|My name is Jeremiah bin Salaam (which means
chosen by God, son of Peace). I was raised as a Reform Jew by my mother but my father is an Orthodox Jew and Chazzan. My spiritual journey started in 1992 when I graduated High School. I read the autobiography of Malcolm X and 'Message to the Blackman' by Elijah Muhammad. The thing that totally
encapsulated me about Islam was the universalism of it, that you had
people from all over the earth from many different nations, tribes, and
colors in unity to worship God. I liked the brotherhood of Islam and also that the original way of the Prophets had been preserved, such as making full ablutions and prostration during prayer. I also liked that the actual prayer was the same as how the Prophet prayed. I also liked that Islam was always called in the Qur'an 'the Religion of Abraham.' It is a universal message, the same as Prophet Abraham's message. |
After I finished my first year of college, I traveled to Israel and attended the Discovery Program through Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem in the summer of 1993 and consequently studied in their Yeshiva (Jewish Madrassa) in the Old City of Jerusalem and another Breslov Yeshiva in Jerusalem for about 1 year from the summer of '93 to the summer of '94. During my time in Israel, I also traveled to Hebron and other parts of the West Bank. When I came back to America, I was very intrigued to know what Palestinians believed in so I starting reading about Islam and I read the English translation of the Qur'an. In 1996, I met with a couple Muslims, and they referred me to a Shaykh whom I met with quite often. I continued to study with him for about 4 years until 2000.
In 2003, I attended a month-long Rihla (a spiritual journey undertaken for the sake of divine knowledge) in New Mexico with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir of Zaytuna Institute amongst other Shiyukh. I studied the Hanafi Madhab with Shaykh Jamal Zahabi. I also started taking classes in Chicago with Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah from the Nawawi Foundation. The things that I liked about the Hanafi Madhab was that it was more similar to Jewish Halachah. Examples include forbidding the eating of shellfish, the importance of wearing a skullcap and growing a long natural beard, and it is more woman-friendly (not mandating the wearing of the niqab (face-covering) as well as not requiring the covering of the hands and feet.
Later, in 2008, I taught a class on Judaism at the local Mosque as well as a class on Islam at a local Synagogue. I also participated in several Jewish-Muslim dialogue groups such as one called 'Children of Abraham' and another Jewish-Muslim dialogue group with another Synagogue. I have been very active in combating stereotyping and generalizations of either side. I also try to educate both sides about the diversity within each community. For example, on the Islamic side, besides the well-known split between Sunni and Shia, you have Salafi and Sufi, Conservatives and Liberals, etc.. On the Jewish side, you have Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. And amongst the Orthodox, you have Chasidic, Anti-Zionists, Religious Zionists, etc.
My main inspirations now are the medieval Jewish Sufis such as Rabbi Abraham Maimonides, the great Talmudic Sages such as Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the Hebrew Prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Elijah, Avraham, etc.), medieval Sufis such as Rumi and Ghazali, as well as other Islamic Sufi Groups, such as the Haqqani Naqshbandis. Also Rebbe Nachman and Baal Teshuva Breslov Hippies are a big inspiration. And lastly, the TRUE Rastafarians (those who keep the Sabbath, Dietary Laws, Modesty Laws, Abstain from Alcohol, etc.)
Shalom Aleichem / Salam Aleikum!
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