August 2, 1991
Role of Business in the Muslim Life: Part 1
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed gave this address on business at the Grand Opening ceremonies of the new Atlanta Masjid ofAI-Islam on December 30, 1990. From this address Imam Mohammed has now prepared this article for Muslim Journal's readers.)
Opening of Atlanta Masjid
On this occasion of the Grand Opening of this Atlanta masjid, I just feel to look at you in celebration and to listen to you. And that is my pleasure, for this is really a big achievement for the Muslims all, and especially for the Muslims of Atlanta, Georgia. I also think it is a blessing from Allah that you have this new masjid here in this neighborhood that has been given such a bad name. Its bad name is gone now. As an out of town person, if you did not tell me the neighborhood had problems here, I would say, "This is just a good and fortunate situation. The scenery is so good and excellent."
The landscape here is suited for a masjid. The Masjid stands right out as a beautiful picture. As soon as we approach, the Masjid is seen right away. The Masjid has good visibility. It is a jewel in this area. Insha Allah, around this focus will grow other Muslim activities and Muslim investments. Perhaps one day we will come here and from many blocks around will glow in brightness an Islamic atmosphere. I think we have a good opportunity in Atlanta for your plans. You have more people who have more resources and therefore there is here more spirit for achieving things of material and cultural value. We are ignorant if we don't take serious the material value.
1 am going to address what I have to say today upon this interest in material growth, and upon your showing and courage. This makes it very easy for me to present what I have in mind. We are really growing now in a way that I think should make all of us feel pretty comfortable. When you can have a jumuah here in Atlanta and eight hundred or more people attend the jumuah, I think we the Muslims should feel very good about that all over the United States.
That means that we have now recovered from a set back. Not only have we recovered from a set back, but now we have been renewed. Sometimes you may recover and after recovery you will be where you were before. But we are recovered and renewed. I do not think it would have been possible to get this great spirit we are witnessing today from a recovery that does not amount to a renewal. Many of the brothers and sisters here in this area are situated mentally and emotionally to cooperate and to stand by their commitment. For that, you had to have more than a recovery. You had to have a renewal.
In the days gone by, I know it was very, very difficult to get attendance out on a Sunday of eight hundred people. Only a very few places (Temples) in these United States were able to do that in the hay day of that time. As a minister of "The Nation of Islam" I would view the national attendance reports. I was given the opportunity of attending meetings with the national staff. What do you do here to get that kind of attendance? Do you offer them free sandwiches? I know how we did it back then: On occasions new visitors were promised free meals. You must have something new going, for we did not get big attendance back then unless something was free or exaggerated.
This new and growing activity in certain cities makes me feel like we are really on the road now. We have gotten our life back, which is meant to say, we have again our spirit to achieve, to be producers. Many of us did not lose it, but the majority did and worked to kill the atmosphere for everybody. Now recovering, we are a new people, and Allah is with us. I would like you to know that in my own way, with my own intelligence and ability and feeling for what is right, I have promoted those aspirations and concerns necessary for a people wanting strength and production. We want strong people. We don't want to be weak people. We want stability. We don't want people here today and gone tomorrow. In order to have people who can hold to their Muslim way of life and pass on what they have to their children (inheritors) we have to make sound investments in the future.
We make an investment in the future for the soul by obeying Allah. Obeying our Lord Allah is the first investment and the most important investment. Obey Allah, so that we will have a future on earth and in the Hereafter. That is the investment. But we have to be aware that Allah requires of us that we be a people respected by others for our contribution to today's needs and tomorrow's needs. We are to build for this generation and the generations to come. Allah wants us to invest in the future. We have to invest materially for improved education, strong schools and strong businesses.
We cannot depend on one-profession preachers and propagators to establish a community. Preachers and propagators can only attract and call people to the Word of Allah. Once people are called to the Word (the Qur'an) of Allah, then the people have to understand their obligation as believers. If we are believers in the Word of Allah, we are obligated to make good use of everything that Allah offers the believers. I don't want to preach "religion" today. If you have time and don't spend it well, Allah will hold you accountable. If you have money and don't spend it well, Allah will hold you accountable. If you have knowledge and don't spend it well, Allah will hold you accountable. We believe that as Muslims Allah will hold us accountable for what we are doing with our resources.
If we have only resources of the heart and no resources of the brain, then we are not whole Muslims. We will not be crippled handicapped Muslims, for we are to have resources of the heart and also resources of the brain. If we do not have living conditions to influence people to have respect for us, we are still coming up short. Muslims have to have living conditions that get them respect.
I am paying tribute to you today and using you and your progress as a focus for what we want all over these United States. We want all of the masajid to be active like this Masjid here. We want all making investments for the future — investments for the schools and education and business. The two main areas are education and business. If you work on education and business, you will not have to walk with your head down.
We could make money the crooked way. That is quick and not difficult. It is quick and easy to get money the crooked way. I do not know about other nationalities, but all the crooks in the African-American community collect money for "white folks". The white folks are the ones who eventually get it all. So even if I were not a Muslim or a believer in right actions, being a "black" criminal would not be attractive to me.
Understand this too, just as you are an inspiration to me because of what you have accomplished here, you are also an inspiration for all Muslims. It is especially inspiring for poor African-American people. I am looking for the day when we can come into a masjid (a Mosque ) or into a city and not feel or sense a burden of poverty. Isn't that something to look forward to?
There are some who would say. "Brother Imam, you have to stay on the subject of taqwa. It is not Islamic or the sunnah of the Prophet to talk about this "dunya." Let us stay on taqwa." But look, when they pronounced my arrival in the world (the dunya), they were looking at something material. And when they pronounce me no longer in this world, they will be looking at something that is material and no longer functioning with life. I think that is plain enough.
We are here as material beings. If we have no material Wallace here, then there is no Wallace at all here. When the material of Wallace stops functioning, they will say, "He's gone". Allah compares life and resurrection of an individual with the life and resurrection of a town. Allah gives us that parable in the Qur'an. Allah points us to a town all dilapidated and neglected and promises a resurrection. So we want to resurrect towns and start with our own.
If I have nothing but bills (debts), then I need a resurrection. I hope and do feel that honorable station in life is coming soon. Muslims will have gatherings or functions and will not feel the burden of poverty. We will know that there are enough successful people in a city to guarantee there will be no problem of poverty.
Zakat is not for the Idle
No problem of poverty means no impoverished community. Now that does not mean that zakat will be so generous that it will be given to all brothers out of jobs. I have had them tell me, "Brother Imam, where is our zakat ? Zakat is for the needy and the poor. "They can run it down and will know all supporting Qur'an verses. I will say, "That is right. I agree with everything you are saying. But if people (poor) in your same situation gave the zakat, then I have an obligation to the poor who give zakat before I have an obligation to the idle poor who want zakat." Wrestle with that if you like. I am not beyond criticism or blame. But I am still holding my point. It was about eight to ten years ago when I told that to the first brother.
The brother asked me, "Where is my zakat?" I told him, "Your zakat will be coming after I have helped all of these other people who are not only poor but they also give zakat." He said, "If they are giving it, then they don't need any help." I said, "Fes they do. They want me to help them to pay the rent and the lights for the masjid. They want me to help the school. They want me to help propagation. They have a lot of bills that they want me to take care of with this money that they gave me. And they are poor people. Can you see the (moral) logic?"
The Working Poor
I don't think you will get much out of your Imam (Plemon) here but a job. What justification is there for us to take from a brother who has no more education than this other brother, and has no more physical ability than this other brother and works and goes out to wash windows and to paint and sell household items? One poor brother will not accept that there is no work. He will go and find work. He will get him a bucket and a rag and will ask people can he wash their car.
He comes back and shares his earnings with charities. He will eat a little, spend a little and will put something in zakat. What right do we have to take from that brother and give it to another brother with strength and intelligence? "No, I can't find any job and must be given some zakat"? Let's help him find a job. The industrious poor brother will also have children that he is taking care of. He is taking care of his wife, and he will still give us something in charity. But the other brother has children and is not taking care of them and he is not loyal to anyone, but he wants zakat. That brother needs to be (morally) redeemed first.
In my opinion, as long as we are poor people, we have to see all of our people as poor. We African-American people are a poor people. We have some people who are doing well and we know that, but group-wise we are poor. If you don't believe that, go to the jails and the welfare offices and see what is the state of our race. No matter how well some of us are doing, as a people we are idle and poor. Until that changes, I will be protecting poor from the poor. What I receive in charity is mostly coming from poor people. I have an obligation to spend as those people (contributors) want me to spend. They did not give me their zakat to spend on bombs. These believers (Muslims) are trusting that their Imam will not take care of bombs with the money that they have sacrificed. If they (who give charity) want to help a bomb, they have too many all around them. They do not have to send money to me (or to you Imams) for that. I do not mean to disrespect any of you in your dignified poverty by calling you a bomb. My intention is not to disrespect you at all.
(To be continued)