Raghib knew what was happening when a family friend took him and Qadry to the hospital on March 21, 1980. Ibrahim lay dying. Qadry, nine at the time, says, "I'll never forget it. His nose was bleeding and they kept wiping it. There was an odor in the air, an odor I'll never forget. They said your dad's going with Allah now. I wondered if that meant he was alive or dead. I looked at Raghib and he was holding it in. But I couldn't. I cried and cried."
The religious men told Raghib that now that his father was with Allah, he, Raghib, was the head of the family. "I wanted the responsibility of taking care of everything, being mature," he says, "but I was only 10."
Ibrahim's death left Fatma with a sense of utter helplessness. "Fatma was always completely dependent on her husband," says her close friend Beverly Ballard, who had also embraced Islam. "I woke up before Fatma did. Men have always translated the Koran for their benefit. The women are getting tired of the oppression."
At Ballard's urging, Fatma went to work. She worked in department stores, selling handbags and cosmetics, in Ann's Beauty Salon as a hairstylist, and even tended bar at the Starting Line Lounge. Raghib worried that she might be working too hard and at one point gently said to her, "Ume, I think you might be staying out a little too late." In the end, the jobs were not enough to keep the boys in the Sister Clara Muhammad School. Raghib, Qadry and Sulaiman transferred to Martin Luther King Junior High, where their scholarship was not appreciated. As a seventh-grader, Qadry outscored everyone in the eighth grade at King on a standardized achievement test. "There was one kid at the King school named Lester, must have been 16," says Raghib. "We would get up to read in class and this kid would want to fight us. It was like a nightmare. We didn't understand it."
"A teacher, Mrs. Calhoun, told me to come to school and watch my sons try to give a book report, to see how they were jeered," says Fatma. "She said, 'You have to get your sons out of here, to a place where they can learn.' "
At first, Raghib did not want to move to Wilkes-Barre to live with his grandmother. On reflection, it was the best thing that could have happened. "She knew what was right," says Raghib of his mother's painful decision. Fatma told Raghib that unless he went, the other two boys would never go. They needed his leadership. In the summer of 1983, Sulaiman moved into Bauknight's house. Raghib and Qadry followed in the fall.
"It's funny, talking about cultural differences. Wilkes-Barre was like night and day from Newark," says Raghib.
What kind of name is Raghib?
Where do you get that kind of name?
What do you mean, El-Islam?