NURI AKBAR & THE CALLING!
(A Ramadan Special)
by Bilal Morris
As a childhood friend in Belize City Derrick Estrada had more freedom than most of us who grew up in the same neighborhood and in very strict homes like mine in the late 1960s. But remembering him and his shy personality since then makes me realize that boys like him had appeared distant in many ways. For me, there was always this wonderment why my sheltered background at the time prevented me from knowing him better.
It later appeared after we both became teenagers in the late 1970s, and my family’s departure from the neighborhood that divided us from connecting, that we were to meet again in more maturity. There was a sense of reluctance still, even though we would chat occasionally at the Belize Islamic Center on Racecourse Street that had become like an educational hub for some of Belize’s most brilliant minds.
The place attracted me as someone searching for something but yet apprehensive about what it was that brought my childhood friend to always be seen around there. It never appeared to me that since his mystic childhood behavior was so apparent that he also had searched. There was always this deep piercing look in his eyes, a kind of spiritual wonder, some kind of calling, some kind of light that appeared to have finally illuminated in the faith of Islam.
While time and life made us drift away from each other for a very long time, it would not be until many years later that we resurfaced face to face again on a bus coming from school in Los Angeles, California. This searching in the human being, this passion for knowledge, and this time that finally catches up on us and forces the inevitable to rekindle friendship, had finally come. After a discussion around African history about a letter that my troubled soul had written to the Amandala in search of truth, we finally met again. The person that was once Derrick Estrada had become Nuri Akbar, and he was fully embracing his Islamic faith.
As for me, this strange encounter had delighted me much because of the lost and found friend that Derrick had always appeared to be. And now he had begotten an almost moving personality that made me ask myself deeply what it was? Was his life in some kind of trouble? Had Belize changed his nature almost overnight that he ended up in America? What was it? Until he invited me one day to Islam, and in truth it felt as though my mother had called me to come and see her immediately, my being suddenly transformed to become the Muslim that many see me as today.
We sometimes knew friends that had become two persons in one, and throughout time they had never changed. We may still have those friends today, and much may have grown under the shade of that friendship as the brotherhood between my friend Derrick Estrada, also known as Nuri Akbar, and myself.