November 12, 1993
An Interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed and the
British Broadcast Corporation Part 2
BBC: Slowly, as I understand the history, a number of people and most famously yourself and Malcolm X began to be dissatisfied with that particular version of Islam and started to come back to the real Islam. Can you tell me something about the processes which led to that? How old were you?
IWDM: I was very young when I first began to have difficulty with the idea of God as that idea was presented in the temples of the Nation of Islam. I remember I couldn't have been more than 13 years old, and I remember where we lived at that age. I remember praying as we were taught to make dua. We never made the sajda or the prayer as practiced by Muslims but just the dua.
I remember making dua to God. We were told that God was Fard Muhammad, which was an idea very similar to what they have in Christianity that God is manifest in flesh. I was seeing Fard, and it was not very comfortable for me inside. So I said, "Oh Allah, if I am seeing you wrong, please help me." That was me praying to myself. Nobody knew I was praying except God and myself. And at that early age, I prayed that prayer to better understand God.
I wouldn't be surprised if there were many like me in the Nation of Islam. I know many adults who joined the Nation of Islam came to me after the changes and told me, "We liked your father so much, and we liked what he was doing for Blacks so much, that we didn't want to make any problems. So we accepted his idea of God. But to tell you the truth, brother, I never understood it. But we just didn't bother with it."
So we had many followers who didn't understand the idea of God that he (Elijah Muhammad) presented to them and who didn't want to disturb the Nation of Islam because they saw so many other values or merits.
BBC: Then your father sadly died in 1975, and you immediately took over his role and started to change things. Could you tell us something about that?
IWDM: The first thing I saw we had to change was the idea of God, because Islam is Tauheed". We believe in the Oneness of God, and the whole ramification of that belief we call "Tauheed". I felt that right away I should make a statement to our people, the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad whom I was now the leader of, that we cannot any more go along with that idea. We have to be in agreement with the idea that is in the Qur'an, the book that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said was our book too.
They accepted that, most of them. There were some who had great difficulty, and I think they tolerated me like others tolerated the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And some couldn't stand it anymore and they left, as you know. Farrahkhan eventually left, himself, although for a few years he pretended to be with me. I say "pretended" because I wonder now whether it was really sincere. But he pretended to be with me 100 percent when I became the leader.
And he knew me. He was not just seeing me. Farrahkhan knew me before I became the leader. He knew that I had an interest in correcting the ideas for Muslims. That it was mainly the ideas that addressed the Concept of God.
But we continued to progress with bringing the idea of God in line with Qur'an. Then we had to continue and the next step was to bring the idea of Prophethood in line with the Qur'an. And we did that also. Again, a lot of people just tolerated me, because they believed I was sincere and had faith that I had their interest at heart. I don't think they all bought the change immediately, but they had enough faith in me to have patience.
Over the years the great majority now are very comfortable with the idea of Islam as it is known in the world of Muslims: That God is One, and His last prophet is Muhammed, who brought the Qur'an from God to us, prayers and peace be on him.
They are also happy and comfortable with the idea that there is no strange and mythical creation of Whites and Blacks. That all people are created by the One Creator, the One God, Allah. They are happy and comfortable with that also.
Most of our Imams are now studying the Arabic Language and many can read the Qur'an in Arabic with very good pronunciation and some can recite large portions of the Qur'an by heart. We are very happy with the progress that has been made to bring us from a very strange idea of Islam, although I think it was with very good intentions on the part of those people (Fard, Elijah, and others) back there. Though they made big mistakes, I think their intentions were very good.
BBC: Were you prepared to be the leader? Was it always intended that after your father's passing you should take over?
IWDM: Yes, I think I was prepared in this sense: I was conditioned without my approval. I was a young man and something here in the heart was just repelling what they would bring to me. They would say, "We have told you since you were a baby that you would succeed your father. That you should prepare to be a helper to your father. That Fard put your name on the door in chalk."
I would tell them that 1 know and remember all of that. But it was not registering. And that is a fact, the honest to goodness truth. To me, it was strange. I never got serious about that and am not all that serious about that now. I did get an interest in the community, and I got that interest from my father. He taught us to be curious and not to take all of his teachings literally, but that there were deeper meanings to be found. He taught us to question everything. I am quoting him, "Question everything."
Although I caused him a lot of pain when I differed with him, I told him: "Daddy, you are responsible for me doing this. You told me to question things, and you told me that the Qur'an was our book." I told him that he made me this way. And he couldn't dislike me. He liked me a lot.
Eventually what happened (after hurt feelings on both sides) was that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and I became very good friends. At his passing, he told me, "Son there must be something after death." In his teachings he said there was nothing after death. I have also studied the Jews and found there is a group called the "Sajucees," and they took everything to be very material, too. So I don't know if Fard slipped some of that in on them (his followers) or not, but he could have. I used to make jokes from the pulpit that somebody has tried to make us black sajucees.
BBC: Could you tell us something about the organization that grew out of the Nation of Islam?
IWDM: What has grown out of the Nation of Islam has been Black nationalists religious groups led by Farrahkhan and by a few others who are not as popular or as charismatic or appealing to the people as Farrahkhan. But some of them maintain a following. One of them is my uncle, John Muhammad, in Detroit.
Another is a brother who used to work under my father in the bakery, who wanted to be a leader. But my father had him in the bakery business and that is where he should be now. He claims to be the spiritual son of my father and a prophet, and he has a following. He is Silas Muhammad. There are a few others, but the one who has been successful with an enthusiastic and hard working following is Farrahkhan.
BBC: Am I right in believing that the numbers of your people that you led back into the Muslim ummah of the world far out number the followers of these African American nationalists?
IWDM: Recently, the leading newspapers in Atlanta, in the Detroit area and also the New York Times gave to Farrahkhan a count of about 70,000. They gave to us a count of well over 200,000.1 think our figure approaches close to a million. But he is regimenting the people. And to follow the mythological Nation of Islam, he has to regiment them. I'm not condemning him for doing that, worse is to be untrue to himself.
We here have a very relaxed atmosphere for our people. We tell them that they don't have to attend a particular physical facility to be Muslim. That as long as they believe in the religion and accept the Qur'an as the final revelation and accept the Prophet Muhammed and accept the Oneness of God in the Qur'an, that they are Muslim. They can visit any mosque they want to and read the Qur'an. If they want to stay at home, they can choose to do that.
We don't have the number of studious Imams for the size of our influence and the size of the converts. Some of these people are better- educated than the local Imam, and some are much more informed in Islam than the local Imam. So we can't force or require all of them to go to their local mosques.
(To be continued)