He was born Marcus Dwayne Robertson September 3rd, 1968 in New York City, the second of three sons. His father a New York state politician, his mother a principal, Abu Taubah grew up in a Jewish-Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, where he would live and learn until he left to serve his country as a Marine at the age of seventeen.
His paternal great-great-grandfather was emancipated from slavery owing to his medical knowledge and after a few years of work, was able to earn enough money to buy his wife’s freedom. The family recognized that education played a major role in achieving and maintaining their status as ‘freemen’ while the majority of the African population in theUnited States still lived in the oppressive bondage of colonial slavery.
Marcus’ paternal grandfather was a man with a strong drive to serve his community and better his environment, serving the public as both a fireman and a police officer. He was also a master golfer who, along with his friends, would travel around the United States, challenging the white-only country clubs with the wager: ‘Play us; if we lose we will not come back. If we win, change your rules for admittance to include Negroes.’ The many trophies his grandfather amassed during this time golfing are still in the family today.
The impact these two patriarchs had on the family ideology was to instill the importance of education and professional aptitude in changing the state of people and impacting both society at large, as well as the individual affairs and status of a people and community. As such, the Robertsons were always an educated family, wherein education and professional skills were employed to better the situation of not only the family but of the community; an effective avenue to impact societal change while instilling a strong obligation to civil service to the community in which they lived. These were ideals and ethics that Abu Taubah would inherit from his family and uphold throughout his life.
This noble philosophy was not limited to his paternal lineage. His mother, from rural Georgia, was the first in her family not to pick cotton. Her father, a Baptist Preacher, and older siblings all worked as sharecroppers in order to earn enough money to send her to school and receive an education. Abu Taubah’s mother realized the importance of acquiring knowledge in order to evoke a change in condition, and she decided to embark on the path of teaching, aspiring to enhance the social condition of her community.
She became an apt educator, working first as an English teacher, and later a principal. Abu Taubah’s father was involved in politics, which kept him busy in Albany, the state capitol, at least three days of the week. Politics, political activism and the American tradition of healthy debate and civil disagreement were very much a part of the Robertson family dynamic. While his father was a proponent of Marcus Garvey and the pan-African movement, his mother admired the integrationist philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Growing up in such a family inspired Abu Taubah with a love for education, learning, diversity, tolerance and language and helped to cement his idea of what ‘truth should be’ as well as providing him with a practical experience in politics, preparing him to face the realities of the world. Exposure to the multi-cultural environs of New York also contributed to shaping his outlook and impacted his life as a student and a voracious lover of learning. In his youth, observing that almost everyone in his neighborhood and city were bilingual, he set out to learn another language himself, and learned to read and write Hebrew from his Jewish neighbors.
‘I’m One of Them’
Religion never played a prominent role in his early life; however, at the age of thirteen his mother decided that her sons were in need of religious grounding to curb disciplinary behavior. ‘Everyone’s got to have a religion,’ she reasoned. After an initial unsuccessful attempt of sending them to a nearby Catholic church, his mother decided to send thirteen year-old Marcus and his brothers to the Concord Southern Baptist Church of Christ across Brooklyn.
One fateful day, Robertson recounts, while being driven through Crown Heights on the way to Concord, his brothers and he inquisitively questioned their father about the religion of every ethnicity encountered along the Eastern Parkway. Identifying the Chinese with Kung Fu, the Whites with Christianity, the Indians with cows, and the Eastern-European Jews with Judaism, he felt an immediate attraction to a diverse collection of people called Muslims.
‘Where are they from?’ he and his brothers asked their father. Every other group they had seen were easily identified by their homogenous identity, but these Muslims were European, African, Latino, Asian and Arab. They seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. ‘They’re Muslim,’ their father replied. Impressed by the overpowering fragrance of attar and ‘oud, the vibrant clothing and apparent universality of the people, young Marcus proclaimed, ‘I’m one of them; I’m a Muslim’. Surprisingly, his father validated the assertion by pointing out that most people of African descent were historically Muslim, and Marcus’ own grandfather, although not a Muslim, used to pray to “Allah.”
Decidedly settled on the matter, Robertson arrived at church that day to declare to his father that he would not attend service. The deacon graciously compromised with him and Marcus agreed to assist in preparing weekly dinners downstairs while only attending a review of the creed once a month upstairs. Simultaneously during these years, the young Abu Taubah would eventually find his way to a Masjid, playing basketball at the humble, apartment-sized structure of Masjid At-Taqwa headed by Imam Siraj Wahaj.
Although having received a copy of the translation of the Qur’an from his father and regularly frequenting the Masjid twice a week for four years, Marcus’ knowledge of Islam by the time he was seventeen was limited to three fundamental injunctions: that he shouldn’t eat pork, or lie and that like the two Muslims whom he knew of, Malcom X and Muhammad Ali, he shouldn’t take any trash from nobody. Although Marcus had read the Bible from cover to cover, and loved the stories of the Prophets he found there, his intitial foray into reading the Qur’an ‘gave him a headache’ and at that age, he simply couldn’t wrap his head around it.
Celer Silens Mortalis et Semper Fidelis
Abu Taubah enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1985 at the age of seventeen, confidently listing his religion as Muslim, although with very little knowledge of the religion itself. While in the USMC he received an education in military ethics and possessing the traits necessary for service in the special forces; physical and mental fortitude, confidence, courage, and skill, he became a member of the Second Force Reconnaissance Company,the legendary Special Operations Capable unit also known as 2nd Force Recon.
While serving in 2nd Force Recon, a member of the elite counterterrorism unit Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), he had a front seat to international politics as they unfolded onto the world stage, and benefited from the exposure he received to the troubled and conflict-ridden areas of the globe.
Uncomfortable with the prospect of being a Muslim deployed in the arena of Operation Desert Storm, Abu Taubah sought reassignment and was instead sent on special duty to Japan. Despite having spent some nine odd years of being a self-professed Muslim, it was in Japan where he was introduced to the main tenants of the faith under the instruction of Imam Medhat ElShamy, who introduced him to Tawheed, the Aqeedah of Ahl al Sunnah and the Arabic language.
What Type of Muslim Are You?
By the end of his nine year military career and service to his country in the USMC, Sergeant Robertson was ready to embark on another adventure of service, dedication and discipline, as a Talib ul ‘Ilm, a student of knowledge. Abu Taubah realized an earnest need to seek knowledge of Islam and discover an authentic creed and just what type of Muslim and man he was. Having been exposed to many inauthentic, deviant or extreme distortions of Islam in his service combating terrorism, he knew he needed to discover, for himself, what Islam truly was, and that knowledge preceded words and actions.
After returning to the US to teach and build the foundations for further study, Abu Taubah traveled to Mauritania where he would devote the next six years of his life to learning the intricacies of the Arabic language and its thirteen sciences and the foundations of Islamic law (Usool al Fiqh) under the auspices of the late Sheikh Muhammad Salum ‘Adood’ ash-Shanqeeti رحمه الله تعالى.
After leaving Mauritania Abu Taubah continued on the road of the students of knowledge which led him to Egypt, where he learned Aqeedah, Minhaaj and Hadith from Shaykh Salahuddin Abdul Maujood, Dr. Majdi Sultan, and Shaykh Muhammad Faruq al-Misri. He also set out to become a Hafidh al-Qur’an and memorized the complete Qur’an by-heart while also learning the science of Qur’anic recitation (Tajweed). He studied the Qur’an under the tutelage of ten esteemed scholars while in Egypt:
- Shaykh Sa’d al-Ghannam at-Tantawi
- Shaykh Muhammad al Faruq al-Misri
- Shaykh Muqri al-Hindi
- Shaykh Bubakr Djob al-Fulata
- Ustaadh Khalid Rislan al-Misri
- Ustaadh Khalid Khadir al-Hindi
- Ustaadh Ahmad Husayn ash-Sheeni
- Abdul Adheem al-Badawi
- Abdul Kareem as-Sudani
- Abdul Aziz Ture’ as-Senegali
Abu Taubah spent four years in Egypt mastering various Islamic disciplines and in total spent an entire decade studying Islam abroad; all so as to be able to discern real Islam from deviant and adulterated practices which some misguided people presented as the religion. At the end of his ten-year journey, he had received permission from his teachers to speak on the fundamental subjects of the religion and was granted specific Ijaazaat on the particular sciences he had studied with them.
‘Be Slow to Take Offence & Always Ready for Reconciliation’
On September the 11th, 2001 Abu Taubah was in Brooklyn, having returned from his studies abroad, to bring his malaria-stricken daughter Ramlah home for medical attention. He described his experience that day, as a Muslim, American and a human being:
“I’m a New Yorker so I have family [there]… I was there. When I heard, I was in Brooklyn, I went down and I helped in everything that was going on; clearing debris pulling people out, I was there on the day it happened. I was in New York City. Muslims died also. I went downtown, [and] I did my part as a human being to help out in the situation at hand and I was just as scared and I was just as emotionally full as everybody else there. And that’s just a human factor; we’re all humans at the end of the day. Islam doesn’t have anything to do with that, Islam is free of that.”
Deeply affected by the events of 9/11, Abu Taubah set out to disseminate the correct and peaceful vision of Islam that he had learned from a long line of scholars. He understood the lack of Islamic scholarship in the United States made the domestic Muslim population vulnerable to deviancy and sought to remedy the problem by establishing the Fundamental Islamic Knowledge and Seminary (FIKS) program.
Each One Teach One
Abu Taubah began the FIKS program with the goal of providing Muslims living in the West true Islamic educational instruction in a practical and easily accessible manner for a primarily English-speaking audience. By providing both on-location, traditional face to face, as well as virtual classrooms, he sought to make the program a global rather than local phenomenon that would benefit society and the Muslims.
The curriculum he developed also aimed to foster an outlook and world vision wherein the best of both the Shari’ah and Western culture could be applied in a constructive manner, synthesizing a spiritual and healthy lifestyle while also enabling the students to realise the feasibility of coexisting alongside those of different faiths and ideologies without a sacrifice of Islamic identity or ideals.
The program covered a wide variety of Islamic sciences from an engaging and easily understood Arabic program, covering all levels, to Qur’anic sciences and Islamic law and history. The program also provided courses covering a wide spectrum of audiences including a set of courses designed for teaching children, young learners, new Muslims, women and men.
The FIKS program, besides being taught on location in various Masajid and being offered as online distance learning, also provided a unique curriculum, made available for pre-existing or burgeoning Islamic schools around the world, enabling them to profit from the program in their native environs and through familiar and indigenous instructors.
However, Abu Taubah, with a persistent commitment to community service and love of teaching and helping others, was not content just running and teaching in his own Seminary. He also collaborated with other Islamic educational endeavors such as the AlMaghrib Institute as a guest teacher and lecturer, as well as AlKauthar as a regular instructor, joining the staff of the global Islamic institute in 2010.
In addition to this rigorous regime, he has also devoted time to work with the international, humanitarian aid organization, Mercy Mission, and has also regularly acted as Imam and community leader, first in New York, serving communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and more recently as Imam of Masjid al-Ihsaan in Orlando Florida. Abu Taubah has also applied his expertise as a writer and editor for the global Islamic publisher Darussalam, as well as providing his vocal talents for various children’s media.
Marcus ‘Abu Taubah’ Robertson, a man who has devoted a large part of his life to preaching, teaching and community service, was arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday the 23rd of August 2011 and is currently being held, without bail, at John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Seminole County, Florida on charges of illegal possession of a firearm. His hearing is scheduled for October 19th 8:45 AM in the U.S. Courthouse located at 401 West Central Boulevard, Suite 1200.
Although many speculations surround allegations of a previous criminal record, it should be made clear that if such a history did exist, he would have already paid his debt to society with time served. What is more apparent, however, is that Imam Abu Taubah was singled out as a vocal and influential member of the American Muslim community and had been under government surveillance for some time as indicated by a vague invocation of the unconstitutional Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Presumption of innocence is a well maintained and lauded ideology in almost all civilized societies. It is also an ideal that is upheld by the United States and one of the concepts enshrined in its Constitution, which Marcus took an oath to defend from all threats both foreign and domestic and for which he fought and bled. Islam also upholds the notions of presumption of innocence and of placing burden of guilt upon the accusers.
Abu Taubah should be given the rights endowed to him by his Creator as well as by the laws of the United States, rights which he defended so that others might enjoy them although they are now denied to him.
You can support Abu Taubah and his family by writing to him and letting him know that you stand in solidarity with him, you can also support his family, which grieves the absence of a father and husband and contribute to his defense by donating.
Write to Abu Taubah at:
John Polk Correctional Facility
Attn: Marcus Robertson 201100011051
211 Bush Blvd. Sanford, FL 32773
Support his Family& Defense by donating to:
Checks and Money Orders:
8583 Lake Windham Ave
Orlando, FL 32829
Instant Money Transfers & Deposits:
Wells Fargo Bank NA
420 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
SWIFT : WFBIUS6S
And most importantly remember him and his family in your prayers and dua.