Channel: Omar Suleiman
Yaqeen Institute at MASCON2021
So, I told you guys, I'd be right back.
hamdulillah tonight is one of the
most special nights for me in the last couple of years.
There's a particular man that I have personally known.
And I met him a few years ago, before he became one of the most recognizable faces in America.
And I love him for the sake of Allah.
And I truly do. And so I say that before I even read his bio, and I think that by the end of the session, you will love him as well.
Dr. Yusuf Saddam was just 15 years old when his life was up ended after being wrongfully convicted with four other boys in the Central Park Jogger case. In 2002, after the young men spent years of their lives behind bars, their sentences were overturned, now known as the exonerated five. Their story has been documented in the award winning film The Central Park Five and of course the series when they see us. Over the past two decades, usif has become a family man a father, a poet and activist and an inspiration. And he continues to use his platform to educate the public about the impact of mass incarceration and police brutality rooted in our justice system. He has been honoured
with a lifetime achievement award from President Obama amongst other honors, and you have seen him on the stages of multiple award ceremonies. Please watch this short video about Dr Yusuf Salaam and then we will bring him out in sha Allah Tada.
On the morning of April 20 1989, New York City awakened to the horrifying news a Wall Street investment bank left for dead after a brutal attack while she was jogging in Central Park. A female jogger was clinging to life after being beaten and sexually assaulted in Central Park. The city was outraged the police quickly arrested a group of teenagers among them used epsilon. Their trial gripped the city their conviction seen by many of the time as justice served
over arrested 15 You spend seven years in prison for a crime you did not commit vilified in the public for years. Not even just a smidge of bitterness. I gotta tell you, I found out that a thing like forgiveness as an example of where we can go with being able to get out of being bitter. Forgiveness is for you. It's for you to be able to surgically cut yourself from the ball and chain that is holding you back at the mother's dua right there. My mother told me in prison
she would say
she would say, I will be calling Mattila mean charming.
I invoke the Perfect Words of Allah to protect us against the evil that may come from Sky earth against the tests of night and day.
In the name of our Lord gracious in Moscow.
You think part of your purpose in life was was going to prison for a crime he didn't commit? Absolutely.
Every year Dear brothers and sisters we have a confident Muslim award named after Muhammad Ali, the Athena Institute Muhammad Ali competent Muslim award. Typically we give this award at our annual banquet in Dallas, but it hum did a lot of I mean, tonight we do this at Mass in sha Allah Tirana. So please help me in welcoming our 2021 Muhammad Ali confident Muslim OF THE YEAR Dr. Yusuf salaam
Salam alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.
I am honored
and thankful to be standing here in front of you today.
I grew up in a time when the system believed that we were guilty because of the color of our skin.
They paraded us in front of the people, and made the people believe that our mothers and our fathers had given birth to what was amounted to be the scum of the earth.
But what they didn't contend with was the plan of Allah. They say that man plans and God plans. And surely God is the best of planners. I look at the Central Park Jogger case as a love story between God and His people. I call it that, because this same system that tried to convict us became the criminal system of injustice for me. But Allah use this case, the Central Park Jogger case, to place the whole system on trial and to topple it. The system put us in prison.
And they buried us. But they forgot that we were seeds. And instead of a social debt, we were able to emerge like the phoenix from the ashes. Because just like they built the fire to consume us.
They forgot the owner of the heat.
Allah allow the prison to be cool and safe. I was able to go into the prison
I was able to go into the prison and learn
my first five years there, they made me the mom of the young people that was there.
When I aged out of the Youth Facility, at 21, I got sent to a place called Clinton, one of the worst prisons in New York City, New York rather.
While I was there, they wanted me to be the naive of the community.
This was after they named me the kadhi for a year and a half
every position that I was in having been given the worst label that you could go to prison for that of re
Allah allowed me to be in a place of safety. Allah allowed me to be restored in my honor. And Allah blessed me to be binded to this faith.
My mother, my father, after I was born, we know the traditions. They observed me for seven days.
And on the seventh day, they brought me in front of the people.
And they said my name was to be known as Youssef Idris for Adam Abdus Salam.
I never knew what that meant.
I got to prison. And an officer asked me who was I?
And I said, I'm Yusef salaam, one of the guys they accused of raping the Central Park Jogger, but I didn't do it. And he said, I know that. I've been watching you. You're not supposed to be here. Why are you here?
Who are you?
I found out that not only the use of define my whole story,
but use of an English
is the equivalent to the Prophet Joseph. But that still doesn't define what use of means. As I searched to find a definition of what this name that my mother had given me. I found that use of mint, God will increase. I found that eateries means the teacher I found that for adults,
Allah has the most just
with justice. And of course everyone knows Salam is peace.
I was in prison when I found out the meaning of my name for the first time and I was floored.
The beauty that this story would take in the shape it would go on even to this day and beyond.
I'm continuously humbled and thankful to be alive. But more importantly,
I'm so thankful to be able to call myself Muslim to have been born witness.
Over and above everything else. We won a lawsuit they gave us a few million dollars. I
came home from prison and my faculties was still intact. I still had a mind. But over and above that I had the shahada, a shadow en la ilaha illallah wa de hula Shariq Allah, wa shadow UNAMI Hamadan Abdullah rasuluh
Thank you. I'm honored and brother Suleyman is coming out again
I want to share, I want to share a poem.
I want to share this poem because
one of the most powerful things that happened to me in prison
was that I begin, I began to realize that I was a vessel
and I was walking down the corridors to the mess hall in the prison, then all of a sudden, his poem came into my mind, it was called Venus and Mars.
In between Venus and Mars is the center of our attraction
of those connected to the stars, hardly a fraction it'd be whose man to work for the day when this will all end life is mortal. So follow them alot of those heavens sent awaken and receive that which will give you life
or remain horizontal
and never begin to flight
for the solution of the sin from amongst the stars, and I'll meet you in between Venus and Mars
so now when he comes to live with
him, the lamps are that
we, we could have listened to you speak for a very long time.
I so the first time I heard heard you speak,
was actually in a very sacred place. The first time I heard Dr. Yusuf speak was actually at the podium. And the very spot that hajj Malik el Shabazz Malcolm X Rahim Allah Tada spoke his last words in the Shabazz Center, which is the former autobahn
and I heard you recite clips with alhaja.
And it was beautiful.
And I'd actually request you to do that and shall outside if you don't mind and then we can start and so
because and I want to, I want to say why emsella Tala but if Would you mind?
It's the introduction, Shama? Yes. Al hamdu Lillahi Rabbil Alameen all the blindness you shaytani R rajim Bismillah R Rahman r Rahim Alhamdulillah in Alhamdulillah Hina Hamada, who will not stay in who were not stuck through when we knew we will not to walk away when I will be locked him in Shiradi and fusina Woman sejahtera Molina Manya de la Fila Moodle Allah wa Manju Leela he for lucha de Allah, when a shadow and La Ilaha illa Allah wa who la sharika la on a shadow anna Muhammad Abdul rasuluh on my bike.
When I heard you say it, I remember there are multiple incidents with the Prophet, slice alum, where he just recited that, and people became Muslim.
And I asked you about it and you said that you were giving cookbook in prison. And that's why you learned that because you were the one giving collectibles in prison.
So I want to ask you to, first of all reflect a little bit more on your name, use if
you went to prison, and you had companions.
In prison, you became a leader. And then everything from your prison experience transformed the way that you viewed the world afterwards. Can you tell us a little bit more about what the name use of and the story of use of when you're reading? What is it like when you read sort of use of you know, when I read Surah Yusuf, I get so much from it. Because for one, I'm overjoyed that my name is mentioned in the Quran.
And I'm overjoyed as well because my my son, my last child that was born to me, was born also on my birthday. And he also shares my name.
When I read the story of use of I think about over and above just the fact that his physical brothers were the ones that felt the way they felt about him. But I think about the family, the neat the humanity that we come from, and how people feel different ways of
Are other people about how in America, we were taken from a place and turned into chattel slaves,
by some of our people,
and how, in this place, we were able to thrive? Allah gives you lemons in life.
And you can either say, Why do I have lemons,
or you can say, I'm going to make some lemonade.
And then you can make it look cool. You can start squeezing the lemons, taking the juice out, and then start juggling them. As you watch the people and say, check this out, you're it's a really, really amazing thing, though, because
the other side was that I was realizing that how much grace Allah was giving me how Allah was really raising me
as Allah raised Idris to a high station,
no equivalent at all. But just for me, in a little bit of my understanding how merciful Allah was that I was able to go through this situation, and I call myself growing through it, as opposed to just going through it, that anything that we grow through, has the opportunity to turn us into our best selves, that life oftentimes challenges you, not because life hates you, or God hates you. But God wants you to be able to become your best self. And so he hits you with a two by four.
So that when that when the next time the two by four is coming, you now have peripheral vision, and you know when to duck. It's a beautiful thing though. Because now I get the opportunity to tell my children, I get the opportunity to tell others about the amazing thing called a trial.
And how you can go through the trial, never cursing God, but always being thankful. And God will bless you because of that. And just because you went through it that doesn't mean you won't be tested again, like Allah says in the Quran. Do not you see? We test you at least once or twice a year
our prayer and our hope is that we succeed and we pass the test every single time
was use of always at this level of tranquility and peace Mashallah. So as as I've seen you
always at peace Sakina tranquility.
Were you always a tranquil person? Were you always at peace? And if not, at what point in your life? Did you feel like there was a turning point? Were you able to develop that peace, of heart and peace of mind?
I would say that for the most part, most of my life has been a peaceful life. There are times I think, where I have to be reminded
And when I remember that, being being patient, a suburb, it's not about just being patient. It's the What are you doing? While you're being patient that really causes you to be patient.
What happened to me, allowed me to realize that we are in control of nothing.
And Allah is in control of everything.
So much so that even in this era of COVID
we want to be able to live our best lives we want to be able to live as Allah says to sometimes the unbelievers 1000 years. But Allah says if you don't believe that you are not in control that you if you think you are in control.
Allah says when your soul is leaving your body.
Try to pull it back.
The beauty of Islam is to know
that you can as you turn your will over to Allah and X Allah mode you to shape you to beautify you
to magnify you Allah through me.
A good friend of mine who's also Muslim, spent 27 years in prison. His name is Jimmy Gardner.
Jimmy Gardner reminded me
thank God I don't look like what I've been through. Because
we could have been my genome.
We could have been totally out of our minds.
We could have been cursing allow.
We could have been a scourge
And now we're blessing
one of the things I've always admired about you and I've watched you speak over these last few years,
is that you always seem to be pulling from your moments of vulnerability. And sometimes as you're describing those moments, it says, If I could see you seeing it.
And you do that, I think because you want to help others get out of their moments.
Can you walk us through your lowest point? You know, there's a point even in the lives of the prophets, you underside of his Salam in the belly of the whale.
Can you walk us through the darkest moments, and how you got out by the permission, and grace of Allah.
I write about my lowest point.
In my very first book,
that book is a book of poetry. One of the poems that I read to you was from that book, it's called words of a man my right to be.
I talk about how much of the poems that were written in that book were written, while I was in prison. Maybe 90% of the poems in that book was written while I was in prison.
But the reason why I decided to share that book, when I brought it out,
was because I wanted people to know that when you find yourself in so called Dark Places, there's always a light somewhere in the darkness. And oftentimes that light is inside you. You can illuminate your own darkness and shine your light on the world. Because what happens is that the devil is trying to make you believe that all hope is lost.
You could have I remember, one time I was in prison, I had the worst. I mean, I had such a bad sore throat. I wanted somebody to cut my throat out and give me a new throat. And I was crying and I was in pain. And the only thing I could do was turn to Allah because what they were doing in the prison was they were experimenting on us. They wouldn't give us medicine, not the medicine we needed. They were giving us stuff that was causing us to become sick.
But when I turned to Allah, it was like, By the morning, everything was gone. I was completely healed.
It's that it's that moment where you remember
here I was going into this and I had to remember what my mother said to me as you all heard on the video.
I will be Kelly Mattila Minh shall remain color.
I seek refuge in the most perfect word of Allah
from the evil of that which He has created the Kalima
a bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah.
Allah blesses us because even in those moments, Allah is allowing us to become binded to the Serato Musa King.
As long as you stay faithful as long as you say thankful as long as you say Ya Allah, Ya Kana abou dua, er Can I stay in?
Allah is binding you to the faith. So that you can, you won't be able to be ripped from it.
This life will cause you
to be challenged. Some of the most difficult things that we've gone through is nothing when we hear about the stories of the Prophet peace be upon them, or even the stories of the other people that came before.
This is nothing.
And Allah X is Allah make it easy.
So I'm going to put you in a situation.
You're talking to a young man who has lost all hope,
or a young woman because everything that they have worked towards has been taken away from them.
Or so they think
that young man is you in prison,
knowing that you're there unjustly
and not seeing a way out.
What do you tell a young person that's losing faith and doesn't see a way out right now, if you're counseling, there are multiple people that are sitting here right now that are in a situation where they feel imprisoned by their circumstances, even if they're not in the physical prison that you were in.
What do you tell a young person that has been wronged or is at that breaking point where they don't know if they have faith anymore and they're losing hope and Allah subhanaw taala.
I tell them what my mother told me.
My mother told me this. If you've seen
When they see us, there's a moment. And for those of us who haven't seen it, this is not a spoiler. This happened very early in the film. But there's a moment when my mother came into the interrogation room, and got me away from the police. What you don't see is what happened in that moment, because in the very next scene, or there abouts, I was back into prison.
In the time my mother had with me, she told me something.
And when she told me, I'll never forget, because I had to take her words into the prison with me. And then I had to take her words, after I came home from prison, into life.
My mother said to me, they need you to participate in whatever it is that they're trying to do.
Do not participate.
For me, it was the box,
the box that was labeled in made the box that would allow me to never come out of that circumstance, but physically feel like the only life that I was to live was the life of a prisoner.
A person that came out of prison and went back in, and then came out and went back in, because that's how they designed the life for us.
And then the next thing I will tell you is that Allah created you on purpose. Allah makes no mistakes. And if you believe you were born, by mistake, you move throughout your life, as if you are a mistake.
When you think about even the process of us being born.
Now I can say this, because it's cleaned up for all audiences. It's the story of the birds and the bees. But when our mother and father got together, each and every one of us were one of over 400 million options.
And Allah chose you.
I mean, imagine that.
Every if we add like a movie kind of scene to it, one is trying to get forward it was no not you get out of the way. Not you. You not the time is not yet.
Not only is that a purposeful birth.
But if you were born on purpose, then you have to know that you have a purpose. The challenge is for us to find out what our purpose is. And just like Dr. King said, Dr. King said, When you find your purpose in life, do it as if God himself called you to do it at this very moment. And instead of giving us a grand idea of What purpose could be, he said, even if your purpose in life is to be a street sweeper,
sweep the streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep the streets, he said like Beethoven compose music, like Lea Tom Price, sang before the opera.
We all want to be able to find what that purpose is. And let me tell you, Allah didn't just create us to be on the sidelines. Allah created us to be active, because at the end of our lives,
like Allah says, In the Quran, have we not given you life long enough? Allah is going to access like Allah says through Hadith could see what did you do with the life I gave you?
And hopefully the things that we did were feasible Allah.
Beautiful answer and
this idea of Allah mentioning
that he brought you into this world for Mr. Vela. Yesterday, he eased you into this world, from Idaho for algebra. And then a person dies and they go to their grave. The fact that you've taken your experience and you've turned it into a teaching moment for America is something that's deeply inspiring. And so I want you to teach this audience. What does the Muslim community and America as a whole the American Muslim community in America, in the broader sense need to know about racism and mass incarceration, and how it has impacted your life? And how we see young people that are perhaps in the same situation that you once were?
Wow. I think that what what we need to know is that
in a law plans. Right now in America, there's a thing called separation of church and state that causes people to believe that what they're doing as their job has nothing to do with their religious or faith based life. When the exact opposite is the most
truest, everything that they do matters. Some people say I'm just doing my jobs. So on Friday I go to the masjid on Saturday, I go to the temple, or the synagogue on on Sunday, I go to church.
In Islam we marry. The so called church and state of faith dictates how we move throughout our lives.
There's a thing in America, called the Constitution.
And as we read the Constitution, we find that it begins with the words we the people.
And if we stop right there, and test the temperature and acts, who were they talking about?
They weren't talking about black and brown people.
Black and brown people, was still considered three fifths of a person.
If you skip over and go right to the 13th Amendment, you find that in the 13th Amendment, it says, Even though slavery is abolished, it says neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States or any other places subject to their jurisdiction.
But that's not even the most important part.
The most important part is section two.
It says Congress shall have the power through legislation to make this soul.
And someone want you to step back for a moment and look at this document, and realize that this document is talking about something that was a stain on America being abolished, but yet being allowed to continue
and morphed into something else.
It morphed into the prison industrial complex, a place that they would rather send you to, especially if you're black or brown.
I mean, think about the Central Park Jogger case for a moment.
I was the tallest out of the group.
I was presumed that the darker is out of the group.
And I was the only Muslim in the group.
I was a threat.
They wanted to arrest my development. Before I had an opportunity to even grow.
They wanted to give me a definition for myself, that Allah didn't choose for me.
But Allah gave me a Rubik's cube to figure out with the life that I was given.
But Allah didn't do that for me.
Allah gave this life and this example of me
Dr. Yusuf, we are
we're at the end but I got to ask you in one minute in sha Allah on
Hajj Malik el Shabazz, Malcolm X Rahim, Allah said, I believe Islam has the solution to the problem of racism in America.
How does Islam have the solution to racism in America, in your heart and mind?
Because if we understand racism, the you know, like they have these movies, and they have the movies and it says the the origin story. So you just saw the whole movie, and you saw the series. And now because they need to make a little bit more money, they come to the beginning, how the people were born, what made it what made them into this? The origin story of racism
is shaytaan. Why will we be law?
Allah to Allah says in various places of the Quran,
that when He created man, He told everything that was there to bow down.
And shaitan refused.
Allah asks, Why didn't you bow down when I command you to do so?
The devil said because I am better than him.
There's only one race. And that's the human race.
Islam gives us the ability to see every single man
as our father
or brother or our son
and gives us the ability to see every single woman as our mother or sister or our daughter.
I didn't say our wife.
I didn't say our wife. Because if you think about it, there's a problem in America, especially in the black community.
We've been given a negative
viewpoint about women.
Islam is the solution because if we saw every woman as a mother, how would we treat them? If we saw every woman as our sister? How would we protect them? If we saw every woman as our daughter, we will lay down our lives for them.
And in the same way as our brother, our Father, and our sons,
Islam is not a new thing.
Because Allah says sometimes he abrogates a faith with something else. And sometimes he supports it. Islam is the faith that we were born to follow.
This is the last brick
that the Prophet peace be upon them was put to build the house of faith.
Islam is Islam cleans all of that up. It allows us to be just in our dealings in public and in private
our private life is never different than our public life. Or at least that's what we strive to be.
Dr Yusuf Salaam
for everyone to know, inshallah Tada you have your book, and it's a beautiful book, Dr. Yusuf inshallah Tata will be at the main mass booth, and he has some of his books here in Charlottetown. He'll be signing his book so you can meet him in person. But I want you to know that you make us proud as a community, that the way that you have represented yourself your struggle, and your faith community
has inspired us all. So may Allah bless you and keep you firm and keep you sincere and keep you steadfast and may Allah allow you to continue to be a teacher, and a student and a humble servants of Allah subhanaw taala and raise you and all of us to the highest position of generative for the dose, Allah Amin, Dr. Yusuf has been in multiple big stages, but I think this is the first time you're addressing a Muslim conference of this size. I love it. This is beautiful. You all are beautiful. This is beautiful. I don't know if you can see yourselves. But you all this is a scene. This is my brothers and my sisters.
I love y'all
so can you all give him since this is the first time that he's addressed the Muslim audience of this size? Can you all give him the loudest Allahu Akbar that he has ever heard? Tech B.
Tech B, Allah Allahu Akbar masala Zakon l'affaire docusate. Congratulations once again. So now
they can Salam