Tribute To A Shaikh is a collection of poems written by the late Al Hajj Shaikh Suliaman El Hadi (d.1995) Compiled by his serviving siplings, all of the poems here at this site form 'The Meaningful Rhymes of Shaikh Suliaman.' His poetry has been likened to Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Rumi and Iqbal as well. It is sincerely hoped that the reader will find inspiration, hope, information, as well as entertainment herein.
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About the Author
The picture on the Home Page is that of the family of Shaikh Suliaman. It is the only Family Portrait of the Shaikh, his sip-lings and parents, James Leroy Williams and Viola Judy Witherspoon-Williams.
knelling down (front row) Patrica... sitting (front row) mother and father...knelling down (front row) Ralph
standing (behind Patrica) De Haven (d.1996)...*Suliaman (d.1995)...Sayed...Melvyn
Suliaman was born on September 30th in the year c.1936 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and died on October 4th c. 1995 in Brooklyn New York. The following is taken from the Press Release obituary of his death;
The articulate voice of a masterful poet...Shaikh Suliaman El Hadi died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Shaikh Suliaman, 59, was a devout Sunni Muslim, an ardent African-American nationalist and Pan Africanist, and a gifted poet and recording artist. He achieved world-wide recognition as a key member of the 'The Last Poets', the legendary ensemble of performing poets who emerged from the black cultural arts movement of the sixties as the undisputed masters of their craft. The poets offered a vision of nationhood, a vision of hope, a vision of new horizons and new possibilities toward which black people could aspire.
Suliaman joined the group in 1971 and he and Jalaluddin Nurridin have been the mainstay of the group since that time. His poetry is featured on on the following recordings, some originally issued as album but now available on compact disk and tapes: Chastisement, At Last, Delights of the Garden, On My People, Freedom Express and Scatterap/Home. According to his widow, the Shaikh had a lifelong interest in poetry and was especially influenced by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Langston Hughes. He often stated that as a Muslim poet his job was to "satirize the enemy". this he did well. To witness the stinging power of the Shaikhs political satire, one need only to listen to the words of 'The Courtroom', which is a scathing commentary on the racial injustice meted out in this so-called criminal justice system; 'Ho Chi Minh', an anti-war narrative about America's defeat in Vietnam; or 'This is your Life', a lament about mankind's' helplessness in face of militaristic police states and nuclear-mad superpowers.
Yet, the Shaikh was also a very spiritual man and some of his loftier poems...about either the afterlife in paradise such as the tile track 'Delights Of The Garden' or the spiritual quest such as 'In Search Of Knowledge'...can only be compared to the illuminating mystical poetry of the twelfth and thirteenth century Sufis who wrote longingly about their inner search for divine reality. Indeed, the Shaikh seemed like a man from another century, from another time and place when men took pride in being valiant warriors and defenders of the faith. These themes came across in both his poetry and his personality. he was fascinated with Moorish Spain and it was easy to picture him as a heroic figure living in that era...quill in hand writing sonnets, sword at his side ever ready to defend the peace,and a faithful steed for transport. But he was not out of step with the present. In fact he had a street-savvy which won him the constant admiration of the younger generation who affectionately called him 'cool pops.'
Al Hajj Shaikh Suliaman El Hadi was born in Philadelphia, PA c.1936 and was the eldest of six children born to the late Reverend James Leroy and Mrs Viola Witherspoon-Williams. He began writing poetry at a very early age (while he was yet in grade school). In spring of 1965 his first published work appeared in the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper. Entitled 'A Glimpse Into Slavery', he later recorded the same piece with the name 'The African Slave'.
Before his untimely death he recorded some thirty-six poems and toured the entire USA and traveled abroad on a number of occasion performing his poetry with the internationally acclaimed legendary Last Poets, an African-American poetry ensemble who came to be known as the 'grandfathers' of what is called 'rap'.
Although the poems here appear successive, they have been arranged by theme, as there was obvious maturity and other circumstances that provided his inspiration. His poems where also published under the title ' The Last Poets...Vibes From the Scribes' selected poems from he and his poet partner Jalal Mansur Nurideen in 1985, by Pluto Press Limited, London. He also appeared with the group in the motion picture Poetic Justice starring Janet Jackson and Tuppuc Sakur.
And so here are a few of the poems from the pen of Al Hajj Shaikh Suliaman El Hadi...a 'Tribute To A Shaikh'