ORONO, Maine— A former member of the rap group Outlawz will speak tonight at the University of Maine about how Islam helped him give up a life of violence, drugs and alcohol.

Mutah Wasin Shabazz Beale, formerly known as Napoleon, will speak at 6 p.m. in Room 100 of the Donald P. Corbett Building. His appearance is sponsored by the Muslim Student Association.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

“We invited him as part of our commitment to being part of a student organization that promotes a peaceful atmosphere for young people and encourages them to focus on school and not fall for dangerous lifestyles,” Ismail Warsame, a member of the Muslim Student Association, said Friday.

Beale grew up in New Jersey. He was 3 when his Muslim parents were gunned down in front of him and his two brothers, Beale told the Los Angeles Times in 2003.

He was raised by his Christian grandmother, but he “never felt at home in church,” Beale told the newspaper. The former rapper tells his audiences that he did feel at home in the streets — fighting, stealing and dealing drugs.

Beale joined the Outlawz when rap superstar Tupac Shakur formed the group in 1993. He has said that Shakur nicknamed him Napoleon partly because of his short stature. Beale is 5 feet 6 inches tall.

Shakur was shot six times in a drive-by shooting on Sept. 7, 1996, in Las Vegas. He died a week later.

“All my life I’ve seen death,” Beale told the Times. “I knew death was a part of life. I took death easily, you know what I’m saying?”

Slowly, Beale returned to his Muslim roots and after Ramadan in 2001 felt “the empty hole in my heart” filling up with God.” Two years ago, he gave up music completely to devote his life to “da’wah,” or sharing the message of Islam.

Beale now lectures around the world about the futility of violence, drugs and gangs. He also talks about how his Muslim faith has changed his life.

Earlier this year, he spoke in the United Kingdom, where gang violence reportedly has been growing.

“He’s a person who’s been through a lot of things and lost family and friends to that lifestyle,” Warsame said. “His talk is an opportunity for us to reach a wider audience that not might not ordinarily come to this kind of thing.”