I love, respect, and revere my my father, as I did and still do my mother (rahimuhaa Allah). I was blessed with good Muslim parents, and a very happy childhood growing up as a Muslim.
There was nothing strange to us about being Muslim. We didn’t know anything else; we didn’t miss Christmas because we never celebrated Christmas, plus we had to eids. At Eid, we always got new clothes, eid toys, had to dress up, always prayed eid, saw all the muslims kids, and celebrated. My mother used to have Eid parties every year for the whole city. There weren’t that many Muslims then.
When the community got big in Philly, she used to help plan the city-wide Eid celebration. I used to watch my mother planning stuff for the Muslims from her sick bed, surrounded by a bunch of sisters when she became sick. Or she’d go right from kidney dialysis to a meeting at the masjid.
Umm Abu Laith Wadia Ahmad was a smart woman. Sisters looked up to her. She wanted to be a writer, but she dedicated her life to raising her children, helping her husband, and helping the Muslims. She was a champion against domestic abuse. They called it wife beating back then. I never heard my father raise his voice with my mother, and I’ve never seen him angry at her. Not ever. We used to take whole families in when they didn’t have a place to live.
I remember sister Sharifah (rahimuhaa Allah) came to live with us with her three sons, Salahuddin, Yusuf, and little Abdulkarim. They lived with us for three years in West Philly. None of us were older than 10. The boys, we were sleeping 6 to a room. Then, sister Fareedah Abdulkarim came to live with us. She’s 84 years old now and lives in Camden.
She’s the last of the pioneering sunni sisters from the old guard who are still l living al-humdu lillaah. She gave me my first prayer rug when I turned seven. She’s 84 years old now.
We once took in a family of Muslims from Cambodia. There were Cambodians at the U.S. border trying to come into the United States. My father heard that some of them were Muslims. This was in the 70s, after the Vietnamese war. It was on CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite. So, he drove down to the border and came back with a Cambodian Muslim family of four. They didn’t speak any English, but the older son and the grandmother knew how to make salat.
The grandmother used to make thikr all the time. They had been through a lot. This was after the Vietnamese war. My father gave them the third floor. They loved with us for a year.
I remember when the Puerto Rican brother Ali Abdullah from Cleveland came to stay with us with his wife and two kids. They were babies. He was a tableeghi brother. My father went in the path of Allah all the time with tableeghi jamaa’at. A lot of times, he took me and my brother Hussain with him. Abu gave them the third floor, too, when they came.
When my pop would bring a family to stay with us, there was never any warning. We were always the last to know. He just told us the new sleeping arrangements, and that was it. Growing up, we were very security conscious. My father only had to say something one time. Lol.
[Excerpt from. “Encyclopedia of Philadelphia Muslim History]. Pray for me that I find the space to tell our story.
Oh Allah, forgive me, and forgive my parents on the day the scale shall stand. Have mercy on both of them as they raised me from when I was a baby. Amin. A thousand amins after that. Thumma amin.
Grant this plea yaa Rabb,by your mercy that extends over everything. Amin..