In their own words: Abdulkadir Sharif

Abdulkadir Sharif
Abdulkadir Sharif, 31, prays at the Minnesota DaOWah Institute in St. Paul December 23, 2009.
MPR photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Abdulkadir Sharif describes the lure of the gang life and why he dropped out.

"Sometimes I tell you, what the evil is's telling you good things, but these are bad things. It's telling you, look at yourself, the money you was making, the power you had, the clothing, the jewelry, the women. You see, I dropped out and left. Came back."

A scar on Sharif's neck reminds him why he quit running the streets. In 2007, a man from a rival gang stabbed him in the throat. The knife wound permanently damaged Sharif's vocal chords.

While Sharif was laid up in the hospital, an imam who prayed with him took Sharif under his wing. That's when Sharif vowed to join the mosque and get to work trying to lead other young gang members to put down their guns.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Abdulkadir Sharif, 31, shows off a scar he received after an operation for stab wound inflicted by a rival gang member in 2007. The stabbing transformed Sharif's life, and led him to his life as a devout Muslim.
MPR photo/Laura Yuen

"When I feel like I want to go back to them, one thing stops me. When I go to the mirror, I look at myself. My scar makes me think twice. Because my scar tells me, Allah loves you, Allah gives you another life chance and now you want to go back? And then my mind says no, that's why I'm gonna stick around.

And I really appreciate what what Sheikh Hassan (his imam Sheikh Hassan Mohamud) has done for me. I really appreciate what my friends, good friends, have done for me, and I really appreciate what my family done for me. Because now that's what I have. Before I didn't have that. All I had were gangbangers."

Related: Civil War Kids:Young Somalis in Minnesota