A Tribute to Shaikh Daoud Faisal

PART TWO

Shaikh Daoud in his office at The Islamic Mission of America

143 State Street, Brooklyn, NY (circa 1960)

photo courtesy of ARAMCO news

As I mentioned in part one, that this is not an easy undertaking even though I have had the opportunity to have spent time in the past with the venerable Shaikh and his wife Khadijah (RA) and have quite a bit of memorabilia collected over the years plus the additional information gleaned first hand by several of my surviving colleagues from those early days - but also the memories and biographies of many of the early members of the Islamic Mission of America (IMOA) and Muslims and non Muslims who had benefited from an association with the IMOA over the years. Insha-Allah many segments of this phenomenal story will be will be re-assembled and pieced together to form a reasonable reference to a truly meaningful piece of American history that transcends in many ways more conventional historic events that are not as far reaching in breadth and scope as this early attempt at Islamic propagation in the West spanning a time frame that extends from the turn of the 20th Century to the 1970’s.

The vast contribution made by Shaikh Daoud, his wife Khadijah and The Islamic Mission of America will never ever really be known in its entirety. This small series will I hope encourage many young Historians and Sociologists to take on the task of delving deeper into the Life and Times of Shaikh Daoud.

Proper investigations must be undertaken in various sections of this country (USA) but also in the Caribbean and in North Africa and The Middle East. Many of the clues that I provide should hold the avid researcher in good stead. Alas I would attempt more but time and resources are not available to me at this time, so I look forward to those brave individuals who will surely come later to carry on this work.

Much of the material that is provided in this series will speak for itself – some articles and legal documents had been shaped by the Shaikh, are his own words and reflect his state of mind and the seriousness of the times in which they were written. We must also remember that he was very much a creature and a product of his time – a time that most of us living today have no reasonable index into. In order to appreciate much of the history he made we must understand at what time in history he was active and the challenges and opposition he faced in attempting to propagate Islam in America.

Having thought long and hard about Ghalib Muhammad’s statement (see part 1) I began to visualize lighting a match, - witnessing the initial brilliant explosion and then the burning flame that began to diminish as it reached the end of the match stick –Puff– its gone, just leaving a tiny trail of smoke in its wake. I thought how appropriate this visualization was to establishing a metaphor for The Life and Times of Shaikh Daoud (ra). However the essential light is still burning.

I also began to recognize that everyone has a Shaikh Daoud story and that the myriad throngs of people who brushed his shoulders and passed his way all have treasured memories that they hold on to as one wears a precious gemstone.

Flyer containing information of Shaikh Daoud and Mother Khadijah’s activities during the late1950’s. [Click to expand]

Such is the reward for those of us who walk that ‘different’ special path. There is a saying that I first heard from another great spiritual light: Shaikh Fadhlallah Haeri (may Allah protect his secret) some years ago, and it goes something like this: “If you want to meet a man, meet his children first”. Unfortunately Shaikh Daoud (ra) and his wife Khadijah (ra) never had any children but I am aware of the fact that the Shaikh and his wife adopted a few young men and women informally, and later before his death I understand that he did adopt a son legally and that son was responsible for many of the changes that have occurred at the property at 143 State Street. 

To my benefit during the time I spent with them, Shaikh Daoud And Mother Kadijah (ra ) adopted me as their own and on many occasions they let me know that they considered me as their ‘own’ son.  I think I mentioned earlier about being asked by the Shaikh to take his name (Daoud) - that was during the time I was having my name changed legally in the courts. -There are several other people that I know that were blessed with having been known as children of the Shaikh and his wife.

Sister Rakiah Abdurahman the widow of the late Educator and Musician Bilal Abdurahman, who also served as The Secretary of IMOA at various times as well.

Sister Lailah Abdul -Wahab wife of Rajab Abdul Wahab – these two families and their children were raised for the most part of their early life at the IMOA under the influence of Shaikh Daoud and his wife (ra). Of course there are many more I could name but these two families stand out in stark relief during my close association with IMOA from 1960 –to 1970. There is also a Sister Balquis who lived in Staten Island at that time –but I have little information on she and her children.

In the same light I would suggest that the greatness of a teacher, and his effectiveness can best be discerned by taking a close look at his students and what they went on to achieve in the light of their teacher.

Several names come immediately to mind, and if we follow these students lives carefully we will find in each one of them a particular quality that was passed on to them from their mentor

As I mentioned earlier Shaikh Daoud had a phenomenal ability to assess a persons capabilities and their latent talents. He also had the ability to suggest projects and enterprises that would lead the person to fulfillment. Wilayah (leadership) is special gift, particularly spiritual Wilayah – given to of those mature human beings that are chosen by the Creator to open the doors of the human heart.

Wilayah is not a gift that is presupposed by the bearer, nor is it the fulfillment of an ambition - it is a special gift from God.

Leadership as well inspiration that leads to the transformation of the human heart can only come from God. One need only spend a few moments with a true Wali of Allah to be affected – the Barakah ( spiritual power) that emanates from these people is truly unique.

No matter what negative things people may say about a Wali of Allah (A Friend of God) it will only act as a stumbling block in the path of their own spiritual development –in a very strange way these negative thoughts and words are transformed into blessings for the Wali –and he or she goes on about their business transforming every one they meet - and everything they touch becomes a weapon in the defense of truth (Haq).

I will not attempt to belabor the point but I wish to share aspects of this great mans being that may have not been readily understood by those who passed his way.

It is only recently and after many experiences of a particularly subtle spiritual nature that I have been able to understand some of the ways of a Wali. Another older saying I used to hear as a young man was: ‘If you wish to be a great man study the lives of great men’, and then later: ‘If you wish to know, be in the company of those who know.’

I feel doubly blessed to have found my way to State Street and to gain a close proximity to The Shaikh (ra) and his beloved wife Khadija (ra). The Islamic Mission of America was to become for me a crucible of gigantic proportions, in which the alchemical process of turning lesser (baser) metals into gold was begun.

It may be useful to look at the lives of a few of Shaikh Daoud’s students and close members of the community of The Islamic Mission to determine the effectiveness of  Shaikh Daoud (ra)  the teacher and spiritual guide.

The apples not falling far from the tree would apply here –as I have mentioned earlier it doesn’t take much for a Wali of Allah to set the wheels of change in motion. Something as simple as an inspirational sermon, a casual talk – a walk around the block or a pat on the back may serve as the motivational factor that will ‘initiate’ great change in a person.

Jafar Muhammad Abdallah for one, was inspired enough from his relationship with Shaikh Daoud to travel to Egypt and enroll in Al-Azhar University during the latter part of the 1950’s. He is one of the earliest amongst the African American community in America that I am aware of that made that move. After spending several years in Egypt he was forced to return to the States because he began to have thyroid problems and developed a goiter as a result of the water in Cairo. Jafar became one in a select group of Arabic Language speakers and teachers in the New York area, and was based primarily out of The Islamic Mission and served in many capacities as Secretary, Treasurer, Instructor, etc.

Jafar was also responsible for organizing sessions of Dhikr at various mosques and at the homes of Muslims and spiritual seekers. He conducted innovative classes that led to a better understanding of the inner dimensions of the Din, and it was through Jafar that I learned of the connection between Shaikh Ahmed Al-Alawi (ra) and Shaikh Daoud (ra).  It was at the request of Jafar that Shaikh Daoud (ra) eventually opened and shared many aspects of Tariqa and Sufism with me – but more importantly, the imperative of  performing and mastering the ritual Prayer (s).

Passport photo of Jafar returning from Egypt

Jafar reading wedding contract for Abdul & Alyah Hassan in the
Mosque at State St.  [1962]

It was through Jafar that I learned about a few other exceptional African American students of the time who eventually made the move to African and Middle Eastern countries to study Islam and The Arabic Language. Eventually I met Dhafar Ahmed who would stay at State Street during his school breaks while he was attending the University of Medina in Saudi Arabia. 

There were several other brothers whose names escape me who had studied abroad that I had brushed shoulders with at State St, I remember distinctly that two of them worked aboard the tug boats that plied their trades in and around the harbor of New York and had also worked as Merchant Seamen alongside many of the Somali, Sudanese and Yemeni seamen who could be seen coming and going through the doors of the Mission on any day of the week.

Then there was Nasir-udin Mahmud, who hailed from my hometown in Boston and who had spent time with Shaikh Daoud during the mid 1950’s while he was also a nominal affiliate of The Nation of Islam in NYC - he had worked closely with Malcolm X and the development of the Nation’s Mosque in Harlem.

I remember distinctly the night he came to visit me in 1959 at my sisters apt. in Boston to announce that he was leaving for Egypt that week,  he was perhaps one of the first “formal’ graduates of The Azhar, who later went on to obtain degrees from the University of Cairo and taught there for many years – he raised a family in Egypt and remained in North Africa to this day.

I remember Shaikh Daoud (ra) informing me that when he stopped in Egypt on his way home from Hajj in the early 1960’s –he got a knock at his hotel room door – and lo and behold it was Nasir-udin Mahmud –who had come to visit the Shaikh and offer his services as a guide and aide during the Shaikh’s visit.  Shaikh Daoud (ra) was fond of telling this story because he was so proud of his young friend who had spent quality time at the Mission in New York –and was always so courteous.

Another fine example is Bilal Abdurahman (May Allah send light to his grave and preserve his memory), now deceased, and his family, who became one of the foremost African/Islamic Cultural Representatives in New York City particularly in Brooklyn. He was an instructor of music and art in the Brooklyn Public Schools and for a long time during the 60’s and the 70’s was the Co-Director of “Ethno-Modes”- a Cultural Community Center in Brooklyn. He like a few other adventurous artists delved into the music and traditions of many Afro-Centric and Islamic cultures during the early periods of ‘Ethnic Music’ which later developed into what is now known as: Ethno-Musicology. 

His affiliation with The brilliant String Bassist and Oudist: Ahmed Abdul-Malik, are well documented in both the Smithsonian Institute, The Library of Congress and Music Encyclopedias. Together they  created many inroads in the amalgamation of music of Africa, the Middle East  - but also the music of The African Diaspora in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. Shaikh Daoud continually encouraged and supported these two men in their musical adventures and often attended their performances.

A proclamation was issued by The Office of the President, Borough of Brooklyn, City of New York in 1994, lauding the contributions made by Ethno-Modes Folkloric Workshops and their Founders.

I remember listening to these fine musicians during the Eid Celebrations and at other festive celebrations that were held in the basement of the Mosque at 142 State Street. It was also my greatest pleasure to have played and performed with both men on many professional engagements, including concerts, nightclub appearances and recordings

Recognition of these great documented achievements are long overdue. And I encourage further research into the uncovering and sharing the magnificent body of work that these two men with the assistance and encouragement of their families, and the spiritual motivation supplied by Shaikh Daoud and The Islamic Mission of America be recognized and made known to a world that is largely in the dark as far as the influence that Islam and  particular Muslims have had on the development of many aspects of American life particularly in the area of the Arts. *Life In The Key Of Me”/ The Bedford/Stuyvesant Renaissance 1940-1960, by Bilal & Rakhia Publications, - Wikipedia Encyclopedia, etc.

In order to do justice to the life and times of Ahmed Abdul -Malik would take a
volume of considerable size. Suffice it to say that there is quite a bit of information one can find online and from Wikipedia Encyclopedia. I can personally attest to the great influence he has had on several traditions of music and musicians, Western, Middle-Eastern and African. I was honored to have performed and recorded with this brilliant musician. A boyhood dream come true.


The original tapes of this Thelonious Monk recording were found in the Archives of the Library of Congress in 2005 as can be seen in the clip below. This is a fine example of Ahmed Abdul –Malik at a major peak of creativity as both an accompanist and as a soloist.

Another shining example of the cooperation between the Islamic Mission of America (143 State St.) and The International Islamic Society (303 125th St.) can be seen in the life and times of Jamil Karimudeen, aka John H. Green (Peace be Upon him) and his wife Balquis (Lois Green).

Jamil was a long time member of the community at 303 125th St. and had served as Treasurer there and at 142 State Street as well. Jamil was also a student of the Malay (Naqshbandi) Sufi: Hajji Babarik (Barbary) who lived in a rooming house in Harlem – a Charter Member of 303, 125th  St. and was also a close friend of Shaikh Daoud.

Jamil was a confidante of Shaikh Daoud and a good friend to both Jafar Abdallah and myself. He was a Court Stenographer by trade and he worked for many years in Night Court in Brooklyn and in Manhattan. It was at his invitation that I used to sit and attend night court to become familiar with the legal process and to listen to the varieties of charges brought against those who were arrested on the streets of New York City. It was during the early part of the 1960’s that Jamil was given the opportunity to accompany a Judge who was rotating between the New York City Courts and the Courts on the Island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The trip was supposed to be just for a short while but Jamil and his wife were so taken with life in the Islands that they decided to stay. Jamil lived the remainder of his life in St. Croix - acquiring great distinction there and abroad.

There are very few people on the Island of St. Croix that are not familiar with Mr. Green, as the Islanders are so find of calling him. He rendered a service to the overall community that went far beyond the call of duty. He was instrumental in helping in the development of the small Muslim Community there and was instrumental as well in assisting in building a Mosque on the Island. He later became involved in working with the greater Muslim Community in the Caribbean, Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, etc and became a well-known and influential figure in Caribbean Muslim Activities. His talents were not confined in any way to stenography –he had many talents including photography business and land development –all of which he cultivated and served him well in the Virgin Islands. All who passed his way benefited by his great love and compassion..

He passed away on the Island of St. Croix on September 27, 2005 and is buried there.  “May Allah fill his grave with light and may his memory live on in the hearts of countless generations as well as all of those mentioned in this Memorial who are no longer with us.” Ameen.                                

Jamil Karimudeen / John Green Student and friend of Shaikh Daoud Ahmed Faisal.

Court Recorder, Teacher, Community Activist, Photographer, Building Developer, Family Man, Friend and Big Brother to many here and abroad. A true Spiritual Warrior beloved and missed by many.


               This is a rare photo that many around the world will be delighted to see. [early 1960’s, click to expand]

A rare meeting of Muslim Leaders and Community members of The Islamic Mission of America from the greater New York Area – including leaders and scholars from Washington, D.C, It was held in the basement of 143 State St., Brooklyn NY.  The author can be seen seated beside Shaikh Daoud (ra) as his Aide-de-Camp at the right end of the table.

Dr. Sharwabe former Director of the Islamic Center #1 Riverside Dr. NYC is at the direct center, to his left is Dr. Rauf Director of the Islamic Center in Washington DC, Legal expert Brother Hanafi from The International Muslim Society, 303 125th St. is seated to his right. Hajj Hassan and his wife can be seen to his left as well as Mother Khadijah Faisal standing directly in the center in the rear. –Her assistants Rakhia Abdurahman is to her left and sister Masuda is to her right.

Malcolm X had been invited and was scheduled to be there –unfortunately he had an emergency, but sent his representative Brother (?) X, standing in the rear with his hand on his chin, standing behind Rajab Abdul-Wahab (musician) who now lives in Georgia. Bilal Abdurahman, husband of Sister Rakhia Abdurahman is standing at the far right behind Hajj D.A. Haroon.

…With the assistance of Almighty Allah, this series will be continued.

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