“Steps to Success”: Part 3
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed made this public address in Poughkeepsie, New York on December 29, 1991. From it he has now prepared this article for Muslim Journal's readers.)
A Well Balanced Community
I really appreciated what Brother Luqman Al-Ghazzali (Raj) of the television show What's Happening Now said to build support for "a well balanced community." This is the second time I have heard him speak at one of our banquets. One thing really comes out very strong and that is that he is a believer. A lot of us are Muslim but all of us are not believers. He is a believer.
For us a well balanced community is "a midway" community. And that word is not sufficient, but it is the best word that I have right now in English. "Midway" suggests that it is not a community of the extremes. It is not a community of the extreme right and is not a community of the extreme left. 1 am going to address the "Steps to Success" within this theme of a well balanced community.
The word is "al-wustaa." The context where this word is given, both the community and the "middle" prayer are identified by this term. We are to be a community of "al-wustaa". And we are also told to guard a certain prayer. That prayer is called Salaat al-wustaa. It is the middle prayer. Most scholars, if I am remembering correctly, do not identify salatal Thuhr as that prayer, but they say it is 'Asr.
'Asr Implies Difficulty
Why are we cautioned to not neglect that prayer. The midday in the society of Muham-med was a time when they took a break from work. So they are free from work at midday. The Friday prayer is at the time of Salatal Thuhr. It replaces Salatal Thuhr. If we miss the Friday prayer, we have to do the four rakats instead of the two rakats for the Jumuah.
'Asr, in the very name itself implies a difficulty. Allah says, "Surely with difficulty there is ease". Qur'an. The juice out of the fruit is called 'Aseer. That means it was gotten by pressure. You squeeze the orange and mash the fruit. And there is a saying: "He will tread the wine press alone". 'Asr is a time of difficulty.
It is a time of difficulty for what? It is difficulty for man and society, for the historical society or for the developing life of man. This is not a time in one day as much as it is a time in the life of man. It is a time when he will face great difficulty and his life will be pressed. And if he is to get anything to quench his thirst, he will have to press to get a little "aseer".
Guard Against Extremes
We are supposed to be "the midway community." Now the times of difficulty is the time when people are given to go to extremes. So we are to guard against extremes. Call to mind the heavy emphasis in the Qur'an for us to stay out of the forbidden extremes. When we say we want a well balanced community, we are saying that we want a community avoiding those forbidden extremes.
This concerns first of all the extreme that we see in the life of society that brings the society to die, to fall to its end. The history of the rise and fall of enlightened civilized society captures man's obsessions with his destiny and origin—these are extremes too. If I say left and right, you may take the terms politically. But the extreme too is when man becomes obsessed with an idea of his origin and destiny. This obsession captured in history provides a focus for viewing society's classical rise and fall.
Hence, man's fate and society's fate is most often tied to that obsession. Therefore a midway community and people is to be understood as a community neither given to fatalism or to romanticism. Romanticism brings to my mind what we have come to see today in these times as humanism. That romanticism of the past is related to the humanism that we have presently. Humanism is a child of that old idea. We are not to become so humanly tender or sentimental that we are identified with humanism.
Strong Souls Measure Up
I know this is difficult for us, but this (strong souls) is what Allah wants. Allah wants us to measure up to the difficult task. If we do not measure up to the difficult task, we cannot sustain this great life. The difficult task is to check our tendency to be too sweet, too mellow, too soft, too ripe. Some will say, "Brother Imam, as bad as we are, you don't need to give us a caution like that." I think most of you are as bad as you are because you are too ripe, too tender, too sweet. Some of the worst sinners I know can really get sentimental. They can start boohooing and shaking like they are under electric shock and will tell you how much they love you and everybody. They do that with blood on their hands and dope in their veins and whatever.
We may say the extreme is the East and the West symbolically speaking. For we know that Allah says that this light "is neither of the East or the West," but it is of "a blessed tree" neither East or West. So East and West are given to us as extremes to avoid. I am focusing upon the tendency in man to be obsessed with his origin and his end, birth and death.
Keep To Qur'an
Man comes up with the idea that society's birth comes about like this, and its death like this. Man's idea brings the members of society under the influence of origin and destiny. Many philosophers have given us their idea of origin and destiny. Those ideas are very ancient and many volumes have been written. If we would look at the society of man to put society in one focus that would serve to make us understand or have light on the total behavior of society and its members, 1 think, the best focus would be a focus on man's interest in origin and destiny.
This community must never accept that any man or anything other than God be God or called God. We cannot accept that any human being is divine. Never! If we ever start to be sympathetic to such idea, we will be going to that extreme that God is warning us against. We will not be that midway or middle way community anymore. Don't think that this is just a midway community in your own imagination. This is a midway community or middle community in the context of Qur'an and the Life of Prophet Muhammed. This is how we understand the midway community.
Some of you may say, "Yes, we are supposed to be a well balanced community." And "balanced" to you might mean a totally different thing. You may call balanced to just drink a little whiskey sociably. That may be okay in most of the world, but in the Muslim world that is a heavy sin.
"Partying" for us must have a totally different meaning. Even in the days of my father, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, we would use the language of the world sometimes and would say, "Brother, I am high." We would be very disciplined followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. We did not mean we were high on any alcohol or reefers or dope. We meant that we were so spirited that it was satisfying us as much as or more than drugs satisfy. We would say, "Brother, I am high!"
Establish A Model
Now we don't want people so stiff that they look like the man on the yellow brick road — the tin man. That is a miserable way to exist. What I am saying is be sure that you have your own definition of the term partying. We should have social life and social gatherings with food and entertainment where men and women can dance but under the rule of Islam. Don't have any gesturing or any behavior that will be interpreted as vulgar or indecent behavior. Don't imitate the world but establish a discipline as a model for the world. Then you are a Muslim and you can be happy.
I broke a lot of laws back there in the early days, because I had teenage friends and wanted to be with them. I would sneak and go to their dances and bebop and do the walk or strut. I am not proud of that. I know I should not have been among them. It (group pressure) is a great temptation and it was only the mercy of God that saved me. I am proud that I did not give myself to the extremes and I did not come under the influence of the party. I was there at the party, but I was never under the influence of the party. I never drank. I never smoked a cigarette. I did not behave indecently or display vulgar behavior. I did not get loud. My friends admired me because I would not take a drink. They would try you over and over again, even though you repeatedly turned them down. They were finally convinced and they began to admire me. They also thought that I was the special person among them, and they would be more conscious of my protection than they were of their own protection.
It was because I did not reject them. Two or three of them had a reefer habit. I had one who had a drinking habit: he drank too much. But they were nice people in their hearts and were my friends. Many of you will say that you are not supposed to keep company with such people. But they were ignorant people. They didn't know. They were not Muslims and had no Islamic knowledge. For me it worked, for some of them became Muslims later.
I don't regret that. I would rather go before God with that kind of sin on me than to go before God and have God say, "You loved nobody."
(To be continued)