Community And Personal Advancement: Part 2
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Note: The following lecture was delivered by Imam W. Deen Mohammed in Cleveland, OH, Nov. 20, 1988.)
We are not going directly at the subject of advancement for society and the advancement of the individual person. Rather, we are going at the condition or conditions that make possible or invite success and failure. This is the best way, this is the answer, and this is the help.
Everything needs a climate, if it is growing and if it is life. You cannot have a good harvest, unless the climate is right. You will have the seeds, you will have the land, but the climate has to be right. If the climate is right, then most likely you will make a good crop and a good harvest. It is likewise for the human production, and I mean the human productivity in the broader sense. Some of us want to produce as families. Some of us want to produce as employees in the job market. Some want to produce as leaders. We have many needs. And whatever our particular need is, we will need a climate for life and for growth.
The revealed religions, and that is not just our religion — it is the major revealed religions that aim for just that. They aim for bringing about a climate that favors community life and individual life. If the climate is right, the community will grow, the community will advance, and the people as individuals will also grow and advance. That is if the climate is right — the climate for our sensitivities, for our mental sensitivities, for our moral sensitivities, and for our social sensitivities.
The great land that we live in of America, with all that it has to offer in the way of science and even in culture still look at the state of the family in America. It is not only in America now, it is in most of the world. The state of the family for the most part is very, very sad.
Are we so stupid that we can't manage family life? No. We have the education to manage a family life. Are we so poor that we can't manage family life? No. We have money to manage family life. There was a time not long ago of about thirty, forty, or fifty years ago, which is not long, when families who were really poor and feeling the pains of hunger in their stomachs almost everyday were able to keep a good family life with good family sensitivities and good respect for members of the family and good treatment of the children towards parents and good treatment of parents towards children. They were able to do that. But today, it is very, very hard to find families like that.
It is not because we don't have money, and it is not because we don't have education enough or intelligence enough. Something else is missing, and so we need the climate.
I will repeat, that the biggest need that I recognize in the society is the need for good sense — just common good sense. Now you can be very educated formally, that is from a physical school called this college and that university, but you will still be unprepared for common sense life. We find many people today with all of the education but with no ability to manage common sense life. They have the same problems that used to be the problems of what was called the "stupid and illiterate" people.
These so-called educated people cannot manage their money. They will get big incomes and still cannot manage their money. They will always be in debt and in financial trouble. They can't manage the social life of the home, and are always having problems there with the families torn apart.
So that tells us that man needs something that he can't give himself by himself. He needs help from Allah. He needs help from his Maker or from his Lord to bring him back to good sense. Now help comes two ways mainly. Help comes to one by means out of his control. That is, he is just a good person and heaven smiles on him, and he gets help. God blesses him, and he gets help. But that kind of help is like the help He gave babies. As the babies grow up and get older and more responsible and join us as adults, then that kind of help does not keep coming.
And if it keeps coming, it is not enough help to dignify you in the world of grown ups. It is because it is coming to a baby and is baby help. There is the example of when you are having problems at home that are making you sad and everything, and God helps you. Suddenly you find the attitude of the house changing and the family is being nice. But still you are just as poor, and you have no real ambitions. You are not going after bigger things in the world, but you are surviving and you are happy. You even say, "Our family is happy now. God blessed us and just turned the hearts of the family, and we are getting along fine now," But that was help to babies, and the babies are getting along fine now.
The other help that comes is help given not just because of the goodness of the heart, but it comes because of the urge of intelligence. There is an urge of intelligence that says, "Hey, this has to make sense! And this level of living that I have is not fair!" And you don't look out there for someone to blame. This kind of intelligence that I am talking about makes the person aware of his own resources and of his own self worth. It makes him feel happy about himself and he is happy to think of himself as a moral being and as an intellectual being or as intelligent. He sees himself as a being of intellect, although at the time perhaps he is not an intellectual. But he thinks of himself as a moral being and as a being of intellect.
That is the kind of help that grows us up from baby to adult life. So it is not enough just to have a whole lot of faith and be good and want to be good. We like that. But we know the term moral is a western term. And the nature of morality in the west differs from the nature of morality in Muslim society. That is then nature of morality— the very word is different. Because "moral" in English has to do with good and bad. That is this English term "moral." And the very meaning itself, of moral is subject to change depending on the moral trends in the western society. So what was morally offensive when I was a boy is an approved thing today. It is not morally offensive anymore.
But we as Muslims do not have that kind of idea of morality, and we don't have that kind of term for moral in the Islamic world. And if you are really a knowledgeable Christian, you know that there is really no place for that kind of idea in Christianity. That is a secular world idea, and it is harmful and bad. Because it does not establish permanently for us an idea, a perception of what is good and best for us. It leaves us to the trends of the culture regarding moral thought and moral behavior, to be at one time fed with good moral sensitivities in the name of moral life. And at another time we are left to be fed with diseased sensitivities in the name of the same moral life.
So we need a climate for productive life — a climate for productive community life and a climate for productivity in the person as individuals. Since we are most familiar with Al-Islam, w« should talk about Al-Islam. I believe the great majority of the people here are professing to be Muslims, and I believe most of you are. Although I know a few of you are liars, for it just speaks so loudly from you. But I believe most of you are Muslims, and given that I am a Muslim myself, we should see how our religion has treated the human life to bring about that climate for productive growth.
Before going directly to the sources of our religious knowledge, the Quran and the Sun-nah of the Prophet, I should go to what has been said of Muslim worth by non-Muslims — non-Muslim writers and authors of history on the development of societies. There is a book by Haidar Bammate called "Muslim Contributions to Civilization." And in this book the author quotes Western authors. I am presenting this here to say this, that we do not represent a religion that has not proven its effectiveness. Our religion has proven its effectiveness. In history, it has been recorded.
Many of us think that because a thing is not serving us well today, it never had any more value to us than it has to us today. However, there are many things that we have today that are not serving us well that served us very well in times gone by and had great value for us then. So that should tell us that the thing, itself, is not responsible for us not getting the benefit; It is that something has happened to us to cut off the benefits.
If this religion brought great benefits to society in times gone by, then we should not doubt the power of this religion to do the same in any other time, ft is because the condition of man is not so much a matter of what the world is or what the world represents as a challenge for him, but it is more of a matter of what he represents as a challenge to himself.
Many nations have been freed from oppression - societies, that is, and they have been freed from invasions of outside enemies. They have their independence and their freedom; they have had their good life. They are not oppressed by anyone and art; not bothered by anyone, but you will see no progress. The resources are abundant everywhere; they lived in a rich place, a place rich in natural resources, but still there is no progress. They just lived as babies for generations and for hundreds of years.
Why is that? It is because the "self condition" was not awakened. Again, the self and the self condition had not awakened in them. So that is what has to happen. For you can find people who have been oppressed in the worse way, who lived under oppression one generation after the other for hundreds of years. And even oppression would not force them to be aggressive; instead, it will just make them content to live under the domination of others. This is history.
And you will find to the contrast of that, nations that have resisted oppression, and before oppression came they were not showing any superior ability. But after oppression they began to show superior ability. The oppression awakened the self respect in them, and the destiny in them was a wakened by oppression. So I say again, it is not the condition of the world, most of the time, that makes the difference for people. It is the human condition that makes the difference for people.
Look how prosperous America has been. But look how America is failing now in competition with several nations of this world, although she had the upper hand. She had the world in her hands, in fact, and still leads most of the world in the field of technology and science. But she is failing at home. So the answer is not the material condition.
Now they want every house to have computers in them. And the talk is to beef up the sciences and give more of the practical subjects in the schools, et cetera, et cetera. They say that will make the difference. But it will not make the difference, if the human condition is neglected. You can give your son everything of material worth that he can possibly manage and give him more money than he can spend. You can give him so much money, that he will be wondering what to do with it. You can send him to the best schools and give him the best environment, but still sometimes that son will not be healthy minded and will not be productive.
So you say, "Oh, I have invested in him. and it seems to be of no use. "And what is it? It is because the human condition in him ;s the neglected thing. You are not neglecting his needs in the environment, he is neglecting his human condition. And he has to have a climate to turn on the human life for him. and to make him begin to see himself as a great creation of Allah — to see himself in that way and to value himself and to appreciate himself.
(To be continued)