ISLAMIC ROOTS IN AMERICA
An Interview with
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
BBC: What distinguishes in your view the idea of the Nation of Islam from the true Islam, for example, which is your faith?
IWDM: Its nationalistic belief or idea that we are a nation of Black people, not just Muslims, and the attempt by the founder of that Nation of Islam to give us a sense of government and a kind of model of government in what we called the Temple of Islam. The-Temple of Islam had its own courts and all infractions of the laws were brought before the courts and judged there. Arid you were put out for disobedience or for breaking the laws of Islam. You were put out of the Nation of Islam or the Temple. We had our own courts.
We also had what I call an exercise in militarism, if not a military organization. We had an exercise in military discipline. We had "the Fruit of Islam" with its captains and lieutenants, and we would meet once a week and have drills. We were taught to obey our superiors. And I think Fard did all of that to give us a sense of our own government, if not a real or actual government.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, at one time, attempted to get the American people to sup^ port him In his effort to have the American government to set aside two or more states within the United States for African American people. This was not just for Muslims. He was asking for this for the African American people as their spokesman and as their leader. He was assuming that position, that he spoke for all of them. And that what would solve the race problem in America would be to give us separate states where we could have our own life under our own people and under our own authority.
This idea of government given to him by Fard, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad sought to pursue it. If not to see it through, to pursue it at least as a strategy. And I think it was more a strategy than an end that was desired.
BBC: Certainly, it had its economic impact. But then slowly, as I understand the history, a number of people and most famously yourself and Malcolm X began to be dissatisfied with that particular version of Islam and started to come to the real Islam. Can you tell me something about the processes which led to that? How old were you when that started?
IWDM: I was very young when I first began to have difficulty with the idea of God as that idea was presented in the temples of the Nation of Islam. I couldn't have been more than 13 years old, and we were taught how to make dua. We were never taught to make sadja. I remember making dua to God, and we were told that God was Fard Muhammad," an idea very similar to what they have in Christianity - that "God is manifest in flesh."
I was seeing "Fard," and it wasn't very comfortable for me. Then I said, "O Allah, if I am seeing You wrong, please help me." That was me praying within myself. No one knew I was praying except God and myself. And at that early age, I prayed that prayer to better understand God.
I wouldn't be surprised if there were many like me in the Nation of Islam. I know many adults who joined the Nation of Islam came to me after the changes and told me, "We loved your father so much, and We liked what he was doing for Blacks so much, that we didn't want to make any problems. So we accepted his idea of God. But to tell you the truth, brother, I never understood it. But we just didn't bother with it."
So we had many followers who didn't understand the idea of God that Elijah Muhammad presented to them and who didn't want to disturb the Nation of Islam, because they saw so many other values or merits.
BBC: Then your father Sadly died in 1975, and you immediately took over his role and started to change things. Could you tell us something about that?
IWDM: The first thing I saw we had to change was the idea of God, because Islam is Tauheed." We believe in the Oneness of God, and the whole ramification of that belief we call "Tauheed." I felt that right away I should make a statement to our people, the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad whom I was now the leader of, that we can not any more go along with that idea (of God being manifest in flesh). We have to be in agreement with the idea that it is in the Qur'an, the book that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said was our book too.
They accepted that, most of them. There were some who had great difficulty, and I think they tolerated me like others tolerated the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And some couldn't stand it anymore and they left, as you know- Farrahkhan eventually left, himself, although for a few years he pretended to be with me. I say "pretended" because I wonder now whether it was really sincere. But he pretended to be with me 100 percent when I became the leader.
And Farrahkhan knew me. He was not just seeing me. Farrahkhan knew me before I became the leader. He knew that I had an interest in correcting the ideas of Muslims. That it was mainly the ideas that addressed the Concept of God.
But we continued to progress with bringing the idea of God in line with Qur'an. Then we had to continue and the next step was to bring the idea of Prophethood in line with the Qur'an. And we did that also. Again, a lot of people just tolerated me, because they believed I was sincere and had faith that I had their interest at heart. I don't think they all bought the change immediately, but they had enough faith in -me to have patience.
On The Nation of Islam
(The following exchange occurred during an inter* view with The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C., following a public address by Imam W. Deen Mohammed on January 14,1995, in Columbia S.C.)
Reported By Sabir Kasib Muhammad
Question: What is the current relationship between your organization and the Nation of Islam under Minister Farrakhan?
IMAM W. D. MOHAMMED: None what-so-ever! There is a hope with us and perhaps with him too that changes will take place. For us these changes will have to take place within their group. That will bring us to one day accept the African Americans all belonging to one and the same religion. But right now what we have is two groups claiming one religion.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad actually introduced a new religion under the name "Islam" into the Black community. So we have to see enough change in their (Nation of Islam) religious ideas to permit us to say we all stand upon the principles of Islam with one and the same idea and behind the Prophet of Islam, Mohammed, Who has over one billion followers.
I once believed the way he (Farrakhan) believes. I know I was blessed by God to change, so I don't ever give up on them. I believe you can't live in this world too long holding on to ideas that tax your mind and your soul and spirit as those ideas that he got from the Nation of Islam taxed our soul, mind and spirit
One day they are going to have to take a second look at what they are believing in and they will come this way, the" way of Islam, into the international community of Muslims.