The Muslim Journal
The Career Rooted In Scripture Part 1
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(This text is from the address given by Imam W. Deen Mohammed at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee on Sept. 9, 2000-Part I.)
We are very pleased to be with you again in Milwaukee, Wise., with the Community and on the campus of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and to share with you on the program. I wanted to be here earlier, especially for the panel, and 1 asked the Imam here to have the hosts to get me an audiotape so that I can listen to it in my car.
This is the first time I have been asked to address this subject- I think of it in the context of the secular world, more so than in the context of the religious world. That is "Career." But as I thought about it, I said this is really rooted in scripture, this responsibility to work for a career.
So I want to first say that we praise G-d, the One Lord, the Creator of all things and Who created the special creation - the human being, our humanity. We praise Him, and we witness that He is One and there is nothing worthy of worship other than the One G-d.
And we witness that Muhammed, to whom the Qur'an was revealed, is the Prophet mentioned in the Torah and in the Injil, for the two books in their earliest forms in the time of Moses and in the time of Jesus, peace be upon both of the prophets. They are now called Old Testament and New Testament.
I find the words that our Holy Book refers to in the Old Testament. And I do believe, by reason, that they are also in the New 'testament. Allah says of Muhammed, without any attempt to establish a reference in the Bible, the Prophet to whom He gave our Holy Book, the Qur'an, for all mankind, that he is an unlettered prophet and messenger. This means uneducated, unschooled.
And it says of him that he is to come and free the people of the burdens that burden them and the yokes that weigh them down, of the chains and shackles that bound them. He is to break every bond of slavery. And I understand that job not as a job that one takes up and makes weapons or gets weapons or arm one's self to go to battle with slaveholders or slave masters to free people.
A saying of Muhammed the Prophet is that the pen that writes is mightier than the sword. So when we really understand Muhammed the Prophet as a liberator, the scene of that liberation is education. That is the scene of that liberation. Education brings freedom from all forms of slavery. An educated man cannot be enslaved. You can lock him up, but you can't enslave his mind, you can't enslave his soul. And that is the best freedom.
We are very much proud of these institutions like these. And we are very proud of our own private schools, a very precious creation of our community - the University of Islam first and then the Clara Mohammed Schools. We are very proud of these schools. And we hold education as a priority and as the instrument that we must use to advance the good human life, the best of human life. Nothing else is going to do that for us but correct education.
You can free people physically, but if you don't educate their lot they will still be slaves. If not slaves to the former master, then slaves to their own defects, to their own weaknesses. They will still be slaves, and they will be vulnerable and exploited by the strong. There are forms of slavery after physical slavery.
But for us, that education must respect G-d, the Creator of the heavens and earth. And we haven't learned anything and we are not capable of doing anything, unless G-d already has given us something to work with. If G-d didn't create us with the brain and the human sensitivity, we couldn't do this great human work that we have done historically on this earth. That includes the great work that is being done now - science and technology. It couldn't be done, if we didn't use the best of what G-d gave us.
Schools can't give you human brains; they can only give you something to feed that human brain with. And what they give you to feed the human brain must come from what G-d already has made. So we can't really advocate education as a number one priority, without acknowledging that without the Creator, G-d, we could not have any knowledge at all.
That is what the learned say in Islam: "G-d, You have knowledge. We have nothing." They mean we have nothing that we can claim as originally ours; everything that we have we got it because of G-d.
I want to express also our appreciation for the Muslim American Student Association. I met the president and I was told that it was a female, but you do not find many females in those positions. Although it is changing now, you don't expect females to be in those positions. So, I am thinking it is a male, although something is not settling too well. So I am looking at the sister, and she is meeting me here as I arrived. And I wanted to ask her, "Where is the president?" And the brother with her, her husband, pointed to her and said, The person you are looking at and talking to is the president."
We thank Allah for these fine and brilliant young people for making their contribution for the benefit of all of us. We thank G-d for them, and I thank them for the honorarium too. It came right in time, and it wasn't peanuts either.
So I said to myself how am I going to handle this topic on career. I could tell them about my life and my career, how I have made a career of my life. But that wasn't good enough. And it came to me suddenly, that is what G-d offered the first man He made - a great career.
A career differs from a job. We have said this and have heard youngsters say this: "I want to get me a good job, when I get grown." But when you say, "I want to have a good career," it means a little more than just saying "I want to have a good job." A job is one thing and a career is another, A job suggests that you want something to help you survive, but the term career says more than just that. The term career says that you want to be recognized for achievement and you want to make a contribution.
People who go after a career are expected to give something to the public. While the person who just goes after a job is not expected to give the public anything. So I believe that when G-d made the first man and woman, our first parents, He oriented them upon their own creation that He had designed to seek a career.
A career means fame, too. A career suggests that you are looking for fame, that you want to be known. What is wrong with that, if you want to be known for good works, for works that serve the many and not just the one, yourself.
The person seeking a career, we know, has some professional occupation and not just any occupation. When you look up the word professional, it has in it to vow and service and academic achievement.
It was Islam and Muhammed the Prophet and the Great Book, that its first words from G-d said, "Read!" The first words to Prophet Muhammed were "Read! In the Name of your Lord Who created...." And it goes on to say "... created man from a clot of congealed blood; read and your Lord is Most Generous, Who taught man by the pen - the writing pen."
G-d says, "If all the trees were made into pens and the seven seas doubled or multiplied over, the knowledge of G-d would not be used up." This is pointing to education, to the value of the objective world and an objective pursuit of the knowledge locked up in that objective world.
To connect our interest in career and religion, the focus has to be the community. And I believe that is why in scripture Abraham is a single person, but he is also a community. G-d says to us in our Holy Book, "And Abraham was a community."
If we understand it, Muhammed the Prophet, G-d's peace be upon him, is also a community. But Muhammed is in the image of the family tree of Adam, the first man, and of Jesus Christ, too, peace be on both of them. In the New Testament, we are given the genealogy of Jesus Christ and it traces his genealogy back to the first man, Adam.
It says, "... who was made by G-d," That G-d made the first man, and the first man is the father of all men, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammed. They are of the lineage of Adam, the first man.
I have read mystical books on Adam by learned Saints in Christianity and those writers say that Adam in his creation, before it was spoiled by the seducer, the Satan who tempted him and his wife, his form was beautiful, bright, shinny and pure. This is the description that they give of him, Adam.
So Adam was made perfect by G-d, and if you understand Genesis this is all very much necessary for my presentation. Genesis says that everything that G-d made was faultless. He made the world in six days and in the seventh day. He completed it and everything was faultless. This is according to the Bible.
We know that in the Qur'an, only good is attributed to G-d. And bad or corruption is attributed to the enemy of G-d, the Satan, and to the weakness of human beings who follow the invitation of the Satan.
This is the way it is given in the Qur'an: G-d is a Good G-d. And as Muhammed the Prophet says, "G-d is good and He accepts only good," So G-d is not a god who is good and then hires some bad people to work for him, "G-d is Good, and He accepts only good."
He is not a Good G-d, if He were to say, "Oh, if you will give me some money from those narcotics you are selling there, I'll appreciate it. Since you are making more than you can use, give me some charity, 10 percent of the money you are making on the sell of drugs." No, G-d is not that kind of god. G-d is The Good G-d and accepts only good.
And He obligates us to be like Him, in His Attributes. In the Christian language they say, "We are in the image of G-d." I believe we are saying exactly what they are saying, when we say that we are of G-d's Attributes, and G-d obligates us to grow with His Attributes. G-d says, "Create yourself with the creation blocks that I have provided for you." And those are His wonderful Attributes of Wisdom, but more important for human beings, and of Mercy, of Kindness, of Forgiveness, etc.
In our Holy Book, G-d says, "Oh you who have faith, be not like those who worked to harm the works of Moses. However, G-d strengthened him, meaning Moses, in righteousness against what they uttered, and he was honorable in G-d's Presence." Here G-d is asking all of us to be not like those who worked to harm Moses.
Did they work to harm Moses' flesh? No, they worked to make him not worthy of the high honor G-d had created him for and that he was earning as a Prophet of G-d. It was to take away that honor and to attribute falsehood and sin and weakness to the man, to spoil his beautiful character in the eyes of the people. So that they would be freer as followers of his to give themselves also to sin. The ones who do works like that are really very close to Satan, himself; they work very close as supporters of Shaitan, the Satan.
A good man will come and they will praise him and get you to identify them as followers of that great man or good man, then once you relax your guard, then they start to make hints seemingly to praise him but are meant to take him down. I have heard people refer to me, though I am not a prophet and beside those great giants in my eyes I consider myself nothing. But a person in our following will say, "You know the Imam is human. We love our Imam, but he is human."
The person who was saying that was known to be a morally weak human. So when he says that, the ones who listen to him get the message, "Oh, the Imam is weak, too. The Imam is not all that strong morally. This man is telling us that the Imam is human just like he is, and he is weak too." He will suggest that we hang out together, to bring you down to their level of weaknesses.
I know from experience what they do to people like me. So I can understand what those great prophets must have suffered. Yes, I know what I am supposed to be talking about, and I am on it and going directly to the subject and making a lot of progress, too. It says, "But G-d strengthened him in righteousness against what they uttered against Moses, and he was honorable in G-d's presence."
Now, Prophet Muhammed was established in history, and history says that he was established in the public of his time as the honest and trustworthy one. He was also established as the truthful one. These two attributes of Muhammed the Prophet are found in the Bible; they are in the major theme of the Bible that begins in Genesis and goes to the end of Revelation. These two names are in that great scheme, that great movement of scripture that takes us from the beginning of man's creation to where he should be in the end.
According to our knowledge of Islam and according to my knowledge of the Bible, our world depends on us having leadership that is honest and trustworthy and truthful. And we are given a lot of help. I think you are guessing now where am I going with this "career."
I am suggesting that to be successful in a career, you have to be based in your best creation, in your best nature. You have to carry that best creation of yours forward. You have to develop in yourself the best human qualities, and the best of those human qualities are G-d's Own Gift to us. Really, in those excellent qualities we are a reflection or shadow of G-d, Himself - in the best of those attributes or qualities.
I am also suggesting that if you don't respect that and don't try to be honest and truthful and trustworthy, you fail as a career seeker. A career doesn't suggest that it is always honorable, for a criminal sometimes can have a very impressive career. They are so impressive, that I will go and see the movie two or three times! But with the righteous, they were not successful; they were failures.
Career criminals were successful in gaining notoriety, in enjoying the comforts of the material world for a while and fame for a while. But they were not successful because we know in the scheme of things what G-d desires for human life was left out, and their names will not be remembered. In time, they will be totally forgotten. They will not have fame; they will not have honor; they will lose all of that in time. For G-d's Way will prevail.
To be continued