In Memory of Shaikh Heshaam Jaabir (1931-2007)
by El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan
What follows is the text of my prepared statement on
the life and legacy of Shaikh Heshaam Jaabir, delivered this past
Tuesday in Elizabeth, New Jersey. May ALLAH forgive his sins, and grant him a place in Paradise. Ameen
In the Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful
By the token of time thru the ages, surely man is in loss
Except for those who believe and do good
And exhort one another to truth
And exhort one another
To patient perseverance
In Memory of Shaikh Heshaam Jaabir
(May Allah be pleased with him)
Shaikh Heshaam Jaabir, an African American with Sudanese roots, was born on May 16, 1931, in Union County, North Carolina. He passed from this life on Saturday, 14 Jumada Al-Thani 1428 AH (June 30, 2007 AC). He is survived by a beloved wife, Sr. Lateefa Jaabir, four sons - Imam Ali Jaabir, Imam Muhammad Jaabir, Taha and Rasheed Jaabir; a beloved daughter, Hana Jaabir, and a large number of extended family members.
Shaikh Heshaam was widely respected as a deeply committed Muslim. He
became a member of Adeenu Allahee Universal Arab Association in 1948
(said to be the oldest indigenous orthodox Muslim organization in the U.S.) - founded by the late Professor Muhammad Ezaldeen. Shaikh Heshaam
later served as a national spokesman and president of the organization.
He moved to New Jersey in 1954.
Shaikh Heshaam made Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) in 1962, and worked for the Muslim World League (headquartered in Mecca) for 10 years as a dai'ee (propagator of Islam). He helped establish masajid in South Africa, and gave over 2,000 shahadas in a multitude of countries.
Shaikh Heshaam was a lecturer, journalist and Imam who was recognized in the 1968 report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (aka, the Kerner Commission Report), for his vital role in preventing a riot in Elizabeth, NJ, during the turbulent 60s.
While the aforementioned profile is impressive, in and of itself, it only tells part of the story of who this husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and dai'ee of Islam truly was. A wise man once said, "Each man is three men: the one he thinks he is, the one others think he is, and the one who he really is." Who was Heshaam Jaabir? While Allah (swt) does indeed know best, there are things
(worthy of note) that we have come to know about this noble son of Islam.
We know, for example, that Shaikh Heshaam Jaabir was not a coward. As the true measure of a man is determined during times of challenge and controversy, a defining moment for Shaikh Heshaam came in February 1965, during a tumultuous period in one of the most important and tumultuous decades in American history.
I don't think it is possible for any Muslim (or any well informed non-Muslim) who knows Shaikh Heshaam, and something about his background, to think of him without thinking of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (aka, Malcolm X). Destiny has caused Shaikh Heshaam and El-Hajj Malik to be inextricably linked.
While those in the know are well aware that Shaikh Heshaam performed the
janaza (last rites) for El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, what isn't widely known is that he, along with Shaikh Ahmed Hassoun (of Sudan), served as spiritual advisors for our beloved martyr in that very pivotal final year of his life.
Not only that, but decades after the passing of El-Hajj Malik, Shaikh Heshaam continued to defend the honor and image of his departed brother. On page 28 of his thought-provoking book titled The Final Chapter: I Buried Malcolm (first published by New Mind Productions in 1993), Shaikh Heshaam writes:
Today in 1992, some 27 years since martyrdom, Imam Haj Malik El-Shabazz still remains quite obscure, shrouded as a mysterious figure, both to those who loved him, as well as his enemies. He is still very much misunderstood by Americans, both black and white. And in our failure to understand the dynamics of the most
important aspects of his life, we miss the opportunity to comprehend what it
is that made him so special and what he left behind.
What writers, scholars, psychologists, thinkers, celebrities, politicians, religious leaders, and others overlook, is the essence of what he had come to realize in the last years of life before martyrdom; that being, the incomprehensible power of his newly found faith, Al-Islam. Islam true and unadulterated. The religion that encompasses 63% of so-called Black Africa's Hamitic population with one billion
adherents worldwide; the religion of Timbuktu, Mali, Songhay and other majestic African Hamitic empires, predating so-called western civilization. The religion based on strength of character, moral diligence and uncompromising faith in the Oneness of our Creator.
Finally, we also know that Shaikh Heshaam exemplified a deep understanding of the importance of three of the most critical challenges confronting Muslims in this present day and age: Faith, Family and Propaganda. It behooves every committed Muslim, in this Post 9/11 world, to take this example to heart. May ALLAH Ta'Ala help us. (Ameen)
I conclude with some poetic verse that I pray will help lighten the emotional burden for all who loved this committed soul - punctuated by a reminder to us all that life and death are twin halves of each other (we are born to die).
The death of a loved one, be they family or friend
Is accompanied by sadness
For how we will miss them
But death is a reality that will come to us all
The acceptance of this
Will bring comfort to all
When seen in this light it may be viewed as a friend
For as life passes by
A new life begins.
El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan
17 Jumada Al-Thani 1428
(July 3, 2007)
When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.