Guest for both hours: Imam Abdul Alim Musa of as-Sabiqun – one of the very few American Muslim leaders with the integrity to follow the Quranic injunction “keep the faith, work for justice, cling steadfastly to truth, and patiently persist.” (And one of the few whose views are in line with the Muslim majority, both in the US and worldwide.)
Imam Musa was born in Arkansas but grew up in Oakland, California during the 1960s—a time of intense social upheaval which produced groups like the Black Panthers and offshoots of the Nation of Islam. While being a supporter of the community’s revolutionary sentiment, Imam Musa became an active and very successful drug-dealer. His “street” background helps explain part of his appeal to inner-city youths and ex-convicts, with whom he can identify through personal experiences. After evading the authorities for several years, Imam Musa was forced to leave the U.S. He traveled to various countries in Africa, Europe, and Central and South America, at one time becoming a leading cocaine-exporter in Colombia, an experience that led him to discover the direct involvement of the CIA in cocaine and heroine importation to the U.S. In Algeria, he came in contact with several exiled Black Panther leaders such as Eldridge Cleaver and Pete O’Neal, as well as many prominent figures active in the decolonization struggles of African countries. After returning to the U.S., he turned himself in and was sent to prison. While incarcerated, Imam Musa accepted traditional Islam before his release.
For many years after his release, the Imam continued his studies of Islam and was a keen observer of the political and social events taking place in the Muslim world. Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, in a move that was rare for Sunni Muslims, Imam Musa publicly expressed his support for the Islamic Republic and its leader Imam Khomeini. Since the early 1980s, he made several visits to Iran as a representative of Muslims in the United States and a supporter of the Islamic revival. He made connections with a wide array of Muslim leaders during the decade–both Sunni and Shi’a–and stressed that unity was a primary objective for the Islamic movement’s success. After searching for leadership for several years without success, he took it upon himself to create an organization–the As-Sabiqun–that was capable of supporting the unique needs of Muslims living in the U.S. while simultaneously incorporating an international outlook and agenda. His methodology draws heavily on the writings of El-Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), Maulana Mawdudi, Shaikh ‘Uthman dan Fodio, Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Kalim Siddiqui, and Imam Khomeini. New members of the group are encouraged to individually familiarize themselves with the works of these Islamic thinkers in addition to attending daily classes and lectures on classical Islamic studies (Qur’an, Hadith, fiqh, Seerah, etc.). Special emphasis is placed on personal development and growth based on the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), as well as incorporating tightly knit family units within the overall community structure. The movement has spread across the US and is extremely popular among college students and African-American youth.
Imam Musa has been regularly invited to speak at college campuses and Islamic events around the world. Critics have suggested that he promotes anti-Semitism in his speeches, which he claims are directed at Zionist supporters of Israel and not at Jewish people in general. During a rally in July 1999 Imam Musa displayed a cashier’s check made out to “Hamas, Palestine,” to protest the 1996 U.S. law which declared Hamas a terrorist organization.
On July 7, 2000, Imam Musa suffered harassment at the hands of the police when he was assaulted, threatened with a gun, and then arrested while stopping the policemen from brutally beating a motorist. Imam Musa was charged with “assaulting the police.” He spent two nights in jail before appearing before a judge on July 10. In court, the police reduced the charge against him to a misdemeanor.
On October 31, 2001, Imam Musa, along with Imam Muhammad al-’Asi and others, appeared at the National Press Club and, in a program which was televised by C-SPAN, disputed the official story of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, implying that the U.S. government was involved based on its historical pattern of creating wars to benefit pre-conceived agendas. The re-airing of this program was cancelled due to complaints by the Anti-Defamation League.
Unfazed by constant interference from the U.S. government, Imam Musa persists in his work of building a network of Islamic communities which are founded on principles of self-determination, moral and spiritual development, establishment of healthy family life, and uncompromising outspokenness against the injustices perpetrated locally and globally by Zionists and imperialistic governments.