One Muslim stands alone at San Quentin as a staunch adherent to the religious teachings of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam (NOI), commonly known also as Black Muslims. His distinction earned him the moniker “one-man banquet” by some of the crew in the prison bakery.
Shaka Senegal Muhammad, age 48, is the only Muslim the bakery has to make preparations to provide a bean pie. He said this is because the prison administration will not allow him to order a bean pie from an outside bakery.
Muhammad was the only San Quentin inmate to participate in a month-long fast that takes place each year during the month of the December. As an NOI Muslim in a California state prison he is unique; so much so every year he has to fast alone.
“Inmate Muhammad is the only known inmate member of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in the California Prison System,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) records state. “Inmate Muhammad is being afforded a reasonable accommodation to attend and practice his faith. He has his own time slot available in the Muslim Chapel…”
According to Muhammad, the fast was established by NOI Messenger Elijah Muhammad in response to the Christmas holiday season celebrated by Christians. When the fast breaks it is followed by a feast.
“Believers come together to have a feast consisting of bean pies, ice cream, and fellowship with other believers,” said Muhammad. “I fellowship by myself.”
Muhammad said a 1968 court case, Horn v. People of California, filed in the United States District Court, affords NOI Muslims their religious freedom.
“After the plaintiff (Horn) filed his suit, the California Director of Corrections changed the prison regulations on Black Muslims’ religious rights,” court records state.
In 1973 more than 200 Black Muslim inmates and guests celebrated Saviour’s Day in what was then the Brotherhood of Muhammad’s Temple of Islam, San Quentin.
|“No other inmates have expressed an interest in the Lost-Found Nation of Islam”|
According to a 1973 archive of San Quentin News from the Harvard Law School Library, “Those in attendance were then invited to come down to the Lower Yard and join the Brotherhood of Islam in a feast (‘spread’).”
“The highlight feature of any Saviour’s Day event is the presentation of the awards given to respective Brothers for outstanding performance and contribution to the unity and spiritual, social, economic and moral upliftment of their Black people,” the News reported.
Muhammad said he also celebrates Savior’s Day, Master Fard Muhammad’s birthday, Feb. 26, 1877, the predecessor of the Messenger Elijah Muhammad.
“I’ve been referred to as a ‘dinosaur’ which is hilarious because I’m not even 50 yet,” said Muhammad. He said he only follows the teachings of the Messenger Elijah Muhammad.
Originally from Houston, Texas, Muhammad said he was born into the NOI religion because his parents were NOI Muslims in the days when the Honorable Elijah Muhammad reigned over the organization. For this reason he holds to his early religious teachings.
“Due to my religious beliefs I’m more or less different in how correctional officers view me. I’m clean cut, groomed; I walk with pride and dignity. I don’t use profanity, I don’t sag my pants, and I’m respectful,” said Muhammad.
“No other inmates have expressed an interest in the Lost-Found Nation of Islam,” CDCR documents state.
Muhammad said the NOI’s message is for the total uplifting of Black people. Because of this he says people tend to be curious about him.
“We (NOI) believe that the Black man and woman of North America are the chosen people of Allah, and that is who His message is for exclusively,” said Muhammad.
Muhammad has been at San Quentin since June 2012 where he woks as an IDAP (Inmate Disability Assistant Program) medical aid worker, a job that involves assisting other general population inmates who are mobility impaired.
“I’m one of the original four” (IDAP workers), said Muhammad. He began doing the job immediately after it was created; it requires him to be on call any time in the morning, afternoon and evening. “I’m strictly committed to the job.”
Muhammad was convicted in Los Angeles County for second degree murder “after five jury trials,” he said. He was a member of Muhammad Temple No. 27. While serving his sentence he said he has participated in rehabilitative programs when they were available.