April 5 1996
Janazah for Sis. Viola Karriem at Masjid Ar-Rahman in Chicago, Ill.: Part 1
By Imam W. Deen Mohammed
We salute the last prophet of God, Muhammed, to whom the Qur'an was revealed with the formal traditional salute, prayers and peace be upon him-and on his relatives and family and companions: Upon them and upon us, be peace. Amen.
Before we have the Janazah prayer, the prayer for the deceased, I want to have some comments on the death and the Janazah prayer in Islam for Muslims. As you know, we used to think that the body had to be present; this is not the case in Islam.
We felt that way because that is the way it is done in Christian society. I knew in Christian society, usually jt is expected that the body be present, but this is not the case in Islam. Usually the body is the responsibility of the closest relatives. It is usually the family members because they are more familiar and most likely that person would want these persons to handle the body. Everyone doesn't always want a distant person to handle his or her body.
So it is not the same in Islam and I have learned myself; I've studied; I've traveled and have learned myself that Muslims throughout the world often have the Janazah prayer and the deceased, the body, is not there.
It is an obligation on Muslims to have Janazah prayer for any one whom we know who has passed, be it relatives, friends, members of our community or even if a popular Muslim person who has passed in New York City or anywhere. As long as a few members of our community attend the prayers, then it excuses or it is accepted for all of us. But if none of us does it, then all of us have the burden on us that we have not done our duty. So this is the way it is in Islam.
That permits us, those of us in the United States or the West, to carry out the rituals according to the instructions of God to us through the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). That way we can quickly prepare the deceased, help the family if the family needs assistance and have the deceased buried at the proper time.
The body is not to be embalmed and wait to be buried for days or a week or more; this is not Islamic. Because it is not Islamic, I have just refused to have any part in any service like that anymore. I send my prayers and good wishes always to the family member of the deceased, some of them are with us, some of them, are not with us. But I will not myself take part in a service that is not Islamic. It is nothing wrong with some of us going there to witness the service but don't follow along in the service. If they have a non-Muslim there conducting the service, in this case we have Imam Darnell Karim who understands this very well; he was there and he made comments and du'as but no Janazah prayer and that was proper.
I was told that there was a great attendance there (at the funeral for Sis. Viola held the day before at Gatlings Funeral Home and we expected -that because of not only her long years among us -Sister Viola Karriem, may God give her paradise. In. fact, I believe she is in paradise now. That is because she had a saintly nature and spirit. She had a saintly nature and saintly spirit; she was always like that for as far as I could remember.
1 see my brother here, Emanuel Muhammad, and he is bearing witness because he is older than me and he knows better than I do about her. However, when I was a little boy I remember her very well and that was a very long time ago. She was also a servant of this community. That is what she did, she served this community. She would do anything; as a boy I remember she even served as secretary for a while. She was always doing things of service. I've seen her help the sisters and she was always ready just to do anything to be of service. I've seen her help prepare the food and serve food. She was always the same, never changed.
The closest one I know to her in her family is Imam Darnell Karim's wife, Sister Gloria Karim; she is terrific. I'm saying all this to let you know that Sister Viola Karriem is very special and that is why all of those people were there. When you see many people waiting to go in for a funeral, you can bet that person was very important.
The loss of a person among us is always a hurt no matter what the age is. I knew her age, she was up there approaching the one hundred mark, not there yet but Allahu-Akbar, going in that direction. But still it hit me very hard. When 1 saw her last, she looked like she was just as healthy as I am. She was looking good, and that's the way to go, isn't it? Allah is Merciful! Allah is Merciful especially to good people; Allah is always merciful to the very good people. That was good, it wasn't bad. We didn't know of her to be suffering and sickly. I am sure that she would have wanted everything to happen exactly the way it has happened so far, and if she was here to witness that we were to have the Janazah prayer for her at this masjid, she would be very pleased .She attended this masjid here on Division, Masjid Ar-Rahman.
When we recall her from days back as a young lady, we recall her being the same, always serving. She loved the Hon. Elijah Muhammad very dearly. She believed in him very sincerely and she also knew of his teacher Mr. Fard, or W. F. Muhammad, and she also had great faith in him. We may wonder why she was also a very strong supporter of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, who rejected all of that.
Well that question will have to be answered for us after the physical death. I mean that I don't have the answers in this life for all to be satisfied completely, but I do have part of the answer. She appreciated the Hon. Elijah Muhammad for the good that he was to her and she appreciated his teacher for the good that he was to her and to our people, both of them. And she appreciated me in the same way. Now that is the only answer that I can give. But as to why she still supported me knowing that I didn't support those old ideas anymore, I don't know.
She invited me to her home and I went there. In fact, I had another invitation and I never got to visit with her again. We set together alone and she had nothing but love and admiration for my father, his teacher and myself. This is the truth and we have the truth. I wouldn't want anyone coming here pretending that she stopped loving the Hon. Elijah Muhammad or she stopped having faith in the Hon. Elijah Muhammad or she stopped loving his teacher, Mr. Fard. No, that would be a lie. She did not stop, but in her own heart and mind she understood their contribution and understood my contribution. She stayed with them as a disciple, and she became my disciple. And as I had said, only God knows the full explanation for that.
We will have Janazah prayer in a few minutes, but after that it will be very close to time for the afternoon prayer. So we would like to invite those who want to stay for the afternoon prayer to stay and Imam Rabbani Mubashshir or either myself will lead the prayer, insha-Allah. I feel very comfortable following him in the prayer, but if he insists, I will lead.
Let us talk a little about death in Islam. First, we are to know that death is seen as life. That is that both are processes. Both of these processes have been made by Allah. Allah is the Maker of death and life. He made the death and He made the life; He started the death and He started the life. He gives the death and He gives the life. So, both death and life are from Allah. This is what we should know first. Death to us is not something spooky nor something to spook us up. Death is not something to make us fear and dread. God has created death and all the living came from death.
Allah says: "From dead matter He made you and to the earth you will return." He made you from the dead matter and He causes you to go back to the dead matter. and He says and again you will be raised up from it. This is Allah; this is true. Whatever Allah .-ay> is true in scriptural language and is true also in scientific language. Whatever Allah says true in scriptural language is also true in pure science. The purist of science is mathematical (arethmatic). Mathematics is the purist of the exact sciences. So God gives us the life; He gives us the death; from the dead matter He made us; from the dead matter He returns us and He promises us as an obligation on Him. Isn't that wonderful? God says it is an obligation on Him to give life to the dead again after they have passed away. This is what we believe.
Here comes another wonderful person in here, my sister Ethel. She looks just as pretty as she can be, just as young and shining like the sun back there. Praise be to Allah. God gives the death and the light and the most important thing for us to understand is that death is not superstition nor something to make you believe that it is so terrible. People used to believe that God was not connected with death and that death had its own god. God of the living was different from the god of the dead, that a bad god made death. This is wrong.
Death is really a mercy. Yes! When you live so long, if you could keep the same good healthy body one day you would get tired after so long. After a while you'll say: "I've seen about five generations come and go, I'm going to greet some of my friends." You'd be ready to get on out of here to be with your friends. But never take yourself out, because if you do you shut yourself out of God's grace. Suicide is a major sin for many religions; especially in Islam, suicide is a major sin. What does suicide mean? It means that you are putting yourself in the place of God. God is the Giver of life, God is the Giver of death. Now you are going to kill yourself? No! God determines when we are going to die. If you take that responsibility upon yourself and kill yourself, you will have a major sin on you and it is one of the worst of the sins. It is one of the major sins. The worst sin is to deny that there is a God or to deny that you have a God over you at all. Praise be to Allah.
Death is just like life, it is a process. The dead matter starts to decay and we don't think of it as living. Once something dies, then a different activity sets in. The activity for building is life. When someone dies the activity for dissolving, taking it apart or breaking it down starts until we become, in time, just like the earth, dust, dirt, back to the earth from where we came. So that is what we mean by death being a process.
Death occurs sometimes because of disease but death also comes by accident and sometimes there is no disease. A person may have had an accident or a person may have been killed, sometimes there is no disease. When death comes by disease there is a wasting away. The disease itself is acting against the life and the disease is a small degree of death. The disease is a death activity; we overcome it when we defeat the attempt of death in our body. That is what we should be doing all the time. We should be fighting death and disease in our bodies.
We should live clean lives; we should live healthy lives; we should live a life of faith. Faith in God is a power. We don't understand it completely, but faith in God is a power that affects and it can bring about a change in even the physical body and this is proven scientifically. It has been shown that people who have great faith in God have less physical problems on the whole. Not all the time, but generally those people who have a strong faith in God suffer less physical problems. It doesn't mean that it will keep us around here forever, but it keeps us around here in a better condition.
Look at how long Sister Viola Karriem lived. I don't think that we can live forever, we can live a long time. I used to tell the pioneer brothers when I became the Supreme Minister, right after that — that was a long time ago for some of us, but for Sister Viola Karriem it wasn't long. It was a short time for her because she had been around here for a long time. I used to tell them: "Don't think that you have to die, finish your expectations. Do you think 70 is old? If you think 70 is old, then you will reach 70 and expect to die and you will give up the will to live." I hate to hear somebody say: "Oh I'm old. I don't expect to live much longer." Why are you inviting death? Have the other position that you don't decide your own death. Allah decides that.
Allah created you and you didn't exist until you were alive, so your business should be with life — not with death. Your mind should be on living not on dying, no matter how old you are. God knows, I could be 150 years old; they used to teach us in the Temple that men used to live that long. I could be 150 years old and God is my witness, I wouldn't be thinking about dying. I would be thinking about living. In fact, I wish I could live about l,000 years. And I'll tell you why, because it will take about that long to see my people get up on their feet and do for themselves. The spiritual things would take about 30 years, just the spiritual phase would take at least 30 years. So, I wish I had about 1,000 years but I know that I don't.
Insha-Allah, I'm not going to invite death and I want you all to know that you never should invite death. Always invite life, love life and invite life. Allah created us to live and He created us to be alive. The call to prayer is the call to life. "Haiya" comes from a word meaning living, and when we use it as a call to prayer it means come as a living person, come alive and come to the life. Al-Islam is the life. It comes into us as a living spirit and it forms us all over again. It is the life.
I hope that this has helped us to see how we should look at death. Don't let it make you superstitious. God made the death and He made the life and He makes them living from the dead. He causes the living to go back to the dead matter. Then He brings the living out of the dead matter for a second time. This is in the Qur'an.
To be continued