July 19th 1991
The Muslim Journal
The Strategic Role Of Business
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Editorial Note: These excerpts are from Imam Mohammed's Oct. 14,1990, Tulsa, OK address.)
Our children belong to our Creator first and then to us. When we think like that, we are in a much better situation for surviving in this world. We may have a thriving business and call it "My business!". But if we then lose the business, we may go insane. If we had said, "God gives and God takes away" as it is in the Christian language, or "We are trustees: Allah is the Absolute Owner", that would be the better way to live with this reality.
The logic there is that if we believe that Allah is the Highest Reality and we believe that Highest Reality to be our partner in success, aren't we going to be in a more favorable situation to benefit? That Partner (Helper) in business motivates me for bigger, more conscientious, and more diligent work.
The most productive force in our life is the sensible regard for the Creator, the Lord Creator Who has power and authority over all things. With ownership comes authority. A lot of ut want authority without ownership responsibility. Ownership should mean whatever we have is "a trust", and our right over things and over persons is a "loan" from Allah. Really, for all practical purposes I am the owner. When I am in court for the conduct of my business, I will not get the judge to excuse me and treat Allah as the owner of my business. We are trusted with ownership and we are responsible for ownership.
Citizenship: An American Resource
The obligation of ownership (when accepted) permits us to have authority. A nation is a big thing. Citizenship is a big thing. Most people in America have a problem registering the full value of U.S. citizenship. Citizenship is our biggest American resource. .Citizenship is to be understood fully to benefit by it fully. When we are not situated emotionally to benefit by our citizenship, we are situated to be hurt by it. United States citizenship should be seen as a resource opening a way to both material and spiritual benefits. The mention of citizenship should strengthen and not trouble our emotions. Many of us do not like to think of ourselves as citizens of the United States. It is because we are still responding to hurt more than we are responding to opportunity. We want not to allow present hurt, past or anticipated hurt, to become a condition to put us out of the race. Some may be turned off by me when I speak in an exciting way about American citizenship. I understand the bad things and the adverse circumstances for many citizens of this country. I am aware. However, I believe the greatest adversity we have to face is the adversity of our spiritual inability to get fully what is ours that this country has.
If we turn down the benefits of citizenship, it is worse on us than if we turn down an opportunity to move up in a commercial establishment of some type. The opportunities opened are only a part of what citizenship encompasses. We are to see opportunity in America U.S. in the full view of the doors opened by citizenship and the United States passport. When I say "building upon your citizenship right," I am referring to full United States citizenship benefits. If we have U.S. citizenship, we have protection under the law.
If any U.S. citizen can go to Communist China and buy at the market place, then so can we. He can go to Kenya, then so can we. We now do have people going from the Muslim African-American community overseas and are buying from other nations and are returning here to sell. Success in business is burdened however by distrust and petty rivalry between the members of our race. Moreover, most lack the worldly sense to appreciate what big business does for ethnic image and stability. Also, there is the blind emotion based problem of identifying our big achievers with quote, "the establishment."
We are cheated out of our future by those among us who make emotional play on our "blackness". Those who address conditions of our people that deny our achievers the full success that they would have if we supported them, they are addressing us and not cheating us for their needs of the present.
A Psychological Setback
Slavery set us back psychologically. Subtle domination and oppression after emancipation set us back psychologically. Much of our racial sensitivities exist to enslave our mental capacities. When we address this psychological need, we are doing a greater service for the liberation of people than those who are addressing the short term needs. The truth of this is plainly told in group behavior. If a survey is taken of those that are not too racially sensitive to have their racial sensitivities treated against ill formations will appreciate this interest to solve problems of both causes and affects.
The wrong approach to our "rights" can oppress us more. We are too many crying. "We have a right" to do this and that. But under the Republicans we have been hearing more and more the whisper in our ear, "What about your responsibilities?"
"The society is supposed to be fair. Are you treating me the way you treat others? Are you singling me out for mistreatment?" Some of us think we should have the right to equal benefits. It sounds pretty, and demagogs are quick to take advantage. Demagogs are quick to rise up upon a dumb following with a dumb response to them.
We cannot have our children benefit equally. We can do all we can to treat those children the same and to give them the same, but we cannot have equal benefits for those children. One child is going to benefit more. One child will excel. We are not going to have equal benefits in our family. How then is society to give equal benefits? The trends that we have allowed to grow in society, trends that take over and dominate, the bad trends, such trends have conditioned us to expect too much for nothing done to earn something. We have been conditioned to demand that consistent logic, good sense, and truthful reporting be removed from the court room.
We see on T.V. someone walking on a rug shoe deep. It covers the shoe and we have to have that carpet. We will see someone walk in the door and the television comes on, and we have to have that too. We see someone riding in a car with sixteen wheels and with a shower in it, we have to have that. We will make a demonstration for jobs or for government aid.
We sleep on the left and envy the right. We have class prejudice where the poor man discredits the upper class. It is not just the upper class rejecting the lower class, but the lower class also will shutout members of the upper class. We will reject him because he is rich. We will reject him because he is a Ph.D. We will reject a person who is learned. We will punish another of our circle of friends because that person they befriended was a better off person. I am talking about what I have experienced, what I know. We will hate you because you achieved and we didn't.
We follow Satan and suffer that sin. We are that way because of the status spirit parented by commercial greed. We are that way because commercial greed has been selling us deadening influences and wrong ideas. I am not supposed to be rich just because somebody else is rich. Everybody is not the same. Each person has been an individual in competition with others ever since time began. There has always been distinctions for achievers and quitters. It is going to stay that way forever. And there is going to be a few achieving something that the majority are not achieving.
What is the beauty and Allah's justice in this? If Merciful Allah made individuals that didn't need each other, if the children come up and don't need parents like some animals come up and can go out on their own within a few hours, there would hardly be opportunity to earn social merit. In fact there are animals that can make it on their own from the time they come from the womb. Allah could have stunted our maturity. However, Allah extends the rule of knowledge and mercy so as to bend all things (matters) by that rule. (Qur'an).
Allah wanted us to be more responsible with more responsibilities, and more caring than all the animals. If everyone has the same thing and all of us are equal, where is there room for any of us to earn credits for anything? But if the many of us cannot achieve what the few can achieve, then there is opportunity for the few to serve the many. There is opportunity for the many to appreciate the few and serve the common good. Appreciating while devoted to the common good, both the few and the many are in a perceptive situation to earn merits and benefits.
Some of us do not know that to say "thank you" is more rewarding to the soul than saying' 'take this." I have experienced both and hope that I will keep experiencing both. I feel good giving something and I feel good saying' 'thank you." I need that in my soul. We need achievers. We need to benefit from others. Allah is the greatest Benefactor. To understand this as Muslims is to understand we are not beneath those who are above us in certain respects short of Taqwaa. Allah is above all persons, places, and things. Whatever the situation, all is a blessing and a mercy from Allah. My situation too, no matter how much I am bothered by it is a blessing and a mercy from .Merciful Allah.
Many times it is a poor person that enjoys a life of principles and values. You have heard great philosophers talk of these things. The poor can be blessed with values that many of the rich will never have. They are given the joys from Allah that many of the rich will never experience. Many of the rich envy the poor for the joys the poor can experience that may seem to be beyond the reach of the rich. Quality of soul: Here is where we find the equality for all units of life. There is equality of reward and punishment.
The amount of enjoyment that we have is not determined by any category of benefits coming to us . "I can only be happy if I have more money." Allah sometimes will let you get more money to show you that you were wrong. On the other hand, we are not going to reach a pleasing life by choosing to stay poor. We should be aiming always for satisfying (excellent) performance. Somewhere in the road we will miss it if we forget our souls.
Let us not envy each other. One of the major crimes is to be jealous or envious of the other person. Greed is another major sin. Allah says to us in the Qur'an to stay away from the major wrongs. If we get to nitpicking and busting our brains trying to find every little item like, "How many times did I lie today?", we will be lost. But, "avoid the major sins." (Qur'an). Take a look in the mirror or let someone else take a look at you and ask, "What did you see?" If the answer is, "I saw a greedy burden," then get rid of the greed.
You leaders, we have to study this and fine areas of the United States that will not persecute good citizens for being Muslims. Why should we stay in an area that persecutes us and hates us while there are other areas with a cordial welcome for all good citizens without unjust prejudices and hostilities against us because of race?
We (Muslims) are migrants in Islamic history. We African-Americans are racial migrants. We migrated from the South because it would not tolerate justice for us. What is wrong with Muslim "Blacks" migrating for a better situation for us in the United States? Muslims believe too in honest work and are good citizens. Most of us Muslims will contribute to the excellence and stability of society. We will carry our part of the burden. So why should Muslims contribute to the tax base of a town that is persecuting Muslims? If a town must persecute Muslims, we should tell that town, "Hell, we are glad to leave you! Good-bye. God-speed and this is a friendly 'exodus.'"
The achievement of Muslims is for all of us. Whenever we achieve in one city, it is an achievement to the honor of all of us. Therefore, we have a responsibility to all. I have a responsibility to the business people among Muslims. I also have a responsibility to Muslims of the immigrants and other ethnic groups. Once you say you are Muslim, you have an obligation to all Muslims.
If there is a Muslim doing business here and a non-Muslim doing business there and you need something that the Muslim can give you. do you think you are supposed to go to the non-Muslim for it? That would be wrong. It is likewise for the Christians, but they are in a much better situation than we are, for they have all of the stores. They don't need Christian support from Christian establishments. However, we do need African American support for African American Christian establishments.
With the many Japanese coming into the competition, things have changed a bit here lately. We do need to buy American. I will put it this way: If we had the choice of buying from a newcomer from a thriving part of the world (like Japan or any other place) or from any born American, we should buy from the traditional American, unless it is somehow justified to do otherwise. If the American is selling me cheese that is molded and the newcomer has cheese that is not molded, then I have a justification for buying from the newcomer. Allah does not obligate me to buy molded cheese from anybody.
Another thing we have to accept is that we don't just buy from a brother Muslim because he is a brother! That brother selling you inferior products, tell him, "Look my Muslim brother! You have to do better than this, if you want my patronage." This will bring us up as a people with business sense. If we insist that we who are in business respect each other and respect all customers, that will add respect to our image in business. Yes, we want that kind of discrimination to favor our shopping with each other. Equally important it is that our business people be pressured a bit to constantly strive for overall improvement in business.
We are not to pass by the Muslim shop and give business to a non-Muslim shop. Your Muslim brother is deservant of your patronage. Your Muslim brother is a minority in this country and suffers a disadvantage because he is a minority. If he doesn't get the support of his own Muslim brother, then who is going to support him? Once he breaks into the market and is supported by the general market, we don't have to give him special treatment. But until that happens we are to treat that Muslim brother as a needy brother, and Muslims are to support their own needy brothers.
I am asking you as your Spokesman to support the Muslim in business and to support the African American in business, whether he is a Muslim or not, and to support the immigrant Muslim in business just as you do your own ethnic Muslim brother. We are all the same (Muslims). If you do that, then I can negotiate with them. They are in a better business situation than we are. They have more money. They have a longer business history. While weighing and respecting concerns, I will negotiate for you to make sure we get our fair share for our business we give them. We will give them respect and accept no less than the respect we give. Let us not disobey our Prophet who taught us to be brothers loving each other.