That Was Then, This Is Now
Have you heard about the Aboriginal people of Australia? Sure you have.
Aboriginal people are believed to have been living in Australia for more than 60,000 years — that was way before James Cook, the European explorer, decided to pass by and later became determined to stay there for good and bring along some convicts.
What about an Aboriginal Muslim? Ever heard of that combination before? It may sound weird, but believe me, reality is even harder to believe! I was lucky enough to find out about an Aboriginal Muslim through an unplanned Google search.
Shaheed Rock, once known as Rocky Davis, is a man who, by the help of Almighty Allah, has turned his life upside down — interestingly enough — by accident and in a place where change is unlikely.
Rock was sent to prison at the age of 16 for a 20-year sentence. Initially for armed robbery, "Charges exacerbated and it got longer and longer, and because they had no remissions, any sentence that I got after than added to the end of the sentence, so it ended up being 20 years in total," Rock 2006.
He was placed in a maximum-security prison in solitary confinement — a small cell with no interaction except with other Aboriginal inmates and, of course, the guards. Rock asked some of the Aboriginal inmates for some books, as he had a lot of time to get through. He never meant religion books, but that was what he got: a pile of books by Ahmed Deedat, Malcolm X, and other Islamic intellectuals. It turned out that some of the Aboriginal inmates were in fact Muslim!
It was then when Almighty Allah had shown Rock the light to the way of Islam: "I started to develop, and the main thing I kept saying to myself is when I become Muslim, this is what I'm going to do." Rock 2006.
Rock kept a lookout on some Muslims through a peephole to watch them pray. As he kept his daily talks with one of the Muslim inmates, he came to a realization that Islam is truly a liberating force. Islam had a lot to offer, according to Rock: "it condemned drugs, alcohol, invasion, land theft, mass murder, and all the things that Christian colonization meant to me as an Aboriginal person." Rock 2006.
The change brought surprises to others who were around Rock in prison. The prisoners and the guards, who used to think he was violent, started to recognize the change that came upon him — a dramatic one.
Rock reverted to Islam while in prison and started to pass the message to other inmates. Al-hamdu lillah, by the guidance of Almighty Allah, he was successful in helping 42 Aboriginal inmates revert to Islam.
Rock went through thick and stressful times in prison: locked up 24 hours a day, not fed for three or four days as a punishment by guards, put in a cell with no toilet paper (he had to use a little fruit tin instead), yet he came out after 20 years a changed man; one who became full of ambitions and dreams all to please Almighty Allah.
Rock regularly visits Aboriginal inmates in prison to support them. He has succeeded in providing halal meat for the Muslim inmates, "I personally told the prison system I would pay for the meat myself, and distribute it to the prison."
Currently, Rock lives in Redfern, Sydney, Australia, and he is involved in what's known as the Aboriginal Dawah Project. It is a socially based community project, "Aboriginal children come up and ask me 'can I stay at your house tonight because Mum and Dad are on the gear or heroin or drunk, or there's domestic violence in the house.'"
He is almost occupied in a 24-hour occupation as an unofficial social worker, cook, gym instructor, imam, teacher, caretaker, counselor, and a surrogate parent in a neighborhood considered by social welfare and law enforcement agencies as the worst in Australia.
Rock's main intention and goal of his Youth Centre is to have a place where help from all sorts of kinds could be delivered. "Christians are sending their children there for counselling, and just like a safe haven kind of thing, that's what our centre's mainly based, for youth."
He is running Sports Facilities such as Gym, Sports Centre and Halfway House, which draws Aboriginal and Other Street Children and exposing them to Education and Discipline and respect for the elders.
Though this center is set, yet Rock's house is also available as a shelter for many youth who find their homes a violent place to be in and who are deprived of any means of security.
As you can tell, Rock surely needs our support. The least we can do is to make du`aa' (supplication) for him and for his family. Greater assistance can be offered by providing him with financial assistance, to pay the rent and the bills, and to be able to keep the youth center up and running.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Do not consider even the smallest good deed as insignificant; even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is a good deed" (Muslim).
If you would like to get in contact with the Rock, please don't hesitate to e-mail him on firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a poem of the Aboriginal people and their harrowing story:
A Right To Be Retrieved
It was your own little piece of land
at the beginning you thought they were your friends
but after a while you knew they're after your land
they treated you as slaves and took away your rights
· "Aboriginal Da`wah – 'Call to Islam;' Desperate Australian Catholics Importing Priests." The Religion Report on ABC.net.au. 22 Mar. 2007. Accessed 6 Aug. 2007.
· "Introducing the Redfern Aboriginal Community." Queensland Muslim Times. 7 Feb. 2006. Accessed 6 Aug. 2007.
· Alshakshir, Amr Hasan. "A Right To Be Retrieved." Poetry.com. Accessed 6 Aug. 2007.
Shayma Alshakshir is studying professional writing and editing at Victoria University of Technology (VUT). She was born in the US and lived in Jordan for about nine years, then moved to Australia. She is involved with the VUT's student magazine and with voluntary community work including tajweed classes. She can be reached at : email@example.com
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