Muslim community leaders from Southern CA, gather as Niam Shah, Sr. prepares for pilgrimage, Hajj, in Saudi Arabia. (Photo Everett Muhammad)

On July 27, 2019, business, religious leaders, Imams, former gang leaders, and families from Pasadena, Orange County, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside and parts in-between came to Masjid Bilal Ibn Rabah, located in the heart of the Crenshaw district, to pay respect and express well wishes to a legend and probably one of the most important and influential leaders in the southern California African American Muslim community, Naim Shah Sr.

Last Saturday, Naim Shah boarded a plane for a trip of more than eight thousand miles to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, where he joined his son, Naim Shah, Jr. and his grandchildren on Mount Arafat to perform the sacred rites in the Muslim tradition of Hajj, the fifth and last of five pillars that represent the foundation of the religion of Islam.

Shah, Sr. is an advisory board member of the Shura Council of Southern California, which serves more than 120 Masjids and thousands of believers throughout the region.  He also serves on the Board of UMMA Clinic, Inner-city Alliance of African American Masjids and is revered in the African American Muslim community for his more than 50 years of dedicated service and leadership.

Shah was literally responsible for helping establish the foundation of the Islamic community here on the West Coast. As a young first Lt. and regional captain in the Nation of Islam in the 60s and the 70s, Shah was a regional influence in helping to establish mosques and Masjids in 17 states throughout the Western Region.

After the passing of the most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Shah transitioned to the world community of Islam under the leadership of Warrith-Deen Muhammad and worked to maintain positive ties between immigrant, African American Muslims, Nation of Islam members, churches, gang- involved youth and those marginalized by racism and disenfranchisement.

Naim Shah, Sr. (2nd left) receives Community Leadership Award, with brother and community activist Khalid Shah (white hat) and Muslim leaders. (Photo Everett Muhammad)

He quotes his mentor, former captain, Imam Ali Rashid as saying, “We have to become diplomats, commissioners, doctors, politicians and police officers in our own communities representing the best that Islam has to offer humanity,” he said.  He also thanks Minister Farrakhan for the work that he continues to do in the African American community throughout this country with young men and women seeking to clean up their lives and better their communities.

Shah helped to create one of the first Muslim community and police dialogues in L.A. County. His work has inspired many young Muslims who are now police officers and sheriffs, to help them become more involved in bridging the gap between communities of color and law enforcement.

He has never been paid to do the work that he does, “its part of my duty as a believer,” Shah say’s.  “I’m obligated to struggle for the sake of Allah for that which is right.”

While this Hajj is a religious obligation for those who can make it at least once in a life time and is represented by millions of Muslims from all over the world, one of the important hallmarks of the journey is that no matter what worldly position one holds, king or butler, when you arrive, all are equal; no big I and little you. For Shah, Sr., Hajj represents a personal journey to complete his responsibility as a father and community member. He is quoted as saying, “we have to break this generational curse, and it has to stop with us! We have got to be the last generation of gang-involved youth, many with no mother or father and most importantly, no guidance. Instead of filling the prisons with our sons and daughters, we must provide examples that our children respect and will be proud of.”

Shah is the father of four (4) children, 14 grandchildren, and three (3) great grand-children. They make up accountants, teachers, neuroscience majors, entertainment entrepreneurs, professional football players, sports entrepreneurs and more; all positive assets to the community. He gives thanks to almighty God Allah and thanks Dar El Salaam for sponsoring this most important trip.

Saturday’s event was marked with speeches from the community, tears and laughter and most importantly, gratitude for his service and prayers and from his brother, wife and family, who expressed well wishes for his safe return.