his series,The rise and fall of the ’salafi dawah’ in the US (Part 8)

No matter how much I try, I don’t think that I can express the great hope followed by the great pain. Some of you are probably looking down your noses at us, but I say that you don’t understand.

 

…I don’t tell this story because I am trying to use it as fodder for you all to laugh at. This is a serious story. Lives were revived where there was no hope only to end up right back in ruin.

 

A lot of us – brothers and sisters – came from poor backgrounds, were poorly educated, and came from dysfunctional homes. ….

 

…Marriages broke down and even ended in divorce because of arguments over these issues. There were even instances of blood brothers splitting and not speaking to one another. It ravaged the entire movement like a forest fire. …

 

…A spiraling cycle of chaos began in which we saw depression grow and the social problems begin. These brothers needed a social network and it was torn apart, ripped to shreads and stomped on

 

There were brothers that were just confused from all the discord and hit the streets. Many stopped practicing and even became drug addicts and alcoholics because their tranquil world had been destroyed as their group of good friends were split, or they were abandoned by their close Muslim friends and they had no place else to go. Some went insane (no exaggeration). Others got angry and became very anti-salafi. Others even left Islam completely. …

 

The difference is that the Salafi Dawah is based on the haqq (truth) and the NOI is ‘other than the truth’ (that’s what we called lies growing up). After the dismantling of the NOI, my parents considered themselves Muslims but were not practicing. In all actuality, they were probably not Muslim in the first place. As a result I was raised, believing I was Muslim. The extent of my Islam was my arabic name, I did not eat pork, I did not celebrate Christmas, I knew we called god Allah, and I remember something about somebody name Muhammad but wasn’t exactly sure what. I went to public school and all of my close friends were non Muslims from non religious families. I lived like your average kafir (non Muslim), except while everyone I knew was opening Christmas presents I was lonely and  bored, until I got older and would go to the cinema on Christmas eve and Christmas day with my friends.

 

In college, I became more aware of religion. My friends were all suppose to be Christians, but they were not religious. I had a roommate who received a scholarship from her church and I don’t even recall her going to church much, until it got popular for blacks to start going. I had another roommate who had a cheating boyfriend and he was driving her to insanity. I once came home to find her curled up in the corner of the house, on the floor, in the dark, smoking a cigarette, holding her bible, rocking and laughing hysterically.

 

Once, there was a gospel concert on our campus and all of the black students went, so of course I did too. I had no idea that religion and gospel music were connected…I was vaguely aware of either. At one point, the choir started singing a song called ‘Thank You Jesus!’ I was touched when my friend started crying softly and repeating ‘Thank You Jesus!’. Moments later several members of the choir started hooping and hollering and some fell out and had to be carried away. Then what seemed like everyone in the audience stood up and started singing and dancing. I was looking around and couldn’t figure out what was going on. It was like being in Micheal Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video when the dead started rising from their graves. Next, my friend who was sitting next to me (the roommate who was having a nervous breakdown) really started crying, and screaming louder and louder ‘Thank You Jesus!’ She went into a frenzy and I had no idea what had taken over her. My other friend (Angie) who was sitting on the other side of me yelled at me to “get her!” I said, ” I’m not touching her!” I started crying and was so scared. I did not know what was going on around me and thought something terrible had happened and was afraid that if I touched my friend an electric current or something would jump from her to me. Everyone later explained to me that all these people had ‘The Holy Ghost’.

 

My sophomore year in college. Louis Farrakhan came up to my campus to give a lecture. I did not know who he was at the time (or rather I did not know the significance of who he was and what he represented), but the Ques (Omega Psi Phi) were sponsoring the event and some of them would ask me questions. I had a friend who was a member of the NOI at the time and so she was able to  give them more information than I was because I did not know anything. When I first left for school my Uncle had given me a few pamphlets on Islam and Imaam Darnell Karim an Imaam in the Ministries of W. D Muhammad (son of Elijah Muhammad), had given me a Quran. All of them were collecting dust on my bookshelf.

 

After that lecture, I bought the Muslim prayer book by Elijah Muhammad, from some vendors and added that to my dust collection. However, I made a promise that day to Allah. I felt so stupid not being able to answer basic questions about what Muslims believed by all of or what seemed like the entire small black student body (2%). Not only that but I had no idea what anybody of any religion believed. I had never given it much thought before. I had always been a ‘good girl’ with my own moral values. They weren’t Islamic but they were pretty good for a girl with no guidance. I mean, I had never even heard the word ‘sin’ before (let alone ‘haram’) until this one Que Dawg (black fraternity) I knew told me that,  “it isn’t a sin to drink alcohol only a sin to get drunk” and I was like, “what is a ‘sin’? ” I had only heard the word used in slang, “Gurrl you know that’s a sin to have that lil gurrls hair looking like that.” In other words a disgrace or something shameful but not like a breech of God’s commandments or anything.

 

So I made my promise to Allah. I said, “Allah as soon as I graduate, get a job, and get a car then I will learn more about you and I will follow whatever it is you guide me to…my word is bond to Allah.”

 

Life was good for me and only getting better, masha’Allah. Soon I had graduated, top of my class, and on the Dean’s list. I did not find a job until the following October, but I hadn’t really been looking. Once I found the job, I was told that I had to have a car because there was field work to be done (I didn’t even know how to drive and had no interest in learning). So I actually got a car before I started my new job. It was October of 94 but I got the latest 1995 Jeep Wrangler… Soft top. I was looking forward to the summer and hanging out on the lakefront, with my top down, pumping sounds from the phat face off CD player I had (lol I was already rocking ‘Female Mack and some song by Mary J Blige with Method Man). I was on top of the world. I was all that and a bag of chips. Summer was not coming fast enough! Ha ha…we plan, Allah Plans, and He is The Best Planner.

 

One day, while coming from an appointment with my job I was waiting at the light. As I waited I noticed that some work was being done on a masjid that had been closed for a while. The last time I had been in that masjid was my senior year in high school, for the janazah of my 10 year old cousin Abdullah who was killed (9 years before his older brother Yusef would be killed on the same strip a few blocks apart). It was at this very moment that I remembered the promise I made to Allah a few years earlier. My word was bond, I am not a liar, and I don’t make false promises to people and I sure was not going to make one to my Lord. I did not know about His Wrath or the hell-fire but I was not going to test Him.

 

I called up my old college buddy that was in the NOI and I told her that I wanted to start coming with her to meetings. I called my aunt and uncle and started drilling them on the old days of the NOI. At this point they were loyal followers of W.D Muhammad, but they never warned me of the deviations of the NOI. My sister was also a practicing Muslim at that time, but I use to consider her a sellout because she never hung with black people and I wanted to be around black people so I didn’t bother asking her any questions. My own parents, I considered ‘bad Muslims’ (like myself) so I did not ask them. However, once my mother found out I was going to the NOI meetings, she had a fit. She told me I should not go, that what they taught was incorrect. I paid her no attention because like I said, to me she was just a non practicing Muslim. My father had suffered two strokes (what I often refer to as the NOI  curse because he use to be known for his ‘gift of gab’ and was close friends with Muhammad Ali and they both now can barely talk and are incomprehensible) and was in no condition to guide me, but even he was against me going. All this did was bring out the rebel in me. I mean if they were against it, than it must be right.

 

Oh My God! How wrong was I?!

 

I  was enjoying my time with the NOI. I was becoming ‘conscious’ (of the plight of the black man) and the brothers were gorgeous! I had never seen such fine black men. I had actually dismissed their teachings from my head. I did not believe them and at the time my ‘God Consciousness’ was not where it should have been so I played along like I was down just so that I could stick around. I have a relative who is married to one of Farrakhan’s daughters and he is the CEO of the NOI. Also I was good friends with Farrakhan’s son, so I had wasta (connections) and could easily rise in the ranks. However, I noticed that most of the higher ups were not religious. This was starting to bother me a bit until…….. I met HIM!

 

In the NOI they have what is called a courtship procedure. If you are in the MGT (Muslim Girl In Training) than you have a Captain and if he is in the FOI (Fruits of Islam) than he has a Captain. If a male and a female are interested in each other than they approach their captains and the captains will look into it. Sometimes you may never find out somebody was interested in you, because your captain may have not deemed it a good suit. Other times the captain will tell you that brother such and such is interested in courting you. You can not go out with the person unchaperoned. This is suppose to lead to marriage.

 

A brother I knew from high school was in the NOI. He told me that he started courting his wife after he bought her cake in the bake sale. The bake sale was a covert way of letting it be known who was in the market. I was told to bake something and sit back and watch. Well I am not very domestic, so I had a little ole lady friend of the family help me make a nice lemon pound cake with lemon frosting. I entered the bake sale. It was so funny and sad for some sisters,who baked much better than me but either nobody bought their cake or a group of sisters bought it. I was a new college grad, with a fresh ride (BTW I never got to hang out and show off my ride that summer because by then I was on my journey to discover Islam), a job, no kids, and considered attractive. Needless to say, my cake got bedded (is that a word?) on BIG TIME and sold for $500.00!!! The winner was this brother on post. You know those robotic looking brothers doing security? The wanna be secret service dudes? You know how they are suppose to be focused? This brother was so cool about his stuff, that he just did a slight nod and they acknowledged his bid. People were acting like I had a star. The MC was like “Brother so and so has bedded highest on Sister so and so’s cake. Brother only eats one meal a week and doesn’t eat any meat, chicken, or processed food…just fish and vegetables…what you gonna do with that cake?” I was disappointed that he was the winner because I did not want to court him. He was low ranking and well…I was the….anyway…masha’Allah. He lost all hope after I told him I would need the dish back because it belonged to the little ole lady who helped me bake it. He never returned the dish, but I wasn’t mad, after all he spent $500.00 on a measly little pound cake…lol!!!

 

Then I met HIM! He was tall, dark, and handsome…lol! This is the man I wanted to marry. Oh well we plan and Allah Plans and Allah is The Best Planner.

 

It got to the point where I could not stomach hearing another word about Master Fard Muhammad. I also was tired of every body’s undying love for The Minister (another reason I can’t stand to hear people over praise certain Islamic Callers and pumped up ‘Scholars’) and the pretension of the people who tried to get close to me because I could eat in the Ministers private dining room at The Salaam Restaurant and was welcomed in ‘the Palace’. It was especially bothersome to me to see the hypocrisy in the higher ups and how loyal and faithful the little man was and that the higher ups were not held accountable for anything. I tried hard not to worry about those things because they were not my problem. Farrakhan’s wife had just taken my measurements and was personally making my garments…like I said not my problem!

 

My problem was towing the line and keeping my mouth shut. I remember being in the orientation class and the teacher was talking about how they believed that Allah came in the person of Master Fard Muhammad. I did not know much but I knew this was not true and I stood up and told her so. There was another student in the class who had been born and raised in the nation but had fallen out and was being readmitted. She was so sweet and tried her best to explain to me how Allah is like electricity and that MFM was…oh you get the picture…some crazy explanation. everyone was so amazed and impressed with her explanation and I sat back down thinking, “what a bunch of idiots!” Another time I was in class and someone asked a question about the Quran. The teacher told the student that she should not read the Quran before reading Message To The Black Man, because MTTBM would help her to understand the Quran better. Again I stood up and disagreed with her. She told me, “that’s your problem! You keep reading the Quran thinking you can understand it without reading MTTBM, if you don’t like what we teach than don’t come back.” Well I didn’t like what they taught but I liked HIM and so I came back!

 

Then HE started getting on my nerves. Always talking about the Minister. Told me how once the Minister asked him about his father and he told him he didn’t know his father, so the Minister told him, “I’m your father.” He was so touched and I tried to be as phony as I could and acted touched too but he could see right through me. He would tell me how much Mother Khadijah (The Wife of Farrakhan) sacrificed with him always away, and I tried to act like it would be an honor to be married to an FOI and that I too would sacrifice!

 

The more I started to actually read the Quran (a horrible translation of), the more  taqwa (Allah consciousness/Fear of) I got. I knew that I could not continue down this path. As much as I was enjoying being in the nation (the brotherhood/sisterhood) I knew that my stay, though short, was over.

 

I was driving past that renovated masjid again one day and noticed that the door was opened. I pulled my Jeep over, jumped out and almost tripped over my feet running to get inside. I was so excited. The Imaam was there. He was a  young guy that lived a block away from me and was the grandson of Elijah Muhammad and the son of Jabir ‘Herbert'(the manger of Muhammad Ali back in the day). He and his family ‘adopted’ me and took me under their wings. I was so happy to finally be meeting ‘real’ Muslims.

 

I eventually called HIM, this is how that conversation went:

Me: What would it take for me to make you not want to have anything to do with me anymore? 

 

HIM: Saying something foul about The Minister, The Messenger (Elijah), or Master Fard Muhammad

 

Me: Oh well I have something to tell you

 

HIM: You can tell me anything

 

Me: I don’t believe that Allah came in the person of MFM, I don’t believe that Elijah Muhammad is a messenger of Allah, and I think Farrakhan knows this.

 

HIM: after several moments of silence…you think The Minister is a liar?

 

Me: I think he is teaching other than the truth

 

HIM: Well I’m going to call Minister Ishmael (Elijah’s illegitimate son who is the head minister in Chicago) and set up a meeting for you so that he can counsel you. He can explain all of this to you much better than I can.

 

Me: I understand it perfectly fine, I don’t need further explanation, I don’t accept it as the truth.

 

HIM: quiet…oh that’s messed up…quiet

 

Well that was all in 1995. I permanently severed my ties with the NOI shortly after The Million Man March. I spent all of 1996 studying and learning the sunnah. Most of the books in Chicago were old outdated books from Lahore Pakistan and under Sufi influence. I was just happy at the time to be ‘orthodox’ or ‘mainstream’, mostly bidah (innovated matters). Then in December of 1996 I attended an IANA conference that changed my life. It was the first time I ever heard the word ‘salafi’. I do not even have to tell you the rest of my story because Umar Lee is telling it better than I ever could. If you want to know my journey from 1996 till present check out the continuing saga Umar has on The rise and fall of the ’salafi dawah’ in the US (Part 1)

 

Umar hits very close to home. The series has brought tears to my eyes each time I read it. This is the second time in my life I have lost an entire support system (I had good friends in the NOI) and been left on my own to prctice a religion that is not meant to divide but to unite. It’s so heartbreaking and depressing for me that I can not discuss this…

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