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MSA West Zone Conference
April 15-17, 2005
Tucson, AZ

"Destined to Inspire: Motivating Ourselves by Purifying Our Intentions (Ikhlas)"

Imam Abdul Jalil:

"Salaam Aleikum. (Arabic words). Brothers and sisters again salaam aleikum. I first of all want to commend the brothers and sisters of Muslim Student Association for putting this program together Alhamdulillah. You did an excellent job, and just to be brief and direct to the topic of inspiring. On September 12, 2001, I was standing in the middle of the rubble at the WTC and I was for what you would want to identify obviously a Muslim, and a few people from the law enforcement community, I am also the President of the Islamic community of law enforcement officers for the State of New York, which we have about 7,000 members, Muslim police officers, male and female, correctional officers in the Law Enforcement community. And one of the things that struck me uniquely with the non-Muslim law enforcement personal and an FBI agent said to me, 'Imam you know from all of the people from the religious community that are here, we are more happy to see you then all of them put together.' And I began that, as that brought home a point to me based on what I want to discuss with us here. Allah has taught us in the Quran, 'I have only created the Jinn and Men that they may serve Allah.' The Imam gave a Khutba, very inspiring , and I thought he was reading my notes at one point.

"And the Aya asked who we are as a people. I think that's the subject, I think, of how do we see ourselves as a Muslim people within the community; and I don't mean the Muslim community, within the community. How do we see ourselves? How do we see our role, what do we see ourselves being created for? The beauty of Islam is we don't really have to ask certain questions because the answer is already provided. Allah said, that you are the best people evolved for the good of mankind. For the good of mankind; that's the role, that's our mission. Allah created us with that mission. Why? Because we enjoy life, we forbid evil and we believe in Allah. The Sister, (UI word), she spoke like a true Political Science major, you know having been, prior to being a Muslim I was in the middle of the Black Panther party, so I applaud you.

"What is the role, what is our role? If we turn also into the Bakra, I think the 145th Aya, Allah commissions and gives us our role. Allah says, 'Thus we created you an Ummah al Wathaja(?), a balanced community. And there is a reason why we are balanced; so that we may be witnesses for mankind. And the prophets of Islam witness for us. Our role is already defined so that we may be witnesses for humanity. Witnesses to what? Witnesses to the best in the human being. I think one of the problems that impacts us is that we don't see knowledge as an organic whole. We see knowledge as a fragmented thing. But Allah, all knowledge comes from Allah. How we utilize that knowledge is based upon how sane or insane we are. So our responsibility within our own family but also being a part of the global family, because Allah is not the God of the Muslims, Allah is the (UI Arabic word); Allah is the God of Mankind. And our Prophet Muhammad was very clear on this point as to how he treated others. And he reminded us, and I think that we have to first solve our problems before we can go out an help people solve their problems. The Prophet Muhammad said that none of us truly believe. 'Do you want for your brother and your sister in Islam that which you want and your neighbor that which you want for yourself?' So we have to see that we have a responsibility to ourselves and we have a responsibility to our community. This community, we live in this community. We don't live in a vacuum; we don't live in isolation. And that is one of the major problems that impacts us pre and post 9/11, because those who hated Islam hated Islam before the WTC went down, let's be clear on that. Those who hated the Muslim, they hated us before that. And what happened there is not going to minimize that, let's be clear on that point.

"What we see today and the sister, I'll echo what she said. What we see is a cancer that has engulfed the human being. And that cancer that has engulfed the human being is rugged individualism with no sense of accountability to the creator. In our Niya and Imam Zaid spoke about it today, in terms of the necessity of the purity of our intentions, our niya, because we can put forth a Niya each other and it may not necessarily be true. But surely Allah, that's why when Allah commanded us to extend praise and iman, he used the word Hem. Allah could have used another word for praise. There is another word I think - (UI word). But Allah used the word Hem. Why? Because Hem unlike the other words that know praises could be true or false. But a Hem is always true. Why? Because we cannot deceive Allah, we cannot deceive Allah. We might deceive one another but Allah knows truly the pure imbiya of the heart. And what's in your heart you're going to manifest in your character, because some people will say, 'Well you don't know what's in my heart.' And the Prophet Muhammad said that when asked whose the best Muslim, he said the best Muslim is those that mind their business.

So what's in your heart is Allah's business, I am not concerned. You might have the greatest heart but if you robbed me you still committed a wrong. That's between you and Allah. Allah spoke out in the Koran where he commands us to do something. Every command that Allah commands an action to occur, he always gives that command in the plural. He never give it in the individual. It's always plural. Whenever Allah commands us to do something, Allah commands us to do it together. Not only to affirm each other, but also in the same token to acknowledge that Allah created all of us. And until we see that or understand this concept that Allah is the god of mankind, then we continue to isolate ourselves. We continue as the imam said in the khuttbah and the sister who did the jummah in New York. And believe me, I sat in a meeting with 75 imams and everybody's (UI word) all over the place. 'Well let's go blow the place up.' Why? Why? Maybe just maybe if we had respected the creation of Allah then this would not have happened. Maybe if we had respected that weakness that we don't bring any more to the table than the sisters, then we wouldn't have this problem. Maybe if we treated our wives, by the way they're our wives but they're Muslim first.

"Then we wouldn't have this, and I don't want to get too (UI word), I don't know what (UI 2 words) here. In New York I can say what I want to say. (UI sentence) We have to stop allowing as the imam said to be reactionary, the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us. It is our responsibility to learn Islam and to be a practical example of it. To each other and to the larger community. That is our responsibility. So within that responsibility we have to ask ourselves, 'Are we a part of the problem, or are we leaders guiding to the solution?' The Koran has the solution. What we fail to do, and I acknowledge what the sister is saying, one of the problems I think as I see it is that we fail to see the Koran within the light of our present day situation. We see the Koran as a solution to a problem during the time of the prophet Mohammed. But the Koran is ever-moving. Certain things don't change; the fundamentals of Islam, the foundation, never changes. But the Koran addresses the problems today, tomorrow and a thousand years from now.

"The failure with us is that we are not reading the Koran. We don't open the Koran. And I don't mean to sound as if I know what's going on in your house because I really don't, but some of us we know that's the case, is the book in our house that has the dust on it because we don't open it up; we don't look for guidance, we don't look for solution, we don't look for the cure for the things that impact us. For example, we don't look to the prophet. As the imam said, in conventional warfare we become heroes by dropping bombs in the middle of the night. And then we have a parade down hero's canyon(?) in New York. Not we murder women and children and people who are not combatants.

"So I think the thing that we as Muslims need to be mindful of is that we have the solution to the problem that impact us. We have the solution to the problem that impacts society. We have the solution to the problem that impacts the world. We just have to be confident in being a Muslim. Because some of us, you see the beauty of the Muslim woken by the way is that they are truly the visual aid of the Muslim community. That's a fact. There's not too many non-Muslim women wearing hijab. That's a fact. I don't care what the style is, they're not putting on no hijab. The brothers, we can get a baseball cap and turn it backwards. We don't know who you are. And you know that to be the fact. And sometimes if we are not confident we would not even return the greeting because of a non-Muslim, for fear that a non-Muslim is gonna know that we are a Muslim. We have to be confident of who we are as a Muslim. We have to be confident. We cannot stereotype any Muslim. If a sister does not have on a hijab, mind your business. You know why? Because she may be contributing more to the uplifting of society and humanity than you are. We have to treat each other, and I want to close with this because I don't know if the moderator, he is not saying anything. 2 minutes.

"We have to do what Allah has commanded us. Allah commanded us in the Koran, Allah said that the believers are compassionate with each other. And they are hard against kufr. They are compassionate with each other and they are hard against kufr. We have to be compassionate with each other as Allah is compassionate with us. One of the things as a soldier, and I know the sheikh was a soldier. And we get this, when I was a young man a little crazy at the time down there in Vietnam. One of the things that Islam gave to the world is the term 'triage.' And the term triage is used although it's not to treat the sick by the way. People think triage is to treat the sick. No. Triage is to treat who you think can give the better service to humanity. So the doctor is sick, has the same illness as me, you're gonna treat the doctor first. But one thing we learned from the battlefield is a soldier injured meaning that if we fell short of the mark, you don't throw the soldier away. What do you do? You patch them up and get them back in the war. And that's how we have to treat each other; with compassion. We have to remind each other. There is nothing better than being a Muslim. There is nothing better than being a Muslim. There is no being better than Islam. Never, not any of them. And we have to be willing, not by what we say, but by our actions to lead by that examples. When other people are having problems that they can't cope with, we should have a cheerful countenance because Allah has already given us a solution. I pray that Allah continue to guide us. I pray that Allah continue to keep us Muslim. I pray that Allah continue to inspire conferences like this, and that we are willing to be an example for each other, an example for our neighbors; and as the sister said, if you know that your neighbor is in need, help your neighbor. That's the best dawah you can give. Salaam aleikum."

"Developing Our Ummah: Strengthening Ties Within the Muslim Community; We are Social Servants of God"

Imam Abdul Jalil:

"(Arabic words). The topic, I don't know how much time I have, so you have to let me know. OK, the topic is both professional and personal to me. Aya in the Koran, Allah says 'Hold fast altogether. And remember and be not divided among yourselves.' (UI few words), so be his grace you became brothers. You are on the brink of (UI rest of sentence). And in the hadith, the topic of Islam, he says that the community is like one body. And when the body, and whatever ailment in one part of the body, the rest of the body responds with urgency. And this urgency that we, I'm using a model that we have developed and are currently using in New York City in particular but it's a model that can be used around the country. Because the reality of the matter is those that are disenfranchised disproportionately on an economic basis is the one that we find populating these prisons among men and women. So that whatever region, if it were in certain parts of California it would be the Mexicans. If we were in certain parts of the Midwest it would be the Indian. Wherever the minority resides at you will find this model is applicable.

"I'm just gonna, I'm using a model for discharge planning and reentry which we actually successfully lobbied in the city of New York, and have gotten funding from the government, from the mayor and from the city council people, and actually put this reentry program into place. As it relates to the other communities, the Christians, the Jews, they have programs that assist reentry back into the community, but only from their own perspective. The Muslim community has nothing in place to provide services for, in New York City in particular state, the estimated prison population, and I'm gionna deal with real stats because the numbers are sometimes misleading. In the United States of America, we have successfully incarcerated more citizens in America than all of the Communist Bloc countries ever did combined. I mean all of the Russia, the Czechoslovakia, all of them. We have more citizens in America incarcerated in prisons. And I have to differentiate between prisons versus jails. Big difference.

"So (UI word) for the stats that sister Anisa and Imam Zaid spoke about, actually was the stat that was distributed in 2002 by New York State's department of justice. The current data in reality in state and federal prison, both the minimum level of acceptance above one year. The current incarceration rate is really 2.8 million. And out of those 2.8 million is an estimated 175,000 women. Let's deal with the women first because women tend to in general society always get the double standard here, even though they have the most needs. Because when you incarcerate mothers what you are doing is, you are disenfranchising the entire family as it relates to the children. So when these women are incarcerated what happens to their children? Their children go into what is called foster care. Now I don't know how foster care is in Arizona here. But foster care in New York City means that you are really, it's like the major leagues and the minor leagues. It's like college basketball versus the NBA. So the college basketball be considered the minor leagues as opposed to the NBA which is professional. So the foster care system, and I deal with the foster care group, because I also supervise that unit for the New York City department of corrections for women who are incarcerated. It is really the minor leagues to prepare for the next generation of prisoners. That's our view of foster care in reality, because it is a business and it's not personal. There is no care going on. It's really about money. So all these children of women who are incarcerated will really become the next set of people who will experience incarceration.

"In New York state alone, I want for you to understand the numbers where they are realistic, and we think that that is somebody else's problem. Really it is truly our problem. Imam Siraj Wahaj; many of you probably know him, to show you how crime is determined based upon who is given that out, is virtually a prisoner in the United States. That's a fact. They have taken his passport and he can't leave the country. We have leaders like Imam Jamil Al-Amin, who was set up. So we are the victims of what is called CoIntelPro and covert action. Covert action is those agents they train out the country. CoIntelPro is how, the method they use to disenfranchise or to create elements of what we say fiqna within the different masjids within the country.

"So this number of almost 3 million people that's incarcerated who are (UI 2 words) is one thing. Then we have those men and women who are incarcerated where everyone calls detention facilities, or county facilities. It's interesting, they are (UI word) with new technology so they e-mail me all over the place. At 7:30 this morning in Phoenix, AZ (UI few words). They just opened up 2 new jails and they literally walked 2600 inmates into these 2 jails. I don't know what's going on in Phoenix but what was startling to me is that they actually walked them in handcuffs in pink boxers and pink shoes. I don't know what's happening in Phoenix. I couldn't figure that one out; I really couldn't figure that one out. But that's what they did this morning at 7:30. Two new jails right here in Phoenix. In Phoenix, AZ in the state system, they have approximately 45,000 people incarcerated. So the numbers they're really relevant based upon the size of the state.

"In detention facilities alone, and I am going to now begin to deal really with reentry. I said that this is both personal and professional. I am a part of (UI name) Masjid, I'm also the (40:30) Executive Director for Ministerial Services, Educational programs, volunteer services and (UI word) administration program for New York City department of corrections. I supervise maybe 1500 employees who provide services to the 108,000 men and women who are admitted into New York City, which is the five boroughs not the state. Approximately 108,000 men and women are incarcerated and come through our doors each year, each year. I am assigned in the City Correction's Youth (program?)in Rikers Island. Rikers Island really, actually it's an island, an island of prisons. There are seven prisons and we house on a daily basis 15,000 men and women every day that are incarcerated, out of 108,000 that come through our system every year.

"When we started to deal with services (UI word) services for this population we did a faux paux. We found that Imam Zaid said earlier, 70-80% of these men and women have some form of addiction and they have criminalized their addiction. It is estimated that 32% are illiterate. In a society of literate people we would be shocked at the amount of youth that cannot comprehend above the 4th grade level. We would be shocked. but we have tested these young men and women and found that 32% are illiterate and borderline retarded, 29% have severe mental disorders, and the prison now has become the (UI 2 words). 30% of those leaving prisons or jails, excuse me, will go directly into a homeless shelter with no place to go. We found that 34% of those who are discharged from the city facilities are readmitted within one year, 41% of those discharged are rearrested within one year, 67% of those discharged are rearrested within three years, so the stats is ongoing and they never change; they never decrease they only increase.

"So what is it then becomes our responsibility in this affair? It is easy to say this is someone else problem that does not impact me, but the reality of the matter now I am going to give you some other stats. Out of the men and women who are incarcerated in detention centers which numbers in the United States might exceed now three million more, now we are up to six million that have criminal justice (UI word). We have men and women who are on probation and parole, which is nothing but an extension from the jails, and they pull them back in at will and disrupt their lives. Men and women who came out and have gotten jobs and if their probation officer or parole officer does not feel good that day, they are remanded. There go their job, their family is again in deceit.

"We have particularly to us in this day, in this (UI word) the quote unquote Muslim (UI word). We have, you would be astonished and amazed, dismayed, at the amount of Muslims, particular Muslims from abroad, who are incarcerated either in immigration or federal prison, federal facilities held incommunicado, not charged for anything other than the fact that they have eastern, they come from eastern descent. They are not charged with anything, they are not entitled to any rights, they are interrogated. Some of them are literally tortured and we found this in our facility in the metropolitan correctional facility which is the federal facility in Manhattan. But they literally are torturing people. So to say that this is someone else's problem is not truly the case. It's our problem. Why? Because we have been criminalized, we know it's different, we know what the facts really our. We have terrorists defining who the terrorist is, but because they have the weight of legitimacy they get away with it. We know that and I don't want to become too political on this, I want to be focused. We know that the greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House, without a doubt. That is a fact, it depends upon how you define it or who is defining or controlling the dialogue. During Hitler's time, (UI 3 words it was mainly?) Jews (UI 2 words without friends?), even though we know for a fact that Hitler was diabolically bad. So it depends who is controlling the dialogue as to who is designated as a criminal, who is designated as a terrorist. So these are the things that impact incarceration here right in America. We are American citizens and we are not immune, and I brought up Imam Siraj for a reason because they want to marginalize you or make you ineffective. Then what they do, they begin to present obstacles. So in this scenario then what is, or what is it that we can do?

"It's easy to become incarcerated. Imam Zaid was speaking about the draconian Rockefeller drug laws in New York State. That was personal for me because I know, because having been the victim of that, that law, and having served 17 years of my life in New York state prison in Attica, in those type places. But Alhumdilallah the work or recovering and repairing of human life was through the Islam. It was though the guise, and hearing the message of Islam, right before they started to shoot up Attica, that I embnraced Islam in 1970 in Attica State Prison. Before they Rockefeller (UI word)go in and kill up as many people as you can kill. So I know from a personal basis, in the Shehadah, when we say la ilaha illa Llah, of course the normal translation of that is 'To Bear witness to the fact that there is no God but Allah.' But an expanded definition of that is to personally experience the fact that there is no God but Allah, because that is what the Shehadah is. We are personally experiencing the fact that there is no God but Allah, so I can say not in a philosophical way or in an abstract way, that Islam is truly the only thing in society that can redeem the human people, no matter what level they are on. So it would behoove us because we also know that when men and women, whether they are reincarcerated, they experience as it relates to Islam, many of them, the simplistic approach to life that Islam conveys or appeals to them so they embrace Islam. Some of them become committed and some of them are always in transition, but we all know that even the Brothers and Sisters who leave and come (UI 3 words), [49:35] often times when they come back into the prison, the first thing that they do is they begin to try to make some up.

"Well we say, why can't they be productive once they leave the prison? They can not be productive because most of the time if not all of the time they come from dysfunctional family situations. They do not have a viable support network in place. I always use a model and the model I use is the 'Cycle of Life.' There is a lot of things that we can learn. There is a reason why Allah decreed that the cycle of life is nine months. There is a reason for that-from the point of conception to the point of giving birth. What we fail to have in palace for these brothers and sisters is a nine month program when they are entered back into the world -- some say the belly of the beast or from the belly of the beast, or from the womb -- is a nine month program that can secure them to become stable. And this is one of the things that, how am I doing on time? So what I am proposing to us, and this is again the in the (UI 2 words) along with Imam Rashid I am the vice Chairman for the Justice Committee for New York City Majlis-al-Shura which is the Council of Imams, and what it is that we can be doing. As it relates to in-house, we have that covered. We have developed, as Imam Zaid eluded to, we have developed an Islamic curriculum for training men and women in the (UI word) the things that they need, not the global politics, not all of those things, what's going on around the world, that means nothing. Psychologists would call that displacement or disassociation; it's not real. You hear people talking in ambivalent global terms, it's because they don't want to deal with the issues of local realities. But we'll talk about it somewhere else.

"So what we are asking is that the Muslim community begin to explore the possibility of developing what we call a nine month transition to house, where the person can be trained in viable, marketable job skills and benefit from the positive role model that the Muslim community offers them. When I began this talk, we have those services in New York City, but they are being provided by the Christians and the Jews. So when a sister goes into one of the programs in hijab, she is made to feel less (UI word). If a brother goes into one of their programs, then you have to confirm your allegiance to Issa and Maryam. So now they're not only victimized inside, now they are victimized outside. So we as a community, and we have other issues of trying to save our youth from going to jail, to try to see what resources that we can allocate towards that goal.

"What we are doing in our discharge program is only for the senior sector inmates. At Rikers, any inmate that is sentenced below one year does not go up to a state facility. We have developed a model to target this specific population, because we know when they are going home. We know the exact date and time they are going home based on upon their sentence, so we can develop a program for them. But for other brothers and sisters, I don't want you to not deal with the reality that there are some brothers and sisters who are Muslim (UI word). Let us be clear from that point. That is the reality. Because Muslims are people too. The Muslim is not some superhuman person. The Muslim is human too. But for those who have the resources, we can help develop a model, develop a psycho-social so you'll know exactly who you are dealing with. We are not going to release no predators into the Muslim community, so that means that the sheikh is going to be in jail. Because as leaders, we must protect the Muslim community. That is the reality. Even sometimes, from our own selves.

"So this is what we are doing in New York City. We are doing this now in New York City. We have a model. We have gotten government funding for it. What we do now when a person is sentenced, we develop a psycho-social on them, we trace where they are at. While they are there, we have them engage in substance abuse services. When they leave, we actually, physically take them to a job. And we have this agreement with different companies who will hire ex-offenders. They do that for a week. Some of the men and women go, some don't. After they get their first paycheck, we don't see them again. We are not concerned with that. The only thing that we are concerned with is that we can provide a lease, a program that they can succeed. I am appealing to the Muslim community to develop a program for brothers and sisters; to reach out to the brothers and sisters that are doing the work in the prisons. We are (UI 2 words) so we know what type of mindset people are in. We want to ensure that the brothers and sisters (UI word) is sincere to make a difference in their life and the life of the community, and at least we afford them the opportunity, and Islam affords each of us here the opportunity to be the best person we can. Islam affords us this opportunity. Allah, he affords us that opportunity.

"It is on us whether or not we are grateful. Are we grateful for the blessings that Allah extends to us or to we take them for granted? And sometimes we take things for granted; we take each other for granted. We neglect each other; we don't see each other as a organic whole. So I am asking that we do that for ourselves. And as I conclude, we are going to take this opportunity to do something a little different, because sometimes we take each other for granted. I want you to turn to the person next to you and tell them Allah loves you. Now I want you to turn to the person to your left and say so do I. Doesn't that make us feel good when we affirm who we are as a people? Salaam aleikum."