Oral History Interview with Shaykh Ali Suleiman Ali on August 27, 2020

Oral History Interview with Shaykh Ali Suleiman Ali on August 27, 2020



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Ali, Shaykh Ali Suleiman


Sadid, Abdul-Zahir; Perkins, Dr. Alisa (Research Director)


Oral history interview with Shaykh Ali Sulieman Ali conducted by Abdul-Zahir Sadid on August 27, 2020. Interview written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Abdul-Zahir Sadid. Shaykh Ali Sulieman Ali was born in Ghana on February 12, 1948, to parents who hailed from Nigeria and Ghana. He grew up attending the local mosque with his family and enrolled in an Islamic school at a young age. After graduating high school, Shaykh Ali won a prestigious scholarship through the Saudi Arabian government, allowing him to study at the Islamic University of Madinah. Shaykh Ali later moved to the United States to pursue a doctoral degree in Islamic Studies and Arabic from the University of Michigan. After graduating, he worked as a professor of Islamic Studies and Islamic Law at several institutions, including the Michigan Islamic Academy, Wayne County Community College, Oakland University, and the University of Detroit. In the early 1980s, Shaykh Ali began serving as imam for a Dearborn congregation. Several years later, he helped establish Muslim Family Services (MFS) in Detroit, a division of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which assists struggling community members with counseling, financial aid, and access to food and transitional housing. He serves as the director of MFS and as an Islamic counselor there. In the interview, Shaykh Ali reflects on his lifetime experience in international travel for Islamic education, comparing the various cultures in which he has immersed himself, including those in West Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. He elaborates on the importance of African and African-American Muslim community-building in Detroit, describing the diverse and tightly-knit communities surrounding the Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center and Historic Masjid Wali Muhammad. Shaykh Ali also describes his aspirations to continue promoting relations between African and African-American Muslims.

Date of Interview


Location of Interview

Detroit, MI (Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center)


African-American history, African-American Muslim autonomy, African-American Muslims, American culture, American Islamic College (AIC), American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM), Ann Arbor, Arab-Americans, Arabic language education, Arabic radio, Bangladeshi-Americans, Butcher, Cairo, Canada, Canton, Canton mosque, Cattle dealer, Community service, Counseling, COVID-19 pandemic, Dearborn, Detroit, Doctoral studies, W. E. B. Du Bois, Economic aid, Edinburgh University, Egypt, England, Food distribution, Gambia, Gender separation, Ghana, Government scholarship, Historic Masjid Wali Muhammad (HMWM), Homelessness, Housing eviction, ICNA Relief, Imam, India, Indian-Americans, Islamic education abroad, Islam, Islam in America, Islamic community, Islamic Council of North America (ICNA), Islamic counselor, Islamic law, Islamic parochial school, Islamic social services, Islamic studies, Islamic University of Madinah, Islamic University of Minnesota, Job training, King Faisal, Mali, Islamic marriage counseling, McGill University, Mecca, Medina, Michigan, Michigan Islamic Academy (MIA), Miftaah Institute, Montreal, Mosque, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Multiethnic community, Muslim Americans, Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center, Muslim Community of Western Suburbs of Detroit (MCWS), Muslim Family Services (MFS), Muslim World Studies Program, Muslims, New Town, New York, New York University, Nigeria, Oakland University, Online Islamic studies, Pakistani-Americans, Professor, Qur'an memorization, Religious leadership, Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabian ambassador, Senegal, Soccer, Somalia, Sufism, Toronto, Transitional housing for women, University of Detroit, University of Ghana, University of Michigan, University of Toronto, Imam Dawud Walid, Warren, Wayne County Community College, West Africa, West African-Americans, Women's education in Islam, Xhosa language, Zaytuna College


African American Studies | Africana Studies | American Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Digital Humanities | Inequality and Stratification | Islamic Studies | Nonprofit Administration and Management | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Religion | Urban Studies and Planning


Interview conducted by Abdul-Zahir Sadid at the Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center. Interview written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Abdul-Zahir Sadid. Interview recorded under the direction of Razi Jafri. Videography by Ayesha Cook, facilitated by Ismaeel Dhul-Qarnayn. Video Edited by: Alexis Collis. Transcribed by: Delaney Novak. Transcription edited by: Dr. Alisa Perkins. Metadata prepared by: Hannah Cole. Metadata edited by: Dr. Alisa Perkins and Sophia Wimberley.



Document Type


Rights Statement

Dream of Detroit Interviews were made possible by funding from the Pillars Grant and Whiting Foundation. Content is for educational purposes only and non-reproducible; interviews are not to be duplicated, but may be linked through ScholarWorks with appropriate attribution. Please direct any questions about copyright to scholarworks@wmich.edu.


Pillars Fund and Whiting Foundation


Dream of Detroit

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Oral History Interview with Shaykh Ali Suleiman Ali on August 27, 2020