The Spiritual Development Of An Oppressed People’s Courage
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
Responsibility for Life
Wherever we are, we want to understand that we have an obligation to be responsible for our life and for our membership in the block club, the neighborhood, the precinct, the ward, and in the whole city that we live in. It also includes the state and beyond it to include being conscious of our citizenship as U.S. citizens. We are to carry out that responsibility in the best way we possibly can, in the most dignified way. This responsibility goes beyond the borders of the United States.
Muslims are a people who believe in God as the One God for all and the society as a human society. Muslims believe that God is the Cherisher for that whole society, and all members of that society are God's creation and responsible to God, whether they recognize it or not. And God has an obligation to them, according to the Word of God. That obligation is to give them and show them Mercy, to offer them Guidance, and to care for them all equally.
So we have to also extend that awareness, and I mean our awareness to be responsible to the whole of mankind, to the international world of nations. But we are focusing on the community that we are immediately in, and for Muslims we are immediately in the community of Muslims — the mosque or masjid community, the ummah of Islam as it is commonly called. And since we are a minority in this country and in these cities, it is no more than good sense to also be conscious as members of our communities. It is especially important because as a minority we are in many ways dependent upon the decisions and the attitudes or dispositions of the majority.
I choose to not ignore that reality. If I can work or if I have a strategy to perform as a member of our community, I will use it. I am not saying that I am all that romantic about being sweet and loving with everybody. I do not like all of my own people, but they are my people and we have to accept the reality that we are here to do God's Will. We have to be intelligent and sensible. To recognize that means to embrace everybody and not stop there, but work hard at improving relations between Muslims and others -between Muslim and Muslim, between Muslim and non-Muslim.
I got a lot of opposition when I started calling myself the "Spokesman for Human Salvation". Some people will not recognize that and will not address me as that, although they invite me to come and speak. They will say "Muslim Spokesman" but will leave off "for Human Salvation". They must think we are so far from being saved as black people that we can't be any spokesman for human salvation.
I want a reference to myself that non-Muslims can identify with. We are not just interested in only seeing the life of Muslims improve, we are interested in seeing the life of the human beings improve and that is really being a Muslim.
An Oppressed People's Courage
I was very impressed to see at the newly formed Chicago Muslim Business Association reception recently our new Congressman, a man who comes from outside of America and is now inside of America and sent to Washington by the voters of Chicago and of Illinois, Bobby Rush: Congressman Bobby Rush, Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Attorney General Roland Burris, Superintendent Ted Kimbrough (now resigned), and the many others in the establishment in Chicago and Illinois and in these United States. Their success owes a lot to an oppressed people's courage.
It is courage to look "white America" in the face and to identify what was unacceptable. But that is only one part of the explanation. Success also owes a lot to the courage to look self in the face and identify what is unacceptable in ourselves. Not all African Americans have shown the courage to do both of those things. Some shied away from looking "white America" in the face. Some were held back from looking self in the face. There were also those who neither mustered the courage to face the objectionable on the outside of themselves nor the objectionable within themselves; they had not the courage to condemn either.
I see that inability in us as a poverty of courage, and it is our people's biggest hold back today. Both developments in courage are required. Neither one works by itself. Our humanity is not just held back by conditions outside of us; our humanity is also held back by conditions within us. For Muslims who are familiar with this reading from Qur'an, God Most High and Highly Glorified says, "Then- does not occur a change in the condition of a people, until there occurs a change in the condition of their souls."
Reject the Offensive
The excellence of inherent aim in our human creation, in the human soul pressures a people to reject what is offensive to it, whether the problem extends from others or from themselves. The inherent power in our souls, the well spring behind all of our good and courageous advances, takes form in a living and undefeatable spirit. I call this the healthy spirit of our people.
The spirit of the Freedom Movement going back to its earliest days is the spirit that shows all of us together, whether called Black Muslims or Christians or Civil Rights advocates or Nation of Islam advocates or separatists or integrationists or black nationalists or other. That is the freedom spirit, that freedom to live to see one day the best in us established.
That is the spirit bearing us up, vitalizing, invigorating, and showing two movements. One movement has the courage to challenge and disavow what offends and what burdens the soul. The other is the movement against what offends and burdens community life.
We see the two movements when we see those leaders addressing the internal condition and the external condition. The internal condition of our people includes: Our level of conscious, behavior, our aspirations, our fears of getting involved and trying to progress, our fears to accept that challenge for progress, and the tendency to be lazy and vulgar and ignorant and to live with ignorance, to neglect our hygiene and our presence and our clothing, and the tendency to go with our heads hung and no sense of respect for the value that is within ourselves as human creation equal to all human creation in its originality. We find on one side those who address that and they represent one movement in the soul.
We find on the other side those who move legislature and ask that laws be changed, who are political. Dr. King was a minister and may God forgive him his sins and grant him the Paradise. We don't ask that God forgive the sins of terrible people only; we ask that God forgive the sins of all people who passed away and those who are still living, for we agree with that saying in the Bible: "Are there any without sin? No, not one." We don't know of any human being that does not have some sin, and we pray for all good people who have sinned.
No human being can be an angel; we can only be human beings and we are motivated to be angelic, to be perfect. But we will err and will make mistakes and will have sin, and God forgives all sins. There is not only a Christian claim to that mercy, for Muslims claim that too. God's Mercy is too big to not include all sinners. God says His anger is limited, His Mercy opens to all. That is Allah (God) in the Qur'an.
When we muster the courage to collect our senses and unite upon that which served us well in the past, we can locate the focus for our unity ethnically speaking — that is as a distinct ethnic group and ethnic life in America. We can also then locate the focus for our unity when identifying in the life of America. We need to be able to focus on both unities.
We are an African American group or people with our own history, of our spiritual taste, our moral taste, our cultural behavior and whatever. That is what 1 mean by ethnic. We have a history as a people moved by spirit and all joined together in that one spirit.
Focus for Tolerance
We need a focus for our unity, for all of us are not Muslims. Some want me to say, "But that is what we will be. All are going to be Muslims." Allah does not say that in the Qur'an. Highly Praised and glorified is He, He does not say that all of you are going to be Muslims. He accommodates even those who still follow the prophets who were on this earth sent by Him and missioned by Him before the Last Prophet, Mohammed. Allah accommodates them not only on this earth but also in Paradise or in the Hereafter.
I know that by many things said by God in the Qur'an, and I will give you something very clear. There is an authentic saying of the Prophet, the prayers and the peace be on him, where he says he saw the Paradise or the Life After and he saw the souls going to the Paradise. He saw his followers and Moses' followers and the followers of Jesus. Prophet Mohammed said that his followers were in the bigger number, and this was surprise to Moses. Peace be on the Prophets.
Therefore I think of that blessing of a vision to Mohammed to see the Hereafter or the world after Judgment, to see the souls of the people in the Paradise, helps us to understand what is meant in the Qur'an, where Allah says that He has revealed this religion "that it should prevail over all other religions, though the idolaters are opposed to that or hate it." That is how we are to understand that in the Qur'an.
A Bad Attitude
But many who come over here from overseas to do Islamic work try to convince us that no other religion is accepted. That if the people do not become Muslims believing the Qur'an and believing in Mohammed — Christians, Jews, and all -they have no hope for the Hereafter or the Paradise. They say that to be other than Muslim was okay up to a point in the life of Mohammed the Prophet, but now that the Qur'an has come and all of the Revelation is here that is no more true.
Now if they insist upon believing in that way, I feel sorry for them and love them still. But that will be a big factor explaining the present state of the Islamic world as well as its past state. Attitudes like that will not be blessed by God. Allah will not bless anyone with an attitude that says: "Just because I am Muslim and say la ilaha illallah Mohammedan rasulallah and accept the Qur'an, I am going to heaven and to paradise. And that person who says no to that and says Jesus is the Savior and the Gospel is God's Word or the Jew who says the Torah is God's Word and Moses is the Savior, these are not going to Paradise."
That kind of attitude is bad. It is the wrong attitude. Some of those in the other religions are better than some Muslims in character, better in behavior, and have a better record at home and abroad than some Muslims. So who can say that? We follow Mohammed the Prophet, not people who have been so hurt by their having to be dominated by the West and have been made so bitter under that domination that they can't see straight and think straight in their senses. We do not follow them. We follow the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, upon him the prayers and the peace.
Now they think we don't have the intelligence: As long as we have been free in this country with people like Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass who were born slaves? Even while slavery was still in effect here in these United States, those men proved to be intellectually superior to most people. Now if they think in this late day that we are so stupid mentally or so out of it intellectually that we have to have them to come over here and tell us everything and to decide for us how we are to perceive everything that God says and then apply it by their rule, they have to be out of time with (ignorant of) human history.