The Inherent Spirit And Character Of People: Part 1
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
Editor's note: The following article is adapted from an address delivered April 12, 1987, in Fayetteville, N.C. during the dedication of Masjid Omaribn said.)
Honorable audience, all, peace be unto you, as we say in our religion, As-Salaam-Alaikum. We begin with the formal acknowledgement of Muslims that there is but one God, the Creator, who has no partners sharing authority or rule with him. He is One alone in the rule of the heavens and the earth, and all others are creatures and servants.
And we acknowledge the Last Messenger of God to whom the Last Revelation came, the Qur'an, the Holy Book came. Like Muslims all over the world, we acknowledge that He is the Messenger of that Lord, and His Servant. We pray peace and blessings be upon him, his descendants, companions, the righteous all, and also upon us be peace.
We Are Happy To Be Here
We are happy to be here in Fayetteville, North Carolina for the recognition that is being given to the construction of the first mosque (masjid, in Arabic), for the state of North Carolina.
Again, we are touched by the name, Omar Ibn Sayid, that has been given to this mosque and we feel that it is very significant, that we of African descent, have built the first masjid here—I'm speaking of you here in Fayetteville — and named it after Omar Ibn Sayid.
Our talk this afternoon, which we call Ta'aleem is in the tradition of our Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him, who was born in Arabia about 1300 years ago. He was established among the people of his land for his uprightness and flawless character. He was called "The Honorable" and "The Honest One" before he was even missioned as Prophet or Messenger.
Ta'aleem means a teaching, exchange of knowledge and understanding. And we hope it will be that for all of you; at least we hope it will be worthwhile to you.
Our talk is on the inherent spirit and character, that the black people—and I'm using the term now of the world — black nation, Africa and wherever our forefathers, ancestors and member descendants of the race, have with this inherent spirit and character.
We are called black people around the world, and we know it's because the skin of the African man is black, although there are members of our so-called race, or whatever, in the native people of that land, who are not literally black, but are called black because of the uniqueness in terms of color for our people, when it comes to blackness.
We know also that there are some other people who are black-skinned, and they are not from Africa.
The people of India, especially several parts of India, color-wise, are as black as any African in Africa.
But they are not called black people; they are called Indians and other names.
Everyone Is Born Muslim
Muhammad, the Messenger of God, says, "everyone is born Muslim, and it is his environment and parents that make him otherwise." So here we have in the sayings of Muhammad the Prophet, a definition of Muslim, alluded to, if not clearly expressed.
And it is obvious from his statement that that identity called Muslim is something that everyone has as a creature of God, because he said everyone is born Muslim. That means that it is a native quality, property, disposition or orientation, put into the creature by God Himself, when He made the creature.
Muslim In The Scientific Sense
This is Muslim in the scientific sense that the Prophet, peace be upon him, was pointing to, but we know the historical Muslim is a person who believes in the religion of Islam, called Al-Islam in the text of the Holy Book, and who believes that God is One, and that Muhammad was born in Arabia 1400 years ago, is the Messenger of God. That's the simple declaration of faith, and whoever believes that is called Muslim.
We say "La-illaha-illalah," there is but One God, "Muhammad rasulullah," Muhammad is the Messenger of God. That's simple and alone is enough, as a declaration, to make anyone a declared Muslim or Muslim proper.
There are also Muslims by family descent because they were born to Muslim parents, countries and environments. They never made a formal declaration of faith but have known nothing but that religion. They are Muslims by family tradition or by virtue of being born in a Muslim land.
Many people who are Christians in America by faith are Christians because they were born in America in a Christian environment to a Christian family. But actually they have never thought of converting to or declaring themselves Christians. I'm speaking of Christians in America.
The Scientific Definition
This address or Ta'aleem, if we can accept it as a Ta'aleem, is concerned with the scientific definition that the Prophet gave when he said "everyone is born a Muslim, and it is the circumstances that he is put in, that makes him otherwise."
I would like to make it clear that the object of this talk is not to establish that everyone is born a Muslim, or that you are firstly a Muslim, and then after, you are something else, although that's our belief.
We believe in the messenger of God, and that's what he taught us. He brought us the Qur'an, so how can we disbelieve in Him? He brought us the Holy Book. We didn't have the religion, before him, and he has also said to us that everyone is firstly a Muslim, and they are made something else because of circumstances they are put in.
So we definitely believe that everyone is firstly a Muslim and is made something else because of circumstances they are put in. But that's not the point we are trying to make here today.
I would like to make two points, and I hope God blesses me, to be successful in presenting them properly.
One is that, the essential nature or character of man, is the condition for all the great possibilities that God intends for man. That is essential. In fact, that is a must if we are to realize the great potential and blessings that God intended for His creatures.
A Specific Creature
When God made us, He made a specific creature. The world makes us little creatures, so some of us may be in the form that God made us in, some of us may not. If you are not in the form that God made, then you are not God's man, woman or child. You are the woman, man or the child of the world, as people say in religion.
The second point we hope to make is that black people have been unable to function successfully as a whole in the environments that they have been placed into or that they have been in, at least, in modern times; maybe it was different at some other time for the black man.
We know that in ancient times, the black man, (and I'm quoting every time I say "black" man) had a very, very important place on this earth, in the life of man. Many have documented this; I'm going to mention a book, "Race and the Democratic Society," by Franz Boaz, that I have in my private library at home. Franz Boaz is not an African, he identifies with white people and is a "white" man as far as I know (and whenever I say "white" please put quotations there).
So he documents the glorious days of our people in Africa before they embraced the message of Muhammad (peace be upon him), and after. All of that information is very important but that's not the point of this talk, and we will not go into that.
Now I would like to go into the words of God, in the Holy Book of the Muslims, to begin making progress towards achieving what I have expressed to you, that we hope to achieve. I will read it in Arabic for the benefit of those who read Arabic. The Muslims are somewhat like Catholics who used to do the Mass in Latin. Although they read it to you in English, they read it to you also in Latin. In fact the first Catholic church I attended, gave Mass only in Latin, not English.
So we give it now in Qur'anic Arabic. Understand that before the Qur'an, the Holy Book of the Muslims, was revealed to Muhammad, the Prophet, peace and blessings be on him, the Arabs were not speaking Arabic. They were not a great unified nation. They were a divided tribal, kind of a gangland-like people. But they had excellence before they became Muslims also. And one of the excellence of the Arab people before they became Muslims was the Arabic language itself. They prided themselves in having the ability to articulate better than anybody else. They expressed themselves very clearly and economically, with a few words; they wouldn't waste words; they would make their point very clear, in a few words, very effective words in terms of conveying the meaning and also the effects that they desired.
Many of them were poets, and the Holy Place built by Prophet Abraham, before our Prophet Muhammad, the Holy House there, in Mecca, that we direct ourselves to in prayer, was a place where they met. They would meet there for pilgrimage, and they would also meet there to display their great works in the language. They would hang their great impressive verses there on the sides of the Holy House, for display. So they had a pride, and their pride was language. The revelation came to Muhammad in that language, and Allah (God, that is) says in the Holy Book, that "it is revealed in clear, expressive Arabic."