Advice To Sister Clara Muhammad School
Students: Part 4
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
'Editor's note: The following is excerpted from an address Imam Muhammad delivered August 16 to the elementary and eighth grade graduates of Sister Clara Muhammad School in Chicago. )
I'm sure some of you will graduate from college, and become professional people: doctors, lawyers. mathematicians, bankers, chemists and city builders. I don't know what you may become but we hope that you become great people. But remember that God reminds us that although knowledge is very important, everything must be held together on some pattern of knowledge, it also requires mercy. Never let yourself harden, to the point that you look only for the material advantage or private interests and forget the ocean of people and their concerns, outside of your circle. Remember that with your wisdom, you will also need the balance of good human sensitivities, and to understand that God has encompassed all in wisdom and in mercy.
The Prophet said, "Whoever enters upon the path to seek knowledge, God extends to him the path to Paradise." Isn't it wonderful to know the importance of knowledge in our religion? God says in the Qur'an, to show you that the Prophet was preaching and coming from an awareness that God had given him — 'And seek with the means that He has given you, the Hereafter, but don't forget to get your share of the present world."
In our religion, the world is not evil. The world is God's creation. And that's it. In our religion, it is not sinful to want to make some money. It is your duty and human obligation, to your family, your dependents and yourself to want to make money.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to get rich. In fact. I'm waiting to hear a student tell me, "I want to be a trillionaire." That's what I'd like to hear one day, coming from one of our students. 'I want to be a trillionaire. I want to have so much money that I want to employ people all over the world who will be working for my companies.' That's what I'd like to hear one day, because there is nothing sinful with getting your share of the world.
Your share may he bigger than mine. All our shares are not equal. God has created us alike and He has created us differently. My pleasure and joy is in telling you what God says. But your pleasure and joy may be in helping improve the physical situation for human beings on this earth. And if that's your joy and pleasure, you may go much farther in the material world than I will ever go. So your share of the world may be much greater than mine.
Also, our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave."
I want to remind you. as I did for the high school — that when you finish school, don't stop studying. When you get on the job — in fact. most of these companies tell you when they hire you, "Well, we know you've finished school, but now you really have to go to school." You have to read the current information in your field. If you don't, you will find that the school didn't help very much.
So, I can't impress upon you too much to follow the Prophet's instructions when he said, 'Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.' But let me add here, that I believe I see in the Prophet's advice another interest, even above that, and that interest is this: When your mother got you from the cradle, you were innocent. When your little mind, eyes and ears opened up you weren't rebellious; you hadn't learned yet how to be rebellious. You were cooperative and innocent and look how fast you learned.
You learned a language in two years and some of the older folks have been trying to learn Arabic for 40 years and haven't quite mastered it yet. You learned the language in about two years, because you were so innocent. Your ears were wide open. You weren't arguing with the instructions. Oh you were great! So I see the Prophet telling us to let that life be continuous, from the cradle to the grave. Don't lose the innocence that you had in the cradle. don't lose the curiosity that you had. Babies are born curious. They want to see and understand everythhing. Don't lose that innocence and curiosity. "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave." the Prophet, peace he upon him, has told us.
Lastly, on the matter of distinction: Have an appreciation for distinction. Don't try to be like any Muslim, try to be like the best Muslim. Don't read the Qur'an like any Muslim, try to read the Qur'an like the best Muslim. God says, "And follow the best thereof.-
Why did God tell us in this book to 'follow the best thereof? All of it is good. No part of it is bad. Every bit of this Book is perfect and good, but God says, 'Follow the best thereof.' Why? Because there are provisions here for the person who is weak. But there is a challenge here for the person who is strong. So if I read the Qur'an as a weak person, I will take from the Qur'an everything that will satisfy me or justify my weakness. But if I read it and follow God's instructions and take the best thereof, then I'm going to enter the Qur'an reading as a strong person ready for a challenge. God says if you're not in good physical condition or you're sick or something, then you don't have to pray standing. You can pray sitting. And if that's too difficult for you, you can pray lying down in your bed. Some of us are tired and weak. We'll say, there is nothing wrong. 'I'm sick, I'm gonna pray lying in my bed,' and there is nothing wrong with you. So we begin to take the weaker of what God provided, for those who are really weak and who really have legitimate excuses. We take that and make ourselves qualified for those excuses. So follow the best thereof.
As the Americans say, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Now if you didn't understand the point the other way, I made it another way for you. Don't look for the easy way out, because the easy way is usually the way that's going to exact the most.
Somewhere down the line you'll find that you'll pay more for it than if you had went on and approached it in an honorable, dignified fashion and accepted your responsibility and gave yourself in an impressive way to your task or difficulty.
Also. you must understand. that you come from a line of people whose life in this country goes back to slavery. And there was a time in our life — because we were cut off from traditional knowledge and . life in Africa when we did not have the ability to make right distinctions. We must be able to distinguish between good performance and bad performance, excellent performance and fair performance. Right now, many African-Americans performing poorly, as a people in America. Newcomers are coming into this country and are getting a bigger share of America's material wealth. than we have. Although we have been in America as long, if not longer, than most of the people presently living in this country. And for a hundred years or a little better, we have been free by law.
But with our freedom and opportunity, to compete in America 'or the material wealth of this land, we have performed poorly.