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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Muslim Author Spotlight: Ahmed Cleaver

Author Ahmed Cleaver

Back in February the American television station PBS aired a documentary about the rise and fall of the American Civil Rights group, the Black Panther Party. The documentary was titled, "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution​". Among the founding members that were featured was a young Kathleen Cleaver whose video clips and memes about Black power and natural hair pride had been circulating on social media millions of times. Mrs. Cleaver was the wife of the American writer, political activist, and also founding Black Panther Party member, Eldridge Cleaver. The documentary was wildly successful for PBS and uncovered quite a few new pieces of information for me that I hadn't already learned from my mother and grandparents. It was also through the documentary that I learned of Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver's son, Ahmed E. Cleaver. Through guided digging and research, I discovered that brother Ahmed was indeed a Muslim, an educator, and a published author. All the pluses that would make him an excellent candidate for a #MuslimGirlRead interview! After a bit of delay, the following is #MuslimGirlsRead first Author Spotlight with brother Ahmed Cleaver from Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

How did your parents' activism affect your life (childhood and adulthood)? 

My parent's activism had on effect on me since my birth; born & lived in Algeria/sister born in N. Korea/lived in France visited China, Vietnam and many faraway lands as a child of revolutionaries in exile. Our children’s' books were about Malcolm X, Nat Turner, Denmark Vessey, Marcus Garvey, full of heroes and sheroes from Black history. We were directly taught to question, stand up for your rights, fight injustice, say the truth without fear & that slavery has modern forms which must be dismantled. As an adult, this background brings respect from many as well as fear & suspicion from the misled & oppressors of today.

Soul On Islam tells your personal journey into Islam and how your upbringing helped mold you and directed you towards your shahadah. Why did you feel it was necessary to share your narrative and open up to the world about your experiences? 

The consistent spread of Islamophobia and the popularity of misconceptions about Islam and Muslims have both been intensified by the war on terror and the effects of misled extremist groups. This dangerous environment has indeed been one of the reasons that helped to encourage me to use the word to try to shed light upon the beauty of Islam. Another reason is to dispel the pre-conceived notions and imagined half-truths that many people have been deceived by.  It is my small efforts to share the beauty of Islam's eternal principles.

Can you explain social justice from Islamic point of view? 

Equality is the servitude of God as said by Dr. Mbaye Lo, of Duke Islamic Studies Center at Duke University. The Prophet (May the Peace & Blessings of ALLAH be Upon him) said: “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety." (Sahih Bukhari Hadith 1623, 1626, 6361) Justice in the highest & perfect form is to hold unto the principles of Islam & the example of the Prophet (May the Peace & Blessings of ALLAH be Upon him)  with sincere worship, revolving our lives around 5 prayers a day, treating your family, friends, neighbors & strangers in a fair, kind way. And not to lift your hand except to stop someone from doing wrong to others or yourself. The Prophet Muhammad (May the Peace & Blessings of ALLAH be Upon him) said: “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.” The Prophet (May the Peace & Blessings of ALLAH be Upon him) was asked: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” He replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 624)

As an educator living in the Muslim world what do you feel are some of the most pressing issues facing Muslim youth and specifically Muslim girls? Any tips on how we as Muslim parents and educators can work on them?           

 Most pressing issues facing Muslim Youth: Drugs and alcohol, the lack of Islamic modesty, [and] the need for Islamic Moral Guidance based on the Qur'an & Sunnah. [Also] accurately learning the Islamic Methodology of life & dispelling confusion of how to bring social change. And understanding real masculinity and the value of hard work and being responsible to family and to society.                
Most pressing issues facing Muslim Girls: The importance of Islamic modesty and a broader understanding of the Aqidah (beliefs). Qader (the Divine Preordination & that all that happens is by ALLAH's will & is already written) [this] includes who she will marry so [our daughters/sisters] don't need to fret or rush or flirt. Early Training in how to balance life between family, friends, children, marriage & career [is also needed].         
Parental Tips:  Open discussions are a must between parents and children. Giving guidance and direction is needed. Parents [need to] be approachable parents, affectionate and loving. Children need to feel in their home environment a sincere openness to be able to discuss with their parents any topic. Parents must be good examples and role models and consistently establish the prayer…al-Salat….al-Salat (the prayer, the prayer, the prayer).

Black American Muslims have had a long and rich history in the United States. What are your thoughts on Black History Month and in particular the history of Black American Muslims? Do you think that American Muslim youth would benefit from learning about prominent Black American Muslims and their struggles to establish Islam in their lives? 

Indeed, there is a history full of figures of morality, shining brave leadership echoing their sacrifices for justice and battling against a racist system and its continuing injustice. The history of the African-American Muslims goes back to the time before the establishment of the USA and still has not been completely accounted for, documented nor passed down to our next generations and to the larger American community [that includes] Black, Red, White, Yellow and Brown Muslim & non-Muslims. Some excellent works have recently been written such as "Servants of Allah: African Muslims enslaved in the Americas" by Sylviane Diouf and Aminah McCloud's, "African American Islam", Edward Curtis', "Islam in Black America: Identity, Liberation & Difference in African American Islamic Thought". As well as the book, "Islam & the Black American" by Sherman Jackson  However, still much of that history remains for our children, to become truly educated scholars to uncover it and then write it down to preserve it. There is a lot to learn about and benefit from in this special, unique history of the African-American Muslims.

What are some ways that Muslims can introduce literacy to younger generations?

Using stories from the Qur'an and in the Hadith (narrations from the Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him) and reading them as a family story time [helps to introduce literacy]. Then getting the youth to summarize and express themselves vocally [such as] what they learned and liked from the stories and what is the moral of the story is helpful also. Then, the next step is for them to express it in written form. Seek to introduce literacy in fun ways; fun learning for the youth is [necessary]. Read as a family the Qur'anic stories of Yusef Qur'an 12: 1-103,  Zulqarnayn 18: 83-101, the story of Essa 3:35-62, 19:1-37 the stories of Musa & his brother Haroun & the Pharaoh of Egypt 28:2-50, 20:9-99 & the stories of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (May the Peace & Blessings of ALLAH be Upon Them all) In addition to traditional Qur'an reading, memorization & recitation.

#MuslimGirlsRead is an initiative to help get Muslim girls and women reading, writing, and ultimately pursuing higher educational fields that would allow them to teach, control their narratives, and give back to their communities, enshallah. However, there are many hurdles for them to overcome inorder to reach those goals.  What naseehah would you give to young Muslim girls living in the inner-cities of America on how to rise above the Islamophobia and unIslamic trends in the media? 

My sisters: educate yourself with concise responses; learn how to refute the lies about Islam. Read the book, "Clear Your Doubts About Islam: 50 Answers to Common Questions", Compiled by Saheeh International." Purify your intentions; make your life and heart's intention to seek to please ALLAH, the Creator. He can with ease bless you to learn and then to teach, to give back and mold your story in your own voice. Raise the flag of the dignity of the Muslim woman! The beautiful modesty of Islam is far removed from foul speech, nakedness, promiscuity and sex outside of the divine bonds of marriage. Study, read, learn and follow the life examples of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, (May the Peace & Blessings of ALLAH be upon him), the Mothers of the believers, his pious wives, and the great female scholars of Islam. Walk a path of keeping yourself far away from mimicking the singers, the actresses and scantily dressed models who your mothers would not be honored to see.

For information on Brother Ahmed, make sure you pick up his book from Soul On Islam is available now! 

My mother, Author Umm Juwayriyah and I, would like to graciously thank brother Ahmed for taking the time to answer our questions and bring you, our readers Muslim Author Spotlight! If you're a Muslim Author and you would like your book reviewed and/or to be the next Muslim Author Spotlight subject, email us at #MuslimGirlsRead