Keeping the Faithful

April 9, 2007

Author: Omar Sacirbey

Source: The Boston Globe

Rafiq Akbar of Dorchester is one of the few people who can say they went fishing with Malcolm X. But it wasn't fishing in the usual sense.

"Fishing means going out and informing the African-American of his heritage and what he wasn't taught while enslaved here in America," Akbar, 80, explained one recent Friday morning inside the Masjid Al Quran mosque, where the fragrance of sandalwood filled the air. Akbar and a small group of Black Muslims with the Nation of Islam bought the brick building at 35 Intervale St. 50 years ago, and since then he has been a part of its sometimes turbulent but transformative history.

"We would inform the nonbeliever that he was Muslim by birth," continued Akbar, formerly Alfred X Sutton, "and that we were in slave masters' names and not in our original names because we were all separated during slavery, the child from the parent, and the slave master did not have any interest in teaching the slave. We'd tell history like it happened."

This year Akbar is telling history again, as he and subsequent generations of worshipers celebrate Masjid Al Quran's golden jubilee. Some members are collecting old newspaper clippings and videos recalling important mosque milestones for an archive, while others are planning interfaith meetings, lectures, and other public events. The highlight is an expected visit by Imam Warith Deen Mohammed , son of longtime Nation leader Elijah Muhammad , who became leader after his father's death in 1975 and brought the movement into mainstream Islam, jettisoning its black supremacist ideas and theology.