On The Name Bilalian
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
With the Name Allah (In the Name of God), the Gracious, the Compassionate.
[NOTE—The following questions and answer from last week's article is being reprinted with clarification of Imam Muhammad's response. Bilalian News expresses its sincere apology to its earnest readership for the lack of clarity in the syntax of the previous issue. ].
QUESTION: I would like to know what is the ultimate reward from Allah that I would get for being a faithful and lifetime Muslim?
WDM: Many Muslims are trying to be Muslims, and many Christians are trying to be Christians. I think you will find many who say, "I'm doing that—I'm believing in God, I'm accepting God.” But they still do not have what we call a good life.
First thing, you have to be sincere—the intentions have to be right. The intentions have to be pure, honorable and sincere. We can fool ourselves, but we cannot fool God. We have to be sincere and we have to be willing to accept whatever Allah, the Almighty, asks of us. In Quranic teachings, we find that maybe our capacity to fulfill what God asks is not as great as the capacity of another person; certainly not as great as the capacity of Prophets. Some of us might be able to come near that but most of us can't.
We at least should be sincere and do the best we can and never offer empty excuses for our shortcomings. If we do that, God promises us everlasting life, but He also promises us the benefits of that in our present life on this Earth. He said there will be no fear or grief for you.
(Editor's note: Following are excerpts from a Miami radio broadcast entitled the "Robert Hall Report," aired live on Saturday, Oct. 20, 1979. On the three-hour program over radio station WMBM, Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad responded to questions from host Robert Hall and numerous callers.)
QUESTION: In the United States we're faced with Muslims being identified as "black" or as "Bilalians" and in the meantime the same name has been applied to the many Afro-Americans who from time to time are being referred to as Bilalians when they may not even be Muslim???
WDM: And I think the problem is the concept; your understanding is being collected from outside of America or from somebody who is not American. So when a
Pakistan, an Egyptian, a Sudanese, a Saudi Arabian or some other non-American Muslim hears the name Bilalian, he thinks that this name is a religious name.
Bilalian is not a religious name. We have adopted the name Bilalian as an ethnic name to replace these other terms that we think are not as rich, ethnically speaking. They are not as rich because to identify with skin color is not as rich ethnically speaking as to identify with an ancestor who identified with Africa and also identified with a great ideology. So we are identifying with a person rather than identifying with skin color.
I was reading a form to be filled out by those who owned minority businesses or enterprises that said list your nationality. And do you know the only people that were given a color was ourselves. All the others were called American-Indian, Asian-Indian, European, Spanish, Hispanic, but when it came to us it said Black.
I refused to mark Black. I filled out the form and I sent it in with Bilalian on it and beneath Bilalian I put in brackets African-American just to help them understand what I meant by Bilalian.
I just left a member of our community, Sister Dorothy Fardan—she's Caucasian, not a Bilalian—but she's a Muslim belonging in our community. She's one of us.
We have many others who are Hispanic and others who are not Bilalians, but they are Muslims and they belong to our community.
QUESTION: Should not there be an educational process for those who are not aware of the fact that Bilalian is not used to determine a person's skin color?
WDM: You are not understanding what we are saying. We don't identify with Bilal only because he was a Muslim, it's mainly because he was an African ancestor. That's the main reason we identify with him ethnically.
If we have a choice to select an ancestor who's a Muslim rather than an idol worshiper or a worshiper of ancestors—we don't worship Bilal, we worship Allah—then we would choose the Muslim ancestor.
We have a few ancestors who were Christians, and we have ancestors who believed in different tribal religions of Africa, but we have many who were Muslims. Our African-American history is richer with Muslims than it is with any other persuasion.
We have Bilal, we have Mansa-Musa—for an hour I could tell you about people in our ancestry who were Muslims. The greatest nations we have—civilized nations—most of them were Muslim nations in our past history. This is what America has failed to teach us.
Now I think if we identify with an ancestor of Africa, that ancestor should represent progress for us, that ancestor should represent advanced religion for us. And what better ancestor can we have than Bilal?
We don't push this on anybody, we don't force Christians to accept Bilal. If someone has a problem with it, we say African-American. We just don't like being called "black.-
The Indians of Asia are black, some of them are blacker than we are. Black doesn't identify us well enough.
We are still searching for identity, and I think Bilal has satisifed us. I know Bilal will satisfy many non-Muslims.