Revelation And Its Influence On Culture: Part 3
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(The following address by Imam W. Deen Mohammed wait given in Norfolk, Va., at Booker T. Washington High School, on June 23, 2000.)
I was watching a program of an evangelist on television once, and they began to sing a beautiful song. It went like this: "G-d is Greater, G-d is Greater. G-d is Greater." I said to myself: They are saying what we say: "Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar." I was fascinated and listening and found myself chanting with them. We have this in common, and it begins with "G-d is Greater."
Muhammed (PBUH) came to establish a belief in One G-d, so that mankind can have unity on this earth as a human family and work together for better conditions for all people. This is the main interest, to accept that G-d is the Authority over my life. And that is what it means, when we say G-d is Greater. It means that nothing is more important or bigger or greater than G-d as an Influence in your life.
Acceptable of G'd's Influence
The call to prayer, Adhan, is for us to accept that. Accept that nothing is greater or bigger or more important as an influence in your life than G-d, Who created you and the world that you must live in and upon. That is the first requirement.
It goes on to say in the call: I witness that there is nothing worthy of my worship except The One G-d. That is to free us from slavery - slavery to other gods, false gods - so that we can have the unity of the human family under The One G-d. We believe, as a logic, that the Belief of One G-d is necessary if man is going to become one united family. And we have to become one united family.
It does not mean that we have to lose our distinctions. It does not mean that our race is going to become less important. It is going to become more important, when we are all working together for the beauty and betterment of our lives. It is going to become more important.
It doesn't mean that my own culture is going to be wiped away by this oneness. No. It means that my culture is going to be free. I will be free to live my culture and to develop my culture in an atmosphere of peace, where we are accepting each other as brothers and sisters. Where we are accepting each other's aspirations as inherent rights upon the idea that G-d created us all.
Respect a People's Culture
He made us different, and He made us the same. He made us the same as a human creation, but he made us different in our regional life and in our cultural aspirations. Muhammed the Prophet made it clear to his followers that they should not try to undermine or uproot or impose a culture upon people and take away their culture.
Muhammed the Prophet said: "See that when you go to a people, you do not take away their culture." Islam came as Christianity did to refine, to bring beauty and more purity and more logic to the culture of the people.
Let's continue with the Adhan, for the Adhan tells us what Islam wants of us. It continues: "And I witness that Muhammed is the Messenger of G-d." If we are going to make Muhammed a god, then we are going to cause big problems for the unity of mankind and for the good peace of the world – for a condition that would allow us to work together for the best common aspirations of all the people. That will be hurt, if we make Muhammed a god.
Muhammed is an Arab. The human family is not Arab. The human family is made up of Arabs and many, many others. So the words came to Muhammed, saying: "Let us not raise from among ourselves human being and lift them up as a god, a lord. Let us come to common terms as to what we worship. That we worship One G-d, and The G-d is not anyone of us."
It said, do not raise up gods from among yourselves. This is very necessary for us to have peace. Without driving this particular point to its conclusion, 1 do want to say to you that Islam wants for the human family the best human conditions. And Islam sees human beings as inheritors by the very fact of their own creation - by my nature and how I am made.
I am an inheritor of life, freedom and the opportunity to establish my life in a beautiful and excellent shape. And no one should interfere with that, but welcome it and cooperate, so that each of us as individuals and as nations and also as cultures have the freedom and the approval from the others to go ahead and do that. They are to do it in the Name of One G-d and for the betterment of the human family.
We say: "I bear witness that Muhammed is the Messenger of G-d." This is to say, "I bear witness that Muhammed is not G-d." And the call or the Adhan that gets our attention or gets our ear goes on to say: "Come to worship." Now that the matter has been put straight, that this man, Muhammed the Prophet, peace be upon him, was not put here for us to worship him or to make an Arab your god. He is here to call you to the worship of the Lord and Creator of all people. It is the G-d that all of us have as our G-d.
Then behind "come to worship" in the Adhan, it says: "Come to success." And the word in Arabic for success brings to mind the beautiful cultural life of the people. It is derived from the word that means to cultivate the land. You come to a land like a farmer that has no beautiful growth and no or little food supporting life.
The farmer comes there and tilts the land and attends to the needs of the plants, of the seeds that he sowed. He attends the garden, and in time that land is made more beautiful by that farmer, that cultivator. It is made richer and supplies the food and the needs of man in society.
This is really the Garden of Eden. Man was made originally and put in the Garden of Eden, we are told in the three great religions. Christianity, Judaism and Islam give us the same picture. And the man was given the responsibility to take care of the Garden, to keep the Garden in good shape and to cause the good things and beautiful things to multiply.
And G-d says to us, with reference to the cultural life, that He has created you like a plant. A parable of human creation is the creation of a plant. G-d says that He has made everything in beautiful pairs. The Qur'anic Arabic uses an intensified word here for beauty. It is beauty intensified. It is a great beauty, a rich beauty, an abundant beauty that G-d has created us for.
If we apply the logic that we are establishing here with this call to worship, called the Adhan in Islam, we would have to say that we are put here to better our environment. Man has been given the responsibility by G-d, by his Creator, to take a beautiful environment and make it more beautiful. To take a rich environment and make it richer. To take an environment that is supplying the needs of life and make it supply in abundance.
I read in the Bible where G-d promises the people of The Gospel an abundance. Recently, I passed by a church and it was named the Tabernacle of Abundance. I said then that this is the same word that we have in our Holy Book. G-d says: "Surely, I have given you abundance." And G-d promises us a life of abundance. That He shall increase the beauty of life for us, the produce of life for us.
Christians believe that the G-d Who created everything wanted them to have a beautiful life on this earth and the promise of even a better life to come, when all of this world is finished. When the material existence is finished, we believe together with Christians that we are going to have even a better life - a life with G-d, a life in a Paradise again as it was in the beginning, when G-d created the first man and put him and his mate - the mother of all people - in the Garden and wanted that beautiful life for them.
Again, I want to go back to the beginning of things to say to you that G-d is telling us with this picture of the beginning of mankind in a Garden with his wife and they have children, that He wants man to work for a society, for a life on this earth that will be like a paradise. It will be peaceful and have support for all...
To be continued