The Muslim Journal
"Justice In Islam: How Close Are We Muslims To Western Democracy?": Part 1
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed gave the following address on June 16, 2001, in Detroit, Mich., at Orchestra Hall.)
Our greeting is "Peace be onto you," As-Salaam-Alaikum, With G-d's Name, The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful Redeemer, we say there is only One G-d and Muhammed is the Messenger of G-d. The traditional salute or the prayers and the peace be upon Prophet Muhammed, the last and seal of the prophets.
We are happy to see you on this Saturday afternoon here, and thank you for taking from your private matters and time to be here with us today. To the fathers who are here, we wish you a Happy Father's Day and a blessed day always.
Detroit is the city for the beginning of Islam for us who followed the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, who himself was taught by an outsider, a foreigner, who came to this city and began introducing a new idea for the improvement of our people. He introduced it into the poorest sections of the city and to the poorest families and members of our community.
"Justice in Islam; How close are we Muslims to Western Democracy?" When I was a student in the University of Islam, which was really an elementary school and high school and I was in high school at the time, a person hired to teach us Arabic was Professor Jamil Diab. He later got his doctorate degree and now is Dr. Jamil Diab. He is still alive and lives in Phoenix, Ariz. He once headed the mosque there, but now he is retired and his son is the Imam there at the Tempe Masjid in Tempe, Ariz.
My first acquaintance with Professor Jamil was as one of his students. My younger brother, Akbar, who is now the professor of Islamic Studies and African Studies in upper state New York at Binghamton University, was a bright student of Professor Jamil Diab. Imam Darnell Karim whom most of you all know was also a student, and Darnell's sister now called Zahirah Akbar and Darnell's wife, Gloria Karim, the brother of Darnell named Leroy and others I could name - we all were students of Professor Diab.
Jamil Diab was a very good teacher, and he respected the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. He didn't believe as we believe in Islam; he had the belief of Muslims through out the world. And the Hon. Elijah Muhammad knew that when he hired him. But Professor Jamil did not try to make trouble for the Hon. Elijah Muhammad or for the Nation of Islam. He respected the order of the Nation of Islam and did the job he was hired for. And that was to teach us the Arabic language. This began around 1951. Way back then, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad had hired this teacher to teach us the Arabic language.
The point that I'm trying to make here is that our form of democracy is not something that Muslims have to be afraid of. In fact, it may be closer to what we have as Islamic justice for society than any other political ideology existing in the world today. Professor Jamil Diab obviously recognized that as an immigrant who migrated from his land to this country. He studied this country's elements and idea of democracy.
Professor Diab told us that the Constitution of the United States is based upon an idea that Muslims can accept. That is how he put it. He said he had read the introduction to the Constitution and the language of the writers or the designers of our Constitution - or Founding Fathers as we call them. And he said that he believed, in his words, that they were acquainted with Qur'an and Prophet Muhammed - those who formed that language.
I began by saying: "There is no deity, nothing to worship or to pray to as a god except The One G-d. Muhammed is the Messenger of G-d." If I believe that declaration of faith or that statement of the Muslim Creed in Islam, then it holds in focus for us a Concept of G-d and a concept of man. It is a way of perceiving and understanding G-d and a way of perceiving and understanding man.
Here, G-d and man are put together in one statement: "There is but One G-d and Muhammed is the Messenger of G-d." Muhammed did not come to just invite people to a spiritual way of life. He came to establish a spiritual way of life as the essential life of community. So the interest was to strengthen community. And Muhammed is unlike many of the prophets of the Bible. He is a prophet like Moses, and he is called that in our religion and in Qur'an - "a man like Moses.”
Prophet Muhammed and Prophet Moses are very similar, because both of them came to lead their people into community life. The Jews were oppressed and a subjected people or under class people under Pharaoh's Egypt, the oppressive Egypt. But Egypt was not always oppressive or did not always have a hard taskmaster. When we study the history of Egypt, we find that many of the Pharaohs were very kind to their public, to their citizens, and they believed in strengthening the social fabric of society. Some of them even guided their publics to the belief that there was but One G-d.
I am not here to give you that history, although I have studied this and do know it. I am simply saying that Muhammed the Prophet was guided by G-d to establish spiritual life as The Life for the betterment of society. It was so society could exist and have a good future and progress in the line of The Progress that G-d the Creator, mind you, intended for them.
This is also the language of the Founding Fathers: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator...." Here is the language of the Founding Fathers recognizing G-d and recognizing the Creator and recognizing all men as having inalienable rights....
To be continued