The Muslim Journal
1999 Annual Islamic Convention: Part II
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
Righteousness! We expect righteousness of any people who say they are religious. We expect, at least, a respect in them for righteousness. If they say, "I'm a religious person," the first thing that comes to my mind is that they prefer a life of righteousness over a life of sin.
But we vary as to how we state the meaning of righteousness. We need conditions to survive; we need certain conditions that G-d put in us originally and that G-d wants us to keep. We need those conditions in order to survive.
What is righteousness? In our Holy Book, the following is stated in the Qur'an of the meaning of righteousness:
"G-d says, 'Remember We made The House a place of assembly for all people and a place of safety. And take you the Station of Abraham (the Prophet Ibrahim, the second father) as a place of prayer. And we coveted with Abraham and Ismael, that they sanctify My House for those who compass it round and use it as a retreat to bow and prostrate yourselves therein in prayer'.
"And remember Abraham said, 'My Lord, make this city a city of peace and feed its people with fruits, such of them that believe in G-d and the last days.' He said: 'Yes. And such as reject faith, for a while will I grant them their pleasure."
We wonder is it just that the wicked, the wrongdoers, the criminals, the mean people, the oppressors - how is it that they seem to enjoy the pleasures of life and the pleasures of the world, while we who are trying to obey G-d and be righteous and faithful and good at heart are suffering so much because of their wrongdoing? We wonder about that, don't we?
G-d said that He made all of this for the faithful, for the doers of good. But He also has granted that the wrongdoers enjoy it for a while. I don't care how long your life is believed to be. You ask: "How long am I going to live? A hundred years. How long am I going to live? Seventy years. How long am I going to live? Seventy million years."
You don't want to think that after 70 million years and one more year, there is death! You don't want to think about that. That all of this is going to be erased and you are going to be gone forever and nothing left anymore. None of us, in our souls, want to believe that.
All of us, in our souls, want to believe that there is a higher form of life. We want to believe that there is eternity. That G-d is a Just G-d. Why did He make me fall in love with Him and then He is going to cut me out so that I can't remember Him? I'll be dead and gone and won't be able to remember Him!
That is like a beautiful woman with all of her virtues making me love her and then telling me after so long: "You are not going to have me anymore! You are not going to even be able to reach me!"
That wouldn't be right. That is not my G-d. I believe in eternity! And in my soul I want a life that will live after everything else has passed away of the material things, of the material nature. That is what I want in my soul.
So G-d is satisfying me. I don't know about you, but I use to wonder about what was going to happen to the KKK who did those evil things to us. What was going to happen to those who killed little Emmitt Till in Mississippi? I use to wonder would they drink and have a party and party and party and die a natural death and not have to face the Court of Justice?
Now, I don't wonder any more. You might have laughed until the end of your life, but you are going to wake up in another reality and pay for your crimes.
So G-d says, "Such as reject faith, for a while will I grant them their pleasure." Isn't that a Just G-d? He gave you a free mind; He gave you freedom of choice.
He's not going to take it away from you.
"Oh, G-d gave me freedom of choice, so I want to jump in the fire!" Okay, but that might be the last time you make any jump!!! "I still want to jump in the fire!" Okay now, this may be the last time you make any jump! (quieter) "I still want to jump in the fire!!!" Okay now, this may be the last time you make any jump. (The response gets quieter and quieter each time and eventually down to a whisper.) "I still want to jump, jump, jump in the fire!!!!!!!" He hears nothing. He jumps into the fire, and it's finished. He jumps no more.
G-d says, "But soon will I drive them to the torment of the fire, an evil destination it is indeed." That is Qur'an, Chapter 2, verses 125 through 126.
Continuing these words from G-d, G-d says, "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward east and west." We have to give up this superficial ideas of what piety and righteousness are. Someone will ask, "Oh, you are religious, right?" But the average one who says that means, "Oh, you are not real, right?"
Well, let us see if righteousness is real. Let us continue to read what G-d has revealed. "But it is righteousness to believe in G-d and in the Last Day and in the Angels and the Revealed Books and the Messengers of G-d, to spend of your wealth out of love for G-d on your near kin - take care of the family, and orphans - take care of those young children who are deprived of having a parent - a father, a mother, or both, the needy and those who are children of the road - the homeless who have no place to go; they are just on the road and in the streets all the time.
"And spend for those who ask" - the beggars, we call them, give them something; "for the ransom of slaves," those enslaved by rich and powerful masters, "or captives of war" - spend for their freedom from slavery; "to be steadfast in prayer" - this is righteousness.
G-d gave us this, to the Muslims in the Qur'an or to any people who would accept it. G-d gave us this definition of what righteousness is and what piety is. "And to practice regular charity." Don't just give when you have a lot. Feel it as an obligation on you to keep giving, whether you have a lot or a little.
My mother use to send me to the Temple of Islam, it wasn't called the mosque back then. And we have been a people in transition ever since we heard the first word - Muslim. My mother said to me, "Son, I am giving you a nickel" - and you know that was way back there, a nickel - "and when you get to the Temple, you ask them to let you donate. And you give that nickel in charity."
And I would do that. My mother taught me charity when I was a little boy, the size of my son now who is 9 years old, and it stayed in me. Sometimes a person would approach me who looked like an alcoholic or as they were called "wine heads," looking bad and pitiful.
I don't say, "No, I'm not going to give you anything because you are not going to do anything but hurt yourself some more with it and take another drink." I give them something, and I say to them: "Now, don't mistreat yourself." If they do it, at least they got help in more than the couple of dollars I gave them, when I told them: "Don't mistreat yourself." And they were ready to listen to it because they saw the $2 coming.
Let us continue on the meaning of righteousness. According to the Qur'an or the Word of G-d to us, "... and fulfill the contracts which you have made." Contract also means a promise, not only a business contract, or serious agreement that you made. It also means a promise and if you make a promise, you keep your promise. That is righteousness.
"To be firm and patient in pain" - the Christians know about this - "or suffering or adversity and throughout all periods of vexation ot panic." When you are pressed so hard, that you can't control yourself and want to panic, G-d says, "Be firm and patient."
What in the world can keep me that way - "firm and patient" - except faith in something that I know to be bigger, more powerful and in control of the things that are trying to make me come out of my peace or come out of my firmness. That is G-d.
If you perceive G-d correctly as haying all knowledge -omnipotent, knowing all things, omnipresent - present everywhere, closer to you than you are to your own self, yet farther away from you than you can imagine, and yet as close to you as your own jugular vein; if you perceive G-d to have power over all things and control over everything, testing His human beings - testing you -and you remain firm and steadfast like Abraham.
They put Abraham in the fire, and they said, "Oh, we're finished with Abraham." And they opened the furnace and looked in and something had happened. Abraham was cool! G-d has power over the flames. Such are the people of truth, the G-d-fearing.
Many of the readers will admit to what G-d is saying here. What is righteousness? "Righteousness is also truthfulness." Truthfulness. The righteous are the people of truth. And righteousness is faith. In the beginning, the definition of righteousness is that you believe in G-d. And it concludes with "such are the people of truth, the G-d fearing."
In these crowded days, our growth is crowding us out and we're fearing that there will not be enough on this earth for all of us. That the population is going to double in about five years and we are fearing the end of things. Fear nothing that is happening in this world, for G-d has charge over all of this.
I'm not fearing what will happen or that we are going to be too crowded. I know that if we are too crowded, G-d is going to show man the answer. G-d is going to give man the answer. And when I say man, I mean "man" like it was in the beginning of time.
In the beginning of time, man and woman were one entity and He caused them to separate and become male and female from one entity. He caused them to mate, and from those two came all the people, the many, many millions on this earth.
Yes, we believe in the conclusion of things. And we believe in following G-d's light, so that we will know how this world is going to be concluded. It is going to conclude with us returning to oneness.
Oneness: One G-d, one design on creation, one system of matter, one destination for all things. And that oneness protects our differences and our diversity. That oneness is our protection. Keep the faith in One G-d, that is your protection. Believe that your human family is one human family of many families - the black, the brown, the yellow - but one family. And believe that in your soul you want the same thing for your children, for your future.
(To be continued)