Prison Da’wa and Marriage to ex-cons

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.

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25 thoughts on “Prison Da’wa and Marriage to ex-cons

  1. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I’ve long been concerned about the concentration of da’wah efforts on “captive audiences” and the lack of effort towards members of society who aren’t criminals. In this country Islam itself is an almost entirely urban phenomenon and not much effort has been made to establish it outside the urban ghettoes. The upshot of this concentration on prisons is that we get an awful lot of unbalanced people coming into the Ummah which means we have to deal with all their problems at a time when we really don’t need to. If people coming into the deen have a gang mentality, perhaps this is a contributor towards the acrimonious sectarianism Umar Lee blogged about a few weeks back?

    And yeah, I’ve met Muslims who don’t see why I should want to marry a practising, hijab-wearing sister (of whatever ethnicity) rather than the Polish waitress they want to marry off to me so I can “make her Muslim”. Many of them would never do such a thing themselves, so why should they expect a convert to do so?

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  2. As salaamu alaikum wa ramatu Allah,

    Aziza, I am with you, I like to slept well at night and when I arrive home I HAVE NO DESIRE to find my belongs sitting on the curb and picked over. LOL

    Yusuf, while I have no problems with the issues of giving dawah to “captive audiences,” I think we ought to be truthful with these men and women. For some reason I think polygymy is what attracts many of these jokers – they were doing it before, now all the women know about each other and the stress of sneaking around is no longer a factor IMHO. Why would an imam marry a woman to a man who can barely support himself? Isn’t this the duty of a man to provide and maintain? Sisters should have sense enough to ask him would he marry his daugther/sister to this same man. Why are sisters FAKING like they are on welfare out of piety? You know the imam at the masjid I attend, once told me I need t lower my standards – I told him my standards are based on the nonMuslim man that raised me as well as my nonMuslim brothers, so naturally I EXPECT at least 5 times more from a Muslim man.

    I have no clue what’s happening in the inner cities, but based on what I’ve read via various message boards and yahoo e-groups, I’m terrified (and these things are coming from Muslims). I have noticed on some message boards, sisters writing in asking if she can marry a man in prison – to each her own, but there’s TOO many SINGLE men out there for me to share and YES part of my contract with my husband stated he could not marry another woman w/out my permission. Yes, I know it’s permissible but I am woman enough to admit that I cannot live such a lifestyle.

    Unfortunately, regardless of our SES, a lot of us converts are sorely mislead when we take shahada. My biggest issues with Muslims is racism. I thought Islam solved that, but I have experienced more racism INSIDE the masjid than I did growing up surrounded by KKK and Skinheads out on Long Island, NY in the early 80s.

    I have also noticed another sad pattern: Before many sisters are finished uttering the shahada, we are burdened with marriage proposals. Sisters also need to re-evaluate how they approach new converts. Too often they are only concerned with the outer appearance – you know, audobillah I see your hair sticking out…not with helping the sister understand the basics, including salat. Find out how the sister is doing, whether she needs anything (as in emotional support, help with salat….) Do not tell the sister asinine things like she must cut her non Muslim family off…

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  3. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    BintWill: that was my point – they expect us, as converts, to have “lower expectations” than someone born into Islam – so they expect you to marry the gangster or the guy who wants another or two on the side, and me to just take on the waitress at the local Algerian-run cafe because they think I can “make her a Muslim” when they can’t for some reason. Whether we’re Black or White it’s the same assumption: we’re just not pure enough to marry one of their kind.

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  4. Word and S-LAM alaikum!! With all due respects to the Imam, but he’s trippin!! Trippin real hard. There are Islamic traditions stating that Muslim women are not supposed to lower their standards. If you are used to living a comfortable lifestyle, say in a palace, then you should marry a prince. Marry a shoe-shiner will lead to misery. Same thing for us sisters who grew up working class/ middle class/comfortable. Nobody says you need to move into the projects and have 6 babies with a brother who has no job skills while you collect welfare. That is just ridiculous. Don’t get me started on the broke brothas and their polygamy tip. I think we need to have an Islamic literacy program for many of these communities. Shady brothers are always looking for new converts so they can tell them H-islam. And the facsist sisters preying on hapless converts, they need to be swatted down. Finally, there is a huge difference between scripture and practice. And the Muslim community fall way short, IMHO. I only knew a few Muslims before I took Shahada. Alhumdulillah. I would agree, on the race relations thing. The immigrant Muslims are in the dark ages when it comes to how many perceive ethnic relations. It makes me scared to have children in their communities, because I don’t want to go to hell for kicking some parent’s ass because their kids called my kids niggers. Where else do they get it from, if not their parents? BintWill, you have stated so many of the things that make me an Angry Black Muslim woman. I may have to start my own one woman picket in front of one of these communities demanding that these imams stop duping the sisters.

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  5. Excellent thoughts. I discussed this topic here. This is why you are starting to see the “Waiting to Exhale” syndrome cross over into Islam with Blackamerican Muslim females. Someone might say “well, just expand your choices and marry an immigrant sister!”. That is all well and good except that many – as you alluded to – do not want to marry a black woman and many are after green cards.

    When this topic is discussed a brother get the “man you trippin akh!” comments

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  6. Great post. I think this conversation is building all over and its no longer a taboo issue that sisters have to suffer through in silence. These are the things that need to be discussed by community leaders in the speeches, khutbahs, halaqas and so on. INstead, most of the communities I know of waste that precious time by stating the obvious and regurgitating the same tired topics from the minbar – “We need to worship Allah alone with taqwa…” – Uhh Duh. These social problems need to be acknowledged and dealt with from the Imams to the shura boards down to the grassroots of our communities.

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  7. Stop It! Please! I just nursed my son to sleep and was holding in chuckles so I wouldn’t wake him up. I know you were serious when you wrote this, but I was cracking up. You reminded me of myself when you said,
    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.

    It’s funny you mentioned that because just last night I was thinking I had nobody to relate to. I hada Nigerian sister over and a sister with an AA father, Jamacan mom, Canadian passport, resident of South Africa, raised in KSA (in other words she was black but not “Black”). I was excited to see
    black faces, but realised how different we were. Now I have found you, a fellow good/bad gurl!!!

    Confession time: I married an ex con. Did 15 years out of a 30 year sentence for murder. I marred him 8 months after he was released. He was living in a tablighi masjid. The difference between you and I were that Ihad immigrant Sisters pleading me not to marry him but to marry these cab drivers they knew and in a few cases some PH.D students. I will admit that the fact that he had a body out of this world, along with a sincere love for the deen and the Muslims, were factors that made me agree to marry him. But mainly i felt guilty. Nobody pressured me. as a matter of fact I took him around to everyone whose opinion I respected, hoping that someone would say, “don’t marry him”. But nobody did and I was a newly practicing Muslim and thought that if Allah could forgive him for his past than who was I to hold it against him. Par of the reason we broke up three months later was because in the back of my head I felt I was too good for him, but I struggled with all the guilt and I was scared to ask for a khul because I didn’t know if ‘being to good for someone’ was a valid reason and I did not want the fragrance of jannah withheld from me. So I begged him for a talaq. I’m getting sad just remembering it. I can say that this was truely a rare ex con convert. He was and is (to curent wife) a great husband and father. I actually hooked them up, because I knew she could appreciate him more than I could.

    I’ll stop here. Somethings I try to regress…

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  8. Umm Adam,
    Ahahaha, good/bad gurl Muslimah. I like that. It is kinda wierd being so ecclectic. A little bit hood, a little bit bougie, a little cosmopolitan with international influences, it is hard to find people to relate to. And I’m glad we found each other.
    Thank you for sharing so honestly. There are many ex-cons who are so on point when they come out and they stay on point. I think the important thing is to marry someone you can respect. Otherwise, it won’t work. I wonder why no one sat you down or acted as a wali. I had some good walis who negotiated a bomb contract. I know I can’t carry a brother after struggling for so long. Maybe if I grew up privileged, I wouldn’t mind struggling. Or if I had affluent parents who could bail me out of financial debt. But it is about time that I start holding it down for my moms whose been working all her life for us. At least your friends looked out for you, in their own way. I just always felt like they considered me not in their league so passing me off to the brothers in the hood was a way of inscribing my place. I don’t think that they intentionally did it. But there were certain underlying assumptions. Mainly, that their uncles, brothers, and family friends wanted a white convert as opposed to a black woman. The other thing was that if an African American brother was really bomb, with a degree and deenin hard, then immigrant amilies would consider him. He’d get a nice Muslim family and they could look pious and open minded. That left us poor sisters of African descent left with left-overs. Hmmmmm…

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  9. Now if you work on the lax Muslim thing with a lean towards sufism, we can be ace boon coons! You know you got a lil too much ilm to be laxed 🙂

    As far as a wali, I had one. At the time I was discovering the dawah to salafiyyah and he was anti salafi. I think he wanted to tell me that the brother and I were not compatable, but I think everyone was afraid to say that because there was nothing wrong with him. I mean he was everything on my checklist for the most part. I wanted someone that had a beard, dressed Islamicly, prayed at least every prayer that their local mosque offered (he lived in it). I even wanted a construction worker after reading DISAPPEARING ACTS. I once joked with my sister and told her that I wanted to marry someone fresh out of the joint, who worked construction. She thought I was crazy and I couldn’t believe that this brother was actually that.

    I was even offended a lil bit when this older sister approached me about him one day. We were at an iftar and she just walked right up to me and said, “you’re so cute are youi married?” I told her no, I wasn’t and she told me how she knew this really good brother who was looking for a wife and that he had just been released from jail. I was trying to be expressionless but I was thinking to myself, “why the hell would she think I am interested in someone who just got out of jail.” I asked her, trying to sound fair, “what was he in jail for?” She said murder, but he was very young when he did it and had accepted Islam in jail and that her son who was an Imaam knew him well. as a matter of fact, besides the immigrant sisters that wanted to hook me up witth cab drivers and other possible green card situations, her son was the only person (well my mom and brother freaked out) who told me not to marry him. However, he followed it up with his own proposal and he had a wife and tons of kids. He was like, “sister you got a good head and zest for the deen, he’s a good brother but you don’t need to marry anybody like him. You need a brother who can teach you. I would like to marry you sister and teach you” I was so shocked that he was the only reference for the brother and he instead proposed, so I kind of disregarded his advice.

    There was one family, who was like one of the few salafi families in Chicago (it was only a handfulo at the time) and the husband was articulate, intelligent, had a job and was on it deen wise. So I told his wife that I wanted him to check the brother out for me. They invited us over for dinner and after dinner her husband said that he thought that he was a very good and sincere brother. I begged him to tell me everything he thought was wrong. I was really looking for people who I respected to tell me not to marry him. After we divourced the sister told me that her husband never thought we were a good match and new it wouldn’t work! I was like, “what! why didn’t he tell me that?!” She said, “because we thought that you wanted to marry him” WTF!

    I even asked about the fact that he was tablghi, because I had never heard of it and everyone was telling me that they were just a group that was deep into dawah. The only fault someone gave me was that they go around asking different masajid to let them sleep in it. I took him to meet my father’s family. My aunt, uncle, cousins, and brothers. They loved him! Even my brother was all cool into afterwards when we were going home and he cussed me out and said, ‘You a damn fool if you marry that killer, don’t expect me to come to the wedding and don’t call me when he tries to kill your dumb ass’. I was like, but you were just chilling with him acting like he is ok. He said, “so damn what? does that mean that it’s ok for that nigga to marry my sister? you done got all holy and shit and he come up in here acting all righteous and shit talking all that religious shit…that shit don’t impress me.”

    So we got married. He was a good man and loved me very much. Too much. it scared me to have somebody love me like that. He was a Muslim his last five years of being in jail and he had devoured all the Islamic books and magazines that came out. He had this ideal Muslim coomunity/life/marriage in mind. He was caught in an unrealistic time warp and thought that we would be exactly like the sahabah. It did not help matters that when he arrived at his moms house and saw that it was noway he could live the life of a Muslim in her home, that he immediately asked her where was the nearest mosque and she took him. It was tablhighee and to him they were the epitome of the sunnah and the way the Muslims should be. He wanted to be a good husband, protector, and father.his love and his over protectiveness was smothering me. He did not like that I worked, and I did not trust men in general esp an exs-con enough to quit my good job. I was trying to study the deen, he considered it disobediance from me because he had ordered me not to study on my own but to wait for him to gain enough knowledge to teach me. Had I been patient all those things would have eventually worked out, but I still would have thought that I deserved better. I have no regrets about anything. You live and learn. He now has a wonderful family. His wife is one of my best friends. They both would still do anything for me.I would recommend him to anybody that I thought would make a good match. as a matter of fact before the divource I wanted to be sure that he found a good ‘replacement’. I was afriad some poor sister would take his kindness for weakness and drive him crazier than I had.

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  10. wow…i think the way we can raise awareness to these issues, is if we request them from our uslama to be talked about…bombarded them with questions about these topics, and they will see a need for such issues to be discussed. If we are donating money to uphold usch conferences…we at least should have a say in what should be covered…at teh same time, all the ppl who had similar experiances, should write lenghty letters expressin their concenrs, and send it over to the office of the masjiad…so it can realy be mentioned..we can create change, we just gotta mke more noise.

    and im an arab myself…and i truelly feel terrible about the way muslims treat converts…but like they all say..thank God ppl knew islam b4 they knew muslims alhamdulilah.

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  11. Salaam,
    I have some friends in California and have been to the Bay Area twice. You know the similarities in this blog makes me feel like I’m in the twilight zone, I don’t know if it’s good or bad or just a manifestation of how bad Muslim black women truly have it, especially if we’re educated: “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.”
    An African (not African American) sister who lives in the Bay Area told me that she was enlisting the help of Cali sisters to help her find a mate, they told her exactly what you said, that she should look to Oakland for a husband because that’s “where all the black people are.” She said there was another instance she was assisting a fundraiser or something and she happen to get into a conversation with a brother where the event was being held and he mentioned that “We marry everything but black.” I believe the brother was Pakistani or Arab. My response when I spoke to her on the phone was: “He said that to your face?” Her response: “Yep.” Disgusting. It’s like Muslim black women have the plague sometimes, it’s the strangest we admire you and you’re attractive BUT… My experience is that ironically, I’ll get proposals from Pakistani or Arabs through friends and not one of them are educated, cab driver, pizza deliver, another cab driver, one who we didn’t know if his divorce was true from his wife in Yemen. I know spirituality trumps secular education but when they’re lacking in both and their passed off as good enough for YOU…but in their homeland they wouldn’t even have a chance with a professionarl sister. Astaghfri’Allah. it’s like the immigrant community is colonized and never went through their “say it loud” phase to help eradicate these racial devices and thus taken on the cloak of a form of racism in which once again blacks are on the bottom of the measuring rod. Insha’Allah we’ll keep each other in du’a.

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  12. Margari, I haven’t forgotten about you *SMILE* I will send you some info, insha Allah over the weekend.

    Halimah, I know many ARab and SE Asian brothers and sisters who have no problems marrying black. Unfortunately, some subcumb to family pressure. One brother I’ve known for years, is still looking for a wife. He want’s to marry a black woman, but his family wants him to marry white (religion is not important).

    If we (muslims in general) were doing the right thing, race would not be an issue and this ummah would not be in the sorry state it’s in now.

    Sadly, I’ve heard many black men say they will not marry a nappy head nigger – SUCH self hatred, my beautiful sisters are BETTER OFF without that type. Funny thing is many marry Moroccans and their children come out darker than us with kinkier hair – LOL

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  13. Really? Where? Hint. hint. This one Pakistani brother who wanted to marry me a couple of years ago knew there would be no objection from his family because his father was dead and the rest of his family was I nPakistan. I remember years ago I studied in Egypt and I met this Egyptian brother (I studied for a year) and we had the same views on almost everything and it was so refreshing because I would say we are “literally from two different worlds” then I would succumb and say well I guess “truth is universal” thus commonalities. Then he started acting WEIRD..and I told my Arab friends (one was a saudi/indonesian brother and the other were Egyptian sisters) and they were like stay away he’s confused, etc. Then one sister said, it doesn’t matter if he’s studied in the states, Egypt (at least at the time) is the only culture he really knows and could you imagine being raised a certain way and realizing that he has feelings for an American Muslim, it would be very different. I took her opinion to heart because her and her sister were the few who I didn’t seem to be malicious and treated everyone with respect. I was confused in one way because I went to an “Islamic” country to see more cultural confusion and growing up in the states even if your neighborhood wasn’t integrated, my school was so it was “foreign” or “odd” to see people of another race. At this point I feel perplexed. Maybe it’s a good thing, then maybe we can all just let it go insha’Allah and truly realize the Sunnah. I remember talking to one of my Cali friends on the phone and we were so disgusted with the race issue I said, you know I’m sick of talking about this, I hate the fact that it’s an issue and eventually we changed the subject. “Sadly, I’ve heard many black men say they will not marry a nappy head nigger – SUCH self hatred” Yep, it’s funny because I see alot of black people who DON’T have nappy hair (unless they voluntarily lock it and that’s not nappy), in its natural state it may be puffy but it’s soft, afro-like or curly. This a joke David Chappelle did when he played the head of the KKK and was blind and didn’t know he was black and he was married to a white woman. When someone finally discloses his own race he gets upset at the wife and calls her a “n*****-lover.” The saddest part was that his skit was a joke, but you’re saying a black guy feels that way? I realized that black people know our innermost idiosyncracies and we know how to hurt each other the most and since most of us feel powerless in dealing with dominant society we aim verbal and physical abuse at each other. He was probably venting because on the totum pole a black man is sometimes considered the lowest, below the woman–but I don’t know how accurate that is.

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  14. Subhanallah, this blog is deep on so many levels. I know it’s an old post, but I’m moved. I’m not a convert, I was born Muslim. Guyanese, if it matters. Most of the sisters who I grew up with are immigrants but as a brown sister I’ve encountered everything talked about.

    When I was highschool I remember older SE Asian sisters telling me about the lastest excons their husbands had given shahadah to and was looking for a spouse. It always shocked me because my parents are professionals. Why on earth would they think I, a virgin girl, had anything in common with a grown behind excon beats me.

    And the married brothers in the salafy communities are something else, laa ilaha illalah. The majority are not worth meaning, but the few who had some deen and were educated milked it like nobody’s business. When I tried for the sake of Allah to give them a chance they wanted me to forsake upfront most if not all of my rights (because I had a Muslim family to support me). In a way, the educated brothers there were worse than the uneducated brothers because numerous sisters had gassed them up to believe their education alone made them the creme of the crop. A lot of educated religious brothers feel that because they have “got it going on” any sister they approach ought to satisfied with ever crumbs they have to spare to give them.

    I wasn’t raised to accept anything. I was raised in a two parent Muslim home, my parents are monogamous and have been married over 35 years. My father has always supported us. I wanted to the same in my own marriage.

    I do love Black American Muslim men, Mashallah. But as Allah would have it, I am not married to one. My husband is a Yemenese man and like myself he is educated. Alhamduleelah, he came correct, religious (adhering to the sunnah) but at the same time balanced. The best thing I can say about my husband is that he is a companion of mine; he reminds me gently of the good but can still chill with me and have fun.

    And I know that for some black/brown sisters marrying a different ethnicity is not really your first choice, but really in these times, if you keep doing the same thing, you’ll continue to find the same type of people. In the Black American Muslim communities the Imams and students of knowledge will have everyone believing that there is worldwide shortage of Muslim men and that is why Amr, Zaid and Abdullah who just go out the halfway house NEED to have their four wives. Sisters, Allah made the world spacious for a reason! Many of our GOOD, religious, beautiful brothers in places like Malaysia, Indonesia, North Africa and EVEN the gulf would LOVE to have a good wife without all the cultural baggage that some of their own women may carry!

    It may not be for everyone, but for those sisters who are willing, try something new. Allah can place ajr where He wants, don’t be afraid to go after it.

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  15. Jazak Allah kheir Musleemah95 for sharing your story and your thoughts. It is sad that some Muslims wished for you what they would not wish for themselves or their daughters. I am glad that you found happiness. I agree that us brown sisters have to be open, but also to not be burdened with someone else’s cultural baggage. But sometimes there are things to learn from other cultures and intercultural marriages can be a beautiful thing.

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  16. Asslamu Alikum Sister,
    I feel you 100%. We have to look out for our own best interests because others will not–even when they should. I feel you with the brothers selling books and oils and thinking he is going to support two families. We have to be our own best advocate. You are on point sister.

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  17. Assalamualaiku, Sis.

    There is so much to say in response to your post. Mostly though I think things come down to race, in particular racism and class.

    I’ve noticed a lot of racism in the Muslim community, especially when it comes to marriage. What you didn’t mention but could have was that your South Asian and Arab friends weren’t introducing you to their brothers, cousins and colleagues because you are black.

    I’ve had Muslims (men and women) tell me point blank, even though I myself am a sista, that they would never consider someone black, or “dark” as they often termed it for marriage.

    And I know it isn’t necessarily a cultural thing because I’ve had Arabs tell me that they would consider someone from Syria but not from Sudan or Egypt on this basis.

    It’s especially hard for sisters because the racist/colorist aesthetic is for “fair” and “white” women. The fairer the better.

    Something else that works against black Muslimahs is many people’s assumption that we come with a sexual history that they won’t find if they look for a “girl from back home.”

    Back to race – while many of the brothers in prison may have been thugs to get there, there is obviously another racialized and racist dynamic going on to get such a large percentage of black men there.

    I think mash’Allah that prison does serve the function, to paraphrase Malcolm X, of a university for many brothers. It may be the first time in their lives that they are able to truly reflect and then as Muslims are encouraged to learn.

    But I also agree with you that Islam is not enough. There is a new Muslim group in my city that tends to focus on and attract the underclass. Every month or so they hold events during which brothers go up and give their conversion stories. Invariably their lives before Islam include drug dealing and gunslinging.

    Alhamdullilah they have seen the light and come to Islam – but one still has to re-learn ways of relating to other people, especially to women.

    Sadly, this group pushes people to get married as soon as possible. The result has been lots of really nice, well-meaning, religious, though not well-off sisters who find themselves with a brother who only knows how to relate to his hos. Needless to say there have been several divorces or separations – after kids.

    I’ve noticed, too what you mentioned about the polygynous brothers pulling in wives – this too has to do with racism and the sorry state of Black America, since many sisters are desperate for a man and more than willing to share one, even if he is a thug.

    Before I would counsel sisters to go elsewhere, I would like to see our communities here in the US and Canada truly open up, so it is not just the “fairest” sister who gets her pick.

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  18. Hi, my name is Danielle. I am from Guyana, my husband is incarcarated at the Metropolitan Detention Centre. He came to the USA and never really looked back at myself and kids. Now we are thinking of mending bridges, can you advise me how to cope please.

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  19. I was released from prison a few months ago and I understand the recidivism rate pretty. I’v come to understand that the reasons many men return to prison and it is the same reason we become entreprenurs;impatience and fear of the unknown.

    I’ve always been a salesman however and since I was in kindegarden I believe he use to have be following behind him selling insense and baretts. I promissed that I would never have my children do what I did, but when in business and thinking about the future, you want some one who is familiar and appreciative of what it took to accomplish these goals.

    It’s me and my 2 boy’s and I’ve learned patience or rather forced into it. I attend houston community college,shop community services, count my blessing and slowly save for the day when I’ll put my MBA and hard knox to work in my own business.

    I’ve been single partly by choice for 2 years now and again part of me yearns for a significant other. Sometimes when 2 people are together from start, they can appreciate the fruits together where as some may say build the house,fill the fridge,n then invite her in. But, how will you know for she loves you or if.

    Gabriel Abdeal Ismael

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