‘As The Light Shineth From The East’
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Editor's note: Imam Warith Deen Muhammad's publication, "As The Light Shineth The East" has received massive acclaim throughout the country. In that the response has been so universally overwhelming, Bilalian News takes this opportunity to provide its reading public with brief glimpses of this historical work. We not only recommend that everyone purchase a personal copy, but additional copies for friends and relatives as well.)
A People Without A Culture Are As A Bare Tree
In the Bible, family Bible, that is, you have what’s called the family tree. Family life is symbolized as a tree, and in the Bible we read that people are trees. I believe that it's John in the Bible, the New Testament, who says that people are trees. But in many other parts of the Bible, the idea is there. The Bilalians used to really repeat this quote from the Bible, especially when they were thinking about their problem of trying to get equality and opportunity in America.
The Bible says that every people shall sit under their own vine and fig tree. So, a tree is a symbolic picture of the human society, of community life. The family is the smallest unit. The family is pictured as a tree, and then the nation or races, cultural groups, religious groups are pictured as trees. When we look at the trees, we see a beautiful picture, a beautiful symbol of community development.
Look at a tree. Its roots are feeding under the earth in dirt. Its body is growing up from the ground. The ground is its base. And it is feeding in the ground.
But it doesn't only eat from the ground, in the head of the tree the leaves are feeding on sunshine. The roots feed on water and minerals from the earth. That's what the roots are getting, and the leaves are getting sunshine and in that sunshine is the energy for photosynthesis, making the leaves green, giving them color, and also for building up carbon in the tree. So, it's getting its material body from below and above and also its life from below and above.
And look how beautiful the tree is. It inspires thirst for beauty. A tree without leaves doesn't have that power to wake up the molecules of appreciation for beauty in us. An old bare tree sometimes affects us like a graveyard. I remember looking out of my window after the leaves had fallen from the trees and seeing one that resembled an old skeleton and I remember how it affected me. It was as though I were looking at death. A people without a culture are as a bare tree.
A bare tree does not have beauty. A bare tree does not invite you to come to comfort. A tree clothed with leaves invites you to come and sit under it and find rest and comfort. We wonder why other ethnic groups don't want to live in the Bilalian (African-American) neighborhoods. It's because we don't have leaves on our tree. The leaves of a highly developed culture. We are culturally deprived. In fact, we're culturally dead. Even the little ingredients for building culture in Christianity are not paid any attention to by most of the Bilalians. Some of you might not like for me to call you Bilalians.
Do you know the Romans got their names from an ancient ancestor called Romulus? Do you know the Arabs, too, many of them get their names from ancient ancestors? I think there's more dignity in identifying with an ancient ancestor than in identifying with skin color. When I say I am a Bilalian, I'm saying that I am a man like Bilal. When I say I'm black, I'm saying that I'm a man like black-skinned people. And black-skinned people are not only in the Bilalian ethnic family, they are also in the Indian ethnic family. So, I should ask you if you're black, which black?
And most of your answers would be, "I'm racist black." The very people who have written a beautiful history of courageous battles to get the racist to give up his racist mind have now taken on that kind of mind.
"...I'm black." What does that mean —? "It means that my color stays. Honky loses his color. Put him out on the beach in the sun, he gets red and brown; I don't lose my color. His skin peels, my skin stays, baby...." That's racist mentality.
Human Life is One
The Holy Quran tells us that life is one, not two. The human life is one. Not only the human life, but life, period, is one according to the teachings of Al-Islam. Your life is a part of the life in the whole creation. We see the life in different forms. We see it in different bodies and different places in the universe. But, it is one life — one created design. And the Muslim is to be one at peace with the whole creation. He is to have a reverent respect for the whole creation. He is not taught to be a racist. He is not taught to believe that his creation is different and a separate creation. When Allah made the human being, according to the symbolic or allegorical language of scripture, He made the human being from the life that was already here. He had already formed the earth, the universal life, then He made the human being out of the earth.
There's a kind of primitive thing that has been put on us. I'm talking about primitiveness in the sense of human and social retardation. Do you know there are forces in this world still that are racist, and they are not just European or American? You'll find these racist forces among practically every people. And they still want to retard the mental, human and social development of the poor Bilalian American. We have to be watching out for these efforts to keep us primitive, to deny us the development that we want.
I would like to remind you and me of the kind of peculiar human behavior — social behavior — that has come to almost take over the life of the Western society, and particularly American, the most learned of all people. The most educated in science, industry, human science and physical science. America has become the Mt. Everest of scientific achievement — wealth, power; and in the beauty of this nation, there is also an unusual greatness. How many nations have such beautiful Divine language in their constitution as we have?
"We hold these truths...all men are created equal...and endowed with inalienable rights, among these, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And so many other divinely inspired words formed the basis and the spirit of the United States Constitution. How great this nation is, but how peculiar is its human and social behavior when we examine the history of its rise, and even the present life.
Dear beloved people, we have to give these things serious thought. Something strange is responsible for the weird happenings in American life. The conceptual messages in the world of physical reality have been given to the world of men as rising out of a primordial ocean. This idea of a primordial ocean that everything came out of — human beings, the sun, the moon, and stars, everything — is still the concept of creation that is influencing the human mind, the mentality and the life of most of the people in the Western world. And maybe in the whole world.
This mythological presentation of reality has formed more fantasy and fiction in the thinking — our thinking, that is — than any civilized learned society should tolerate. Should grown men and women go on seeing the world in the language of the kindergarten class or in the language of the Sunday School text? It is a shame that we are still held down by such fantasies, fiction, and poetic pictures, out of a confused or a baffling mythology.