One year ago today we were in the Dearborn/Detroit area in the fist stages of our trip when we heard the news of the passing of WD Mohammed. Madeeha wrote beautifully about it then. We visited the Muslim Center of Detroit that evening for Iftaar and a special prayer for WD Mohammed.
A year later, I am still struck by the man. We asked people throughout the country who their role models were. Many African American Muslims said WD Mohammed. After a year of hearing about the man, his legacy and all that he did for the country, I would put him at the top of my list as well.
Before the trip started, I knew very little about the impact of WD Mohammed. I knew his history and when he died , I knew it would be a big deal. But his cultural import, and the direction and heroic vision he gave to African American Muslims have been staggering to me.
He changed the direction of the African American Muslim community, led them from his father’s Nation of Islam to Sunni Islam, and encouraged Muslims to integrate into American life.
One Imam told me that WD Muhammed is the reason that he and many other African Americans “are not on the street selling drugs, hangin’ with the gangs. People don’t understand what he did for America in taking African Americans to mainstream Islam. We could have been gangbangers; instead we live the best life we can”. We heard this same sentiment over and over—that he saved peoples lives, kept them off the streets, inspired many to work in the community instead of being part of the destruction of the community.
The communities that followed his examples were, to me, the most inspiring that we met. His impact on the Muslim community is rivaled by none as far as I can tell and yet the anniversary of his death is nowhere to be found in the mainstream media while we are on our third month of Michael Jackson memorials. Today, I think we should remember the man and be thankful for his extraordinary legacy.