The Individual's Role In Community
Responsibility: Part 2
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Editorial note: This is Part II of Imam W. Deen Muhammad's address at the United Taleem Banquet, Los Angeles, Ca., May 22, 1988)
The most precious thing you have is your individuality that God gave you. The Prophet's Sunnah will not threaten your individuality. The Prophet's Sunnah will enhance, will improve, will help you get into more of your individuality. His Sunnah is not his personality. And this is because his Sunnah is his discipline in the life of what God revealed. But if you look at a personality like Farrakhan and even myself or that of John Muhammad and many others that are more important than these I have named, then what you copy from them is what they are all about. All of these are not all about living the life of God. Some of them are about playing tunes that you like to hear.
So when you see me, you say, "Here comes my man. He is going to play a tune that I like to hear." And then you will go astray every time. What I am saying is this, that Prophet Muhammad was the ideal person in the service of God. The ideal person lives the Word of God so perfectly, that you never see him, for you see the Word of God. You won't see his personal choices, for you see God's choices. You don't see what he is all about, for you see what God is all about.
Don't you know that the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, has said that whoever has seen him has seen God? That does not mean that he is God. No, he is not God! But you have seen the Way of God and the Purpose of God and the Aim of God for man. Why does a man want to see God? If a man wants to see God, he should want to see God in order to see what is God's purpose for him. That is the only reason he should want to see God. Now if a fool wants to see God, there is no telling how many reasons there might be. Prophet Muhammad demonstrated to us all that that is God's Will and God's Purpose in the life of man and society.
We are not chosen for that. We are chosen to follow. We are chosen to believe in God and to follow His Words, to believe in His Prophets and to follow those Prophets. Again, we are chosen to follow. That is what we have to accept, and that is what we all should understand. That the best we can do is be good followers. Our perfection is in following to the best of our ability. That is our perfection, and don't look for any more than that. For it would be a waste of time.
I am 54 years old, approaching 55 and I've spent most of this life looking. That is God's truth, as the people used to say, and I am still looking. But I am looking now without wasting so much time. When we come to the right attitudes in ourselves regarding the proper respect for the Word of God and the life pattern of Muhammad the Prophet, peace be upon him, things begin to clear up for us. The path gets easier for us to walk, and we start to understand better just what we should be doing in this little short time here on this earth.
Some of us make the mistake of going to extremes, and we don't recognize that we are doing it. For example, some will be so afraid of the temptations in this non-Muslim environment, that they will go to extremes in urging you to give yourself to the spiritual life of the religion. They will go even so far as to cause you to neglect the wholeness of this religion.
I have faced that difficulty in my life. And I believe that if it weren't for the conditioning that I received as a follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, may Allah forgive him all :ns, and give him paradise, that I perhaps would have been led into one of these far away orbits and may never have gotten back. Perhaps I would have been buried way out in space somewhere. It is because there were well meaning and good people, whom I loved then and even more now, who had a fear of the world that caused them to put too much stress on having the spiritual life for those people whom they were inviting to the Way of Allah.
The speaker before me, our dear brother and our Imam - for he is my Imam also, and every good brother is my Imam; I am presently referring to Imam Siddique who brought to our attention two extremes. That is capitalism and its emphasis being on the community or on the state. He brought us to understand that the community that God chose is the midway community. The one that combines both concerns in the proper way or in the best way, that is concerns for the individual and concerns for the community or the collective body.
Those are two extremes, capitalism and communism, that take man away from his natural life and his natural purpose here in creation.
I am aware that Adam Smith, who has been called the father of capitalism, saw business, commerce and trade, and especially business in the market place and trade between people and nations as a moral good. If it was allowed to proceed naturally, then it had its own way of bettering the quality of life for the individual and for the society.
Adam Smith saw capitalism as a profit that would bring man closer and closer to the excellence that is inherent in every person. That it would make man more trustworthy. That it would eventually make man behave better towards each other. He saw the process of business or capitalism working to bring about this betterment of the human being.
Now, I don't disagree with that. Do you think God has created us to avoid business, to avoid industry? No. God has created us for business, for industry. If God has created us for this, then there must be something to aid the process of our life towards its betterment. Whether it be moral betterment, intellectual betterment or any other kind of betterment, it must be something that is good for the betterment of man in the total sense of man's needs. That is what I believe.
"Well, why hasn't it done that? " you may say. If Adam Smith was alive today, and we gave him a fair chance to come up and defend his case, I believe that he could prove to us that the progress of business, the progress of capitalism, the progress of industry, and all these things that we see as material life — the progress of these things has been a great force in motivating man towards better character and towards better human concerns.
This is because this movement is an environmental movement essentially. And as it improves, it is going to bring about conditions that are conducive to the freedom of the individual in terms of his moral and intellectual life, and not to mention his political destiny and all of those other things.
Now our religion does not condemn this interest in this. But it wants us to do everything in service to Allah. Who made all of this possible. And as long as we keep the demands of our religion before us, and as we bring all of these other things to conform to the demands of the religion, we are on solid ground. So we should not play down the importance of the material world or play down the importance of business and industry.
We should call men to industry, but tell them what we always tell them, "Allahu Akbar.'" If the man goes into business, he hears "Allahu Akbar." Then some will say, this is relating to deities, that Allah is bigger than the pagan deities. But that is not what it says; it says "Allahu Akbar." Allah is bigger, period! We know the pagan deities are only a symbol for something that he attaches himself to. And if we allow you to go on with your business without acknowledging "Allahu Akbar," then pretty soon your business is going to be a deity.
"Make that the Fish Deity, Brother! The Fish is what made all the money for me, brother. Oh, make that Fish into god!" Not too long ago we thought fish was gold. It wasn't quite gold, but it was good business for the peddler. And I am not criticizing for the sake of criticism. But I am saying that in hopes that your mind is much bigger now, and that you want to be more than just a fish peddler.
So if we understand what Allah asks of us, for it says when the call to the Friday Prayer is made, respond to it. Leave off your business, and answer the Call of God. Come to the Jumah. This Is In the Sura by that title, "Jumah." Come to the Jumah and leave off business. That same Sura that asks us to leave off business to pray to God and to give our minds to His Guidance, also tells us that when the Jumah is over, disburse back into the avenues or the activities of business. So here is a Lord telling us to "come away from business to give your attention to what I require of you." Then He tells us when it is over to go back to business. That is the balance to business.
In our religion we know that we are obligated to be a community. We are obligated to our families. Whether you know it or not, the men are responsible as Imams in the house. Let me repeat, the man in the house is supposed to be the Imam in the house. He is supposed to call the prayer and is supposed to lead the prayer.
This is why there is no clergy in this religion. Did you hear that? There is no clergy in this religion. There is no priest order in this religion. I am going to repeat this, if it takes me all night! There is no clergy in this religion. You don't get any special license plate. You don't get any special parking privileges. You can't break a law that other people are obligated to keep. You get no special bow. I don't have to call you, when I want to get married. Hear this! You don't marry people. You do nothing but recite the Holy Qur'an and preach, but you don't marry anybody.
You will hear someone say. "Yes, the Imam married us." No, I never married anybody. I just read the Holy Qur'an appropriately for the occasion and heard your vows as a witness. You could have read the Qur'an yourself. Or a member of your family could have read the Qur'an themselves and hear your vows themselves, and your marriage would have been as good in heaven as the one I performed.
Now if I am not standing on solid ground, I want to see someone challenge me when I am finished. There is no clergy in this religion. Every duty in this religion can be performed by someone who is not an Imam.
(To be continued)