On Jan. 18, 1973 in a Washington, DC, house, two adults and a child were shot to death. Four other children ranging in age from 9 days to 10 years old were drowned and two were injured. The house had been purchased for a group of Hanafi Muslims to use by then Milwaukee Bucks basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The attack became known as the Hanafi Muslim massacre.
At the time, the tragedy claimed more victims than any mass killing in D.C.’s history.
Abdul-Jabbar was a member of the Hanafi Muslims, an orthodox Islamic group. He was greatly impacted by the mass murders. At the time, it was feared Abdul-Jabbar was a target was well. He as given a police guard. “I’m not afraid for myself,” he said. “I’m afraid for my family. These (the murderers) are not very brave people and they are very sick.”
Black Muslims, members of the Nation of Islam (NOI), were convicted of the murders that were the result of an ongoing feud between themselves and the Hanafi Muslims over religious teachings, The New York Times reported. Following the murders, the NOI denied responsibility.
The leader of the Hanafi — Hamaas Abdul Khaalis — was the target of the attack. Prior to the massacre, Khaalis had written letters to ministers of all 50 NOI mosques claiming that leader Elijah Muhammad was “‘guilty of fooling and deceiving people – robbing them of their money, and besides that dooming them to Hell.'” In the letters, Khaalis urged the ministers to leave the NOI.
The attack on the Hanafi house was retribution, according to authorities. And the murders were vicious. Abdul-Jabbar told Sports Illustrated that “the two adult males in the house were told to assume the traditional kneeling prayer position so they could be shot in the back of the neck. When the men resisted, they were pistol-whipped and then killed. Four of the children were drowned, two of them reportedly while their mother was forced to watch. Two women who were shot and left for dead survived; one of them was found with seven slugs in her head.” Shockingly, the assailants reportedly stopped and fixed themselves something to eat.
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Abdul-Jabbar went to the location of the murders to help wash the bodies of and bury them.
The murders seemed to hit Abdul-Jabbar hard.
“They were like my family, like seven brothers and sisters,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I cannot feel sorrow for the martyrs because they were in Paradise before their blood touched the ground. They died doing what Allah ordered. They died defending their faith.
“The one thing that does upset me though is that this was done simply because we’re Muslim, because we want to practice a religion. Even the worst white racists don’t think the way the people who attacked us do.”