Dr. Jimmy Jones will be lecturing here in London over the next week, and having had the pleasure of listening to him yesterday, I recommend that you try and catch some of his lectures. You can find details on the Masjid Al-Ansar web site.
Before the lecture I managed to gleam a small part of his journey to Islam between bites of lunch!
Dr. Jones embraced Islam in 1979. In 1967 he read autobiography of Malcolm X and, as a self confessed bibliophile from young age, he went on to read whatever he could, from where ever he could about the religion of Islam.
Dr Jones was raised a Southern Black Baptist church, a good atmosphere he says, to learn the love Allah. He went to Hampton University which was a black, conservative college.
This was during beginnings of the black civil rights movement. The only people active in dawa at the time were the Nation of Islam, but he knew from Malcolm X’s autobiography about their corrupted beliefs. He attended their meetings and those of other movements like the Black Panthers, but never joined any particular group. As a young black man witnessing racism and social injustice in the United States he remembers that he was not particularly impressed by the ideas of Martin Luther King, who was preaching that people should lie down and let themselves get attacked and shot at by the police. Malcolm’s “by any means necessary” seemed to make much more sense, although in retrospect he realizes something of the wisdom of King’s approach.
Islam attracted him because it seemed to offer a real and practical solution to the problems of racism and social injustice.
It wasn’t until he got married that he began to realize that he needed to take that matter of Islam seriously. It was a joint decision with his wife. They both decided to give the Church one last go. The food was good, the music was good, but the sermon wasn’t. It confirmed for both of them that the idea of the man/God just didn’t make any sense, and so they became Muslims and joined the World Wide Community of Muslims in the West, which was lead by Elijah Mohammed’s son, Warith deen.
A critical time came in his life when his son was shot by a policeman, and it was a great test as to whether he was going to follow his deen or his nafs! He talked about that more in the lecture which was on the topic of Islam and social justice.
He started by quoting the ayah:
Oh you who believe, be maintainers of justice and witnesses for Allah, even though it is against yourselves, your parents, or your kinsmen, whether he is rich or poor, Allah has more rights over both of them. So do not follow desires, so that you are (not) just. If you twist or turn, Allah is Aware of what you do.
Surah Number: 4, Ayah Number: 135
One of the short coming of Muslims today is that they are conspiracy orientated. It’s something he calls:
Post Victimization Ethical Exemption Syndrome
Rather like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it’s a psychological condition that causes people to behave in an inerrant manner.
This PVEES seems to affect in particular African Americans and Muslims. The syndrome is rather like the golden rule turned on its head. So instead of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, its “They did it to us so we can do it to them!”
That, Dr Jones explained, is wrong and against Allah’s teachings for humanity. We should stand out for justice. We are supposed to be justice orientated, not victim/conspiracy orientated.
Two things happened in his life that bought all this into focus.
April 14 1997 Malik (named after Malik el Shabazz, i.e. Malcolm X) his only blood son was shot dead by the police.
Patience, Dr Jones reminded us, is at the beginning of calamity. What good is patience with those who are patient with you? You will always be good to those who are doing good to you. Even those with no Iman can manage that, so surely the manner of the believer is supposed to be superior!
After the murder of his son many people in his community where shouting that this was a crime motivated by race, and were calling for demonstrations and action.
Dr Jones said that the first thing they needed to do was to make janaza, then enquire what happened, but the fact was that he was never able to really establish the actual facts. For two months he put a gagging order on himself and he refused to speak to the press in case he inflamed the situation.
Dr Jones reflected that where ever we Muslims go we should make things better. The move from Mecca to Madina was a transformative experience. It was a lesson in merging. There were two different world views. The agricultural view of the Ansar and mercantile societies of the muhajiroon, but such was the skill of the Prophet and the greatness of Islam that these two different societies were so effectively joined.
So, after the death of his son Dr Jones immersed himself
further in the study and application of the Quran and Sunnah. Until now he has
never publicly condemned this police officer.
Instead Dr Jones and his wife got more involved in the community, opened a prisoners transition house and a centre for Middle East understanding, named after his son in the hope it will help to find a just way to make peace there.
A second important event took place on May 6th 2004.
On that day Brandon Mayfield was taken into custody as a material witness to the 2004 Madrid bombings. Brandon Mayfield is white, a US army veteran and a member of Organ Bar, yet his house was ransacked and family traumatized and it was all based on untenable evidence. ( Brandon also happened to be Muslim.)
All this made Dr Jones made realize just how vulnerable he was. Remember, Dr Jones continued, that all this is in the context of the fact that the average American Muslim is both better of financially than average American, and better educated. So, there are practical reasons also to stand up for justice, and to be in forefront of doing good in local communities, because this will bring the reality of Islam into to light in a practical, visible way.
For example the Jews in Andalusia revived Hebrew because they saw the practical benefits of the efforts Muslims made in preserving the Arabic language. Muslims should always Leaders in Khair (goodness) , and we must reclaim the moral high ground.
In these times when there is talk of world wide Muslim conspiracy for domination, Dr Jones suggests that what we really need is a World wide conspiracy for Khair! It is out duty to enjoin the right and forbid the evil, and Dr Jones implores all Muslims and especially the leaders of communities to exert their energies in doing this.