By Aneerah Ali, Esq., Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
When I had first registered for the Second Annual Flint Muslim Family Camp held just this past Memorial Day Weekend at the Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, MI, I was looking forward to spending a weekend with my family and friends. I was also very much looking forward to listening to the guest Speaker, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah. And when the time came for us to actually meet and listen to him I was even more impressed than I had originally expected to be. Dr. Umar told us wonderful stories about the roots of Muslims in the Americas and about Muslims in different areas of the world and he told them in such a captivating and illustrious manner that it kept everyone mesmerized and eager to hear more. Even the youth were right there in the lecture hall at each lecture time without anyone having to coax them in. Among all the wonderful stories he shared with us, his major emphasis was on Muslims in America and the contributions they have made to America. He told us about the first Muslim slaves to be brought to the Americas and their impressive stories, he then told us about the first Muslim converts in America. His purpose was to make us understand that we Muslims have been here for a very long time and that we have made major contributions to this country and that we should be aware of that and that we should be able to tell these stories to others and therefore spread the knowledge as much as we can. In addition he introduced us to his book a biography of Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb (1846-1916), titled A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb. It is the first in-depth biography of Webb, a prominent American Muslim convert and founder of the first Islamic mission in America. Dr. Umar worked on this book for 5 years. He researched it thoroughly and he wrote it in a way that anyone can read it, whether it is a young student or an adult it is a truly wonderful and enjoyable story and one that should be read by every Muslim in the United States and then should be conveyed to others.
On Sunday evening after Isha prayer Dr. Umar graciously agreed to sit down and allowed me to interview him. Through this interview I found out a good deal more about this great Muslim leader. Dr. Umar was very much influenced by Malcolm X. It was Malcolm Xâ€™s courage, honesty and willingness to sacrifice for what he believed, that made Dr. Umar learn about and accept Islam in 1970. In Dr. Umarâ€™s eyes Malcolm X was one of the greatest American leaders.
Currently Dr. Umar is the Chairman of the Board of Directors and Scholar In-Residence of the Nawawi Foundation. Their mission as it is stated on the mission page of the Nawawi Foundationâ€™s website is that it seeks to disseminate knowledge of Islam and its civilization and provide Islamic guidance for Muslims in America; to present relevant and time-honored paradigms that free and empower the Muslim psychology; and to enable the Muslim community to join others in advancing the spiritual, moral, and economic health of American society at large. Also they want to participate in dialogue with people of other faiths in order to establish a mutual understanding and respect of each other.
Dr. Umar expressed that his personal ultimate goal is to work to increase and establish Islamic literacy. So that we all would have the proper understanding of what it means to be literal. And part of that is gender. Dr. Umar through the Nawawi Foundation teaches a course which he believes is very important for Muslims to learn and that is the Famous Women in Islam in which he tell us about great Muslim women not only during the prophetic period but all the way up to the 19th century. This course is available on CD. On various websites including the Nawawi Foundation website.
Personally not only did I learn a lot from Dr. Umar this past weekend, but I gained the interest and eagerness to learn much, much more. Through all the wonderful stories about amazing people of our past which are our roots, we all discovered that our narrator, the scholar and teacher, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah was a great and dynamic person himself from whom we all Muslims can learn a lot.
Once again, I would like to stress that all Muslims should buy and read A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb, because it is a remarkable story that as Muslims in America we definitely need to know, and as there are others who are trying to get this book eliminated, we Muslims need to stand up for our roots by buying this book. It is available through the Nawawi Foundation website, Astrolobe, Amazon.com and other book sites.