A Tribute To Imam Asim Abdur-Rashid-Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

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إِنَّا لِلَّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ‎
The Lamppost Education Initiative would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Imam Asim Abdur-Rahim. Imam  Asim was the Amir of Al-Ummah National Community and the Imam of Masjid Mujahideen in Philadelphia, Pa. 
May Allah make Imam Asim’s grave spacious, forgive him his sins, and grant him paradise. Please read this moving article on Imam Asim from the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali.  

All Muslims in Philadelphia knew then and know today that even if you didn’t always agree with Imam Asim’s understanding or wisdom, Imam Asim and the brothers of Masjid al-Mujahadeen always had your back when the going got rough. They would show up in some of the most unexpected of circumstances ready to sacrifice their health, safety, and lives to protect the members of the Ummah.

I don’t exactly recall when I first met Imam Asim Abdur-Rashid. What I do know is that I was a teenager when it happened. Although he wasn’t a tall man, the Imam commanded the respect of many men in Philadelphia and around the country, becoming successor to Imam Jamil Al-Amin (may Allah set him free) in leading the Al-Ummah National Community, a national organization of communities united under one leader, formerly of the Darul Islam Movement.
I knew Imam Asim very well. I regularly attended Masjid al-Mujahadeen as a teenager and into adulthood. At the age of 15, I visited the Masjid to utter the testimony of faith (shahadah) even though I was already a practicing Muslim, and my parents converts who had moved away from the early teachings of the Nation of Islam. Not only did I spend many hours of my youth in the masjid praying and reading. My father, similarly, found it to be an appropriate environment for him to read, make the call the prayer, and contribute positively to the masjid in other ways.

Masjid al-Mujahadeen where Imam Asim served as Imam since its establishment was stigmatized by many as promoting a “militant” or “radical” interpretation and approach to Islam. The brothers there were known for the important focus they placed on security, respect and obedience to the Imam, elders, and other leaders, military style training, and a strong sense of brotherhood. When I was young, I was given the opportunity to participate in Raad training with the elders and my peers. Despite the negative opinions others had of the brothers at Masjid al-Mujahadeen, I know first-hand that there was nothing diabolical or nefarious about any of these activities. Their customs were in reaction to conditions in America that radicalized so many during the era of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights.

Dr. Khalid Blankinship once said to me of the brothers of Masjid al-Mujahadeen that, “They approach Islam with the same spirit the Sahabah had.” If the Prophet said, “Don’t do that!” the Sahabah didn’t ask, “Do you mean it’s forbidden or merely disliked?” And when he said, “Do this!” they didn’t ask, “Are you saying it’s compulsory or simply recommended?” You would find this same spirit amongst the men and women around Imam Asim Abdur-Rashid. He inspired trust in so many people around him.
Being a tight-knit bunch who understood the importance of unity and commitment to leadership, they treated every believer, regardless of ideology as one of theirs anytime a believer was in danger. All Muslims in Philadelphia knew then and know today that even if you didn’t always agree with Imam Asim’s understanding or wisdom, Imam Asim and the brothers of Masjid al-Mujahadeen always had your back when the going got rough. They would show up in some of the most unexpected of circumstances ready to sacrifice their health, safety, and lives to protect the members of the Ummah.

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In all of this, Imam Asim was their most respected leader. Known for his readiness to do battle for the right reasons, those of us who knew him often saw his gentle side. He was an extremely sincere soul with a great sense of humor as well as a good brother. He trained dogs, rode horses, and practiced archery, remaining in step with the demands of the Sunnah of the Best of Creation—Allah’s blessing and peace on him.

Imam Asim was a fixture of Philadelphia who is rightfully called one of the city’s Muslim pioneers. From him and the brothers and sisters at Masjid al-Mujahadeen I learned a healthy distrust of the American government and federal authorities. These were courageous people who represent a temperament which at one time constituted the national community’s conscience and moral compass. If there is any legacy left by Imam Asim which is worthy of deep reflection today, it is this healthy distrust of the political and economic elite: Allah alone has the right to legislate for humanity. Only the pious can be trusted. Believers are brothers, one of another. We stand firm against the enemies of God. And we show compassion to those who put their faith and trust in Him.

Available NOW at Lamppost. 
“Muslim Funeral Guide” by Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali
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A new book from the Lamppost Education Initiative-The Muslim Funeral Guide

May Allah be kind to our Imam as he transitions into the next phase of his existence. May he be loved and remembered for the good that he did and forgiven for any of his flaws and oversights. May he be resurrected among the righteous and in their company. May his wife and children be given patience. And may Allah show us all mercy when our time comes as well.

Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural and Historical Studies in Religion (2016) and an M.A. in Ethics and Social Theory (2012) from the Graduate Theological Union. He  obtained his B.A. (ijaza ‘ulya) in Islamic Law (Shariah) from the prestigious Al-Qarawiyin University of Fes, Morocco in 2001. He served as full time Islamic chaplain at the State Correctional Institute of Chester, PA from 2002-2007, and is the founding director of the Lamppost Education Initiative. He currently serves as an Associate Professor of Islamic law and Prophetic Tradition at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. His research interests include the interconnection between law and identity formation, comparative Islamic law, and Islam’s role in the modern world.
Click HERE to see more articles, videos, and more from Dr. Abdullah Ali

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