The Meaning Of Leadership
Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad
With the Name Allah (In the Name of God), the Gracious, the Compassionate.
(Editor's note: Following are excerpts from Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad's masjid lecture in Miami, Fla., Oct. 20,1979.)
Society cannot move ahead without strong leadership. You have to grow up. You have to become sophisticated enough to have faith in yourself that you will be able to detect a dictator and straighten him out or get somebody better. Have faith in yourself, but give support to some leadership.
I hope we understand what leadership means for us. Leadership means that we have identity within leadership. A leader should represent the good, healthy aspirations of his people or of the community.
If the leader represents the best aspirations of the people, the people have a share in that leadership, the people themselves are contributing to the forming and the growth and progress of that leadership.
I never envied great leadership among us. I admired it. I loved it. I would put my life on the line for great leadership.
Why? Because I saw in that leader the best of me, I saw in that leader my own aspirations. I saw him working for me. I saw my own hopes in him being carried forward. Leadership for a people means leadership for everybody that identifies with that leader. If you want to have leadership as a community, you must have strong leadership in an individual. There is no other way.
Do you think your enemies want you to have leadership? Your enemies are not necessarily white or black, but they are out there. The enemies of most of us are materialism, lust, corruption, human weaknesses — those are our enemies.
Do you think they want you to have strong leadership? No! Because strong leadership will block their way. They won't be able to freely exploit your weaknesses if you have strong leadership.
I don't care whether it's me or not. God knows I don't want anybody to worship me, idolize me, or pay tribute to me. But you have to do it for somebody if you expect to get out of your miseries, if you expect to rise in the social scale to higher levels of dignity in society -speaking internationally as well as locally — you must have strong leadership.
You are going- to have to stop this stuff about every man is an island, every person is an individual. Certainly, every person is an individual, but society tells us individuals need to identify with some person and some personality who stands up for what they believe in.
Why don't we have such leadership in our society? Because we are a bunch of crabs in a barrel, jealous of the individual, not wanting to give support to any individual because it's not us. That's the stupidity of the African-American people that keeps us down.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad had to put us in a straitjacket to build leadership. He had the F.O.I., strong, musclemen that would bust your head if you got up to challenge leadership.
I don't believe in brute force to bring about leadership, and I never will accept it. But believe me, I will not stand here and watch you crazy people tearing down leadership as fast as we can build it up just because you are not under the main sunlight — forget about that.
When I was a member of the F.O.I, under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad I was in the ministry. As a member of that ministry, I didn't care if I was seen or not; I sat at a distance, in the back. Most of the people didn't know me, I didn't want to be seen. Whatever the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was doing was great, I wanted to support that. And that's what I did, that's in my nature.
I was never raised to be jealous, envious, tearing down a person just because it's not me.
I was raised to give my support to worthy leadership.
Even when I began to think that I was better qualified in many respects to lead the community, I still wouldn't push myself in. It was the will of the people that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad should do the job. As long as it was their will, I followed them.
You have to go with the majority. If the majority wants such-and-such man — you may think you're better - go along with the majority. If the man is so harmful to the majority that you think you shouldn't give your support, get the hell out of the way until they can recognize that you should be there. But don't destroy everything because you don't have the biggest part of it; let something exist until we can get better.
This is a big problem for us. We can't give our support to a hero until he dies and we give it to him when he dies so we'll have an excuse for not giving it to a living one.
(To be continued)