(Reprinted from the Muslim Journal 6-3-05 to 7-8-05)
Imam Mohammed Speaks at the First Corinthian Church of Harlem
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed gave the following address at the First Corinthian Church in Harlem, N.Y., on April 16, 2005.)
We praise G-d. And our greetings are the Greetings of Peace in Al-Islam, As-Salaam-Alaikum. We are happy and thankful for your presence and our presence here today.
We want to have the right focus and see the right things in importance. Muslims begin their day, whether they say it or they hear it, with "G-d is Greater." Greater means anything you are thinking about or could imagine, G-d is Greater than that. We say, "Allahu Akbar."
If we don't say that our-selves when we wake up, if we are in a real Muslim environment or neighborhood, there is a muezzin who is obligated to say that.
His first words are "Allahu Akbar" in the morning before the daylight can be seen, soon as the dawn begins when it still looks dark out-side; it is not light yet.
He chants it all the way to the end of the adhan. It comes from the word mean-ing "ear." It means to "give your ear to this." When you hear the adhan, you are to give your ear or your mind's attention to what you are hearing. The words you are hearing are saying, "G-d is Greater."
So we begin our day with G-d consciousness. That is first; be conscious of G-d first, because G-d is The Bigger, G-d is The More Important, G-d is in charge of all in existence. G-d is over all. Whether we know it or not, He is in charge at all times of all that is in existence.
If He wants to take you out, He can take you out at any instance. If He wants to protect you from death, He can protect you at any instance. I am speaking from knowledge, not just from education. I have studied also; I am educated in the Qur'an.
But I am speaking from personal knowledge, and go, He can take you and any-body. The biggest man on earth, He can take them out in an instance. And if He wants them to live, He can protect his life from whatever is coming at him.
That's the G-d I know. That is my Creator and your Creator, Allah, the Only G-d. So we begin with G-d consciousness, and that is most important.
My talk is on what brings us all together and on what G-d wants for us as a human life. It is on how we can lose that and how we have lost that, many of us, and how we can get it back.
What this does for us is to situate us best for every lawful progress you want to make, whether it be spiritual progress or business progress or political progress. I don't care what kind of progress it is, if it is progress accepted by G-d, then it situates you to be most successful in any given pursuit or endeavor or profession.
That is reasonable, if you believe there is a Creator Who created everything. Then He would have more knowledge about everything than any other entity or existing thing. If He situates you, then you should be situated the best.
I went over to China as part of the U.S. and China Friendship Group at a time when China was having a lot of trouble in their country. When we got there, the first thing the first person said who received us in China was, "The situation is good in the heavens."
I didn't think the Chinese Communist people even believed in a heaven and hell. And I later understood that he didn't mean in the heaven of the church or the mosque or the synagogue. He meant in the heavens of the world, the real life nature and leadership of their bosses, who were taking care of the people on the ground.
He was not speaking from religious knowledge or meanings at all. He was speaking as a man representing his government. When he said heavens, he was talking about the top of his government. And these are common expressions in various fields of expressions.
Over here, when we say heaven, people think that we are talking about religion. But that is not necessarily the case in other places, and I mean also in many countries where religion is prevalent and the way of life of everybody.
It can be the Islamic government that respects the religion, and they will speak of the heavens. But in this instance, they use the word "skies."
We have two words, but for them the word used means "sky." There is no other word for that in Arabic. If they say heaven in religious language, it is "sky." And when they say heaven in the worldly language, it is "sky" - the same word. I also hope our skies get better, because we are not situated too good in the sky right now.
Once you are situated good in the skies, you will be situated good on earth.
I want to address interests. Everybody must have interests in order to be alive. If you have no interests, you are dead. You might be living physically, but as a human being you are dead. Not only you, any thing - if it is a cat, a dog, a mosquito - interest is number one. Without interest, they are dead.
And the first call into your ear wants you to give your ear to what is being said in the adhan - "There is no god but Allah" - and it goes on to its end. Once you give your ear to that, it becomes your number one interest. Responding to G-d becomes your number one interest.
What is the Message of Islam saying to us? It is saying that your number one interest should be to respond to your Creator. Answer His Call - the call to prayer, the call to worship. Your number one response should be to your G-d Who provides everything to support your life in the sky and earth.
Understand that that G-d is more important than any-thing else. And we don't need a lot of education in Islam in order to be successful as a Muslim. The adhan tells us that if you would just respond to the adhan and understand what is being said, understand what you are hearing, you are assured success in life. At the end of the adhan, we are told that we are being called to success.
For the owner of the business that you work for, if you don't know he is the owner and he calls you and says, "John." John turns around, when he hears his name.
The person says, "Bring me that Wall Street Journal there." John goes and picks up the Wall Street Journal and brings it to this man. And John may live the rest of his life out never knowing that he was called by his boss, who just asked him to bring that newspaper to him.
John may not even respond favorably and say, "Get the newspaper yourself." Then he gets fired. So we hear this call to respond to G-d and some of us take it lightly. You have to understand what is going into your ears. Don't just hear it; understand it.
You hear music, but can you put it into language? And the adhan can be nothing but music to your ears. If I ask you, "What is the importance of the adhan? Why is it called the adhan?" Your correct answer would be, "The importance of the adhan is for us to be conscious of G-d and remain conscious of G-d."
The adhan is said at least five times; there may be more. But there are five prayers said with five adhans calling us to obligatory prayers of Muslims. Why five? It is because we are creatures of five senses -hearing, sight, smell, taste, feelings. We cannot get any-thing in our brains or on our minds, unless it comes by the way of those five senses.
You either have to hear it, see it, smell it, taste it or feel it. Those are the means in your life for you to receive communication or experience and respond to it. If you can register and respond, then you are conscious. And consciousness is 10: Five for receiving and five for responding.
I used to love to box, but not now like I used to; now you hate to see all of that damage done to a human being. You get a higher appreciation for the human vessel, and you are no longer interested in seeing people get battered in the ring for fame or entertainment.
Although I got away from the love of the sport, I still love boxing. And at this age, I can still box. You have a chance to keep fighting, if you can get up before the count of 10. And sometimes, you can get up at the count of 10. Then the referee will look at you and say, "This guy is out on his feet."
He will have you look at his fingers and ask you how many are there. If you say, "Four," the fight is over. He will ask you what is your name. If you respond incorrectly, the fight is over.
Remember, interest is number one. And all human beings are created to have intelligent interests. Yes, we have the human side of our life, the emotional side, and we enjoy fun.
But if we come up in an intelligent human environment, overruled by intelligent authorities who plan the environment and they are charged with overseeing the things that affect your environment, then even your play, your fun will be intelligent.
What the great religions, not just our religion, want us to know is that G-d, first of all, made humans to be intelligent. The whole story of the Genesis of man, the beginning of human beings in life, is the story of human beings as intelligent life.
When we hear or know of the story of the fall of man, we think that man is created to be a moral creature and that his moral life is what the creature is all about. No.
If you understand it correctly, intelligent life is moral life.
Intelligent life is protective of itself. And to protect itself, it has to discriminate those things that are harmful to it from those things that are healthful to it.
Whether it is not putting your hand in a burning fire and burning your hand off or if it is putting your hand in filth and not washing it off or liking it - no matter what kind of behavior it is. If you are speaking of intelligent behavior, it is also moral behavior.
All behavior evolved because of human beings and other things having intelligent life. The world would like for us to exploit all weak-nesses; that's the world that is greedy for money or wealth and power.
Not that the whole world is like that, but there are enough of them in the world to prey upon every person in the world who is vulnerable, who is weak for their game. There are enough of them to catch us all.
We can never create too many ignorant people or too many uninformed and un-alert people for those who are in that kind of business. They will always be able to reach you and take advantage of you.
So the beginning of man in the three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the beginning of intelligent human life. And the downfall of man is when he permits those, who want to, to make his life their property and their business, and when he allows them to manipulate his brain, his intelligence. That is when he falls.
When he allows them to take his interest from where Allah created it to be to where they want it to be, so they can exploit him, we get it as the forbidden tree. The man is seduced or tricked by the Serpent, Satan, the Devil, to eat of the forbidden tree.
But G-d had said, "Eat of all the trees, except this one tree." G-d singled out one of all the trees. In the Bible, G-d said it is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But in Islam, it is just the tree that cheats the man. You go to the tree for something of interest or of value - not to be cheated.
But there is the tree, that when you go to it, it won't give you a product. It won't give you an increase. It cheats you. And the man was seduced to go to that tree and eat of it. How was he seduced? He was told that your brain will become bigger and better; your intelligence will increase so much.
Not only that, but your livelihood and longevity will become much longer. You will have eternal life and an abundance of life. So he promised man riches and long life. This is the tree of selfishness.
These are people who want to live forever and to have an abundance of things. That is where their interest is and what they focus upon. If they get it, many people are going to suffer, because of them being successful.
This is a carnal greed, one of the major sins in the religion. The only tree that G-d forbid us to eat from was the tree of self-interest only, to have greed for money and wealth and power, so we will be able to command life for everybody else, so we will be in charge over the lives of everybody else.
Do you know that we have a little bit of that in a whole lot of people? There is some-one here now motivated by that. And they pray to Allah too, making a strong sajdah. He wants more money, so he can have more power and have his way over other people. That is the way of Satan, Shaitan, The Devil, the Enemy of all Mankind. That is his way.
Man is tested by him. When man is correct in his nature and correct in his heart and mind, Satan is going to tempt you. Not even G-d will accept you, until you have met a test and G-d says: "That was a good te4st and he or she passed it. That is my servant for good, for eternity."
Even G-d wants that we have the test. We have to be tested. You don't know of a great Prophet in Scripture who was not tested. They all were tested. G-d says to the Believer, "Do you think that others were tested and you are going to be spared?"
The more you try to follow the Way of G-d as it is revealed that we follow it, the more you are going to experience opposition of the same kind that Moses experienced, that Abraham experienced before him, that Christ Jesus experienced and that Muhammed experienced after Christ Jesus.
The more you will experience opposition like that to what you are trying to achieve. You will be tested. People will call you crazy. Didn't they call the Prophets crazy?
Job's friends told him, "You are ridiculous. You have been sitting here in this same situation with no money, no fun, sitting on the ground waiting for your G-d to come and help you. You would be better off if you cursed your G-d and died."
But Job remained faithful.
These tests that the Prophets got and the criticisms they got, if you follow the same path of obedience to G-d, you will get the same or similar. If you establish the right interest and stay focused and conscious of that interest, and wake up with it like we are supposed to do in the morning - it is the first thing on our minds and the last thing on our minds before we go to bed - then you will be successful.
That is all you need to be successful. We have many rakats of prayer or many sections of prayer. But there is the prayer we say in the month of Ramadan. And it is finished with only one rakah or one section. We say two sections and then greet with "salaams" on both side. Then we stand up and pray only one rakah, and that finishes that prayer.
Scripture says, "The dead will be resurrected, and there will be an awakening with three blasts." But G-d also says there will come a time when only one blast will stand the dead up. And that is what I'm giving you now, the one blast that will stand the dead up.
All you have to do is keep your interest focused and stay clear. Keep that in mind and never forget in anytime and any day you are living, that your First Interest should be your Maker Who made you and everything. Wake up with it and go to bed with it, and I guarantee you that you will not need any more rakats to keep you standing.
I am not telling you to change the prayer. G-d has obligated us with revelation, and our Holy Book is our Guidance. But I am telling you that that will bring you to success.
Allah says in the Holy Book, "If anyone holds on to, seriously, that there is but One G-d, and don't make gods with G-d...." You don't have to write it out as, "There is another god and I have found him at such and such place." You already have made a god with G-d when you make sex the most important thing in your life.
When you make anything else the most important thing in your life, then you have already made a false god and put it over or above G-d.
The idol worshippers, even in ancient times, were not so stupid to believe that a cement or clay thing that they made could hear them and speak. But they would respect it as though it had that power, submitting to it. Those who designed their society and the order for them knew those things couldn't speak.
Those things represented something else that they respected - a principle or interest that they held high. The little material monument or statue was nothing in itself, except that it represented something high in their life.
The intelligent people would have those things in their society and respect them and still have education, science and government and an army to defend them. They had sports and a good life, with those idols as their gods.
This is because the intelligent and informed among them knew that those idols could not do anything in themselves but represented a higher ideal or higher principle.
When I am coming to you with what your soul wants, your soul will hold you here against your own wishes. So keeping the interest straight and keeping it before you in focus with other interests, or not replacing it or not threatening it, is what preserves life.
And if G-d is that Interest, your life will be preserved for sure. Lost interest means lost life. Our people, as a whole, had more life as a people -not as an individual - had more life when they were slaves than we have now in this time of plenty.
Why? Because all of us were of one mind, when it came to our life as a people.
That mind was: "We need help, and this world will not help us. We need G-d." That was what our conclusion was: Our only Friend is G-d; our only Help is G-d. That was our conclusion, until we found friends among other people to work with us for our liberation, for our freedom.
Even when we had friends, they were so few and their means so small, they had no power to change government, not even in the South where slavery was legal. So still our main Help we turned to consciously was G-d.
And we were crying out so pitifully to G-d and so sincerely to G-d, that many of us pledged to G-d: "G-d, if You will be our Friend, we will never part from You." We made an oath to G-d. And once you make a sincere oath to G-d, you may forget it later but G-d never forgets.
Let me tell you something today in this place and in this time. We made a pledge to G-d - our ancestors, our forefathers and mothers. Their pledge to G-d was accepted by G-d.