Signs Of The New Millennium
Interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Note: Imam W. Deen Mohammed gave this interview for his World Wide Radio Broadcast to Imam Darnell Karim, Resident Imam of the Harvey Islamic Center, It was aired on station WNDX - 750 AM Radio. This weekly broadcast reaches all of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana from 7:30 to 8:30 every Sunday morning. The first part of this interview was printed in the Muslim Journal dated Jan. 21, 2000.)
Darnell Karim: Can you give us an update of your current involvement and directions on the Muslim American Society connection with the Ministry?
Imam Mohammed: Currently, I have a number of things that I am giving myself to very seriously. One is to, as much as possible, find opportunities to meet with other religious leaders of other faiths, mostly Christians and Jews.
Along with that, I am reminding myself that we have an obligation in this time of our lives in America, where Islam now is a known and highly visible religion.
The media has accepted to give Islam attention and to welcome the presence of Muslims in the media, since we have such strong presence in the citizenry in America. We are a fast growing presence in the population of citizens in the United States.
So my awareness is high and sharp to find opportunities and take advantage of opportunities to address the roots of the three great religions that are called the "Abrahamic religions." But also I am looking at scripture.
We share and identify with the same prophets as followers. We follow the prophets from Abraham to Moses to Jesus Christ (peace be upon them) and to the Last Prophet, Muhammed (prayers and the peace be upon him).
We accept all of the prophets, as Allah says to us in the Qur'an: "Say, we accept all of them and make no distinctions between them," saying one is legitimate and the other is not, We accept all of them.
To draw attention to this at this time is what I think is a necessity for me as an Imam. When I say for me, I think it is for all Muslim leaders - especially in our association. We want them to know that this is the time for us to point to the similarities and to the closeness that we have as people of faith with Jews and Christians.
Then our country can become a more peaceful country and a country that is receiving the spiritual support of the three great communities of faith - Jews, Christians and Muslims.
There are other interests too, and that interest is that you cannot advance your religious community much, unless you also have the support of the strong business community, your business people.
So my attention also is on heightening the awareness of our business people that they have an obligation to make more money than the family needs. Make more money than you need for your vacation and your pleasures, for your yacht or fine luxury car you would like to get one day.
Our appetites must be much bigger than that because we are depending on our business people to also support our religious schools, to support the Imams who give full time to the work of representing the religion and leading the community in prayer and in education, in Islamic religious education.
These needs have to be financed, and we can't expect non-Muslims to finance these needs. Therefore, the responsibility falls directly on the business people of our community to engage in business, not just for selfish or personal reasons, but to make your community a viable community, financially speaking. Then sacred needs of the community are taken care of.
We have grown far beyond our ability to finance our growth now. The followers of Islam are known everywhere and are accepted in America and in most parts of the world. Muslims who belong to our association also are known throughout America now. We are seen in The Vatican in Rome, in Egypt, in the major centers for Islamic education and Islamic life.
They expect that we should have enough money to finance our religious needs. So it is embarrassing now to look at our popularity and our numbers are increasing, but our-money is not enough to finance our growth. That is a serious thing for me, and that is what I am involved in right now.
We have a vision of strengthening our business people. If we have good business people, we want to tell our people to support their business. And only deny them your business support when they are doing something that shames them as Muslims.
As long as they are not doing anything that shames them as Muslims, as long as they are honorable Muslims of good character, then you have an obligation to support your business people.
Darnell Karim: We do have, as you are aware, some honorable business people who are helping to sponsor the program on this radio station, to see that the message of Islam
and those concerns of yours under your Ministry are heard in the public.
Imam Mohammed: Yes, we have known of them, and we certainly appreciate them. We pray to Allah to continue to shower His Blessings on them and to inspire them, so that they are more successful, to extend their vision so that they see even greater opportunities to earn lawful income.
Because if they earn it, we don't have to pressure them for it. These people want to see their community supported. The answer is just support them and pray to Allah that they be more and more successful every day, every month and every year.
Darnell Karim: On the other part of this talk today, Imam, I would like for you to speak on this New Millennium. We find that most of the faiths, the major faiths - Islam, Christianity and Judaism - seem to be celebrating their most sacred holidays or holy months in the same month. It seems to be coming right at the ending of this century. Can you give some comments on this?
Imam Mohammed: Yes. We have this closing of the millennium and going into the Year 2000, and in the last month of the millennium we are witnessing the Muslims fasting in the month of Ramadan that does not come always at this time -for it rotates through out the year, Christians are celebrating Christmas, and Jews are celebrating Hanukkah. All of this is in the same month and time period.
I think that it is no accident. I think G-d let that happen as a sign. Why do I say that? Because it is during this time, the end of 1999, that we are not only seeing these holidays occur in the same time period, but we are seeing also the Pope of Rome, Pope John Paul II, and the Custodian of the Two Holy Places in Mecca and Medinah, His Majesty King Fahd encouraging dialogue with the Catholic church leadership and with other Christian leaders and leaders of other great faiths.
This is being encouraged by the head of Saudi Arabia, the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, His Majesty King Fahd. Rabita, known as the Muslim World League, is based there in Mecca, and it too is encouraging dialogue with leaders of what we call the Abrahamic faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Discussion for the purpose of seeing how we can get to know each other better, so that we will respect each other more and find opportunities to cooperate with each other for a better world for all of us.
This is what is happening. And as you know, I attended a conference in Israel, a conference that was bringing together different leaders of different religions - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions, so that we can find opportunities to come closer together based upon what is lawful for us in our religions.
It was to put more emphasis on the larger areas of similarities and lesser emphasis on the smaller areas of differences. That is what is happening all around the world, and it is happening in this particular time.
But it is not just Muslims, Christians and Jews, for you will find Christians too divided by many denominations. So Christian leaders now are wanting Christians to see their common ties and become stronger. The same thing is happening for Muslims.
Muslims have many different schools of thought, many different persuasions, when it comes to how we should live our religion or whether this is more important than that. Whether the cultural dress is too important for us to just ignore it completely. Some think we shouldn't dress in Western clothes which is not identified with the dress of Eastern people. That is a matter for discussion.
Personally, you know my position: Be clean, modest, decent and respectful. You don't have to wear any other person's dress. That is my position, but these things are being discussed now.
The treatment of women is being discussed more, and Muslim citizens are having more conferences to involve women and to see that women are having a greater presence in society. That they have some real meaningful roles in serving society and working out the future of society with the male leaders of their societies and the world.
So there is just a big change for us at the end of this millennium that we are seeing. Great religions are coming together, showing unity for the betterment of human life on this earth. They are speaking among the leaders of their faiths separately.
We are seeing the members of those faiths looking at each other, saying: "No, we are Christians, and we have to respect each other. We have to seek an opportunity to know each other better, so that we can cooperate together for a better world, for a better future for all of us." That is very necessary.
It is important that Muslim leaders have dialogue and discussions with Muslim leaders, so that we can get the benefit of our collective resources and collective efforts. Then the whole Muslim community on this earth gets more benefit from our labor and our works, and that is happening.
As you know, I was a guest again at The Vatican. I visited The Vatican again (in 1999) and made an address there as one of the faith leaders from the different faiths, hosted by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. That was unheard of years ago.
If someone had told me that would happen, I would have laughed and said: "What kind of stuff do you have in your head to make you think that? That's impossible; that is not going to happen." But it has happened and not just for me. It is happening for many others.
People who we thought would never come together are coming together. And I think it is a sign from G-d; it is not from us. It is a sign from Allah that the world has been helped by His servants, the prophets, including Muhammed who has brought the great Message of Mercy to all people in the 6th and 7th Centuries. Before him, there were the great Prophet Moses and the great Prophet Jesus Christ (prayers and peace be on them).
There are all of these followers claiming they are believers in G-d and claiming that they are following sacred scripture, so it is time for all of us to recognize each other and recognize that we have the same claim.
Darnell Karim: Praises due to Allah for that! Brother Imam, we want to thank you for this interview. It is very inspiring. And we always say to each other to make du'a (prayer) for each other. May G-d be with you, and G-d Speed. We are with you in your mission.
Imam Mohammed: Thank you very much. I am very proud of you all, especially you. Imam Darnell Karim, in the Harvey and Chicago area. You have done a lot to help strengthen the spirit of Muslims. Not only in our community, for I have met immigrant Muslims who have told me how you have inspired them and how proud they are of the work you are doing.
You are also serving the sick. You perform Jumuah prayers in the hospital, and you have been doing that for several years. So we appreciate your work. I also know your devotion to education. And you are telling me that there is going to be an occasion pretty soon when we can come here and see our young students who are memorizing the Qur'an, to become Hafiz (March 3-5, 2000; see Muslim Journal's Calendar of Events). We are looking forward to that, and all I can say is congratulations to you!
We are making many du'as in this fast month for the success of Muslims every where, and you are in my prayers often, Imam Darnell Karim. Thank you.
Darnell Karim; Thank you, and you are always in my prayers, Brother Imam. Thank you very much.
"We are not the first to make this change, to recognize the word dog in the reverse reading of the Name is distasteful. Many Jews agree. We favor such Jewish sentiments and share the concern."
Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Sept. 30, 1998