Imam W. Deen Muhammad
QUESTION: What is the meaning of the words "brother" and "sister" when you address a Muslim? Should we address non-Muslims as brother and sister?
IMAM: In reading the Quran, we don't find Muslims addressed that many times with the term "brother." Most of the ; time in Quran we are addressed as Muslims or as believers, and so forth, but not as brothers - - fraternal relatives, associates. We are not addressed that often; in fact, I think there is just one or two times or more in the Quran where we are addressed as brother.
Muslims do have a habit of calling each other brother now. We say, Brother John, Brother Shabazz, Brother Muhammad -- it's almost a fixed habit that we always say brother.
But I notice in the Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) hardly ever said . brother. He said, "Oh, Salim" or "Oh, I Omar." He didn't use brother. Obviously, "he didn't use brother that often" because it's not in the Hadith. It's not in I the report that he said brother before addressing them.
Myself, I'm in favor of us playing down that need to say brother or sister ] every time we address a person. I wouldn't like to see us put a whole lot of importance on having to take it as a ritual or as a law in the religion that you have to address a person like that because, obviously, in the days of Prophet Muhammad, they were not bound to that way of addressing people.
When we speak of a Muslim as brother, we should understand what the Quran says -- that Allah has made us brothers, that He saved us from the pit of fire and bonded us with the cement of affection, love — as brothers.
I think, we should understand what the Quran is saying — that it is only because of the light of Al-Islam and the example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the teachings of the Quran in our life that we have come from the savage state of malice, hatred, unnecessary anger, unnecessary irritation in us; all of that is characteristic of the days of heathenism or paganism, the days of darkness.
We should understand that to be brothers to each other is to be civilized toward each other. It is to be considerate of each other, to feel compassion for each other and to want to be respectful of each other.
I think that's what we should understand in calling each other brother, and if we want to call a non-Muslim brother, I see nothing wrong with that.
If the Christians have that habit -Christians call each other brother, and I know they accept those terms - - I think we should respect the values of other people when those values and standards are good standards and good values.
If they would like to be called brother, then I want to call them brother. But if I'm around people I know don't call each other brother, I don't want to call them brother. They might not like it.
Imam W. Deen Muhammad On Genetic Engineering
AMJ: What's your position on genetic engineering and the possibility of creating new forms of life?
WDM: Based on the teachings of Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad, I would be against that.
I don't think genetic engineering, as I understand it in modern science today, respects the will of the Creator. What it suggests is that maybe we can make a better human being than God made. I would be against that.
But the science of genetics, I'm not against it or anything to make the life that God has designed function or give the best performance that it can possibly give within the guidelines or within the mold that God has made. I'm for that.
But to alter nature and create something that would be different from what God intended in His design of the creature, I would be against that.
AMJ: In terms of mutilation or in terms of the body being buried whole, does that prohibit autopsies?
WDM: If there is reason to believe that there was foul play or a crime committed, we have to submit to an autopsy. We have to support justice, the legal process.
AMJ: What about sperm banks — artificial insemination?
WDM: I would say that that would be un-Islamic. I do see grounds in the teachings of Al-Islam to reject that. I don't think Muslims should accept what you call artificial insemination.