I was born on December 19, 1986—33 years to the day that my father was born. (It was giving very much Sagittarius energy that sealed our connection.) I’m sure somewhere in the universe it was inevitable that out of my other four siblings, I’d be the chosen one—I mean, the favorite. Somehow, that day forever bonded us in a way that no one could fully understand.
As an adult, I often reflect on the fact that my dad just got me. He understood me holistically. There always seemed to be an intuitive understanding between us that no matter how lofty the goal or how outlandish the idea I had was, he would embrace it—and me. While others scoffed or doubted, he was the cheerleader that I needed. Even when that meant adding a little sternness to snap me back into the reality of who I was and the purpose I was to serve in the world.
People often have a misconception about what it is to be a Muslim man, and they assume that a tyrannical presence groomed me. Many have made the misstep of stating that “some man” forced me to wear a head covering or dress modestly. I just laugh because my father was always a sounding board, and he never made—could never make—Islam tyrannical because it isn’t. He taught me balance and that Islam was less of a religion and more of a way of life. My dad never forced his thoughts on us; he even challenged my siblings and me to read about other faiths and walks of life in order to have a better understanding of others.
I used to love baiting my dad into discussions or finding opportunities to look deeper into who he was. I remember once I asked, “If mom went out of the house with no scarf and pum-pum shorts, what would you say?” He looked straight at me and—with all sincerity—said, “That’s your mother’s body. That’s her choice!”
For that example, and so many others, I will always be grateful to have grown up with a man that not only was present but truly allowed me to tap into myself. No matter how badly I screwed up, I never felt like I wasn’t good enough for him. My father provided me a safe place in a world that has continuously ridiculed our faith while mirroring every bit of terror they believe it to be.
As a criminal trial attorney for nearly 30 years, he has always fused the Islamic belief of seeking justice with his practice of keeping Black and brown folks out of a nasty system. It is because of his tenacity that I fought for myself to seek a bigger purpose in life. I wanted to be a superhero like him, which is what I always thought. His example allowed me to understand that being Muslim is an action—it’s all about how what you do for others and how you stand for the truth really make you the best of who you are.
All-in-all, I can only hope that I have made my dad proud—maybe in ways I don’t even know or fully understand just yet. But what I do know is that I’m proud to have him as my father, my patriarch, and my example of all that’s right in the world.