[Editor’s note: This is a sketch of a longer piece I am working on. I need to post this now. The full article will be posted at the appropriate time.]
I met Muhammad Salah in the summer of 2000, when I went to interview him for our summer series on Chicago’s ethnic groups at what eventually became the Star/Southtown.
I intended on making my career off that interview. I was ambivalent about Israel and oblivious to the meaning of occupation. I was stunned when I entered that conference room. Literally. I could not move. Instead of finding the monster the media portrayed, I found a man from whom emanated the light of Allah
I’ve spoken and written about this before, but I know that moment is what softened my heart so it could start receiving the message of Islam. Without that meeting, I don’t know if I would be Muslim.
After speaking for hours with Muhammad and his lawyer at the time Matt PIerce, and going over the FBI documents and court files, I realized how complicit we Americans are in the occupation of Palestine.
That day set the life-altering course of my life.
A little more than one year later, in the days immediately after 9/11 I was covering the pro-America rally at the Mosque Foundation, when I saw Muhammad carrying his little son on his shoulders. His son had a flag in his hand. When I told him I had converted to Islam, he started to cry.
In those first years, after Eid prayer at the Mosque Foundation, when I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, I would go to the Salah’s house and knock on the door. They always accepted me graciously and allowed me to spend some of that special day with them at their family.
There is so much more to write on this subject, which I will do later, inshaAllah. But as much as we will remember Abu Ahmed for his grace and dignity and patience, I will treasure Um Ahmed for her resilience, her sumood and her fortitude.
There is so much noise in our umma. Too much rancor; too many media hounds with hot air and empty barks.
But always, you would find the Salah family slowly and surely working their way to our Lord, working to help those around them, working to raise honorable and respectful children.
We are enriched because we know them. I am sad beyond belief at Muhammad’s passing, like so many others. But I am hopeful and happy that he is going to his just reward.
May Allah forgive him, be pleased with him, and grant him very, very best place in Jannah.