The Meaning Of Ramadan: Part 2
Chief Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad
(Editor's note: The following interview with Chief Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad was conducted by Wall F. Muhammad, the "Communicator," for Radio Station WBEE on Aug. 15, 1978. Following are excerpts from that interview.)—Continued from last two weeks.
CHIEF IMAM: Now we break the spirit of the fast if after the sunset we play or turn on the records and get the shake baby, shake or something. When we start blasting that, that will destroy, or will break the spirit.
The night is for prayers, for long prayers and contemplation on the guidance of God and his blessings in our life.
So the day is to restrain the carnal, the wild carnal appetites. Not all of the fleshly appetites, but to teach some discipline and to stay away from the forbidden things and to restrain the appetites for food, drink, etc., and smoke. Smoking is not forbidden in the Quran by revelation or to my knowledge by Hadith, that is, by the sayings of Prophet Muhammad. Nevertheless, it is agreed by most qualified authorities in Al-Islam that smoking is a thing that should be forbidden. It is a thing to stay away from, and we arrive at this judgment by the saying of Prophet Muhammad that if the benefits are overweighed by the harm of a thing, then that thing is harmful.
Smoking—what is the benefit? The benefit is just relief from tension, some bodily tension. You didn't have those, bodily tensions before you started smoking. The first puff was not to satisfy bodily tensions, the bodily tensions were created by the smoking, the nervousness was created by the smoking.
What does society benefit from your smoking? You are burning up money in the air, you are just burning up money in the air. The Cancer and Heart Societies are telling us now that we are just coating our lungs with nicotine and adding to the problem of breathing, pollution, emphysema, cancer and heart disease. We are contributing to all of these things.
COMMUNICATOR: So these bad things overwhelmingly outweigh the benefits?
CHIEF IMAM: Certainly, so if we apply that rule to smoking, though smoking was not expressly named in the Quran or the Hadith, if we apply that rule, then we have to stay away from smoking. So the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, he was in some ways more orthodox than the Orthodox.
COMMUNICATOR: By forbidding it altogether from the Muslims in America?
CHIEF IMAM: That's right. And we still forbid it. There is no smoking. The Muslims, if they do it, we won't throw them out of our community, we don't excommunicate anyone anymore for those things, but we do let them know that they are not practicing the good, rational, sound teachings of Al-Islam when they are wasting their money in smoking and destroying their health and destroying the good atmosphere that all of us have to breathe.
COMMUNICATOR: Chief Imam, we are now coming towards the end of Ramadan and there is a prayer and a celebration called the Eid ul-Fitr.
CHIEF IMAM: Yes, Eid ul-Fitr, that's right.
COMMUNICATOR: Would you explain that?
CHIEF IMAM: Yes. After the 30-day fast we have a victory. We celebrate and then we eat in the day—we eat joyfully in the day. So actually the interpretation of this is that once we have made our society decent, clean— we have cleaned it up morally, physically and spiritually—when the society is made right and decent and clean for God's sake, then the daylight or the material side of life and the regular material kinds of involvements will not be harmful to us at all—the society will be safe.
There is nothing wrong with God's material creation. The wrong is in the way we view and relate to God's . creation. So once that knowledge has been corrected and our blind and wild passions have been tamed, then we can go out day and night—it's just as good.
COMMUNICATOR: Because it is under control now?
CHIEF IMAM: It is just as good. We have opened up our eyes to the reality of the world. So if we are blind in the day, then the day is our night.
COMMUNICATOR: And thus completes...that is the victory; we celebrate the victory of our fast?
CHIEF IMAM: The victory of our fast, right. Certainly. That we have overcome the temptations of ignorant direction that lead to wildness of life and moral corruption, injustices. We have had a victory, we have for 30 days...which represents a completion that we have come through this life clean and upright before God so we don't have to fear the physical creation because our eyes are open. This is truly day. So the Eid is truly the day for the Muslims after the fasting of Ramadan.
COMMUNICATOR: I want to again thank you very much for this opportunity of being with you to discuss Ramadan.
CHIEF IMAM: I am sure the scholars—learned scholars on the Quran and Hadith, and the meaning of fast—they will say that he barely touched upon the subject. That's because there are many social benefits. The fast teaches us to be concerned for the suffering of other people. We know the pain of hunger in our stomachs so it makes us more sympathetic for the pain of hunger in the stomachs of those who have to fast all of the time. Some poor people have to fast in the month of Ramadan and outside of Ramadan; it doesn't make any difference, they don't know when they have to fast. The day comes and they have to fast. So it teaches us to be sympathetic—a compassionate, sympathetic people. It makes us more charitable.
After Ramadan there is also the Eid ul-Fitr which carries with it the Sadaqat ul-Fitr which means the donation, the charity. So after the fasting on the Eid day before we make our prayers in the morning, perhaps around 9:30 or before, we make a donation and that's traditional that we make that donation because at that time Allah has rewarded us with great spiritual benefits and moral benefits that will be seen in our total life, that will be seen as rewards for the betterment of our total life. So at that time, the Muslim is in the best mind and spirit to do his duty to society and that is help his brother who is in need, help the sister who is in need. So the charity is taken up so that everyone has a happy Eid.
We don't just want the fasters to have a happy Eid, but those that couldn't fast, those that had some sickness or the aged people, those poor people whose condition is so bad that they are half starving all of the time.
I hope in America we don't have any people like that, but we have some people on Welfare who are starved because they have used their Welfare stamps for other things. They sell them for whiskey. Well, they are ignorant and they are destroying themselves, but we have to have compassion on those people and anyone who comes up on Eid day, Muslim or non-Muslim. If they come to our Eid feast, they are welcome to share the feast with us.
COMMUNICATOR: Well, we hope that the Quranic scholars and the other scholars...hopefully we touched upon some of the basic things of Ramadan to the broader community so they will have an understanding of what Ramadan is about and become a little more enlightened about Al-Islam— about Ramadan in particular.
CHIEF IMAM: I think the most important thing to remember is that the purpose and the object is the same for Christians, Jews and Muslims, and that is, we want a civilized, decent, just, human society, a compassionate and sympathetic society. We want the
whole world to be like this and we restrain our own selfish appetites and devote ourselves to the development of the better side of human life so that we will have strength to help work in our community with other people, with everybody who has this concern for the betterment of the world, for all people.
COMMUNICATOR: What is the word that we use to wish each other a prosperous and blessed Ramadan in Arabic?
CHIEF IMAM: Usually during the early part when the fast begins, it's "Ramadan Karim" which means may you have a generous Ramadan, may God reward you generously. But Karim—Arabic is such a rich language in expression—Karim: the word doesn't only mean just generous gifts from God, but it means the gifts that enhance the worth of the human being in terms of moral dignity, self-respect. Karim means noble, Karim means honorable, respectable—Karim means generous. It's a rich word in meaning. Ramadan Karim.
But we also say Ramadan Mubaarak. So right now most of us perhaps would say Ramadan Karim-Mubaarak or Karim-Mubaarak which means generous Ramadan and also blessed. Mubaarak—blessed because after all we don't want to come out with just the human dignity but without the blessings of enlightenment. We want enlightenment too. So God blesses us from different directions that we don't perceive, and He says... it's in the Quran, you know.
And already many of us in our community have witnessed blessings from directions that we didn't perceive. I'm not going to talk about. them now because I don't think it would help the spirit of Ramadan because some of these blessings are not spiritual and moral. We are being blessed in so many ways, but after Ramadan, we would like to disclose our blessings; let the world know about our blessings.
COMMUNICATOR: Let me ask you one more question: this is off the subject. "Deen"—we have said "W. D. Muhammad," "Wallace D. Muhammad," and now we have gotten to the thorough knowledge of Wallace Deen Muhammad. Could you explain what does Deen mean in the name, in the Arabic language, the word "Deen."
CHIEF IMAM: Deen means faith, it means religion. There are two terms in Al-Islam that are not exactly worldly and spiritual. The Deen and Dun-ya. Dun-ya means the view of the human life as a life determined by the world, determined by the physical world, that the physical world has shaped our lives, determined our lives. Deen means that faith has determined our lives, yes. So our religion is called Deen Al-Islam, the faith of Al-Islam or the religion of Al-Islam.
And Waarith Ud-Deen—we say Wallace, but the Waarith Ud-Deeh means the inheritor of the religion or the faith of Muhammad. And all of us should be the inheritors of the faith of Muhammad because that's the faith that God says He has established on the very pattern on wtich He created the world and on which He created the man. So we all should have this Deen of Muhammad.
COMMUNICATOR: That is beautiful. Well, Wallace Ud-Deen Muhammad, I would like to say I thank Allah for you, for the blessing of having you as our Mujeddid here in America and the world, and may the peace and blessings of Allah forever be with you. 1 want to wish you a Ramadan Karim-Mubaarak—peace be unto you.
CHIEF IMAM: Thank you. Ramadan Karim-Mubaarak.
CHIEF IMAM: Wa-Alaikum-As-Salaam, thank you.