The Environment: A Challenge To Man
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Editor's note: The following is excerpted from a lecture Imam Muhammad delivered recently at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich.)
There is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, which I am going to give, but first I would like to refer to the Qur'an, the Holy Book of all Muslims, throughout the world. Allah says that He has rendered whatever is in the sky and whatever is in the earth, to be of service to man, to yield its resources, to respond to man and his endeavor to improve his state. However, we know that is only given to those who make great efforts; people who don't make great efforts can expect little or nothing. God says in our Holy Book, that the human being can have no more than that for which he strives. If there's no great effort there is no great reward; no great benefits. Allah also says that man has been created and put on this earth, to grow and to do great things and to realize the great freedom and great responsibility and that it is endless; there is no limit to it. So Allah says, when you have finished one task, enter right away into another and that continues forever. There is no limit. We cannot exhaust the resources that God has created for us.
However, there is a great problem. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, everyone is born a Muslim. We believe that the human being is given a Muslim nature by God and the Prophet said that it is the circumstances, or environment that he is put in that makes him other than a Muslim; that is Christian or Jew or whatever.
There is another saying of the Prophet where it is told how God introduced the beautiful and wondrous creation that He had made to the arch-angel Jibreel. When Jibreel saw the wonderful creation of our Lord, he said, 'Oh God, oh Lord, how can anyone go astray in such a creation?' And then our Lord showed the angel Jibreel the creation after it had been altered by Satan, and Jibreel said, 'My Lord, how can anyone go astray in such a creation?'
I understand from that story that the greatest challenge to man is his environment. We know that the greatest challenge to primitive man was environment, and now we live in an advanced, highly scientific and technological society and we are still challenged by the environment. The environment is still our greatest challenge and we are held responsible to our Creator for our behavior.
And this is the month of February, the month set aside for Black History observance, which I don't recognize. I do not recognize the month for Black History observance because I think we should observe our history every month, so that we make it better every month. We should be more aware about the history we are making right now rather than the one behind us. And I don't think we're making much of any history right now, not as a mass movement, or as a people.
In this month, I would like to call our attention to a major problem we've had as a people since better times have come, that is the tendency on our part to follow pleasures, to seek the pleasures of life, and forget the lessons of life.
I was reading a very excellent magazine recently and it has some of its pages devoted to Black History month and it said 'turn to such-and-such page for your quiz.' So I turned to the page and all I saw was the names of personalities and you had to identify those personalities. What about the events in life? They are important too. This kind of orientation in us, regarding our greatness, our excellence, is bad for us. If people, whether they be blacks or whites or Arabs or Africans, if they only remember the names of people, if they only remember personalities, then they'll be lost, they'll have no future.
We should remember personalities in connection with something bigger than the person. We should remember the principles the person stood for, the work he did for the society or for his people. This is more important than just remembering names. Just to say that he's a civil rights leader, you get an "A" in that magazine. But more important is to know what principles that man lived by, what motivated him to have the courage or to make the sacrifices he made, what kind of principles were operating in his life.
So we have a long way to go, and I think the way we have to go when talking about African-Americans is backwards. Not backwards in the sense that you may think, I mean backwards in the road that we've been walking. We've left most of our marbles behind us.