Excerpts From Imam Muhammad's N.Y. Address: Part 1
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Editor's note: The following is excerpted from Imam W. Deen Muhammad's April 13,1986 address at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York. Part 2, insha'Allah, will appear in the next issue.)
Al-hamdulillahi-rabbil-alameen. That is, praise be to God, in the language of the Qur'an, in our religion, and we wish peace and the merciful blessings be with you all, as we say As-Salaam-Alaikum.
First, I would like to acknowledge along with acknowledging the mercy and blessings of God upon us, the hard work that you have done to make this great meeting here today possible for us, in New York, at this very lovely and attractive, huge facility, the Jacob Javits Center. We are grateful to all of you who have made some contribution to this gathering here, to its success, that is, acquiring the facility, and doing the work that had to be done beforehand to assure us that we would have a successful day here. We appreciate it very deeply and congratulate the PR program and PR plan and particularly the persons, Brother Ismail Shamsid-deen and the persons who worked with him, because they have done a wonderful job, a very excellent job, a very professional job and we all appreciate it very much.
A Change For The Better
Also, I would like to express our appreciation to the dignitaries who have joined us today; dignitaries from our own community, Imams and educators, principals, people working in the government and in the private sector, and those who come here today from outside of our community and even from outside the United States. Dignitaries from the Embassies here in New York and the many others, immigrants from other countries. One joined us in Chicago, and came with us. She came with our senior and pioneering members. That is Sister Nusrat of Pakistan, who has worked hard and faithfully among us in Chicago. She is an educator. She is well-educated in Islamic knowledge and also in secular knowledge. She has given herself to our school for several years. I was surprised when I saw her at the airport, joining the others and blending in so well and supporting what we are about in a way that didn't make her conspicuous at all.
There are many more like her from other ethnic backgrounds. I think that says a lot for our new effort as a people striving for righteousness and true faith in God, and a true commitment to help the fallen lot of our people.
That says a lot for us. It says that we have changed and have not changed for the worst, but have changed for the better.
God Is First And Last
Well. I got a lot here that I would like to bring you today, but I don't know how I could feel comfortable without the word of God. That's first and that's last.
I was riding in my car listening to a colleague of the world renowned Evangelist Billy Graham, and something caught my attention. This colleague of Dr. Graham said, "when you kneel down to pray, you are exercising a power greater than any national leader on this earth." I thought that was great, it was especially great to be said to the public, in the United States of America. There are many countries where he would not have been allowed to say that. He put God before man. He put God before nations, when he said that when you kneel down to pray to God, you exercise a power greater than any national leader on this earth.
In recognizing Allah, I would like to express the words of God, in the Qur'an, the Holy Book of the Muslims. "To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and God is enough to settle affairs." "Whatever is in the heavens and in the earth testifies to the glory of Allah, and for Him is the rule, for Him is the praise."
Strive With Your Whole Self
And Allah says, "And seek by the means that God has given you, the eternal home, the end home, the destiny. However, do not neglect your share of the world." And God says struggle, strive, not just any striving, not just any struggle, but a striving and a struggle that respects the Creator, our Lord, the maker of the things that we are using to advance the struggle; a regard for that Lord in that struggle." And struggle in the path of God; with your wealth, and with your very souls."
'With your very souls' means to put your whole selves into it, put your personal life, energy, personal concerns, sympathies, intellect, heart, and muscles in the path of God; put all you have in the path of God and struggle. Not for something that you imagined; a fantasy or something unreal; struggle for the real things that God has directed you to on this earth, in this human environment. "And struggle in the path of God with your wealth and with your very souls."
Suppression Of Potential
God says, certainly the suppression of man's moral, intellectual, social, and political potential in man that God has put there is a crime worst than outright slaughter.
An effort, a campaign for crushing the will and spirit of the common people is a bigger crime than the outright killing for wealth and territory. Men kill for wealth and territory, to expand the domain of their nation and powers, but that's not as great a crime as the suppression, holding down or holding back or denying the potentials that God has put in man for his dignity, freedom, and function as a total creature on this earth. Surely that kind of persecution is worse than outright slaughter.
We are happy to see better days in America. We are happy to see better days in the world, but we are not going to be so foolish or naive to overlook the serious evils and subtle oppression that continue to work the undermining of the freedom of the common person.
It is not altogether our fault that we are spending the wealth of our African-American community on quick pleasure, self-destruction, getting high, images that are shallow, silly fads, hairdos, and dress styles. Many of the youngsters I see now are wearing the popular 'dunce' cap, and they don't even know that's the name of it. All over the United States they are wearing the dunce cap.
Journal Shaping Up
It's not all our fault, that we are spending the great resources of our African-American people on these temporary and passing things. I won't go into any details with any particular quarter of our society or personality of our society on the spot today; the purpose here today is to reconcile our own life, and to make peace in America, so that can be a real success, not only for now but for the generations to come.
Before going further into our talk of our own situation, for which we are getting help; here are efforts by people like Reverend Fauntroy in Washington, his colleagues and associates and many others, even J.H. Johnson, of Johnson Publications. What he said recently was published in our paper, the Muslim Journal. That paper is shaping up day by day, week by week, month by month, to be the paper we want it to be. It was in our paper that Mr. Johnson in a recent address to an audience of distinguished persons said, "we're going to have to mobilize the spirit of our people." I agree with that, and I am happy to know that we are not alone in recognizing the spiritual poverty of our race.
It's not enough to feel good about God on the weekend or to extend your hand to a pitiful person occasionally, while you still go down the path of suicidal behavior, and see almost your whole race going in that same direction towards behavioral suicide; leaving great aims, purposes, virtues, and principles, the great liberation virtues. Don't you know the struggle of our people from slavery, the efforts of our people even during slavery were because of their liberation virtues? Those efforts as we saw them carried on by freed ancestors, and joined by so many white Jews, was because of liberation virtues? There was a spirit, but not only a spirit, there was principle. The old folks used to tell us, 'I can't let you behave that way. I have to be a decent person.' And they insisted that we be decent, because they were in a spirit for their liberation, and they knew liberation wouldn't come without virtues.
In order to win freedom in a country of Christians, a country that sought excellence in a people, that sought a great excellence, our downcast people knew that they would have to live in accordance with the best of their spirit; in accordance with the best of their morality; in accordance with the best of their minds and principles, in order to be successful in their uphill road; that very painful road to equality and justice in the United States of America.
They didn't give up, and they were successful, because the freed people, seeing the oppressed struggling in that spirit and struggling in the dress of their God-given virtues, was impressed, and they believed in the innocent and noble motives of the struggling African-American.
But something has happened, something took place in the Sixties, and the Seventies, that has robbed us of that spirit. Something has made us abandon those virtues.
Different Kinds Of Muslims
Now let me continue my reflection on the word of God, as given to Muslims in our Holy Book, the Qur'an.
In an effort to present our religion very briefly, very quickly, to those who are hot acquainted with it, because we want our American brothers and sisters, our American citizens that we have to live with, that we have to find peace and settlement among, that we have to work with to realize a great future for ourselves in this country; we want them to know us. We want them to feel comfortable with us. There are many different kinds of Muslims. There are the orthodox Muslims and the unorthodox Muslims. There's the proper Muslim and the notorious Muslim. There's the sane Muslim and the insane Muslim.
There are many different kinds of Muslims. But believe me, the Muslim that's before you now is not ashamed. I'm not ashamed no matter where I stand, no matter where I go, I'm never ashamed.
And believe me, there are just as many divisions in the line of politics for Muslims as there are among Christians.
How many of us know that Hitler was Christian? Yes, Hitler was a Christian, an avowed Christian. Just because there was a man named Hitler who committed the terrible atrocities and evils against a people who were weak in his country and weak before him — he had the power to inflict evils on them — just because that man Hitler did those things and was a Christian, should that be cause for us to now look unfavorable upon Christianity?
No. We can't look unfavorably on Christianity because there's a Hitler in the history of the Christians. And we can't look unfavorably on the Jew, because there's a Zionist, militaristic, expansionist, war machine in the Middle East, called Israel.
We can't look unfavorably on the Jews because of what the Israelis have done, in the Middle East. They have committed great evils and atrocities, they have brutalized the weak and helpless people with the great arms that they have been able to get from America. And with the great strength and support that they have gotten from our nation, they have used it unwisely and they have used it savagely against unarmed and weak people.
They have put them out of their homes, into camps and prison camps. But should we now look unfavorably upon Jews because of the behavior of the Zionists? No. The Jew is to be respected for his merits, and if some of his people behaved unseemingly, we are not to judge all of them, by the behavior of the radical among them.
That's my position. And I don't beg anybody to join me. God is company enough for me, but I wish we all could be together on this position.
Our Total Life Needs
In our Holy Book, we are given concepts for our total life's needs. And because the human being is such a special vessel, made by his Creator, for great, great achievements in the spiritual realm and also in the material realm, man cannot move successfully in the path of achievement without recognition or proper regard for his Lord.
So our Holy Book, attends the needs, most of all, or first of all, it attends the need in man, to rightly perceive his God. Now when we are talking about perceiving God, we are not talking about seeing God as we see the material reality. We are not talking about seeing God as we see a dog, as we see a house, as we see a fine automobile, or as we
So our Holy Book, attends the needs, most of all, or first of all, in man to rightly perceive his God. Now when we are talking about perceiving God, we are not talking about seeing God as we see the material reality. We are not talking about seeing God as we see a dog, house, a fine automobile or mansion that we would like to live in. No, we are talking about seeing God in that sense. We are talking about seeing God in the sense that you would like to see your father, in the sense that you would like to see your mother, in the sense that you would like to see your children, in the sense that you would like to see your friends. You don't see them in material quantity, you see them in quality, you see them in their plans and in their schemes and in their purpose, and we must see God in His Plan, we must see Him in His scheme, we must see Him in His purpose, we must see Him in His wonderful attributes, of mercy, the wonderful attributes of perfection, kindness, love, etc. That's how we're supposed to see God and that's the way we would like to see our loved ones.
God Is One
The Qur'an gives us first the principle of unity for God. God is One. God is One alone. The Arabic term 'wahid,' 'one,’ and 'ahad,' 'one alone.'
And God says in His Holy Book, "Bismillah-nir-Rahman ir-Raheem. With the Name Allah, the Gracious, the Compassionate." He says: "Qul-huwwa-Allahu-ahad. Say, He (Allah) is one alone." This oneness, if we were to actually elaborate on it, would take up all the time we have here this afternoon, and would make volumes, because the learned in our religion, our scholarly Imams and professors in this religion, they have produced volumes on the oneness of God.
Again, God says on the concepts of unity and oneness: "The people were at first one community." One community. So God is telling us in the words of our Holy Book, that man, though he is divided now into nations, on many different lines, originally was made to be one community. And that if he is to be successful, we are to understand the unity because if we don't understand the unity we will not be able to progress for long as nations or as ethnic groups.
There's only so much time and so much room on this earth for people who take themselves out of the family of man.
And again on this unity: Allah, the Lord of all of us, whether we are Muslims or not, we all believe in the same God, but we see with different eyes. God says: "See they not, (the disbelievers, the doubters, the skeptics) that the Creation is a composite whole?" So we believe in the unity of the whole creation. We don't believe that there is some foreign worlds out there somewhere. We don't believe that there is, right in this area here, another dimension and some foreign creatures sharing this space with us, and that their nature is not like ours, they can do things to us, and we can't reach them unless we find some way to plug into their foreignness. We don't believe that.
The real Muslim can't accept that kind of stuff. You can't boo us. You can't scare us, we are not vulnerable to superstition.
When we live in a world with that kind of recognition of reality that the Great Architect of all this vast universe is One; the design bears out that One designer did all of this. And when we live with the recognition that says one designer has done all of this, we, as little molecules, units smaller than a molecule, in this vast, vast. great expansive, phenomenal work of God, we have to accept unity, oneness, with everything else.
It doesn't mean that we're not going to have divisions. It doesn't mean that we're not going to dislike each other. It doesn't mean that we're not going to be prejudiced against each other: all of that is human nature. because we have limitations. We are not God. We are not perfect. We are growing; and our destiny is not to be God; our destiny is to be His excellent servants. Not Him, but His excellent servants.
So we have many weaknesses. We are frail in many respects, but we have great strength, and we can realize the great life if we realize the great truth first.