(Reprinted from the Muslim Journal (9-26-03)
An Exclusive Interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Wed., Sept. 10, 2003
(The following interview was conducted by Bro. Nathaniel Omar with Imam W. Deen Mohammed for Muslim Journal.)
MJ: We want to begin by talking about the sincere believer, those sincere believers who know you and trust you and still see you as their leader. What is your message for them.
Imam Mohammed: My message for them is that once you are a real Muslim and a Believer, you never change from being a Muslim and a Believer. Once you are a good Muslim and a good Believer, you never change.
You stay a good Muslim and a Believer, for G-d has already blessed you with faith and G-d does not change that for you. You keep that. If you go back, you were never a Believer in the first place.
For an Imam, once you are an Imam who is a good Muslim and a believer, you never resign from being an Imam. You are an Imam until you die; you die an Imam.
So that is my statement to all of these good people who have supported me all of this time and helped me to accomplish these good things that we have been able to accomplish.
MJ: Obviously, there are some Imams whose performance you are not pleased with. So what is your message or advice to those good Imams who do support you?
Imam Mohammed: I would prefer to make a statement to them regarding the element that is not like them that refuses to give me open and full support. They have a separate agenda and have always had a separate agenda.
They always go back among themselves in privacy and look at what I suggest and see if what I suggest can be accepted by them, according to what they have on their agenda for themselves.
They were back in the time of my father; nothing has changed. And they have pretended to be here supporting me before the general membership. They pretended to be in support of my father and they were not.
They go back to themselves and say something differently. "Now we've heard what the Imam said, so what are we going to do? What is our position?" That is what they say when they get back to themselves and away from us, out of our eyesight and hearing.
I would like to speak to the Imams who support me, but speak to them regarding this situation in the leadership of the American Society of Muslims.
We should understand that these Imams, some of them, I believe, care more about then new government jobs that they have because of my opening up the community to embrace all good structures of American society, including our government. They have these positions because of that. They are chaplains and earning good money.
Now they value these government jobs more than they value their service to the believers. That shouldn't be. The government, I don't think, likes preachers or religious leaders who will sacrifice his religious service in the interest of keeping a check from the government. The government doesn't even like people like that. These are people we have among us.
I used to see Blacks, veterans from the war or Blacks who had lost their senses and standing on the comer directing traffic with a lot of bottle tops on their jackets. They would be assuming some authority. I see some of our leaders, not crazy with mental problems, but having that same thing in their nature, that they would do anything just to have a badge and authority.
Many among us, all they want to do is show off a badge and authority. They don't have to have 500 people or even 50 people. If they have five people sitting out there listening to them and looking at their badge of authority, that is all they want.
Well, that is not enough for us. We have to have more than that. We have to have people who love G-d, leaders who love G-d and who love people. When I say "people," I mean all people. You have to love all human beings, especially those you claim to be the shepherd of. You are the shepherd of those people, you should love those you shepherd or are the leader for.
They are sheep and some of them want only sheep. They don't want men. This is no good. My spirit has never been that way. I recall the earliest time in my life, when I was sitting in the temple as a boy, listening to my father preach. What touched me as a boy was the respect for man and respect for your sisters and your brothers. The love for the members of the temple was so obvious.
They'd say, "How are you? How is your family? Are you okay?" I could hear that as a boy, believers asking out of concern for each other. That was bred in me. I never was a person who was fascinated by position, power, titles. What interested me was this love that I saw in the Nation of Islam.
Back then, they used to call it the brotherhood. You had better not use that kind of language now; you'd be kicked out of the masjid talking about brotherhood;
they don't want brotherhood.
They'll tell you, "This is shura. And shura means we decide everything for you." That is not true shura. True shura is democratic and they don't want true shura.
Those Imams who are with me and really support me, if you are going to stay with the ASM, I will be happy to see that, for they should want the ASM to be better.
To be better, they have to know this element among them, so that they can know how to not be defeated by that element among them. We don't want to go on any witch hunt. That would be disastrous for the whole ASM. "We are going to identify these people who are working against us!" No.
Just be aware of that element, and the good Imams should work for the good and with only those that they know are not of that element. They should leave that element to themselves. That would be my suggestion.
It is not to divide the ASM leadership, so that they bring down or hurt the ASM as a body of people or organization. But work only with those of like mind who they know are not of these people who care more about government jobs than they do about the believer, and who are not interested in having believers grow to embrace the whole of mankind. They want to keep them separate, even from Christians; that is no good.
MJ: You have given us a great body of knowledge and is it correct to refer to it as a school of thought?
Imam Mohammed: The word in Arabic is mathhab and it means a school of thought. Mathhab literally comes from a word which means "he is going." It means "he is progressing on the Path of G-d." So mathhab is really a school of thought intended to help us progress in the Way of G-d or on the Path of G-d.
Our history has born a mathhab in America. For our group, African Americans, I don't see any but my leadership being the school. My leadership is that school. So we definitely have our own mathhab in America.
I don't make a lot of talk about it, and we don't want to become attached too much to this idea of a school of thought, a mathhab, to establish an authoritative body or group for the community. I don't want us to become so much interested in that, but it definitely is a mathhab.
MJ: So that protects the language and gives us the language in the mathhab?
Imam Mohammed: Exactly.
MJ: So where did they get the language?
Imam Mohammed: The language is the key. We need to know the language of the leadership, and we need to use the language of the leadership.
MJ: Concerning the calendar and those engagements that you have already advertised in Muslim Journal for you to speak at different locations, will you be honoring those?
Imam Mohammed: No. All engagements that were made when I was accepting invitations from the mosques or masajid in the ASM are now canceled, except a very few. When I say a very few, I mean those who were not really inviting me as Imams of the ASM.
There were a few who weren't. Although they came from the local leader, it was not an invitation from a leader of the ASM. They were inviting me to honor me or for me to support a business as businessmen. I will be answering those invitations.
MJ: Some believers are worried about next year's convention. What can we say about the convention for next year?
Imam Mohammed: I hope that the ASM leadership will identify first of all a new spokesperson for the ASM, whether they call him their leader or an Imam or not. They should have a national spokesperson or representative. If they don't, then I don't know where they can go.
Once they establish that, as Imam Fareed of Norfolk, Va., said, it may not be an individual but at least a body, a council, that will represent them and the members of the ASM. If they establish that, I would like to see them having their convention.
We will definitely have a convention yearly as The Mosque Cares. It will be a convention to bring our supporters together, so we can be in touch with them to know our direction and to report to them on our progress and to be sure that they know our direction, so that they can support us, whether they be in the United States or out of the United States.
I am speaking mainly of the United States, because I represent mainly the United States, although we have some outside of the United States.
I foresee there being two conventions their convention and our convention. As I am willing to work with ISNA and the Islamic Circle of North America and all good organizations here in the Chicago area, I am also willing to work with the good Imams of the ASM.
They are invited to discuss how we can interact and maybe have as our guests in some of our workshops some of their people in business, and they will have some of us in their workshops maybe. There is no problem with that.
If I want that with Pakistanis and others, you know I want it with African Americans. That also includes members of the Nation of Islam, Min. Farrakhan's group. We can all have some kind of interaction that benefits all of us.
MJ: Brother Imam, Earl Abdul-malik Mohammed speaks on your behalf at various locations in the United States. How does your resignation as leader of the ASM affect his role?
Imam Mohammed: Well, not at all. Although E. Abdulmalik was a member of the ASM, as I was, and also an Imam involved at one time in the Baltimore and Washington area, since he has been with me most of his work has been in support of my leadership and in support of the agenda that we have for the WDM Ministry, The Mosque Cares.
So his role won't change. That is still his role. His role will be affected, because of now as he represents me, he can't answer masjid invitations to come and lead Jumuah, etc.
It is not because that would be harmful, for they can invite any Imam they want, from Egypt or Pakistan or anywhere or from any race or group they want. The ASM Imams can invite anybody they want to come and lead Jumuah. But it is important that I keep separate, for right now people in the public and others will be confused if I come and lead Jumuah for them.
It is not that I don't have the spirit to lead Jumuah for them. I do have the spirit to lead Jumuah for them.
But I am sure those who don't like to mention in their khutbahs when they are speaking to their followers that Islam is Freedom, Justice and Equality and those who don't care to promote the sales of the Muslim Journal in their area and who don't like to talk about embracing your Christian neighbor next door to you, they wouldn't want me coming there and giving a khutbah and making a public address. I know that.
On this note, Muhammed the Prophet, the prayers and peace be upon him, most of the Muslims of the world don't know him. Because we have gotten out of touch with the real spirit and mission of Islam.
Prophet Muhammed began as a person who was raised up by G-d to call the people
away from oppressors who stand in the way of the good person going to his G-d and getting the benefits that his G-d has for him.
Prophet Muhammed was a fighter against the persecutors of religion, and he was a fighter for the freedom of the human person and for respecting the inherent honor of every human being.
Some will say, "This sounds American. This sounds Western." No. Allah says, "G-d certainly honored all the children of Adam. He has prescribed honor upon your nature." So this idea was 1,400 or at least 1,000 years before the discovery of America. It was already in the Qur'an and already in the teachings of the Prophet.
So those Imams who don't mention that and don't like to talk about the inherent nature of man and connect it with the same concept in our democracy who will say, these freedoms we want in America are already applied or spelled out in the Qur'an for us. They don't talk that language. Those leaders when they want me to come there want to just get a little bit more support from the believers, to say that I was present.
They won't say, "We want the Imam to speak to a great presence. So we will rent a hall. We don't want the Imam to come to just this little place. We want to rent a hall that will hold 2,000 for the Imam to come to our city to speak." Do you think they will do that? No. Do you think they will promote the sale of the Muslim Journal? No.
Why? Because Muslim Journal also brings all of this message to them. Right? It brings me and others to them. So the good leaders in the ASM should really take up the slack and do for their members what these people won't do who won't let people be free
Muhammed was told by G-d, "And fight persecution until religion is free for G-d." Not for it to be used by the government nor used by people who want to dominate the people, but let it be free for the individual to have their life with their G-d. That's a full life, a full freedom.
MJ: You used the word "theology." Can we talk about theology? What is theology?
Imam Mohammed: Theology, in my understanding, is a non-Muslim or non-Islamic term. It is a Western term or of religions of the West, of Christianity. I don't think it is a Jewish term. I don't think Jews would want to use the term theology, for different reasons except to present something to the Western mind. You have to speak to the Western mind in their own language.
For me, theology literally says "the study of G-d," for "theo" means G-d and "ology" means study the study of G-d. Now we don't make G-d a subject for study. Rather we study the Ways of G-d, the Sunnah of G-d G-d speaks in Qur'an of the "Sunnatullah." And in the Bible is that expression too, the Way of G-d.
We study the Way of G-d, not G-d in "His Nafs" or in His existing as a Being or as an Entity. The wisdom is given to us in The Light. There are some who fasten their eyes to The Light and become blinded by the Light. You know the sun is not made to look at; the sun is made to see by.
So Muslims should know that theology can be bad, if we are really trying to "see G-d" and examine G-d and know G-d better and disclose His Nature. We cannot do that. G-d reveals Himself to us. We cannot explore Him and discover anything of Him. That will put our eyes out. And that is the bad meaning of theology.
The other meaning of theology is more general and just means the study of matters in religion that are directly tied to G-d. These matters have no importance, except as they are directly related to G-d. That branch of knowledge we can embrace.
MJ: This is the last. There is also the word "philosophy." Do we have a philosophy?
Imam Mohammed: I have always had a philosophy. Philosophy is beautiful, as I understand it. Really, I think it comes from love. The word literally means the "love of knowledge." I have a great love for knowledge and of knowledge.
Philosophy is only bad, if we are not guided by what Muhammed was addressing, when he said, "Don't seek knowledge that has no use." You are not seeking it to use it in man's life; you are seeking it only because you are fascinated by it. That kind of seeking is not acceptable in Islam.
But if you are seeking knowledge that we know will benefit our society or benefit humanity, then it is encouraged. A philosopher is a person who is in love with research and in love with knowledge. And a true philosopher has as his motive to bring what he finds to his people, to the society, so that it benefits the society.
We have philosophy in Islam and in many areas, there are philosophies in Islam. There is the philosophy of the Qur'an. We love the Qur'an and love the knowledge of the Qur'an. So many of the things that we may see and reason to be rational and supportive of Qur'anic teachings or to be included in Qur'anic teachings and identified as Qur'anic teaching may not be what G-d revealed directly.
The knowledge in Qur'an may inspire this in me, and I express it and I feel that it should be shared with others because of its beauty, its purity, its goodness, its eye openers, etc., so it will be a statement I would say is philosophical.
And I have made philosophical statements on the knowledge of Qur'an, the teachings of Qur'an and I love it.
I tend to be somewhat of a philosopher.
MJ: Thank you. Imam Mohammed.
Imam Mohammed: Thank you, and I would like to say, As-Salaam-Alaikum.