Friday, April 17, 2020

Obituary: Marjorie Karim, A Beautiful Servant Returns to Allah

By Jamillah Karim
Featuring Khalijah Karim





Hajjah Marjorie Shukriyyah Karim, the mother of Khalil, Sultan, Jamillah and Ayisha Karim, and the daughter of Lawrence Winters, Sr., and Angeletta Tilghman Winters, returned to Allah on April 14, 2020, in Sha’ban, “the month of the Prophet Muhammad” (may Allah bless him and give him peace). Marjorie was a beautiful soul with an illuminating smile, a vast heart, a generous hand, a brilliant mind, and a pure spirit dedicated to attaining the pleasure of her Most Bountiful Lord. She spread the salam most sweetly, she fed the hungry tirelessly, and she prayed in the night devotedly—all acts for which her beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) promised Paradise.


Each pillar of her faith, Marjorie embodied exceptionally. Born and raised a devout Catholic, she courageously embraced Islam for its message of self-love and liberation, and later inspired her sister, Jonetta, to become Muslim. In a community known for its unique transition to Al-Islam, she humbly led in establishing the five daily prayers in her home. 

Marjorie and Jonetta - On their way to Mecca and Cairo, Umrah 2018


Hajj 2004


So generous and unfailing was her charity that her masjid, the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, awarded her “The Maintainer Award.” So far-reaching was her reputation for feeding the homeless that CNN featured her philanthropy as capturing the spirit of Ramadan—like the Prophet Muhammad (S) in Ramadan, “more generous than the free blowing wind.” So beloved was she to her Lord that five times He invited her as a guest to His holy House (the Ka’ba in Mecca), one of those times to accompany her sister and another time on behalf of a sister in faith.


1990s. In front of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam

Ramadan 2007




Marjorie was born Marjorie Elizabeth Winters in Washington, D.C., on October 4, 1952. She was the third of five children, all of whom attended catechism classes at St. Cyprian and Holy Name Catholic Churches. From an early age, women exemplars of piety impressed her, especially her grandmother Clara. In Marjorie’s innocent eyes, “a great woman” meant “being pious.”  

Senior Picture, McKinley Tech High School, 1970
Marjorie was graced not only with the greatness of piety but also professional success. With a knack for higher mathematics, she excelled in school and in her career. After graduating from McKinley Tech High School in 1970, she matriculated at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania on a full scholarship. 

Marjorie, left, connected with Pan-Africanists in her first year of college, 1970-1971


Family and community interests, however, led her to take a break from her studies. She joined the Nation of Islam in 1971 and married Howard University graduate Harvey 2X from Atlanta, GA, where she eventually moved in 1973 with the couple’s firstborn, Khalil. She gave birth to her second son, Sultan, in 1974, and was dedicated to “being there” for her “babies,” despite the financial constraints her husband met, only "working for self.” In 1975, when Imam W.D. Mohammed (R) made the transition to Al-Islam, he personally gave her husband, a minister at the time, the name Ahmad Karim. Marjorie cherished the name Karim, and humbly lived its meaning--generous and noble.

Marjorie wanted to be a nun but she also wanted to have children. The Nation of Islam was her answer: "You got to wear all the different colors and still look modest like nuns, and I could have babies." Marjorie is holding a friend's son. 1972

Marjorie in her MGT&GCC Uniform (Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization  Class), 1975

Khalil and Sultan, 1975. Marjorie made the bow tie that Khalil is wearing. She made bow ties, money pouches, and sandwiches for her husband to sell- all skills learned in the Muslim Girls Training (MGT) class in the Nation of Islam. According to Ahmad Karim, "Her bow ties were the best bow ties ever made in the world."
Marjorie made her own dresses, like many women in the Nation of Islam.

Marjorie's in-law's house (Granny's house), 1978
Jamillah and Ayisha, 1979

After a decade of mothering small children--including birthing her two daughters, Jamillah and Ayisha--Marjorie stunned everyone when she decided to return to school in 1981. “Making straight As,” she also worked part-time, including tutoring students in computer programming. Marjorie completed her Bachelors in Business Administration at Georgia State University within five years and landed her first job as a project manager in 1988 at Bell South which later became AT&T, from which she retired in 2015.


Marjorie’s community work, however, was her soul work. Not just a committed worker was she, but a pioneer. In the 1980s, she worked in the masjid kitchen during her birth month, carrying the Nation legacy of women’s fundraising--the backstory to her fame for her heavenly whole wheat carrot cake; she co-led an effort to feed the homeless at a women’s shelter in an urban church; and she served on the board of Sister Clara Muhammad School when it was courageously expanded into a high school, faithfully enrolling her son in the first class of W.D. Mohammed High School.


Annual Mosque Cares Convention - Youth Banquet


In the 1990s, she co-founded M.O.R.E. for Youth, the Muslim Organization Representing Excellence for Youth, where she mentored and inspired hundreds of young people through various projects including a Muslim teen cable talk show and organizing the youth conference of the Annual Mosque Cares National Convention, where Marjorie’s guidance and warm hugs reached across the Nation. 

Marjorie with Sister Khayriyyah, founding president of Sisters United- now together with Allah. 
Rites of Unthaa


The last two decades of Marjorie’s life were filled with service through the organization dearest to her heart, Sisters United in Human Service, Inc., of which she was a founding member. Faithfully and dutifully, she worked long hours serving on the board as treasurer, organizing an annual interfaith health conference, co-coordinating homeless feedings, and in other capacities too long to list. Her high station as “Mother of the Youth” was fortified through her twenty years at the forefront in coordinating Rites of Unthaa, a program guiding girls in their development into virtuous women. We cannot enumerate the souls she touched.


Arizona Thanksgiving, 2019



Without question, her greatest impact was on us, her children and grandchildren. Any excellence you see in us is her finest legacy. And therefore, what we witnessed of her intimately is the truest testimony of her excellence: Walking distances with us to catch the bus because she didn’t have a car. And when she finally did, offering ride after ride to sisters in need. Moving into her own house after her divorce and struggling to manage the needed repairs. Teaching us to obey Allah, reminding us when we failed, holding us through the hardship, and lifting us when we turned back to God. Treating strangers as they were old friends, and providing a warm bed and unforgettable meals for extended family and new acquaintances. 






Memories of the sweet companionship she offered us in travel as far as Malaysia and a little closer in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Of the affection and gifts she lavished on her grandchildren, even making her perfected whole wheat carrot cake gluten-free, all out of love. Of the radical changes she made to her diet and the constant reminders to eat well, in hopes that we not suffer as she did. Of her loading tables and trays of food into her car, even when she was ill, to transport to the homeless. Truly, in her deepest suffering, she did everything in her power to lighten the burdens of others, until she just couldn’t do it anymore. 









In a letter to Nana, Marjorie’s third oldest granddaughter, Khalijah, amazingly captures everything about Marjorie that we have attempted to share here, and more.  


To Nana Marjorie 💜,
I honestly wish I would’ve written this when your vessel, mind and soul was still here on earth but procrastination got the best of me. 2013 is when you got diagnosed. Your children didn’t know for three years and your grandchildren for five. When I found out, I laid in bed and let out a soft cry. It was early in the morning, and I didn’t want to wake up anyone in the house. As I laid there, my mind almost immediately took me back to my 12th grade year. It was the day I was really sick; every step I took felt like I was going to pass out. Dear Bro.Siddiq (May he Rest In Peace) noticed and called my parents. My mom didn’t pick up, and my Dad was away at work. When Bro.Siddiq got a hold of you, not even two minutes into the conversation, you were on your way. When you got to the school and realized how weak and drained I looked, you didn’t take me home but you took me to get breakfast and then straight to the doctor’s. We waited and talked in the waiting room until the results came back. When the doctor finally approached us, she informed you that I had to be sent to the E.R. right away because my blood was way too low. You were so worried. Nevertheless, you were with me every step of the way. You were there until my parents came, and even then you still stayed for a while. After that, you took me to my checkups. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Just me and you. Even one of the checkups, you let me get Zaxby’s- salad of course- but I was still happy. You helped me keep my blood up, and put me on to kale heavy. The liver, not so much 💜This was in 2015, two years into your illness. Now there’s a lot, and I mean A LOT of memories I could write about, but this one in particular came to my mind that day, and now as I write this, because it highlights your selflessness. You were fighting a serious battle but were right by my side when I fell temporarily ill, and I will be forever grateful here and beyond. Even though tears may fall from my eyes on the paper as I write this, diluting the ink of my pen- yes, some may be of sadness- but most of it is happiness because you won’t have to suffer or be in pain anymore. You are now up with Allah 💜. I know you will fit right in because that’s where Angels belong. I love you sweet sweetie Nana Marjorie.
From: Your Khalijah Boo

May the angels perfume Mama Marjorie’s path to the Highest Paradise.





















Friday, October 25, 2019

The Blessing of Singlehood: Finding Allah in Yearning, Patience and Prayer

By Jamillah Karim

#TheSinglehoodStruggle
#SinglehoodAsAPathToAllah

There’s a story behind why I’m featuring this picture: WhatsApp would not capture the images with quotes that I created below so I decided to use the first photo I came across in my album that was fitting. Although I’m married when this picture was taken in October 2016, it reminded me of one the greatest blessings during my single years, seeking Allah’s love through intimate companionship with beautiful women servants of Allah. 




One of the greatest struggles that African American women face is the shortage of marriageable men. In our Muslim communities alone, we know countless African American women in their thirties and even forties who have never married. Also, we know ample divorced women, including those in their sixties who divorced in their thirties but never remarried.

Black women lead in the growing numbers of unmarried women in the US.. This is due to the effects of systemic racism, manifested in outrageously high incarceration rates and low professional job rates among Black men. Other factors in society, not race related, also contribute to decreased marriage rates. These include women’s financial independence, which no longer makes marriage necessary for women's and children’s economic survival, and our culture’s acceptance of extramarital sex, which gives people less incentive to honor and ennoble amorous relationships through the institution of marriage. Trends show that women of all backgrounds will find it harder to find companionship and marry, with African American women leading in this struggle, according to Ralph Banks, author of Is Marriage for White People?  

If lived with beauty and sincerity, as demonstrated in the life of our Beloved Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him), Islam offers much promise and assistance to  women struggling with singlehood. First, Islam requires that sex take place only within marriage. Second, Islam emphasizes that men take care of women and children. Together, this means that Islam holds men to a high standard of responsibility and commitment to women. Although this standard is not always met, the ideals inspire men to be responsible and marry, thereby increasing the number of marriage-worthy men in our community compared to communities without these ideals. 

Third, Islam permits responsible, financially-able, God-conscious men the option to marry up to four women. While I do not see polygyny as the primary strategy for making marriage-worthy men available since only a very small group of men qualify for this privilege, a few single women will benefit from it. Even this select group of women profiting from polygyny grants a degree of mercy and relief to families and communities.

Perhaps the greatest advantage that Islam offers women is guidance to see the struggle of singlehood as any other struggle, that is, to test our faith in God, our patience, and our willingness to strive for His pleasure. “We will test you until We know the true fighters among you and those who are patient, and we shall test what is reported of you” (Qur’an 47:31). Also, the Qur’an states, 

“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their wealth in exchange for the Garden. They fight in Allah’s path, killing and being killed. [It is] a promise binding upon Him in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur'an. Who fulfills their promise more than Allah? So rejoice in the bargain you have made. That is the supreme triumph.” (9:111)  

Singlehood can be experienced as a sacrifice to rejoice and find blessing in. Women and men can benefit from this alternative way of seeing singlehood.

In this light, we resist the tendency to see singlehood as a deficiency. Too often it is suggested that Allah has yet to send a person a mate because they have more growing to do. This implies that those fortunate to have found someone have completed their growth, which is far from the truth. One’s singlehood indicates nothing for certain about a person’s maturity, beauty, desirability, spirituality, or intelligence. All that is certain is that singlehood is the particular struggle Allah has designed for some people.

This move away from figuring out how to fix oneself for a mate to embracing a struggle from Allah opens one up to a rich spiritual journey. Indeed, we grow closest to Allah in the moments when we realize that all assistance and success come from Allah alone and that there is nothing left to do but to turn our very selves over to Allah. The struggle of singlehood particularly lends itself to self surrender because singlehood requires waiting for the right person to come along. It requires patience.

Singlehood grants one the opportunity to master patience because waiting is a constant state until one marries. If we make the intention that our waiting be for the sake of Allah, then every moment of our existence will be for the sake of Allah. Just by being single, our very breathing and living will be for Allah. And when we make our waiting for Allah, Allah is always with us. “Indeed, Allah is with the patient” (Qur’an 2:153). Is not presence with Allah our highest aspiration?

To be sure, human companionship, especially with a spouse, is a gift from Allah and in all its grandeur, can bring us close to Allah in the most profound ways. Also, Allah has made our natural makeup such that it drives us to amorous love. That natural desire and need, of course, is what makes waiting a struggle. It is precisely this yearning, though, that makes singlehood an extraordinary path to Allah. What do we do with all the desire and yearning when Allah has closed the doors of marriage to us? We cannot suppress the yearning, but we can rechannel it.

But how? Our Blessed Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) advised the person who could not afford to marry to fast, “as fasting will diminish one’s sexual power” (Bukhari). This hadith proves that waiting is both expected at times and within our capacity. The Prophet does not deny our human desire, but rather he encourages us to overcome this desire with an act of sincere devotion to God. Extra acts of worship not only help us tame our passions but also place us on a path to constantly remember and yearn for God. 

“We are living in this world, and we are surrounded by all of these desires. We know that our Origin is higher than these desires so we leave them and we come to a place that is a reminder of the Origin.” (Habib Husayn As-Saqqaf, “Obligatory Love,” Translation by SeekersHub)

Our worship constitutes the places that remind us of our Origin, Allah. It is human to love the places that remind us of “home” and to yearn for “home.” As we keep returning to these places, we find that our yearning is less and less for our desires and more and more for Allah. “Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him” (Bukhari). Ultimately, our devotion, which fuels our yearning, gains us Allah’s love, which deepens our longing for and our devotion to Allah.

Indeed, we meet Allah in our yearning. Rumi wrote beautifully about the way that the yearning itself is a gift because it is both the cry for God and the answer from God:

One night a man was crying, “Allah! Allah!” 
His lips grew sweet with the praising, until a cynic said, 
"So! I have heard you calling out, but have you ever gotten any response?" 
The man had no answer to that. He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep. 
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls, in a thick, green foliage. 
"Why did you stop praising?" 
"Because I've never heard anything back."
"This longing you express is the return message." 
The grief you cry out from draws you toward union. 
Your pure sadness that wants help 
is the secret cup.

The struggle of singlehood is the crying to Allah, and it leaves the believing servant no choice but to give herself over to God--to seize the bargain that the Qur’an describes, where Allah has purchased her very body and all its innate desires for intimacy and companionship. The reward is Allah’s love and gaze.

“Remember Me by fighting with your soul, I will remember you by watching.” (Hadith Qudsi)

“So remember Me, I will remember you.” (Qur’an 2:152)


Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse wrote, 

“The sincerity of the elite is to put the religion into practice, not for the sake of reward, not for fear of punishment, nor for attaining a spiritual station (maqam). Rather, you worship Allah out of yearning ( for Him). 

Worship (‘ubudiyya) means that you put the religion into practice for no other reason than the fact that Allah deserves to be worshipped, and you are a servant for whom nothing else is fitting besides service. So you act for His sake, and you do not perceive yourself deserving anything from Him. You give witness to the blessing, and He gives witness to your good deeds.” ("The Stations of the Religion," Translation by Zachary Wright)

The struggle of singlehood is Allah’s choosing. The yearning of singlehood is the servant’s sincere worshipping. The pleasure of singlehood is Allah’s witnessing.

Out of His mercy, Allah gives us family, companions, teachers, and even personal pursuits and passions to provide comfort, satisfaction, and pleasure as we aspire to give ourselves over to Allah. This is often described as keeping ourselves busy so that we are not consumed by our desires. Because singlehood can extend over years, this platonic or spiritual love is a mercy, and it offers another pleasure of singlehood. 


Without amorous love in our lives, we are more likely to discover that intimate love can come from other places. Certainly, the devotee who has given herself over to Allah is promised Allah’s love, and Allah shows His love in tangible ways through others and through self love. When we are able to experience rich, fulfilling love from ourselves and others in the path of God, we are protected from the common mistake of rushing into romantic love. We are so full of love from Allah that we can patiently and wisely choose the right mate. 

It is especially important for women to choose with patience. One scholar described the reason in a special message he imparted to women: 

“O, Sister! This message is for you. Your heart is a jewel so protect it. The heart of a woman is not like the heart of a man. The heart of a woman is that if it loves, it loves something completely. So for this reason, do not give your heart to someone who does not deserve it. 

So who deserves your heart? There is a man who loves you but not for your beauty, and not for your wealth, and not for your position or job, and not for your progeny, and not for your physique, but he loves you because he knows that you are a part of him.” (Habib Husayn As-Saqqaf, “Obligatory Love,” Translation by SeekersHub)

Surely, this is a high standard for a woman, and if she strives for such a sincere mate, she is more likely to find herself waiting. Because the hearts are different, men are not given the same advice. Rather, the Prophet (s) advises them to marry once they can afford it. This means that singlehood is divinely meant to be a struggle experienced more by women than men, which is supported by relationship statistics. The beauty and mercy in this for women, however, is that we are more likely to tread this lofty path of patience and yearning for Allah.

In his beautiful counsel to sisters in this struggle, Habib Husayn continued:

[He loves you] because Allah has created him for you and you for him. This is why it’s called a partner, a zawj. The word spouse in Arabic means that one completes the other. So for this reason, if your heart wishes to be connected to someone, then it should be connected to someone who would see you as a spouse and as someone who completes you. You should ask that Allah gives you someone like that so that through him your religion will be completed, and you experience that feeling and that compassion.

And what if a sister finds herself falling in love with a man who is not right for her? Habib Husayn addressed this common occurrence:

And you should create around your heart a protection from loving someone just for the sake of desire (shahawat). And have no doubt that if you have this protection, someone will come to you who will really respect you and be the one who is really worth it. 

True, you might love all the believing men and all the believing women in general. For instance, you may love someone who has served you or helped you, but that love is not a love of desire (hawa) [and that type of love for the sake of Allah is encouraged]. 

But if your heart is connected to a man or woman without any purpose or any reason, then do not respond to this connection; do not  reply to it. You should take this feeling that you are feeling (mayl, attachment) to the Prophet (s), [in other words you should shift your attachment and redirect your heart towards loving the Prophet (s)] because he is the most worthy of this feeling (mahabbah). 

You should ask Allah to remove this connection from your heart, or if he is good as a spouse for you, then ask that Allah bring him to you as a spouse. 

Habib Husayn’s counsel to shift one’s attachment from a person unworthy of your heart to the Beloved of Allah (s) profoundly captures the blessing of singlehood. The highest form of human love is loving the Best of Creation (s) above all creation. By redirecting attachment, love, and longing to the Prophet (s), single women do not have to be deprived of the heavenly gift of being in love. Rather, they will experience the greatest love, for certainly the Prophet (s) is our door to Allah, and meeting Allah (swt) is our highest aspiration.

This alternative way of seeing the struggle of singlehood as a blessing from Allah, and particularly one for women, helps us to work for better marriage rates in our communities without losing ourselves in despair or rushing into unhealthy marriages. Allah knows our condition, and is certainly Perfect and Wise and Capable of all things. If it is His choice, He will change this condition for single women. “Oh Allah! Make us love what You love and make our choice Your choice. And do not make us need anyone other than You” (Dua of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse).

Shaykh Mahy Cisse advised that we encourage single women and men to be patient and to pray for them. Indeed, his is a reminder that this is Allah’s choice and that we all have a part to play in this struggle: patience for those single and prayers from all of us. “And seek help through patience and prayer” (Qur’an 2:45). 

I wrote this piece from the collective perspective (my use of “we”) because I too face struggles relieved through patience, yearning, and prayer, I too waited many years to find my spouse, and I too embrace the reminder that my single sisters’ struggle is my struggle and deserves my dua.

I end with reminders from our beloved Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, and beautiful duas:
“Patience is a light.” (Muslim)

“And whoever remains patient, Allah, will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience.” (Bukhari)

“O, Allah, no one can prevent from me what you grant or give me what you deprive.” (Bukhari)


May Allah aid and comfort
 and guide and support and uplift 
our single sisters. 
May He make this test 
a means of sweet nearness to Him. 
May He make their duas 
steps to Him. 
May He bless them with the absolute 
best of mates, 
giving in ample abundance 
as He always does. 
May our duas reach Him 
and may He accept and forgive 
our error. 
All this and more. Ameen. 
(Joi Faison)

O, Allah! Protect our hearts. 
O, Allah! Grant every righteous woman 
a righteous spouse who respects her 
and gives her her right, 
who loves and protects her, 
and does not harm her, 
and who takes her by her hand
to the highest Paradise.
O, Allah! Give us a true purpose, 
love of the Prophet (s), 
and love of Allah 
in the beginning and end, 
make us taste this love, 
unite us in Paradise, 
and remove from our hearts
all love for desire in this world. 
Ameen
(Habib Husayn As-Saqqaf)