You see, Muslim women are like women all over the world, we have a lot to worry about. How do you know if you’ve actually fallen in love with a child molester, wife beater, womanizer, or emotionally abusive man? There are often signs and we often ignore them. Maybe we all need to do a background check. But what if a brother’s background is less than perfect? I think this is an issue Black Muslim women deal with more than anybody. We have a lot of infrastructure to proselytize to incarcerated men. And the conversion rates are pretty promising. Many men who convert while in prison really struggle with their deen once released into society.
The problem that I have with the prison system is that it is not there to reform people. Instead, it is a brutal system that brings the worst out of people. Taking shahadah wipes away someone’s previous sins, but it doesn’t erase niggerish tendencies. That takes a lot of work. And man, it’s a struggle out here. I mean, I know Malcolm X was an ex-con, but that was Malcolm X. You know what I mean?
There are some hard brothas who are released from prison who have straight beef with the whole womenkind. For those brothas that like to box women, maybe they need some women who can box dudes. I don’t know if they do dawa in women’s prison. I think they should. Maybe they can get a Michelle Rodrigues to take them on or what’s her name from “Million Dollar Baby.” I know it isn’t just converts and ex-cons who beat their wives. I’ve heard of brothers asking about how big can the miswack be to hit their wives. Maybe they were joking, but that shit isn’t funny. And the Muslims women’s shelter gets all sorts of abuse and death threats from angry husbands, fathers, and brothers. I don’t know the exact figures that could possibly correlate rates of incarceration with domestic abuse. But if somebody knows, get back at me.
As an African American convert, I think I’ve had to deal with this issue more than any of my Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian, white, and Asian counterparts. You see, I grew up in East San Jose and attanded the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara. Very middle class and affluent and immigrant oriented. A few of my second generation immigrants friends would tell me that I’d find my ideal match in East Oakland. That’s where Masjid al-Islam is and a lot of angry brothers would be there. Sure, they looked a lot better than many of the pasty engineers in Silicon Valley. But were they ideal matches? A number of them sold incense and oils. I remember when this one North African sister from East Oakland pumping up this other African American brother who had asked for me. Like many of my non-Black friends, any guy was a good match–as long as he was Black. She was like, “Gurrrrrrl, he has his own business.” It turned out that he sold books, but this wasn’t a Barnes and Nobles operation. It was one of those book stands you see set up next to the incense and oils stand in some Flea Market (not even Berryessa but the smaller more rundown Ashby bart variety). Now, this was a little bit much for me. I would get in arguments with my friends who would make a case for marrying one of these struggling brothers. They would advocate for them. We should only look at religion, if the brother prayed, if he was a good Muslim, etc…. But meanwhile their fathers made sure that only doctors and engineers couls step to them. They would also introduce their white convert friends to the doctors and engineers. They’d tell me, “but there’s plenty of brothas for you up in Oakland, Aziza.” Meanwhile, masjid al-Islam became the bastion for polygamy and these brothers were pulling one, two, maybe even three wives. I guess I was too ambitious to throw myself into a cycle of poverty. Maybe the brother who asked for me got it together, I pray that Allah grant him tawfeeq. But I thought about practical things like being able to pay rent, health insurance, paying tuition so I could get a degree in community college and make a contribution to my family. I think that the brother discovered Islam while in prison. I don’t think he had been out that long and the selling of books was this big push towards the entreprenurial spirit.
Okay, let me get this straight. I know I’m kind of a square, but I used to run the streets a bit and I’m familiar with the whole thug lifestyle. Back in highschool thugs were in and getting locked up was sort of a rite of passage. My mom put a block on our phone to prevent prison collect calls from my homeboys or boyfriends. So I would get the lame three-way calls or requests to make three way calls to call somebody’s people. Nowadays, you can’t click over and use three way. So anybody locked up calling my mom’s house is pretty assed out. Anyways, for some of us ladies could deny the appeal of a brother who had been locked down. Usually they come out all swoll and muscles cut from benching, pull-ups, push-ups and sit ups all day. I don’t know if they look the same since they’ve banned weights in the yard. Brothers come out of prison well read and articulate and seem so motivated. All they had to do all day was work on their Islam. But then they get out, no support, no one will hire them, bougie–and especially immigrant–girls won’t marry them. And I have just never been in a place in my life where I can carry a brother through the fire.
I used to have long conversations/arguments about this issue when one of my friends would try to push off the surplus of struggling brothers from Oakland. One friend was especially dismissive of my concerns (Perhaps she was playing devil’s advocate). I developed a motto, “No incense and oils sellers!” Not any disrespect to any brothers who have a hustle and make it work for them. I guess there was little recourse for me, being that I came into Islam in a predominately immigrant community, and little recourse for them. When I was 20, I just had one simple requirement, that the brother have an associates or at least be a junior in college, with some job skills. Otherwise, how was the brother going to hold down a family?
Muslim brothers use all sorts of innovative techniques for giving dawa to pretty women they encounter in the work place, on the street, and in their social circles. They’re not giving dawa to women on skid row. They are not giving dawah to women in correctional facilities. They are not giving dawa in halfway houses. So, that means, that the community is not really dealing with as many women who need help reintergrating into society. In fact, it means that Muslim men have better options for suitable matches. On top of that, Muslim men a clearly not limited to Muslim women. They can marry Christian and Jewish women. I know of a number that marry Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Agnostic, and Atheist. This doesn’t inlude the foreign brothers who go abroad marry some poor hapless women who knows nothing about American society and lives isolated thousands of miles away from her friends and family. When you add it all up, level headed brothers actually become rare commodities. I know a lot of Muslim women who are actually opting out of marriage because it is such a headache.
I know brothas are doing some serious dawa work as prison chaplans and whatnot. But for reals though…can yall do some dawah to brothas with jobs for some of us sisters. So, please even up the chances for sistas by working on your male friends, co-workers, and assocites who don’t have super long rap sheets and records that prevent them from working. I know way too many on-point sisters who are wont to find a suitable partner. There’s a Medical School, Business School and Law School just walking distance from me. I can show you right where they are at, or you can Google Map it. Set your dawa table right across the quad. I’ll support yall. We gotta balance out things the demographics. Also, let’s hook up the struggling brothers. Maybe we sistas need to work on some dawa for the ladies in the correctional facilities, aka the industrial prison complex.