from the Muslim Journal 12-29-06 to 1-26-07)
Idea of Freedom in Al-Islam
Imam W. Deen
(The following address was given by Imam W. Deen Mohammed as
the opening address to an interview for the TV program, W. Deen
Mohammed and Guest, on Nov. 10, 2006.)
With G-d's Name,
The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful Redeemer. We greet you with
the Greetings of Peace, of all Muslims in Al-Islam, As-Salaam-Alaikum.
We are very pleased to be addressing the topic of Freedom in Al-Islam.
First of all,
the Prophet of Islam, the last Prophet, Muhammed - upon him be the
Prayers and the Peace -is reported to have said: "Everyone
of you is entitled to his or her opinion." So I start here
with the idea of freedom in Islam.
are prided in Islam for human intelligence. Muhammed the Prophet
said of the human brain, that G-d made nothing more resourceful,
nothing having more or better use than the human brain.
When we look
at man's influence in the natural environment, we see that no other
life presents itself as human life presents itself. No other life
has changed the natural environment as humans have changed the natural
I think it is
very inspiring, really, to see how impressive some of G-d's small
creatures, much beneath man in evolution and developmental growth
over the history of their life, have contributed to their environment.
Bees, for one,
build their nests or honey combs and have a very impressive community.
There are the ants. There are the beavers and how they work and
cut wood to build them a house on the water. They are very impressive.
compares in any way with man's imprint on the natural environment.
Man has altered the natural environment greatly, so much so that
the animals and plants and everything have been changed somewhat,
have increased or decreased, have improved or not improved - because
of man taking over and dominating the environment.
I am not looking
at the problems for the environment right now. I am just looking,
and hope you are looking with me, at the great power and usefulness
of the human brain. Man use to live in the wilds like animals, but
his brain would not let him stay like that. His brain produced for
him ideas and plans for changing his environment.
Today, we live
in the human environment, and it almost shuts out the natural environment.
There are so many constructions built by man - roads, buildings,
transportation. They are built by man for man.
So you walk
out of your house or private quarters and most of the time, there
is no attraction to pull you away from what man has established
- unless it is raining or storming; then you will look up at the
sky. Or if it is hot and very bright, you might look up at the sky.
So our attention
is drawn to the works of man. And because man has been given the
freedom in this creation, in the material world, to think and act
upon his thoughts, we see man as being very, very special in the
creation of all the things that we know in the material existence
or material world -in the universe.
Because of this
very, very special endowment - G-d has endowed the man with this
brain and intellect and freedom to think and then act upon his thoughts
- to alter his creation and to alter his own life for the better,
hopefully always. It is a precious gift, a precious freedom that
That is where
freedom should really start, with the most useful part of human
life. It is useful in terms of serving human betterment and also
in terms of serving the betterment of the natural environment.
When we think
of our freedom in the United States of America, we see that freedom
started with freedom of the intellect. In fact, our great leaders
of our society would trace the great history of freedom to the philosophers,
the thinkers, men of deep thought. One of the great philosophers
said, "I think, therefore I am (therefore, I exists)."
For human identity,
we have to start with the human mind. The human mind is where we
see the true human identity. If we were not free thinkers, if we
could not think independent of our circumstances, if we were created
and formed in the earth like an animal or plant, we would be governed
The bird builds
a nest; it is instinct, habit over a long period of time. It has
become habit for the bird to build the nest.
We could take
any other living creature in creation and look at its life and history,
and we will see the same picture - that they are not changing the
way that man has changed.
They have not
changed the way they live over long periods of time, the stretch
of their lifeline or existence, except when you look at the progress
for their biology.
that many of these creatures, the way they look now, they did not
look like that originally. But they were not formed yet, so we are
not really talking about those creatures. If you are talking about
something biological or some germ for a dog and it is not looking
like or having the picture of a dog, then we are not talking about
It is the same
thing for humans. If you are talking about some form of life that
existed but didn't take on this design and this picture that we
have, then you are not really talking about humans.
You are talking
about some existence of life. But once that life takes a life form
then we can say we are talking about human life.
When you look
at man and look at other creatures, we can say that man is much
more superior to all other living things. Man has taken pride in
his superiority, the superiority of his intellect, intelligence
and superiority of his brain.
The brain serves
community. The brain serves family. The brain serves the human heart.
The heart tells me, "Oh, this is a burden on my heart to look
at these conditions the way they are."
The heart tells
me these are bad conditions in my neighborhood or area, for my friend
or for a stranger. My heart will dictate to me that this is not
Who takes over
the responsibility to do something about it? What part of me does
that? It is my brain. So when the Prophet said each of you is a
leader in his own right, entitled to his own opinions, the Prophet
was giving us an idea of freedom in Al-Islam.
We have a concept
we call Shura, and that Shura is a governing body. We are told in
our Holy Book, the Qur'an, that the believers, the Muslims, conduct
our affairs by Shura.
This means having
members in a body qualified upon their good character and knowledge
and experience as Muslims, how to judge a matter, how to contribute
to decision making on all levels of concern, from the smallest to
This is required
of Muslims. If we address an issue in our life, we should address
it with respect for one another, those who have knowledge, experience
and good character and can make a contribution to a discussion and
to coming to a decision. It is called Shura Baiynihum.
That is respect
for each other's character and intelligence. A lot of us forget
that intelligence evolves man; it evolves even man's moral life.
Intelligence evolves man's romance with females. Without intelligence,
his romance would be disgraceful in a human society.
We tend to want
to separate moral life from intelligence or rational life. We can't
do that. Moral life is intelligent life, if it is advancing. There
is intelligence in every aspect of the human form. There is intelligence
in my hands, in my ears, in my skin. If something gets on my skin
and my skin tells me it is uncomfortable, that is intelligence in
my skin. Man's whole life is intelligence.
When the baby
cries because it has dirtied its diaper, it is so someone will come
and clean it and put on a nice diaper. Do you call that morals?
Has the baby grown up to understand what we mean by morals? It is
not morals, it is intelligence.
We seem to categorize
intelligent life, saying this way is moral and this other way is
rational. You cannot make that kind of separation and be correct.
If it is good moral thinking, it is also rational.
be "freedom of the dome." This is the "free dome"
on top of the house, on top of the temple. The President sits in
the Oval Room, a big dome. Churches and Mosques like to have in
their designs big domes. It all started with the head, the brain.
An open area
is really a reference to the sky. Country dwellers, when they wake
up in the morning, don't look at buildings and all of this that
obstructs the view. They look at open land, and it seems as if the
sky is coming down and touching the earth — like it is one
big dome over the earth.
That is the
freedom we want, the freedom to engage the total environment with
our brains. All of us won't be interested to do that. But those
who will be interested, we want them to do that.
We want philosophers
in modern times; they shouldn't just be a thing of the past. We
want philosophers who will engage creation with their intelligence,
with their hearts. The heart is intelligence.
Nat King Cole
sung a song once titled "My Foolish Heart." For there
to be a foolish heart, there also must be an intelligent heart or
he wouldn't have used that kind of language. We want intelligence
and to take pride in intelligence. We want freedom in our intelligence.
You can lock
my body up in a cell for some reason, justified or not, but if I
have an active mind, my mind will be free. And I will make a lot
of progress for my life while physically confined. Maybe, it will
be a year or two or 10 to 20 years in confinement. Still, I will
come out with a plan to build a wonderful life for myself, using
my intelligence when my body was confined. My intelligence was free.
The idea of
freedom that we have today, I would say, is a reaction to bad experiences
or reaction to denials. "Oh, the United States used to hold
us back. They aren't going to hold me back anymore. I am free now!"
So you are free
to play music so loud, it hurts my ears, punishes my ears and with
about 10 years of it, I won't be able to hear. But I am free, and
I can turn this box up as loud as it will go and pull up beside
you and give you some, too. They will pull up beside you in the
street and shake your car with their volume. You are free to do
You are free
to be vulgar, to be rude, disrespectful in your home, to disrespect
family members - your mother, your father - this is freedom? No.
That is not freedom. It is only freedom for the ignorant interest,
not for the intelligent interest. Real freedom starts with the freedom
for the intelligent interest — not for the ignorant interest.
I hope we will
be able to come back to what is real freedom. This is freedom in
Islam and also for Bible people. We have the same freedom given
to us by The One G-d, Who revealed the Scriptures to the Prophets.
The Christians have it as the Bible, and we have it as our Qur'an,
the Holy Books.
that I am telling you something about Islamic freedom that is not
also true of freedom for the people who follow the Bible.
ANSWERS presented by Imam Shaheed Abdul Ghani, Imam Darnell Karim
and Imam Elam Muhammad
What is the greatest hold back today to keep us from enjoying our
freedoms, the freedom of mind or whatever?
The greatest hold back is the separation from progressive life,
the loss of our best traditions. That is the greatest hold back.
We have lost our best traditions.
before the Emancipation Proclamation, were leading their people
to have an appreciation for human life and to not tolerate a life
subhuman or the life of a slave under a people that claimed human
superiority over Blacks.
That was the
beginning of our freedom. Our leaders, males and females, our thinking
people who proved to be very helpful and got recognition from their
own people in the bad circumstances became the mouthpiece for those
They were trying
to address us to give us a stronger spirit for declaring our right
to be treated as other human beings are treated - Whites or anybody
was taken over by the church in time and became the place for those
discussions. The text of the preacher would have teachings and words
that would influence the members of that subjected, controlled society,
to get a better sense of worth as a person and to build on that,
so their spirit to demand change and better would grow.
So from the
slaves and church leadership, from DuBois and the political leadership
we would progress. These leaders were doing the same thing: Addressing
the need for us to appreciate the great beautiful life that we call
human life and put pressure on a society that was denying us to
came other movements. In education, we had Carter G. Woodson, and
he was saying the way we were perceiving our own life was influenced
by those who were denying us our life. And that we should come to
see our life with our own eyes and our own intelligence and take
responsibility for writing our own history.
When we look
at our life in the past and how that life was advanced from slavery
to today, we see a continuous effort to better the human condition
of Black people — in society and also at home.
That is our
real lifeline and that is the real lifeline of a people. So to forget
that, if we lose that life - we are supposed to give it to our children,
like the ones living on the farms and plantations gave it to their
children. They didn't leave their children without that understanding;
they gave their children that understanding.
that we will progress in the measure we are willing to teach our
children to think. He didn't mean to just think anything. He meant
to think progress for the human life of the Black people.
This is what
we are missing more today than any other thing. We are missing the
traditional life. We are missing the progressive life. We have forgotten
about it and have been separated from it, so we feel no consciousness
to conform to something that is truly ours.
and our life is ours; it is nobody else's. So we don't have that
consciousness anymore. So every influence in the air can reach us,
even the bad influence that can take us away from having a good
human condition into giving us bad human conditions.
The expression in the Qur'an - I will give a few words of it: "Enter
into Islam all the way...." Can you elaborate on that?
Yes. Actually this comes from the root word for Peace. It is saying
enter into the state or condition for Peace with your whole life.
Don't just enter with your individual soul; enter with your family
and your community.
Your life extends.
You are not living separate. Your life is not separated from your
family and your community. Your life belongs to them. So to enter
into Peace completely, don't leave out your interest in your family
and in your community. You won't be satisfied, until all of this
is at Peace.
First, it starts
with the individual. You don't want Peace just for your spiritual
side. A lot of people think that you shouldn't expect Peace in this
world, except for your soul.
So what about
the Peace for my interest in being able to support myself and my
family without begging somebody or being on welfare or public assistance?
of the human life wants Peace. That is what Allah is telling us
in the Qur'an.
There are many misconceptions about Islam in the media that give
a negative image. What is your position on the media and how do
you feel that, as Muslims, we can correct this?
First of all, Islam is to be expressed in community life. Life needs
opportunity for expression. And there is no better opportunity for
expressing human life than the community setting.
So I think if
Muslims will just come into that spirit and know where they are
to focus their life - in community - in time, we will make more
and more contributions to our community picture.
of the African American and the Muslim community will get better
and better. It will improve more and more.
When the south
suburban newspapers learn from us that we are planning our life
in the suburbs, that we intend to have businesses here and homes
in the suburbs and build homes here, they came to us.
came to me and others and were very excited about that. What they
gave us in their report was very favorable; it was impressive and
We can go and talk to them about ideology and all that, but until
we grow our life form in community setting, they are not going to
have too much to say about us.
I have a quote from the Bible on John the Baptist who baptized Jesus,
that says the heavens open up to him and the Spirit came down to
him like a dove. Can you explain that?
I recall reading that in the Bible. John the Baptist, as I understand
it, symbolizes one who wanted to awaken and arouse the senses in
the person. And Jesus, according to John the Baptist, was really
too high — in his mind, in his opinion of the person Christ.
It wasn't comfortable
for John the Baptist to baptize Jesus, but Jesus requested it. And
he had to baptize Jesus. So I think the Scripture is just saying
that when Jesus' human sensitivities were called upon to awaken
or respond, that his sensitivities were not down here on earth with
us. They were in the heavens.
The symbol for
his sensitivities was the dove. Jesus was a Messenger of Peace.
The dove is used to carry messages; it is the messenger bird.
We often speak about Muslims, Christians and Jews in terms of us
having connections with others. How do people of faith find common
grounds with each other - in their faiths? And what do we need to
do to find Scriptural connections with each other?
First, we need to study - if we are going to live together, and
we are — we are not going to have a planet where we can go
to just for Muslims. G-d has put us together, and we have to live
with one another.
The first thing
for us to do is to study what is responsible for my life. Study
what governs my life. For us, it is the Qur'an and Muhammed the
Prophet. For the Christians, it is the Bible, mostly the New Testament
and Christ Jesus.
who want to have dialogue and a working relationship with Christians
or Jews, should feel obligated to study or read what governs their
life. Read and study it with respect, not with prejudices.
Some of us are
not prepared to do that, so they should not head up such an effort.
If they have an interest, they should follow those who head up such
an interest who are free and not restrained by envy or jealousy
or dislike for Christians or any kind of negative thing. Those are
the ones to head up such an effort.
And it is the
same thing from the side of the Christians and Jews. When they want
to dialogue with one another and with us as Muslims, we should make
sure that there is at least a welcome by all parties for one another
and also for what governs their life.
Then be honest
and open. Our acquaintance should grow stronger. How does an acquaintance
grow stronger for anybody, for a friend? It grows stronger, when
you ^ experience living with each 1 other or dealing with each i
other. The acquaintance t should grow stronger.
At first, it will be just talking about similarities for s faith.
That we believe in the Same G-d, that we believe in t the Scriptures,
that we believe in the Angels and all of these similarities. We
should start with just Faith.
But at some
time, our embracing each other upon our common Faith in G-d should
progress to our aspirations: What do you want in this neighborhood,
and what do you want in these United States? Do we want similar
things for ourselves and our children?
Then begin to
address our aspirations. What do Christians want? What is the Christian
life in America? What do the Jews want? What do the Muslims want?
We are the newcomer, so we have to tell them what we want.
Lastly, we have
to be willing to tell them that our Scripture takes issues with
Christians and Jews. We have some issues.
to have a good feeling being your neighbor. But we can't have that
good feeling being your neighbor, without disclosing to you things
that will not make you happy with us."
But it is necessary
for these things to come out, and you will have a better chance
for better relations. If a husband and wife keep secrets from each
other and reveal nothing but those things they know each other is
going to love, some situation or some event is going to bring out
what they are hiding one day.
Now they not
only have what they were hiding working against them, in being comfortable
with one another, they now also have deceit working against them
being comfortable with one another.
You mentioned Carter G. Woodson, when you were talking about freedom.
In the book that he wrote, "Miseducation of the Negro,"
he mentions that the only person dedicated to go to the church would
be the ones looking for money, to line their pockets.
Would that statement
keep those who wanted to help and to be educated not to go to the
church, or how do you think that statement fits in, as Woodson was
trying to bring the people up intellectually?
I can't agree with that opinion. I know there are many people, who
will see an opportunity to make a comfortable life financially or
materially, if they step into the role of a preacher or as leader
of a church. I am sure a lot of them have been attracted to become
leaders in the church for that reason.
But I know the
better church leaders, who have kept the church alive for all of
these many generations, were not going into the church because of
the money they could get. They were going there so they could serve
humanity under G-d. That is what I believe.
A lot of them
are very intelligent, educated and graduated from colleges and universities
and went to divinity school to get their divinity qualifications.
While I can't agree with that, I can understand that expression
and I don't take offense at it.
RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES MISSING
Why? It is because
especially today, we have too many people claiming to be interested
in telling us all about G-d and how to get ourselves ready to meet
G-d, but their lifestyle is that of one who hustles the ignorant
people, the ignorant masses. Their religious principles are not
The real principles
of a religious person or religious leader, we don't see them shining
in them. They are not illuminated by virtues and decency and honesty
and truth. We don't see that when we look at them.
We see show
business and money collected at the end of the show. I can understand
that kind of criticism.
We hate to knock
anybody, but we know that from Islam and Christianity, we find a
good percentage of the leaders uneducated and not established for
their intelligence. There is a problem there.
SEPARATED from LIFELINE
Is this part of the hindrance of African Americans achieving
their goal of freedom?
Yes, I do believe that. In the early history, when we had leaders
making great contributions to the betterment of African Americans,
they sought to be educated and did the best they could to get more
is not that popular now. I think you are correct; it has a lot to
do with the deteriorating community life and moral life and spirituality
of our people.
Thank you for
your comments and questions. They have been very helpful for this
presentation. I would like to take this time to address this life
that has gotten separated, cut off from the lifeline of our people.
When I say lifeline
of our people, I am talking about the best traditions and best performance
we have in our time that we have been in America as a people.
I am addressing
that absence of conscious as to what that did for us, to bring us
to where we are today as a free people in these United States.
I would like
to make a strong appeal to our people at home, to the parents: Uphold
decency. Stand up for decency. Don't let yourself be so burdened
at home with the work you have to do to get ready for work, to keep
the home the, way you want to keep it. Don't let two jobs burden
you so much, that you cant have a word about decency, when it is
When you see
your children, your house getting nasty, speak out against it. When
you see the behavior of persons in the family getting nasty, speak
out against it. Even if it means being hated by the household, speak
out against it.
is standing up for what is good for a per-son, not ignoring what
is bad for the person and seeing them going to hell or to the garbage
can and not trying to stop it.
the Nov. 5, 2006, text of Imam Mohammed's First Sunday Worldwide
As we read in
our Holy Book of Scriptures, "Without G-d's Guidance, there
is no guidance." If all we have is ourselves, it will count
for nothing in the end. Only G-d's Guidance will take us safely
to the end.
PARABLE of the PLANT
We are told
that a parable of human creation is the parable of the creation
of a plant. We know that plant life normally begins in the dark
and eventually grows in size from a seed and breaks the crust of
the earth on top of it and shows itself to us.
That is one
likeness. That both the plant and human seed grow out of our sight,
away from our observation; we can't see what is happening.
But in time,
the growth increases to show us that a child is growing inside the
mother. Eventually, in nine months normally, it presents itself-
it, shows itself to us.
That is one
comparison, But the comparisons get a little more difficult for
us to readily grasp, for there are many, many of them. The child
comes and crawls about on fours, like an animal. But eventually
and not too long, the child makes the effort to stand up straight.
The child manages
to stand up straight, and that is another comparison. The plant
does not present itself as standing up straight, firstly. The plant
is growing roots in the ground and the roots are going down, not
If it has more
than one root, some roots will be growing out and some will be going
down to anchor or stabilize the tree, so that it is firm and balanced.
But in time, the plant shows itself growing up straight. And the
little child comes and is standing up straight now, up on his feet.
When they stand,
they grow in a definite symmetry, they grow in a definite pattern
and make a picture. They obtain the balance; the same that is on
the left side seems to be on the right side.
It is the same
for the plant. Its growth on one side looks exactly like its growth
on the other side. It may differ somewhat, and if it does, it knows
how to adjust its balance.
If a large limb
grows out from a tree, the other side will grow enough weight on
one side to balance out the abnormal side. Normally, the tree will
look the same, on both sides, all around. That is how we humans
in our physical symmetry, we are balanced; what is on the left side
seems to be the same as on the right side. It may be slightly different,
because we spend more energy with our conscious mind and thought.
If the doctor
examines us, he will find that the right side is slightly bigger
than the left side. It is because we are concentrating so much energy
and thought on that side.
are right handed and are using the right side more. Some people
even tend to chew on the right side more than on the left.
throw off the symmetry a little bit, but not enough to be detected
by the average person with average eyes. But I guess we are human
and should have a little defect, for us to have a true picture!
EVERYTHING HAS ITS SEED
with the seed; everything has its seed. The seed is put away from
our eyes, out of sight, away from observation. The seed is placed
hopefully in a quiet and peaceful place, wrapped up, covered away
from the sunlight.
There it grows
in peace. There is a song that says, "I woke up and the sunlight
hurt my eyes. But then I looked at you, and the world was alright
with me." That "you" can be anyone, but one thing
for certain, that person must have truth. Sometimes the light hides
Our light in
the house, our light in our own minds, our limited light sometimes
hides the truth. And we have to see the truth in order to bear the
light. "I can make it in this light; it's alright."
A plant is a
noun, the name of a thing. When we think of the plant, we see life
- plant life. As a noun, also a plant could be an establishment.
The seed is put in the ground for cultivation or to grow, and it
has to be given proper care like the human child.
The job just
begins when you get the child from the mother, just like you get
the seed that has shown itself above the surface of the ground.
Now the work
begins for the farmer. He has to make sure that weeds don't crowd
it out. He has to make sure that it gets proper water.
The same we
have to do for the baby, and there are many comparisons, as we go
on to talk about the plant being a parable for human creation. There
are many similarities to be observed. We will observe only a few.