The End - 2000 to 2009

Imam Zaid Shakir – Upon The Passing of Michael Jackson

Like the light of a meteor streaking across the crisp, cold, clear sky of a winter’s night, Michael Jackson, streaked across the sky defining this country’s cultural horizons. None of us coming of age in urban America will forget Michael’s debut onto the public stage with his brothers as part of the phenomenally successful Jackson 5. Hit after hit, “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” “I’ll Be There,” rocketed up the Billboard Charts to number one. I can still reel them all off from memory some forty years later. For better or worse, they are indelibly etched into my mind, and have played a part in defining my soul.

Although I was a couple of years older than Michael, I joined the ranks of unsuccessful Michael Jackson wannabes. At the time it seemed worth the effort as all of girls had gone head over heels for Michael, and just a fraction of his dynamic appeal could reap huge dividends in terms of one’s popularity. The ‘hood was in love with Michael and he apparently had the talent to fulfill the lofty and ever increasing expectations placed upon his slim young shoulders.

However, as the sixties rolled, or limped, into the seventies and the Jackson 5 began to cool off, eventually leaving the Motown label that had launched their incredible success, many of my friends, as well as myself, were attracted to different musical genres, more mature fare. Topping my personal list was WAR, Stevie Wonder, Santana, and Mandrill. I also began to listen to a lot of jazz, and accumulated quite a large album collection. Whenever, I received my weekly wages from whatever job I was engaged in at the time, and I had many in my youth –security guard, lathe operator, UPS warehouseman—I would head straight to the record store and add to my collection.

What I couldn’t afford to buy, I would get from the radio, my preferred listening hours were three and four o’clock in the morning, when the brother manning the controls at an FM station coming out of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut would put out some serious jazz. I would stay awake listening until just before dawn, sleep a couple of hours and drag myself off to work.

As the years went by I lost that passion for music. Perhaps my waning interest was aided by my little nephews who turned part of my album collection into a stack of customized frisbees when I went off to the Air Force in 1976. It was definitely aided by Islam. After my conversion in 1977, there was no one around to tell me that music was Haram (forbidden). However, as I grew in the religion, the enchanting melodies of the Qur’an became far more appealing than the increasingly commercialized musical fare. For example, George Benson’s offerings starting sounding more like Muzak than the rifts of a jazz purist who rivaled Wes Montgomery.

I would eventually give away what was left of my record collection. At the time I had left the Air Force and was studying in Washington DC at American University. However, I lived a few blocks from Howard University. I drove over to one of the used music vendors on the edge of the campus and made his day as I unloaded a box of cassette tapes and albums.

During those years I had lost touch with what Michael Jackson was doing. I knew he had “blown up” as the young folks say today and that as a solo performer he was reaching heights of fame and popularity that not even Elvis had obtained. I would also read in the tabloids that caught my eyes as I waited to check out at the grocery store of the increasingly strange exploits Michael was involved in, the plastic surgeries, something about the bones of the Elephant Man, sleeping in a transparent, refrigerated crypt, the allegations of sexual abuse, the fantasy ranch in California, and on and on.

It was obvious that Michael was troubled. For sure the physical and psychological abuse visited upon him by a sick father was a large part of the problems that were plaguing Michael as he moved further into his adult years. Surely, the childhood that was denied him as he was thrust into the sinful rigors of show business at the tender age of eight, opening for strip tease acts on the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” in smoke-filled rooms wreaking of alcohol, was part of his troubles. Surely, the confusion of being caught between a devout mother struggling to raise her children as Jehovah’s Witnesses and a fanatically strict, violent and profligate father was part of Michael’s problem.

But I was only able to catch glimpses and snippets of Michael’s life from a distance, hearing a bit here from a well-meaning niece, or catching a bit there on television, before I would take Jerry Mander’s advice and relegate my television to the garbage heap. If Michael was becoming a side show he wasn’t performing for me. Caught up in Islamic activism, during a time my friends and I refer to as “the heady days of the revolution” I had little time to reflect on such matters, I was too busy doing my part to change the world.

However, last year Michael’s name came up again. A good friend who is a reliable source of information called and said that Michael had become Muslim. Allah knows best if he did or did not. However, Michael was no stranger to the religion, having been exposed to it by his brother Jermaine, who had converted to the faith in 1989.*

Now Michael is gone. Hopefully, he had found peace in Islam. Hopefully, the tears he cried in the privacy of his oftentimes lonely world, tears described by Smokey Robinson as those of a clown, shed when no one’s around, had dried. Michael was an icon, a pain-filled, troubled icon, and like many of comparable stature before him, and inevitably many after him, his fall was sudden and unexpected. Hopefully, his faith, if he did indeed convert to Islam, helped to cushion that fall.

* An earlier version of this article mentioned that Dawud Warnsby had assisted in Michael Jackson’s conversion to Islam. He has denied that. This article has been amended to exclude that claim. In writing this essay, I was given information from sources I considered reliable that Michael had indeed become Muslim. Obviously, the part about Dawud Warnsby is not true. However, there have been many reports throughout the media concerning Michael becoming Muslim. Allah knows best as to their veracity.


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  • 19 Responses for "Imam Zaid Shakir – Upon The Passing of Michael Jackson"

    1. Michael Jackson is Muslim? | MR's Blog June 26th, 2009 at 11:12 am

      […] Read the full article here […]

    2. Salafi Burnout June 26th, 2009 at 11:35 am

      Masha Allah, nice to see that music is halal now

    3. MR June 26th, 2009 at 11:41 am

      @Salafi Burnout – Did you make that comment before you read the post?

    4. Abdullah June 26th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

      Ignore that troll salafi burnout. Have you seen his blog? He’s literally crazy.

    5. burhan June 26th, 2009 at 12:38 pm

      I don’t think SB is “literally crazy”, just not fair minded or sensitive. He’s swung too far in the other direction of salafism into hate.

    6. HEIWA June 26th, 2009 at 12:38 pm



    7. burhan June 26th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

      People “GET SO UPSET” when an “ICON” dies because they have grown up looking at pictures and videos of him. They’ve allowed him to enter their inner sphere or relations, whereas a person they’ve never heard or seen before is naturally not going to generate the same kind of sympathy.

      Granted it’s something kind of artificial to allow a celebrity to become woven into your emotional life, but that happens whether or not it is right.

      This is all very obvious by the way.

    8. MR June 26th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

      @HEIWA – When famous people die, many people are effected, because that famous person became famous due to those same people appreciated their work. The same goes for when a famous Muslim scholar dies versus the local Imam at a small masjid. Both hold the same position, but one had more people who appreciated their work than the other.

      I guess you can say it is a benefit to be famous when dying.

    9. maynduk June 26th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

      I really don’t think that music is halal is the take home message. I think he’s just being honest that at a certain point in his life he, like millions of other muslims and non-muslims, had listened to Michael Jackson’s music. He mentions that this changed once Islam really took hold in his life, but at least he’s being honest. I admit that I had in the past listened to his music, but that doesn’t mean that I believe music is halal.

      Please give the brother the benefit of the doubt.

      As for MJ, inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. As the Prophet (AS) said, people are judged based upon their last actions, and from what we know one of his later actions in life was his conversion to Islam.

    10. burhan June 26th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

      It’s not certain that he was a Muslim.

    11. Salafi Burnout June 26th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

      He’s swung too far in the other direction of salafism into hate.

      Although I am indeed angry for the lies and evil done to many of us (and Allah KNOWS I have a GOOD right to be VERY ANGRY) I try to be fair. Everything on my blog is 100% true. I do not believe that those criminals should continue to get away with their crimes. but I digress

      It’s not certain that he was a Muslim.

      That will not stop publicity hound Muslim “leaders” from giving him one. He will be praised as a great Muslim to be emulated for ages. In 5 years, as the narrative changes, he will be a martyr that was murdered by that doctor that gave him the pills he took.

      I really don’t think that music is halal is the take home message.

      No, the take home message (for me) is the fact that scores of us gave up music and even music careers upon the advice of these very SAME PEOPLE that are now going around praising the same people that they told us to hate because they were currupting the earth! NOW they are throwing us under the trashheap.

      For YEARS, many of us gave up music. Now it is praiseworthy? Dancing is ok now?

      At his janazah there will undoubtedly be a mixed gathering and PLENTY of non-Muslims. I have seen MANY janaaiz where people had to turn away the women and/or the women were kept extremely separate. Oh, but not for a star! Much less one that was not known to ever attend a single jumuah in LA or consult with any Muslim Imams. Doesn’t matter. Let’s HURRY to give him a janazah. But the little guy? Screw him/her!

      Famous Muslims can curse, sing, dance, smoke and not cover their aurah and the Ummah celebrates them, masha Allah.

    12. maynduk June 26th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

      Dear Brother SB,

      You may not have to agree with everything that he said (or even anything) but there are ways to voice it. Imam Zaid is not saying that music is praiseworthy just that this soul led a troubled life and by some accounts embraced Islam at the end. No one is saying that he was a role model or that everything that he did was good, but if he truly did embrace Islam, then everything was wiped clean, and who knows, maybe his soul was purer than ours as he just recently embraced the faith.

      There was a drunk man at the time of the Prophet who was being beaten for drinking and was cursed by another Sahabi. The Prophet censured him not to curse him as the man loved Allah and His Messenger. He still looked for the good in people and tried to help them work through any issues they had. He was truly magnificient.

      There are ways to disagree without being disagreeable. The Prophet said: “The Most Merciful shows mercy to those who have mercy on others. Show mercy to those on earth, and the One above the heaven will show mercy to you.”

      Take care my brother.

    13. kaadhim June 26th, 2009 at 5:33 pm

      maynduk very good post, i think that the last hadith of yours captured in a sense Salaif Burnout’s point, that some people listen and play music, and other muslims shouldn’t start blasting these people to hell for it. Salafi burnout is pleading for a change of tone to the quote un quote salafi crowd, and they deserve it. If ppl who think music is haram would instead of blasting fellow muslims, and instead speak softly and provide evidence then i think that is to everyone’s benefit, to the music people’s benefit in hopes of convincing, and non-musics ability to listen and not feel like they are being judged by a fellow human being. Jazakum Allah Khair

    14. kaadhim June 26th, 2009 at 5:36 pm


      i think that is to everyone’s benefit, to the non-music people’s benefit in hopes of convincing, and the musics ability to listen and not feel like thier soul is being judged by a fellow human being.

    15. Ibrahim al-Maliki June 26th, 2009 at 5:46 pm

      As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,

      Jazakullah khayran for this and all other posts, MR.

      Also, I do believe that SalafiBurnout is, indeed, a bit on the edge, though probably not “crazy”. Islamic manners and ethics are still taken from the Prophet, sallalahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, and not from the archetype that is your usual blogger and forum user. His (or hers?) blog is, truly, disgusting. How you will explain to Allah Ta’ala why you “expose”, slander, and throw garbage at your brothers and sisters in faith, I have no idea. Though, something tells me that your answer, if any, will be sarcastic and/or hateful. I guess I will have to watch out.

      Rasulullah, sallalahu alayhi wa sallam, said, “Abghradu r-rijali ila Allahi l-aladdu l-khasim”, i.e. the people whom Allah Ta’ala hates the most are those who always argue. But you have probably heard many similar ahadith, yet continue on your path?

    16. umm aa'ishah June 26th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

      as-salaamu `alaykum

      i do believe to speak positively about any form of jaahilliyyah is wrong, regardless of whether the people talking about it or the subject of discussion became muslim or not

      that must be pointed out, because we have too many ignorant youth amongst the ummaah today who do, and probably will, take this praise outta contxt and go and stick on some MJ tunes!

      inna lillaahi wa inna ilaihi raji`oon

    17. maynduk June 26th, 2009 at 8:18 pm

      Imam Muslim reported that Jabir ibn Samra said, “The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) would not rise from the spot where he prayed the dawn prayer until the sun rise, when it did, he (S.A.W.) would rise.” He also said, “They used to talk and mention the time of jahiliyyah, they would laugh and he (S.A.W.) would smile.

    18. Ismaeel June 27th, 2009 at 5:05 am

      As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

      Quoting Brother Amir:

      “@HEIWA – When famous people die, many people are effected, because that famous person became famous due to those same people appreciated their work. The same goes for when a famous Muslim scholar dies versus the local Imam at a small masjid. Both hold the same position, but one had more people who appreciated their work than the other.”

      What about when Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd, the renowned FAMOUS Sa’udi Muslim Scholar died? The Imam of MAsjid Al-Haraam (Salih Aal Taleb) gave a khutbah that Friday honouring him, but the Muslims didn’t post even a snippet about Shaykh Abu Zayd, who even led in Masjid An-Nababwi in his lifetime… How about when Shaykh ‘Ali Jaabir, the imam of Masjid Al-Haraam died (approx. 2006-07)? No, we’ll post about people who are icons for “gay” in High Schools, but the honored Yemeni Non-Saudi Imam of Masjid Al-Haram dieds and we’ll yawn!

      Quoting Salafi Bumount:

      At his janazah there will undoubtedly be a mixed gathering and PLENTY of non-Muslims. I have seen MANY janaaiz where people had to turn away the women and/or the women were kept extremely separate. Oh, but not for a star! Much less one that was not known to ever attend a single jumuah in LA or consult with any Muslim Imams. Doesn’t matter. Let’s HURRY to give him a janazah. But the little guy? Screw him/her!

      Agreed. I never agreed with extremists/khawarijis/American-haters, but this guy is no “Suyuufi” or “Farooq”! He knows what he’s saying. I mean, in High Schools all oover America, if someone is acting all “gay”, they’ll just call him Micheal Jackson. Please! If Busta Rhymes died, you’ll find me leading the Janazah, as he expressed his love for Islaam and he knows how to rap, but Gay Jackson… no way Hosea!

    19. Abdul June 5th, 2010 at 8:08 am

      I find it repugnant to stick up for a man who was accused of child abuse most of his adult life and money got him out of it , Salafi burn out , your blog was shut down but I am with you on your quest , I myself had the same issue in germantown phila pa , all you people who want to get along with another muslim for the simple fact that they are muslim is wrong , if u think that asking Abdul-Qadir Jilani for help is ok then no I do not want to associate with you , I do not call on dead men to help me , Abu Bakr(ra) stated on the death of Muhammad Mustafa(saws) anyone who worships Muhammad saws , know that Muhammad had died , but whoever worships Allaah know that Allaah cannot die , so therefore leave the dead where they are , in the grave , if MJ was a muslim Mashallaah , if not then who cares , muslims argue over where we should put pur hands in the salah and which madhhab is correct and when to raise our hands , we are foolish and idiots. chinese have chinatown , the spanish have spanish villages all over the usa , cambodians , indonesians and other ethnic people have their own little communites , muslims want to all be scholars and no one wants to help for Allah anymore , I asked a sister to watch my son for 2 hrs while I went for a job interview and she said it will cost me $50 , really ? are you serious ? these people are sick. I dont care if u blast me ,I could care less , especially the money making , lottery selling , alcohol selling arabs.

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