(Reprinted from the Muslim Journal (5-9-03 to 5-16-03)
How Islam Promotes Healthy Citizenship
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed gave this lecture at the University of Wisconsin on Oct. 5, 2002.)
Thank you and we thank G-d, the Lord and Cherisher of all the worlds. We witness that He is One. And we witness that Muhammed to whom the Qur'an was revealed over 14 centuries ago is His Servant and His Messenger and a Mercy to all the worlds, as G-d says in our Holy Book.
The way that Islam promotes healthy citizenship is very easy to address. It only takes a very few words, although I will give the topic more of our time. We know that what makes the society, the city or town bad for us is the people who are bad. Without bad people, towns are good.
So the simple answer to how Islam promotes healthy citizenship is by promoting healthy minded people. Christianity says, as I read in the Bible, "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." It didn't say, "thinks in his head"; it says, "thinks in his heart." It connected the heart with the thinking.
This is what Islam wants for us, too, that we reflect on things. When I was a child in school, one thing they told me was that I would have to learn a lot of things by heart. One thing the school did for us was to learn a lot by memory, although they said, "learn it by heart."
That expression means "to make that learning very, very special and give it your concern, to value it and care about it." I was talking to someone very recently, who kept forgetting things that we were trying to remember. I said, "the reason you can't remember it is that you don't care enough about it. If you care enough about it, you will remember it; learn it by heart."
It has to be in the heart, too, not just in the mind. And when the heart and mind are working together, then you can get the best benefit from your brain or mind. But if they are not working together, then you won't get the best benefit from your brain. This is how Islam promotes healthy citizenship.
Islam wants us to reflect, and reflect means to do more than just think about it twice. It means to think about what it is worth to you and what you want it for. Think about what you are going to do with it. Think. Think. Think. Think. Think with the heart involved.
I once was told by a great scholar, Dr. Ibrahim Ezziddin out of Egypt, that I speak more philosophy than religion. That angered me, because I thought it was just common sense. I tend to think in pictures and speak through pictures. There is a saying in the Qur'an, the Holy Book of the Muslims which is for all people, just like the Bible is for all people: "By the Fig and the Olive and Mt. Sinai and this town made safe, secured, surely We have created the human in the best of molds."
There was a time when there were no public schools. Public schools came late in the history of nations, where you have to send your children to school. And if you don't, you are subject to be put in jail, taken to court and locked up for not permitting your children to get an education. Education is enforced for the society.
I believe that the reference I just gave from our Holy Book has in it the importance of education. It is addressing the stages in the mind, the intellect, the stages of how the mind develops. The first is given in a picture. And I need a picture in order to start talking.
So I see the fig and think about the fig. The Qur'an doesn't give any commentary on the fig; it leaves the commentary to the thinkers, the scholars. You think about the fig and it is bigger than the olive with many, many seeds. Whereas the olive has just one seed. The fig is easy to chew, even if it is dry.
If you bit into an olive and don't have any caution, you are going to break your dentals. Even a young person might hurt their teeth, if they bit down on that stone inside the olive that is hard.
It is not like the fig that you can chew through. The olive has only one seed, but you must be careful eating it. You can't rush and eat it, like you do the fig.
The fig has many seeds; it's like a burst of seeds. And think about the expression, "that's a figment of your imagination."
The olive is in the Bible and also in the Qur'an, but the Qur'an goes to the fig first. The fig is kind of put down in the Bible, and here the Qur'an is picking the fig back up.
It says: "By the Fig, by the Olive, by Mt. Sinai...." Mt. Sinai is the mountain where Moses went up on and G-d spoke to him there and gave him revelation on Mt. Sinai. Mt. Sinai is referring to ascending up or going higher up to G-d and getting communication from G-d and then coming back down.
The third in this reference is Mt. Sinai, and the fourth reference is "this town made safe." How do you make the town safe? You make it safe by respecting all the people.
All of us have imagination, but all of us don't have olives. All of us can think and have vivid imaginations. So you are to respect the common mind, and the fig is symbolic of the common mind. It is a metaphor representing the common mind.
You are to respect the common mind. And then you are to respect those who are looking for a single thought or single interest. They are focused on one thing. They are the educated people or those who become educated.
They focus on one thing and stay focused on that, until it becomes illuminated, like the oil. You can strike a match near it and get fire. These are people who focus on one thing so long, until it illuminates them. And then they get the insight or the knowledge and pass it on.
These are all stages. Then there is the town made safe; you have to develop in the town. You can go up on the mountain and get all of that good knowledge and good insight. But if you don't come back down and live with people, you will never know how to use it.
Where do we learn how to communicate with one another? It is by living with one another. We live with one another, then we know how to apply our knowledge. It takes this social interaction to show us how to apply knowledge, where to put it and how to use it. If we never have a chance to socialize or have social interaction, we will never truly become educated.
To have light and not put it to use is no education. I am sure when Moses came down from the mountain, he had a great light. But he had to come down and look at his people's circumstances and then look at how was he to use that light that G-d gave him on the mountain. And he wasn't selfish.
This is the same Moses who is in the Bible and Qur'an; he is for both of us. He didn't say he was going to do this by himself. The first thing he did was to look around and see what resources he had. He said, "OK, you doctors get together. You lawyers get together. You farmers get together. You musicians get together."
Moses started organizing people according to their skills and abilities, etc. Then he gave them what G-d gave him from the mountain, and he charged all of them with responsibility to use it and apply it and make their lives conform to it.
We can't do all of that, for it is too much for us. We are not Moses. But what we can do is respect everybody. Have respect for everybody. Islam begins with the promotion of good character. And good character is a respect for everything that deserves respect.
The reason why we don't have many people having this kind of serious thought about the great interest that we are trusted with, when we are trusted with the responsibility of citizenship, is because we don't have the perception of the country or the city that most religions, Judaism included, give us.
First of all, everything that we have was not ours to begin with. We came into the world owning nothing. The first people who came to this area there was no Milwaukee here, no Wisconsin when the first people came here did not make this land; they found land that could support their life.
So the gift is from G-d, originally. And that is what we have to remember, firstly. And under G-d, you are responsible for how you treat everything. You may dislike the government at times and may want to say, "Oh, I don't have any citizenship; my citizenship is not worth a plug nickel." You may feel like that, but remember everything is temporary, except G-d.
Bad circumstances are temporary, and G-d is not going to excuse you from your responsibility. You are going to have to answer to G-d one day. Don't look at the land just as government land and as private property. Look at it as land that G-d gave man. G-d gave man this land, and look at it as your possession. G-d gave it to all of us.
So this land we call Milwaukee was given to all of us, originally. We all had the right to it. Nobody had established a right to it, to exclude anybody else. In some primitive tribes and societies, the people respect that. They live with each other, but they don't put any claim on land or rivers.
If you use a boat, you are not even able to claim the boat. Some primitive tribes won't let you claim the boat, for it is only for traveling the river. And since the river doesn't belong to anyone special, then the boat can't belong to anybody in particular. The boat has to be for anyone who wants to get on it. If no one is riding on the boat and it is there beside the water, anybody can jump into that boat.
These are people who are still in touch with the first perception of these goods or things. The first perception is that we didn't do this; we didn't provide these things. They were here when we got here, so we should respect the Original Owner.
You should say, "This is my city," and mean it. "Milwaukee is my city." Mean that from your heart. As I have said, don't let your thinking be separated from the heart. G-d did not give this land to one person; it is for human beings. "My government has made a beautiful city here, and this is my city." Claim it!
Also under the Constitution of these United States we have "One Nation Under G-d." And it speaks of The Creator. "We hold these Truths to be self-evident.... That all men are created equal...." It is back to the common person and they are "...endowed with certain inalienable rights..." that can't be taken away. These are given to them by their Creator.
"Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Not even the government can take these away from a person. The right to life was not given by the government and cannot be taken away by the government. G-d created us to be free. The government didn't give us that, and the government shouldn't take it away.
G-d gave us the intelligence and the feet and the hands and the legs to go and get things we need to pursue happiness and to acquire wealth. And the government shouldn't take that away from us. Our government also says that we have rights that the government didn't give to us.
So don't say anymore that "this school that I attend is their school." I don't care if it is a private school or the biggest school in the state of Wisconsin. Don't say this is their school, no matter how bad you feel or how bad you are treated there.
Don't let them take you out of your rights. You need to be situated to be successful. If
your psyche is not positive, you will not be able to perform as well. To have a positive psyche, you have to be positive. And be positive when it is right to be positive. You have a right to say: "Milwaukee is my town. This school I am going to is my school."
What do I mean? The wall is mine. The carpet is mine. Then treat it like it is yours. Respect it. Pick up paper when you see trash on the floor; don't wait for the janitor. I do that out in the public street. Some may call me a nut, but I am a healthy nut and a healthy citizen.
This is the way to have healthy citizenship. You have to think the way G-d wants us to think. And you have to know that great governments have respected the way G-d wants us to think. Then don't look at anything as belonging to the other person, without also looking at it as being your own.
Their life even belongs to them, but it also belongs to mankind, to humanity. If their life is in bad shape, that is your business, too, if they will let you help them out. Thank you.