Egypt takes the lead — Part 2
Imam W. Deen Mohammed discusses significance of Medal of Honor
Interview By Ayesha K. Mustafaa,
Chicago, IL — On September 22, 1992. Imam W. Deen Mohammed discussed in detail his elation over receipt of the Medal of Honor from Egypt and his long time regard for Egypt's history and its leading role in the Muslim world.
"Some things need special attention mainly for me to express my thanks for the honor
that was being made." said Imam W. Deen Mohammed in response to his recent trip to Egypt on September 10,1992 to receive the Medal of Honor given by President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak and hosted by the Awqaf Foundation of Egypt.
Q: How did you first hear of this Honor Presentation and how did it take place?
IWDM: We were given the opportunity to open correspondence with the Minister of Endowments and Religious Concerns, an Office called Awqaf, His Excellence Dr. Muhammad Ali Mahgoub. His assistant, Dr. AI-Massy, visited with us here in Chicago about fifteen years ago, and was one of the first persons of a high level in government to visit us after I had received the support to the leadership of this community. Dr. Al-Massy responded to his visit here with an offer of fifty books on the five daily prayers with the English translation and picture illustrations. I was not aware that Egypt was translating books into English.
Also we were given permission to have this book printed ourselves. We now have fifty and the permission to reprint this book here for ourselves. We will share the first fifty copies with selected mosques. When we produce the printed copies here, these books will be available at cost through the Ministry of W. Been Mohammed. Dr. Al-Massy also assured me that I will receive more of their publications with the English translation. They will be shipped to us through the Egyptian Consulate there in Chicago.
I am encouraged by our meeting with Mr. Yasser A. El-Naggar. We met with him just before making this recent trip, and he was the one who had our flight tickets and took care of the visas for us. He is the Vice-Consul General. We are also very encouraged by his assistant, Ms. El-Shabini. This notice came to me, and I was somewhat surprised. And I saw it right away as another great opportunity for all of those associated with me. This gave us an excellent opportunity to correspond with the Honorable Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, His Eminence Jadul Haqq Alt Jadul Haqq. This was a rare opportunity for the three of us — Imam Abdul Karim Hasan, Imam Clyde Rahman, and myself— to have this opportunity to meet the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar.
I had seen him on several occasions at top level meetings in Saudi Arabia and in other places, but this was to me an opportunity to meet him closely and in a way I had not had before. It is something that touched the heart. Insha Allah, some of our studious candidates for scholarships abroad will take advantage of a number of scholarships to be offered to Clara Muhammad High School graduates.
Dr. Muhammad Ali Mahgoub hosted our group on a boat on the Nile as mentioned last week in the Muslim Journal. The dining was elegant and the meal was several courses with the most tasty of food I have ever had. The entertainment with singing and with a gentleman playing a drum, both looked Egyptian and were the top entertainers in Egypt.
We were hosted in a fabulous way by the Minister of Awqaf, Dr. Mahgoub. This trip also was very exciting in terms of cultural information, for I have an interest in such special and great history like that of the Egyptian people. I missed the opportunity to take full advantage for this on this trip; this was a special occasion and did not allow us to have but about 30 hours there in Egypt.
I recall, however, my visit to the Library of Cairo when we were in Egypt 15 years ago. There are also the ancient sites around Cairo. The Minister of Awqaf assured me that we would get another invitation to visit Egypt perhaps next year. I hope to then take advantage of the cultural enrichment that is there for persons of my mind. I found that when we visited 15 years ago there were many professors coming from the western hemisphere, from Europe and from America, and they have been excited for centuries about what is there in terms of history and the challenge there for the research in the Museums of Cairo and in the pyramids and historical sites that are all around.
I was very excited about visiting Egypt and hate that I did not have at least two weeks there to take more advantage of the cultural and historical benefits out of this trip as well.
Any person interested in going to Egypt as a tourist should have the boat ride. We stayed at the Maranda Hotel on the Nile River and had a very enchanting view of Cairo from our hotel suite. On my first visit to Egypt we resided at the Hilton on the Nile and that overlooked the pyramids and the Sphinx. That visit over 15 years ago also resulted from our contact with the Ministry of Awqaf. Dr. Al-Massy of Awqaf came to Chicago and visited with me at my office that was then at the mosque on Stony Island Avenue.
Of most importance was our being selected for Egypt's Gold Medal Award is another great honor and an elevation in the history of our movement to achieve Muslim life and its invitation to live a full and complete life of excellence. This I believe was and still is the motivation for us who were introduced to Islam by the first experience of Elijah Muhammad, our late leader. And I think that motivation is staying with us, and if anything it is stronger now. We desire the Muslim life and we desire the fullness of that life and the excellence of that life. I think the opportunity that we have been given and the honor paid to us there in Egypt is just another peak in that movement and in that history.
This ceremonious visit attended by President M. Hosni Mubarak, himself, had great rewards. It greatly honored us all by that ceremonious occasion. We were introduced individually to the President for hand shaking and a brief exchange of words of the human heart. I expressed my heart to him on behalf of all of us here in the United States. He expressed himself to all of us as a Muslim brother and as a person interested in all Muslims around the world. This allowed our select group an opportunity to meet privately with the President before coming out for the ceremony and to also meet with the Grand Sheikh of the illustrious Al-Azhar.
We were given the opportunity to attend Jumuah at the mosque of Al-Azhar, which was very special. We heard the Imam give the lecture there on Jumuah and followed him in prayer. It was special for all of us.
We are especially appreciative to Imam Abdul Karim Hasan for his professional service as a good photographer and reporter on this trip for Muslim Journal. I just want to restate that this visit, this special honor and visit was a great respect paid to every one of us.
Q: How many of the presidents of Egypt have you met with? We understand that you also met with President Nassar. And we know that you met with President Sadat.
IWDM: Yes we did.
Q: Although it is a part of the Muslim world, a lot of people have begun to look at Egypt as a secular country. Do you see that as an accurate view of Egypt in general?
IWDM: No. I think the presence of Al-Azhar University and the closeness for the government and the President with that ancient and very illustrious institution of Al-Azhar will never permit Egypt to become of such make up that it would be characterized as a secular community or secular society. I don't see that. But Cairo will receive most people. It is a city that is very much overcrowded and people are rushing about. The situation there for transportation and its over crowding would make people think that this is what Egypt is about. But it is not what Egypt is about. Egypt is the institution, it is the government, and it is its people. Its people are influenced more by Al-Azhar and their religious beliefs, than they are by modern city life and all of its hustle and bustle. That is my opinion.