The Muslim Journal
A Day In Grand Rapids, Michigan Part 3
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed recently spent the day in Grand Rapids, Mich., with Imam Noah Seifullah, and answered questions — here given.)
Question: Is there a formula for us to protect ourselves from the cultural form coming against the religion? I know that you were working on translating the Qur'an for us.
Imam Mohammed: Yes, that is a very high priority, to translate the Qur'an by us into American English. It will require that I have more freedom to give a lot of time to contribute to that. And I am contributing some time to it. I have a lot of notes and research towards this over the years.
When I introduced the idea, I had been doing it for years. And I have made a lot of headway. It is a big project. When I get to it, I am going to pull a team together and do it. And it won't be when I am walking slowly. I'll still be energetic, insha Allah.
That was a very important question that he asked about culture and religion. We have to understand that Prophet Muhammed, when he was leading his people with others with him like Abu Bakr, he said to them: "See that you don't uproot or destroy the culture of the people. But give them Islam so that it will modify their culture and beautify the culture of the people and make it strong for G-d."
That tells us that all Muslims are free to have their own cultural life expressed by them and that it should come out of them. We shouldn't impose culture on another people. We are talking about culture now in the sense of dress, not education. But education, too, is culture and it has to come out of them too, and it has to be influenced by Qur'an and Prophet Muhammed's life.
But now we are talking about entertainment and dress styles, those visible things that a people create or produce that represents their life image as a people. I am devoted with sacred devotion to promote an original life for us in America. It has to be original. We want to build on the best that we have and what was left for us from before of what was good cultural life and cultural direction.
We want to build on our Black theatre and on our diets and choices of food as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was doing.
He did so much that impressed the intelligent persons, that an African came to him and said; "I want to write about your Nation of Islam and your following. Can I get permission from you to interview your Minister Malcolm and your son, Wallace? Can I have permission to interview any of the following that I would want to?"
This person was doing a dissertation to earn his Ph.D., which he did earn. His name was Easian Udun, and the book was called "Black Nationalism and an Attempt to Build Your Own Culture" - so they could have their own identity.
He said to the Hon. Elijah Muhammad that he did not see him building a political identity, but "I see you building an identity for a new Black people. You are building a culture." The Hon. Elijah Muhammad had introduced a diet, for us to cook our rice a certain way and to make our bread and beans a certain way.
So this writer saw that as introducing a new identity to Black people, a new cultural identity. He saw the distinction in our dress. We didn't go outside to get our dress. It was all done with respect to how our people dressed in the south.
It is very important that we don't think "Islam" is a dress style of any people, and don't think that "Islam" is the food of any people. Those things are influenced by our fine Islamic taste, and it begins with our fine human taste, our fine southern taste from our parents from the South.
We have an effort now to have a theatre in Norfolk, Va., and we will not just have one. If we have an opportunity to put a theatre here, we will put one here, And the theatre will not just represent Muslims. It will be the property of Muslims and represent Muslims, but also it will show the best of African American theatre and American Christian theatre. We will produce that with our filters, our excellence of African American and Islamic filters and Christians will appreciate it.
Question: What do we say to our African Americans and to Christians as the most important thing to touch their hearts right away?
Imam Mohammed: I wish I had time to talk on the words I am going to leave with you now. Maybe you will think back on some of my talks and give this more body. Tell them:
"What every people needy is more of what G-d created them to have. We are about helping ourselves get back to our own."