Al-Dawah Magazine Of Saudi Arabia Interviews Imam W. Deen Mohammed
By Sabir Kasib Muhammad (This interview is an example of many given by Imam Mohammed while in Saudi Arabia.)
Al-Dawah Magazine (AD): What is the best approach to Dawah in the American society, Imam Mohammed?
Imam W. Deen Mohammed (WDM): Bis mi la hir Rahman nir Raheem. The best approach when you are going to address human concerns is to first be aware of the circumstances for that concern. I would say the best approach is to study our circumstances there in the United States. And what I mean by that is to study the situation of the Muslims. How they are accepted by the non-Muslims in the United States. What represents the main problems for us with non-Muslims. Does the nature of the American government or American politics present any real obstacles for us, our Dawah? So first it is best to see the circumstances good or bad or favorable or unfavorable
for the Dawah in the United States.
AD: What is the best method for debating non-Muslims?
WDM: The best method is the method of our Prophet (SAW) and the method of our early leaders, of the Companions of the Prophet.....
I’ll give you some concerns I have in putting the answer that way. (Think of) when Muslims were oppressed and being treated cruelly by the Jahiliyah (the Meccans) during the earliest times of the Prophet's mission on earth in Arabia. The Muslims were in need of rescue. The Prophet sent a representative group to Ethiopia. When they appealed to this Christian ruler for refuge in that country from the persecution of the Meccans, they were diplomatic. They were very circumspect. They weren't looking at just one objective. They were looking at the whole situation.
They were very respectful of the Christians they were asking for assistance, and they didn't come with anger. They came with sober minds, rational minds, and they were diplomatic in a most superior way. And I think we should try to use that same diplomacy when we are addressing the same situation in America.
AD: What about the Islamic Centers in the U.S., and how did they contribute to the Muslims?
WDM: We have Islamic centers that I am aware of that go way back when there were efforts from a few Muslims. Most of them that I am aware of were from Paksitan (and there) to invite Americans to Al-1 slam. At that time and presently, those who mean well, those who are not trying to bring trouble making ideas or are not trying to hurt the image of Muslims or corrupt the concept of the religion, those people long ago and even now, where we have very strong Islamic centers the purpose of those efforts was and is to introduce the religion in the best way and to combat false propaganda and false conceptions. The role of those centers is still the same; they haven't changed.
Our main concern is to dispel the many false conceptions about our religion and about the life and the intentions of Muslims. Their contributions are to correct false ideas and bring about a situation where we are free to make an intelligent choice. How can we make an intelligent choice based upon ignorance and misconceptions? You can't. So we weren't in a situation to make intelligent choices. Now those centers are representing the religion in the right way and are combating old propaganda and misconceptions and giving us an opportunity now to look at the religion and make intelligent choices.
The question is: Do I want this or not? And we can make an intelligent choice now.
AD: What are the deficiencies of Muslims today?
WDM: Our main deficiency in America is the need for materials. Most of the other religions in America depend upon preachers, but mainly they depend on their literature. So our main deficiency is that we need much more excellent literature or publications from textbooks, Dawah books, and pamphlets for doing an excellent job of Dawah in the United States.
AD: We heard about the misconceptions that Americans have about Al-Islam. Is there an improvement and change in the views of the Americans about Al-Islam in the past few years?
WDM: Definitely so. There is a big change in the way Americans view our religion and also in the way they view Muslims. And I have to feel good about our role in bringing about this change. We've been in America, and they've seen us come from 'Black Nationalists' in the Name of Islam, Black Nationalists in America in the name of Muslims to what is a real Muslim without any mixed up ideas.
And the Americans have seen the Qur'an even when we were terribly mixed up about what is the religion. They've seen the good of Qur'an in our life making us better people even under Elijah Muhammad. They've seen that there's something in this religion even when we had wrong ideas about it, that there was something in Qur'an and something in the life of the Prophet that effected change in us even in that bad situation we were in to make us discipline ourselves, to make us be moral people, to make us have higher and more noble aspirations even on our low miserable level.
That's been something to convince people in the prison system and people in government that there is something special about this religion that can touch people and bring about drastic changes in their life. And now that the religion is taught in the right way, I'm sure that they are looking at Imam W. Deen Mohammed; they're looking at the drastic changes made to put us in a situation where anybody can extend their hand to us now. A good Christian can extend his hand to us now. Anybody, a good man in the government is not afraid now to say, "We would like to have some dialogue or cooperation with these people, because the religion of Al-Islam gives universal ideas, universal aspirations, universal appreciation for human beings. And that puts us in the position of being appreciated by all Americans.
We must not overlook the role of the rise of Muslims in the political eyes of the world. That has been very significant in changing situations or making Americans take a different look at us or have a better view of Muslims.
AD: What is the attitude and position of the Christian preachers and the organizations in Chritianizing people toward the spread of Islam in the U.S.?
WDM: These people that I think you are referring to represent a minority in the American Christian society. Many of them are good. Evangelistic Christian movements are not all bad. We know the Evangelistic Christian Movement in America has been severely hurt by the conduct of certain very popular evangelists. Such persons are in America and they are all over the world, and their intent is bad. They just want to financially promote their narrow religious concerns and condemn everyone else as being unfit to be respected on earth. That God's judgment is coming and He's going to kill all the heathens. So from such people who represent a minority of the Christians in America has come the idea from way back in the Crusades that Muslims represent an opposition to Christ, are an anti-Christ people and that Christians should be alarmed by their presence and by their mixing among them. So they are trying to alarm such fanatics of the presence of Muslims in the Western society to get them to become crusaders again to try and block the progress of Muslims and destroy the life of Muslims. But I don't see this as our major problem, although it is a very serious one.
AD: Is it true that Dawah in the U.S. is not oppressed by the American government? Or is there oppression?
WDM: Yes, it is true that Muslim life, Dawah, is not oppressed by the American government. The validity of the Muslim aspirations has been respected by the American government since the inception of the government.
I am aware that certain Presidents in the early life of the U.S. showed respect for the religion of Al-Islam. James Madison was one of them, and I'm sure that we had at least one or two others.
Now that there has been change that has brought information on Muslims to Americans that they didn't have before, the government has interest in our religion to know it better and become better acquainted with it. Muslims from overseas have given Qur'ans to members of the U.S. government, and you Imams here (members of the delegation) have given Qur'ans to some of them. They are better acquainted now. They have first hand information. And the government having good relations with Muslim nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, has brought them into direct contact with the leaders of Muslim nations, especially this unique Kingdom here, for all Muslims. So this is making the situation for us with the government better and better all the time.
I don't think the United States has ever been against Muslims. Now they have individuals who have different opinions of Muslims and a better appreciation for Muslims. And I think we can say that we don't expect any persecution from (our) government.
AD: Do you see that the spread of Al-Islam in the U.S. was not accompanied by the right understanding of a faith? What are your comments on this?
WDM: That is definitely true. The people who were interested in introducing the religion in the United States, I use the expression that they came by the 'back door' instead of coming straight forward. So many of the early efforts of people were motivated by hatred for America. They resented the power and influence of America. Such persons coming as Muslims to America created a lot of problems.
Anyone who brings the Qur'an also brings a posture for good change. I used this illustration and many of our Imams said they really like it. I said, 'Someone can give you clean water, but their hand is so nasty that's holding the glass that you won't even think about drinking the water.' Immediately you'll say, "No! I don't want that water!' So that's been the situation. We've been offered the religion by people who had very dirty hands. Whether they had good intentions or not only Allah knows. But I'm sure some of them had very, very bad intentions.
The faith is something that we had to come upon after we had the idea corrected after seeing what Al-Islam really is and what is the life of Muslims. I can assure you now that we do have the correct basis for the religion. We understand the foundation of the religion in the right way, and our faith is right. AD: What is the situation of Dawah at the present date?
WDM: The situation for Dawah is good in the United States. All we need now is stronger effort and better people. We need to continue to work on getting a better quality of people for Dawah. Not to say that we have bad quality now, but we should be working for better quality people in the Dawah and we should be working for more effective Dawah that will utilize media, libraries, research, printed materials, schools, education and also assistance for our business and political efforts of Muslims in America. Dawah now should be very broad and we have all these concerns now. So I think the situation for Dawah is good.
AD: What are the problems of Muslims in the American society?
WDM: When you are & minority in any society you are going to have many problems. Our main problem is that we need to inform Americans to get rid of misinformation. Also we need to be informed to get rid of misinformation, because we have had erroneous ideas about American people. Many of us have looked at them and seen them only as obstacles in the way of what we want. We haven't seen that they too have so much in common with us.
AD: How do American people see Al-Islam?
WDM: Praise be to Allah, we thank Allah that presently most Americans see Al-Islam as they see Judaism and Christianity. They believe that our religion is to be respected as a legitimate religion with Judaism and Christianity.
(This interview was conducted by Sabir Kasib Muhammad for Al-Dawah Magazine at the Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.)