"An Islamic Formula for a Successful Life" Los Angeles: Part 1
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
Editors Note: This is the first installment of Imam W. Deen Muhammad's Los Angeles address.
As-Salaam-Alaikum. That is, peace be unto you. We begin putting our complete trust in Allah, the Lord and Creator, Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Raheem, with the Name Allah, the Gracious, the Compassionate, and we pray peace and blessings be upon Muhammad, His Servant and His Messenger (SAW); peace and the blessings be on him, and on his descendants, his Companions, the righteous, and Muslims (Believers); we pray peace be on us, and that Allah helps us in our efforts, and make this occasion a success, for Muslims, a success in the eyes of our Lord, whose name is Allah, Most High.
Alhamdulillahi-rabbil-alameen. We praise Allah, Lord of All the Worlds, and we want to read from the chapter of Qur'an, that begins with the title, "Ash-Shams," "The Sun." I believe that the chapter has been read already, in Arabic.
(Darnell Karim reads Sura-tul-Ash-Shams in Arabic).
I will now give the English translation of the original text of the Qur'an, as you know which is in the pure Arabic language. You might call it classical Arabic, but actually the revelation of Qur'an to Muhammad who himself, peace be upon him, was not literate, but God inspired him with revelation, and the language of revelation, and the Arabic tongue and the tongue of the Arabs, set the standard for the language from that time since.
Now when you study Arabic grammar, in high school, college, elementary school or whatever level you study Arabic grammar on, the yardstick or the rule for measuring the excellence of the grammar, the excellence of the language, the excellence of the expression or composition, will be referred to Qur'an. The Qur'an has really set the standard for the excellence of language, ever since it was revealed and now it’s a little over 1400 years ago. That in itself is a miracle; that Allah revealed to a man who himself was not literate, an orphaned child; Muhammad, the Prophet, the Last Messenger, revealed to him and the words came out on the tongue of an Arab, but the tongue was the tongue of eloquence, the tongue of the best Arabic, set the standard for the language for that time on. That in itself is a miracle.
And if you understand it, it is a miracle in the answer to the promise of God in Scripture: the Torah, the Old Testament, the Gospel. I'm sure you people who are familiar with the Bible, you understand; though you might reject it you do understand.
I want to read the English translation by Marmaduke Pickthall. There are many translations by scholars who have the ability to make translations from the Arabic language to another language. The Qur'an hasn't been translated in as many languages as the Bible has, but the number of translations are increasing now, with great speed: there's the Qur'an in French, in Spanish, the two major languages. Just a few years ago, we didn't have it. And God willing, the African-American man over here will have a translation soon, in American English, because American English is not like European English.
So let me now read these verses, and mind you, no translation equals or has the power of meaning, the power of expression, that is in the original text, the Arabic text — nothing. That revelation, that language is revelation itself. Understand, the Qur'an itself, the very language itself, the way the words are put together, formed and put together in rank, is revelation itself. Not only is the meaning revelation, but the way the sound come, the way the words are arranged, the way they convey meaning, all of that is revelation itself. So no language can do justice. That's why every person who becomes a Muslim should feel obligated to learn Arabic, at least enough classical Arabic — not spoken Arabic, don't learn Egyptian Arabic, but learn classical Arabic well enough so you can at least understand the essentials of the religion, from the reading of the Qur'an, in the original language.
Now that's not asking too much of the Believers; that will educate you. That will educate you where you haven't been educated; it will give you an education in an area that you haven't been educated in. It will even make other languages more understandable to you. You will appreciate other languages more, and it's a shame, you know, on all Americans, I mean the so-called "true Americans," it's a shame that we know nothing but English, and most of the people of the world know two, three, four or five languages. So we follow the pattern; we follow the way of the American white man over here, and we Blacks, we have no interest in learning anything, and this white man is learned, so we learn English and maybe say, ''parlez vous Fran'cais," and we're sinning.
Let's read now the English translation. The title is "The Sun" in Arabic, 'Ash-Shams.' Revealed at Mecca, this was revealed to Muhammad the Prophet (PBUH), at Mecca. Mecca, as you know is the Sacred City that is held in high regard, the holy precincts are there, the first house built by God's Prophets, Abraham and his son, Ismail (Ishmael) as it is called in the Bible — Ibrahim and Ismail.
Not only that, the whole vicinity there, is sacred, and much of God's work and miracles took place right there in that vicinity. And mind you, it is the original or the first house ever built to the worship of God. So this chapter was revealed there; some of the other chapters were revealed in Medina; most of the chapters are either revealed in Mecca or in Medina. Now we begin with the first verse that opens like all the other chapters of Qur'an except only one, and that chapter has the same Attributes of God given within the framework of the chapter itself. And the Attributes that I am referring to now are the Attributes of beneficence, the Attributes of compassion or mercy, and every time we begin reading the Qur'an, we say God, the Gracious, or the Beneficent, God, the Merciful, or the Compassionate, and it really baffles me almost, to see anyone being afraid of a Book like that. A Book that reminds you before you read it, that God is gracious, He's giving and He is merciful. Now how can I be a Believer, and not be touched and influenced and have my own personality and spirit, shaped by that description of God?
In fact, it has been said by the Messenger of God, (PBUH), and by the scholars, since the early days of this religion, under the Prophet (PBUH), that as God is Merciful, Muslims must be merciful. And that goes for all of the Attributes of God, that God has created us with, in human limit, where He has those same Attributes in Divine perfection, but He has shared with His creatures, with His creation, those same Attributes. I repeat, it really baffles me, to see people being afraid of the Qur'an. Now, I know some religions-I am afraid of, but not this one.
With that open, then comes the first verse: "By the Sun. and his brightness," actually I would translate it, 'by the sun and her brightness,' but maybe 'he' is more correct, but I would say 'by the sun and her brightness,' because the Arabic grammatical indication here is that it is 'her' and not 'his.' "Wa-shamsi-wa-du-ha-hah," or we should say, "and its brightness." Either 'its brightness' or 'her brightness.' That's another thing we should understand that in Arabic grammar, there is no neuter gender; it's either male or female.
I don't know why everything has to be Trinitarian in the West.
"By the Sun and its brightness, and the Moon, when she followeth him. "So I guess that's why he says 'she followeth him.' I would say, 'when it follows it, or when she followeth her.' I could have the weaker position, and he could have the stronger; I'm not here to try to prove anything, not in that area right now.
The next verse: "And the day when it revealeth him." Actually, it's talking about the soul, isn't it? "And the night, when it enshroudeth him." 'Enshroudeth him' means covers him, right? "And the heavens and him who builds it." Now that's talking about God, because we know we didn't build it. "And the earth and him who spreads it out"—God. "And the soul and him who perfected it." Again, man and who perfected the soul of man? Not every man, but He perfected the soul of some men; He perfected the soul of Prophet Muhammad, and left it as a bright light for us, so that we can mold ourselves in that form, or after that form. "And inspired it with conscience of what is wrong for it, and what is right for it." So conscience, God gave us, as a natural property. The world society makes us conscious, but the first to make us conscious was God, and that was the perfect conscience.
I haven't seen a criminal baby yet in the nursery. In fact, we have to wait a few years for it, until we make it, right?
"He is indeed successful who causes it to grow. "Causes what to grow? Referring to the soul, but the soul has properties of piety, and intelligence, which we will come to. In fact, it's mentioned here: "al-jamaha, hujurulhah, wa-taqwaha," and inspired it with conscience of what is right and wrong for it. "He indeed is successful who causes it to grow": 'qa-iflaha-manzakaaha; he is indeed successful who causes it to grow." Now those who are familiar with previous Scriptures, Scriptures revealed before the Qur'an, you know the importance of growth, and are familiar with Scripture, you know the importance of growth. In fact, the condition for being accepted is that you have growth. You may call it fruits, products, talents; however you may describe it, it's the same; the fruit of your qualification to be accepted by God, is that you have growth, according to the other Scripture, and here too, if we understand.
"And he is indeed a failure who causes it to be stunted"; stunt the growth, hinder the growth, retards the growth, causes the souls to be degenerate, rather than forward going. That tells us then that God created man with a purpose and He created his soul with an aim. An inherent aim is in the soul of man, that it must seek and go after its destiny. God has given the soul a destiny; God has created man with an excellence — that excellence is in his soul, is in him when he is born. Like a seed, it has to find the right situation, the right environment, the right conditions, for its bursting forth, growth and maturity. So to say man is born in sin and iniquity, to say man is conceived in sin or born in iniquity; to speak of man in those discrediting words is really ignorant. Some people look at the fallacies of man, at the defects of man, at the problems of man, the clumsiness of man, the lack of skills on the part of man, the ignorance of man, they look at all of these shortcomings in man, and they judge him by his errors and not by his purpose.
They judge him by his shortcomings, and not by his destiny; they judge him by what he does in a bad situation, and not by what he is created for. They judge him by trends that are influencing him because of bad situations in the world, and not by the original trends that God set in him, the trend towards excellence. So if God created me with the main urge in me, it's towards excellence. Science bears witness to this; science says that life is evolved; science tells us that the growth of life is evolution. Evolution means graduation from lower to greater, from lower to more; from weak to strong, from simple to complex, from inferior to excellence. That's what evolution tells us. But evolution doesn't say that none of these creatures that have been given to this pattern — that pattern is given to them and they are going to go the way of that pattern.
(To be continued)