Let's Lift Our Heads Up: Part 1
Imam Warith Deen Muhammad
On Feb. 24, 1980, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, leader of the World Community of Al-Islam in the West, delivered a stirring address on the subject of the African-American "Identity Crisis" in a nationwide, live radio broadcast. Speaking from Masjid Elijah Muhammad in Chicago, where more than 6,000 Muslims gathered for the address, Imam Muhammad urged African-Americans (Bilalians). to "lift our heads up" and put faith in God.
Following the Imam's hour-long broadcast directed to the general public, the members of the WCIW conducted an extended meeting on Community matters via telephonic connections with scores of masjid communities around the country.
According to the WCIW Council of Imams, this February meeting ends a near 50-year tradition of the Community in conducting a special February observance or convention during the last week in the month.
Following is an abbreviated text of Imam Muhammad's historic address:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, friends in our radio audience—to all of you, peace be unto you, As-Salaam-Alaikum.
We are very much thankful to the Almighty for blessing us to gather here today to address the Muslim community called World Community of Al-Islam in the West, and also to address our friends and fellow human beings in the radio audience.
I am happy to see the members of the Council of Imams here today, the Council that represents the leadership of this Community, along with myself. I am happy to see all of the Imams and other officials of the Community who are here with us today.
In this first hour of my address, I hope to speak to you on significant, important points—points I consider to be eye-opening on the history of the Nation of Islam and what that history offered to the general community of Bilalian, or African-American people.
I hope to show how the Community called the Nation of Islam, or Temple of Islam—Lost-Found Nation of Islam—helped to bring about better appreciation in our community for self and self worth, and how that Community under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad helped to bring about more desire in us for a more significant social role and more significant involvement in business, etc.
I'll begin with a statement of a fact, or a statement of truth, that holds great significance for me. That fact is that the Almighty, whose proper name is Allah, the Creator of everything, has designed the physical or material world and everything in it including ourselves, our human life. Allah has designed creation to operate in the pattern of pairs; life operates in the pattern of twos—in the pattern of pairs. Wherever there are effects, there are causes for those effects. Wherever there are problems there are solutions to those problems.
God has not given us imbalance in life. God has not given us a severed or truncated life, or a lame life in any part of creation; God has given us a whole life a complete life; and wherever we find one thing operating in a diseased way or in a problematic way, we will also find the help for that thing if we look close enough. No matter what the problem is, there is always help for us.
I'm speaking now of the problem that we seem to have in finding a comfortable state of mind for ourselves. Most of us don't seem to be able to find that comfortable state of mind. Most of us seem to worry that we are in an inferior position all the time, that fortune is not shining on us, or that the way to progress is too filled with obstacles—so filled with problems and hardships that it's too much for us to tackle.
Dear people, if you are feeling that way today, you who are listening to us in the audience, then understand and know that there is at least one person who doesn't feel that way. I don't feel that I am in an inferior position. I don't feel that the path or the road ahead for me is filled with hardships. I don't feel that some other person is better favored than I am.
Although when I look out into the world I do see Caucasians with greater positions of power in the world; I see Caucasians with a greater command of wealth, a greater command of the forces of life; I see them deciding life and with the tools to do that^-but I still don't think that they are more fortunate than I am.
The reason why I don't feel that they are more fortunate than I am is because I also see the mess-up they have made, and I see the mess-up that they continue to make. With the light that Allah has blessed us with, I don't think we can mess up that much.
My purpose for being with you is to share with you my high hopes and optimism. Believe me nothing in me is stirring more vigorously than that desire in me to see others catch on to my high hopes and to my optimism.
I used to carry a low head too, I used to walk very lowly and half the time I didn't know what the night would bring, not to think of tomorrow morning, I didn't know what the night would bring. But I finally latched on to a fact of life that only Allah can show us—I found it in His holy scripture—and once I found that fact of life, my head has been carried very easily on my shoulders thereafter.
So, dear people, let's not brood and let's not sing the blues that holds us down.
Let's lift our heads up, have faith in ourselves and faith in our future. Above all, let us have faith that there is a just God who's always in command of everything, and He is just waiting for a change of heart on the individual's part. And once the individual experiences that proper change of heart then he will get the help that he needs from the source that has always been in command.
It's a beautiful day today. I really don't like to think about people suffering identity problems, but we have to deal with that. We shouldn't have anybody suffering from identity crisis.
Another simple truth is that the best informed society or people is most likely the society or people with the best opportunity. You know that our holy scripture, the Quran—and the Bible as well, if you understand it—doesn't put the problem on the individual; it puts the problem on the attitude of the individual.
Allah has made the individual right, but the inability to select proper, correct information causes the individual to take on attitudes that are destruction to self and life. What we have in the world today is the great problem of incorrect information, incorrect knowledge, and consequently bad attitudes—self-destructive attitudes.
A gentleman wrote a book called "Black Ghetcolony." This is a word he formed himself—ghetto-colony, shortened to ghetcolony. The author of this book is Eugene Perkins.
When I read the opening chapter of this book and a few pages from the last part of this book and I read from the center pages, I said to myself this man started out on the right foot, but I don't know how he lost the ability to walk on the right foot.
He ends up walking on the left foot; he didn't even use the right foot anymore but he did point out a problem that is a real problem for us—he feels that our life is still under the influences of the plantation system.
And I must agree with that. In fact, I didn't just come to that conclusion from reading his book. It was when I was ministering for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad that I came to the conclusion that the problem was not so much the denial of opportunity as it was the habit of carrying slavish attitudes.
Opportunities can be right there within the hand's reach, right within your own reach, but you can't take advantage of the opportunity because you don't see the opportunity, many times because of old slavish attitudes.
What do I mean by old slavish attitudes? What am I referring to? I 'm referring mainly to that position that we took as slaves and discriminated-against blacks, or Negroes as we are called in America. That attitude that we took that says this world belongs to the white man, this is the white man's world; that attitude that says we can't get in, they won't let us in. That attitude that says we are excluded, that attitude that says that's the man's thing.
As long as we have that kind of attitude we won't have the courage to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to us. Whenever an opportunity comes to make you a deciding factor or an influencing factor in the life of the total society, you have to be able to identify in the total society.
If you are not able to identify in the total society, then you're not going to progress very far with attitudes that don't recognize the need to identify in the total society. You can't serve the nation while you exclude yourself or think that you don't have the right, or the freedom, or the opportunity to really compete with any other person in this society.
We have the right and the opportunity; we always had the God-given right, but today, thanks be to God and thanks to our great leaders and to the reception that our call found among other people in this country—thanks to all of that, today we have opportunity. We have opportunity as well as rights. Don't think about the economic situation for America at this present time – the economic situation for America at this present time is better than the economic situation for Israel.
Let's think about something more at home; let's think about our identity crisis. Usually when we talk about identity crisis we think in terms of color, we think in terms of nationalism. Who am I? I am a black man, I am a black woman. Who am I? I am a black child. Africans are my ancestors; Africa is my motherland. Well there are identity crises that will cripple you more.
Although that knowledge is needed—you need to know where Africa is, you need to know that your ancestors came from Africa, and you need to know that you got your black skin from Africa—but as I said before, there are identity crises more serious than that.
And to me the most serious identity crisis is the one that really stems from a neurosis—failure of the individual to make unity within himself. This black-white thinking has contributed to that, but I am convinced that it is something in our genes. It's something that has come to us in our genes.
How can I inherit a problem like that through my genes, Brother Imam? Well, go to any psychiatrist and he will explain it to you thoroughly—I'm just going to hit and hope I don't miss too much today.
I believe it's a genetic problem. Most of us like to look back to the greatness of yesterday, but if we expect to solve the problems that we have today we have to also have the courage to look back to the inferiority of yesterday: we have to look back to the sad aspects of yesterday. And there are things in the yesterday-years that we don't want in today's years.
We don't want primitive tribalism among us today, and I have been convinced that most of us still carry primitive tribalism as a burdensome thing that keeps us working against each other. I'll explain what I mean by primitive tribalism.
When the Caucasians went to Africa to bring our ancestors over here for chattel slavery, they came behind a development in Africa that had really established civilization par excellence on that continent. Timbutu, Askia the Great—we can point to countries and we can point to great leaders; most of them were Islamic, who had raised civilization to a high level before the Caucasians went there and brought our ancestors here.
Many of the contributions that we now give such great respect to didn't come from Greece or from Rome, they came from Africa and from Al-Islam. They came from Africa even before the dawn of Al-Islam on that continent. These are facts of history.
But there was also something else existing there that had not yet been embraced by civilization and that is the tribal mentality: "Whatever I have I have to have it to myself; it has to belong to my tribe; my tribe has to keep its independence. I won't accept that tribes come together under one leadership; my tribe has traditionally been known for its leadership; I don't like to merge my tribe with your tribe."
When Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, preached to Arabia, he found the Arabs in that same state. The Arabs were divided against each other in little clannish groups under a tribal chief. An a great part of Africa was in that condition when our ancestors were brought to America.
Many of our people became narrow-minded, selfish tribal chiefs. Plantation life exploited that and pitted one Bilalian or one African-American against the other, making the job of the slave-master very easy for him because the slave was the enemy to his brother slave. He competed with his brother slave for favor. He would even kill his brother slave unjustly to get favor from his master.
This is the ugly side of our history that we also need to look at, because we carry much of that problem today. Many of us today, if it were not for us having that tribal selfishness, could lend our support to decent, fan", honest, human efforts coming from a leader like ourselves. But many of us can't lend open and free support to a leader like ourselves because we are still dominated by primitive tribal selfishness.