The Individual In The Success Of Society: Part 1
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Editor's note: The following article is adapted from a January 18, 1987 lecture Imam W. Deen Muhammad delivered in Newark, N.J.).
Perhaps you've read in Muslim Journal my confession that for all the years I've been preaching, I had the wrong idea about how to motivate the society.
I made that confession because I was happy to see a better way. We can do things out of habit, and not even know the extent to which the habit is deciding what we are doing. That was my situation as it is with most of us. You know, we came from the experience of the black Nation of Islam, into the environment of Qur'an, and the Sunnah of Prophet.
We did that with sincerity. I know I did, and I know most of you did. But many of you, like myself, I think, weren't aware of the extent to which habit was still deciding the course of actions.
I came to realize that the way I was approaching the need to motivate life in the society, community, family, and the person, was not the Islamic prescription. It is very difficult for the average person to detect that, especially when your concern is the group.
The Individual Is The Savior
It is difficult for you to detect the way to get the group to go ahead is not to address the group directly but to address the individual directly. That is what I came to see and understand in this religion, that we should stop looking to the group as a savior, for society. The individual is the savior for society.
We should stop looking to the group as the responsible one for the society; no, the individual is the responsible one for the society. We knew that is part but I didn't know the significance or just how prominent that idea was in the teaching of the religion; that that, not the idea of the community, is the idea that stands out front.
This Is What Brought It To My Mind
Allah, in addressing us, (and this is what brought it to my mind), hardly ever addresses us as a group. Hardly ever does He say "O ummah." He does not say "O ummah," or "O you great nation." He says "O you who believe." That's a direct appeal to individuals who believe, not to a group.
Now that strikes each and every one of us equally. I've cleared the air because every time I make a change, people look at me, and say "where are you going now?" They don't say it with their mouths, but they say it with their eyes. Well at least I'm going. I'm not standing still and I intend to keep going until the last breath is out of me. As long as I'm in control of my life, I want to make progress. That's the religion, and we should all be that way. Let's make progress. Let's not be satisfied with yesterday or even today. Let's do better tomorrow.
Now, I'm going to read the 133rd ayat of Suratul 'Al Imran, the chapter of the Family of Imran. The order, command, or invitation, depending on what our individual situation is, comes here, depending on how we grasp the degree of urgency in the words.
If our situation is good, then we can say, 'this is an invitation.' However, depending on the situation, it may be an urgent demand. God says: "Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord. "Now, who would think people were in a race to get to Allah to ask Him for forgiveness? "Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord." This command is given to us as a group.
Man's Chance To Repent
Why should we have to be in a race toward Allah to get forgiveness from Him?
It's because when we — maybe not individually, racially, ethnically, or even nationally look at the whole of man, the whole of man has been guilty of racing at or for something that has brought him into disfavor. And since man raced for something that brought him into disfavor, now Allah is giving him a chance to repent from that kind of racing.
And the sign that you are ready to repent is that you won't race for anything except forgiveness from your Lord.
How do you get forgiveness from your Lord? You have to know what you've done. We get forgiveness from our Lord by not doing anymore what we did to get ourselves in disfavor.
So rush to your Lord for forgiveness. What has been man's race in religion? It's dominance over other men. What were the Crusades all about? It was to decide what religion would prevail, have dominance and influence on this earth. The Crusades was a political movement carried out in the name of God. It was a struggle between the Christians and the Muslims.
Before The Crusades
But before the Christians and the Muslims, there were other great powers, societies, and nations who claimed to have God on their side, while going after control in the life of man in society. That's what we must repent from. We must repent from trying to gain control in the life of man and the society.
Allah says the earth is to be inherited by his devotees. That's what He says in the Qur'an. Allah says that this earth is His, and He didn't intend it for His enemies. He intended this earth for His devotees.
Allah also says, "if you are indeed believers, you shall gain a superiority." That's what Allah says in the Holy Book. Allah promises us that if we are believers, we are guaranteed that eventually we shall triumph and become the prevailing force or influence in the land. This is the promise of Allah.
Allah Cautions Us
But at the same time Allah cautions us against making the great historical mistake of getting ourselves into disfavor. He cautions us by saying: "Any who desire a dominance will not get it." If that is your aim, you won't get it! What should be your aim? To satisfy the demands that your Lord places upon you.
Man should consider what gave him the idea that he can control the earth, that he can dominate all other men and influences and become the ruling power and bring peace and order to man on earth.
The Idea Of Dominance
What gave him that idea? It was insight into the workings of creation. That was not possible until an inspired person was blessed by God to see it. We have had great powers on this earth; the Mongols, and many others. But did they conceive the idea that they would be able to control us and master the earth? What was their aim? Was it to bring about an order for the whole world?
No. Their aim was to defeat everybody, and take everybody's possessions.
They didn't envision themselves bringing about a system of life or order whereby the people that they conquered would accept their state and be able to submit to and live in it. No, they didn't perceive that. They only perceived that their might was greater than the might of other men and nations.
But those great conquerors, who envisioned not only conquering but bringing into existence a state or society, that the subjects would eventually be satisfied with and be able to tolerate, were men who had the blessing of inspiration from God come to them directly or by way of the Prophets or someone else.
Pharaoh was a powerful man. But though he didn't have the right idea of God, he had an idea of God. He thought he was the embodiment of God. He thought that God had sometime in history put His spark into his great ancestors. That God impregnated his ancestors with the God-force. And being the descendant of his father, he felt he had the God-force in him. So he thought himself to be God. And in thinking himself to be God, he went out to conquer and bring people under his power and influence.
Pharaoh believed that his order was the ideal order. I'm not saying that a man has to be right in his idea. I say he has to have that idea and the belief that God has inspired it.
Now we know nations didn't begin on the wrong path. Nations strayed and came on the wrong path. This is our religion. So whatever insights or wisdom that Pharaoh had, he didn't invent it. He didn't invent proper knowledge or proper observation. That was the blessing from Allah, but it was in the hands of Pharaoh, a misguided man. So that's why Moses, the prophet of God, even appeals to Pharaoh and questions his logic.
Pharaoh: A testimony To One God
Why? Because Pharaoh himself is also a testimony that there is one God. But he had blinded himself. He had gotten off track. But it doesn't mean that Pharaoh didn't have any insight or idea of what should be the order of life for man. He had much of that idea, but his great problem with himself created great problems with that idea, and he was not able to establish them and would never be able to establish them as God intended for it to be established given the situation that he was in. So a prophet had to come and warn this man that he was wrong and off track.
Now let's look at America. When we look at what it believes in and where it's given its life as a nation, we see great wisdom.
We see in it principles that stand up in Muslim and non-Muslim territories. But we also see great problems.
When we look at the document that this country was founded upon, lives by, and represents the driving force in the life of this country, we can't dismiss it and say, 'There is no sign of God in this." There's a great sign of God in it. And the extent to which God is present in it, accounts for its longevity.
So we may have a part of the scheme or vision, but we may be in a situation that won't allow it to be advanced properly or lived correctly. So God calls man to forgiveness, because he has gone out to dominate, get the upper hand, and control the fate of man in society.