Beliefnet
While the media conjures up images of H. Rap Brown, the '60s revolutionary with his incendiary calls for violence, Muslims of America bring to mind a different image--a humble, soft-spoken, national leader who has been instrumental in uniting the very diverse Muslim community.

This explains why national Muslim groups have come to his aid in his current legal problems, which stem from a shooting incident in Atlanta in which it is alleged that he fatally shot a U.S. marshal.Among Muslims, Imam Jamil Abdulah Al-Amin--the name Brown adopted when he became a Muslim--is a well-known, well-liked national figure--leader of a national organization of African-American Muslims, a frequent speaker at Muslim conferences, and a member of the Islamic Shura Council, the unity council of the major national Muslim organizations in America.

His life as a Muslim began in prison as a convert to the Dar-ul Islam Movement. In the late '60s and '70s, Dar-ul Islam was the major African-American Sunni Muslim organization. It blended the rhetoric of Muslim movements of the East with the rough-edged black militancy of the '60s, and espoused a careful adherence to mainstream Islam. But despite having much in common, the movement and the growing immigrant Muslim community had a rocky if not hostile relationship.

Soon after prison and his move to Atlanta to became imam--or religious leader--of a small community there, Dar-ul Islam broke apart, much of its leadership deciding to follow a Sufi sheik. In 1983, the remnants of the old movement came together and elected Al-Amin as their national imam.

In 1987, the new organization took the name the National Islamic Community and later the National Ummah. Growth has been slow but steady. The organization now has over 28 masjids, or mosques, and holds an annual convention that attracts about 700 people.

More important, Al-Amin helped transform the old Dar-ul Islam. He retired old hostile rhetoric that looked down on other Muslim organizations and removed the old swagger and street machismo that was the movement's stereotypical image.

He helped heal the bitter relationship between the various Muslim groups, especially between African-American Muslims and immigrant Muslims. Through the late 1980s, Al-Amin worked to forge close ties with the leadership of other immigrant organizations. This process culminated in the formation in 1993 of the Islamic Shura Council, which brought together for the first time the four major national Muslim organizations: the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of North America, both mainly immigrant; and the two mainly African-American organizations, Imam W. Deen Mohammad's organization and Al-Amin's group.

Instead of fiery rhetoric, Al-Amin's rap as a Muslim has been a constant call to a faithful commitment to the tenets of Islam and a call to build Muslim communities based first on congregational prayer in the masjid. His refrain has been "if you don't have enough discipline to pray together for Fajr (the dawn prayer) how can you have a movement."

Al-Amin envisions communities living around the masjid and establishing a place (dar) of peace. The main difference between him and the other organizations has been his reluctance to participate in the political process. But even in this regard, he does not publicly attack those that do.

His stature in the Muslim community is not due to his organization's size. His convention's turnout is dwarfed by the 10,000 that have attended ISNA and Imam W. Deen Mohammad's conventions. Part of his stature is due to the fact that his organization represents the only national organization of African-American Muslims who did not come out of the Nation of Islam.

In addition, he garners respect from virtually all African-American Muslims who recognize his accomplishments as a leader in the black power movement. To a much greater extent, however, his esteem is due to the respect that he has gained for his advocacy of an adherence to normative Islam and for his work in helping bridge the divide that existed between the Muslim groups.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus