Muslims Should Strive For Excellence: Part 2
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Editors note: This article is adapted from an address delivered at the First National United Ta'alim held in Los Angeles, Ca. March 8, 1987)
We know that the first requirement is that we understand that our attention is called to recognize God as being more important than anything else. So get up from your seat. And if the bed is more important to you, get up from the bed, Allah is more important. But there is another message — the messages never stop coming, they are endless — that is a philosophical one. That message is never choose the inferior, but choose the superior. Never aim for the lesser, but for the greater. If that isn't good for you, then there is nothing-good.
Some of us constantly worry about our situation; we say "oh, I wish I had enough money and knowledge to establish myself." It doesn't always work like that. You can have all the money and knowledge in the world and fail to establish yourself.
I was reading a publication very recently, about how some people in Chicago, won big in a sweepstakes. The sweepstakes are over now, but they decided they'd tell us how good the sweepstakes were when they existed. So, they gave a report on one woman, who received about $153,000. She knew her troubles were over, so she and her husband invested the $153,000 in the restaurant business. But two years later, she was right where she started. She said, "well, it was good while it lasted.
Now I'm sure some of you would have gone to the Saudi Arabian Embassy and said, "Give me $100,000.1 think once you do that, you won't have to be bothered with me anymore; I'll be a Muslim on my feet from then on." But this is not necessarily so.
And there are many cases like that. In fact, the article that I read, cited at least three or four examples of people who hit it big, but couldn't establish themselves.
So don't think that money, knowledge, science and wisdom is the answer; it's only a help. The answer is to put yourself in the proper order. If a bucket has holes in it, and you keep pouring water into it, you won't be able to carry the water anywhere. If you do, you won't carry it for long; especially if you have quite a distance to go. You will reach your destination with an empty pail, because the bucket has holes in it.
Likewise, for your own situation. If you don't put yourself in the right situation, you can't expect too much in terms of success. It will be short-lived.
The Muslim Scholar's Role
So let us rely upon Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, and apply those teachings and insight. Not only the teaching, but we should get help from the more brilliant, curious and studious persons in our community; we should get help from them, to identify Qur'anic philosophical insights, and pass them on, so we can apply them to our lives.
The Muslim world must realize that it's in competition with the democratic West, whether it wants to be or not. The democratic West relies upon education and philosophical insight, to save its society from decadence and total ruin.
Now don't think America is not going to come out of this; God knows. I don't know. But from all indications, given their ability and resources, this is just a spell that is going to pass. They are going to retrieve what they've lost. They are going to bring again a sense of respect for long-established values, not only to the institutions, but to the American public. This country undergoes seasons of high life and low life. And while we are in a season of low life, don't think it's forever; the American people are no fools. We must prepare ourselves by using the best.
I was thinking on the image of the Muslims in the eyes of the Christian world, and also in the eyes of the non-Godly world. (And I said to myself) I don't necessarily mean the criminal world, but the non-Godly world. There are criminals on both sides.
Shallow Knowledge Of Muslims
I imagine that playful, silly-minded Americans (or people of the West) that come into a kind of shallow knowledge of what Muslims are, write us off as a tale from the Arabian Knights or as I heard one Christian say, "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."
But I'm sure those educated serious-minded, Americans, knowing the importance of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), and seeing the political developments in the Middle East, Africa and Asia; seeing the courage of the Afghanistan freedom fighters, have been motivated to take another look at Islam.
And many of them, I'm sure, are going to the public library, and the Library of Congress trying to get some knowledge of Muslims. If they are not doing this, then they are not what I think they are, and I think they are intelligent people.
So I said to myself, if I would really look at the history that's available to me as a non-Muslim (I'm trying to put myself in a non-Muslim's position), and see the great start given the Muslim people, by Allah, the Qur'an, and His prophet. Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him; and seeing how they had great examples in the Companions, and the immediate leaders that followed Muhammad, peace and the blessings be upon him; and how they were able to make great achievements in the fields of learning, science, business, and art and impressed the intellectuals of the Christian world, and in time, was the factor for igniting their intellect for a revival of the sciences in their world; given all that, after looking at the poor performance of Muslims in the world, over the last 400 years or so, I would conclude, yes, God definitely inspired Muhammad the Prophet.
A Little Faith
If you have just a little faith, (you don't have to be a religious person), and read the facts of Islam, you are going to be so impressed, that you will conclude that such progress was impossible without a supreme phenomenon that's beyond the reach of the average human mortal, working for Prophet Muhammad, and the Muslims. He could not do it, without that Higher help, that would be your conclusion.
Then you would ask, "what happened?" Now, I have come up with many answers to what happened. In terms of industry, if they made the best swords, they could also make the best car, That same interest and discipline leads to the best car. That's metal work, that's industry. They had the fastest transportation; the Arabian horses were the fastest transportation. They also proved they were the best on the seas. So what happened?
I conclude that when it comes to industry, —(don't think I'm picking on the white man — I admire him for his great achievements in science and industry, etc.) that the white man was then, and as a people, now, less evolved socially than we are — then and now. The white man's social life — and when I say social life, I'm talking about the beginning, the first base, of social life, the family life, respect for members of the family, neighbors, members of his own race, and respect for members of other races — has been behind ours when it come to the evolution of that social life. And he still is behind us. If you take the Judaic-Christian props from under him, he becomes a social savage. He is capable of disgracing society more than anybody else. Now, I'm not picking on him, but revealing helps everybody.
I read recently where one writer said that "Christianity has lost its effectiveness as a religion and also as a moral source." If that's the case, then we can understand why we have to have bars on our windows, police dogs all around the place, and pistols in the house. Man used to keep a shotgun and a pistol for wild animals, now we have to have it for wild citizens.
We can understand why this country, which has promoted individual freedom and liberty, is now getting away from the very light that made it presentable to the civilized world. It was the fine principles of Christianity that made the European man presentable to the civilized world. Now when he gets out of touch with that religious life, then we can understand him yet being under that belief, that you should realize the full potential of your body, mind and spirit and that every individual is entitled to the right to free his potential- So if he doesn't have a guide and has been cut off from his real sacred life, all he has now is the worldly life, that is influencing him.
If his potential is perversion then we end up with child pornography, and the rape of 80 year old women. That's what happens in this society. We end up with senseless killings, destruction and the brutalization of human life. If we wanted to draw a picture of hell, we wouldn't have to put a drop of paint on the canvas, just direct everybody to look at America in her decadence.
Well, I see the possible reasons for the Western people's behavior. When they leave the guidelines of their religion, we should remember that Allah has given us Al-Islam and the Prophet's example as a protection for our lives. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, '/ leave you two authorities: and as long as you hold on to them, you will never stray. That is the Qur'an, the revealed word of God, and my own conduct, the Sunnah. 'And Prophet Muhammad said; 'Those among us who imitate the behavior of non-Muslims, of other people, are not of us.'
So, I didn't only come to the conclusion that intelligent people who did a little research would see the greatness of the early days of the Muslims, but they would also see the potential of that great, great society for coming into the leadership of democracy and industrial excellence. The potential is there now, for Muslims to come into the leadership of the fight for human and environmental excellence.
In fact, it's there more for us than it is for them — that's the way I see it. I have studied the Bible, the Qur'an, Western philosophy. I've studied Qur'anic philosophy to the best of my ability, and I have concluded, that if the Christian man who believes in respect for human life, would rely upon Qur'anic teachings and the Sunnah of the Prophet, as tools and materials to promote the idea, he would be in a much better situation than he is now. That's the conclusion I've come to.
I've also concluded that if the Western man wants to fire up his society for productive work and industrial excellence, the Qur'an and the Sunnah, not his resources, represents the best alternatives for him. That's the conclusion I've come up with.
So why is the Muslim world in the state it is today when they were once good in science? If they led the sciences, in the early days, they can do the same thing now in science and other fields in which Muslims were leaders.