Priorities For American Muslims
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
Muslims in America must have Islamic education as the top priority in the community. Why? Because we are a new converted community, therefore we need to strengthen ourselves with Islamic education. We should take pride in having our own Islamic schools. If a Muslim community can manage only three grades, then have a school with three grades, but don't put up any sham for a school.
If your community cannot establish schools that does the intellect and minds of your children justice, then don't shortchange or rob them of an education in the name of giving them Islamic education. If you cannot give them an Islamic education on a universal level, then give them Islamic instructions on Saturday for an hour or two hours until you are able to get the resources and equipment to at least give them a comparable education. But don't be satisfied until you have reached a universal level in educating your children.
A very good and strong example is our high school in Chicago. The Principal has a Ph.D. in science and higher mathematics. It is one of the finest private schools in Chicago. We teach Arabic and we intend to add Spanish and French as foreign languages. These additional language courses will raise the value and prestige of our school even more.
If you don't have a school in your area, encourage the academic minded and educated people in the community to work on the problem of bringing into existence a school. Start with the early grades and move up when you can manage to do so.
Other Concerns for Muslims
A school is not our only concern. But, the school will make business stronger in the community. The more importance we place on education, the more we are going to upgrade our business interest. A people who have no appreciation for knowledge are very weak in business. We have to understand that the more we promote raising the level of knowledge in our community, the better the future is going to be for our individual and collective business efforts.
You may want to enter the business world, but you do not have a high school diploma. Well, there are many successful people in business who didn't finish grade school, but they have an appreciation for knowledge. They read, study, listen to the wise, and they have accumulated a lot of knowledge that is used as a light in conducting their business.
After business concerns comes political concerns. Muslims cannot isolate themselves from the general concerns of their local community. Whether it is your district or your city, Muslims have to be aware and not indifferent to political concerns. Muslims must look for an opportunity to help the best people who are serving their community, whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim.
Muslims must look for an opportunity as an individual to move up in the political system. Maybe you are not qualified, but as a concerned political minded person, you should be looking to other members in your immediate environment and in the Muslim community to see what members have political promise. Then give them a good word— give them encouragement. Who knows, maybe that person will enter politics and become a great factor for improving the life of not only the Muslims, but of all people in the community.
There is a great mistake on the part of African-Americans in thinking that we need someone in the senate, in the presidency or in the mayors seat. We feel that we will never be situated nicely until we hold those top political positions. Asians have come into this country, and within a few years they have situated themselves very comfortably, and they are not aspiring to those great political positions.
Factors for Political Influence
We must be politically alert and influence what is happening politically. We must be a factor in deciding who gets into office. But in order to be a strong factor, we must be able to give financial support. We need businesses and real properties. We need our own productive wealth where we can be of some value to our community, our city, state and national government. We must be able to bear our burden of taxes to support government just as others do.
That is the situation we must have, and it is only going to come if we see the whole community picture, and then work for the common good of the whole community; for the purpose and future of a productive, thriving civilized and intelligent community. Take your mind off of black as a color. Take your mind off of getting into the White House and have the first black as a President. The first black can become President while we as a people remain in our present situation. We must become established just as other ethnic groups.
Other ethnic groups come into this country and they don't busy themselves with just praying. They also busy themselves with progressing their community economically. Furthermore, they are willing to do it the hard way. They are willing to struggle and pay the price to get the blessing. Most African-Americans want to receive their blessing without struggle. We want it too quickly. Someone can give you a million dollars cash, but with that kind of mind, the money will be out of your hands within a few days, maybe in just one day. It is said that a fool and his money soon parts. Maybe that is why we are so poor as a race. As soon as we get a few dollars, we quickly spend it outside of our community.
Key To Economic Control
When President Reagan came into office, he started receiving pressure from the black community. But what did he tell some of our leaders when they went to him? He told them, "Get your dollar to circulate at least two times in your community, that is the answer. Your dollar is going out of your pocket and away immediately, not circulating back to you even one time."
Now, that was a harsh reality. Some black people have thought, "Reagan's cold." Maybe he was, but it sure would be beneficial to heed what he said. If we would follow that advice, that would be a way to improve our ability at controlling our own resources. That is the answer. We must manage our own resources better. We have to start with our own little pocket change; stop wasting it foolishly. We need to stop wasting the check we receive once a week or every two weeks foolishly.
We should spend only what we can afford. Why feel ashamed because you do not own a car? If you can't afford one, take public transportation or walk. If necessary, get a bicycle. You shouldn't be too proud to do like the Cubans, the Arabs or others who come to America. They come here and live in what black people consider unbearable conditions. We look at them and say, "Hey, that's a shame the way they live." But in a short period, they have moved ahead, and then we are looking at them and saying, "Hey, that's a shame, they got this business in our community and they are not employing us."
Most of our people in that situation are not fit to be employed by them. The work ethics and work discipline of that businessman is too strong for their weakness. They can't afford to hire our people because most of them are not disciplined enough economically or morally to strengthen their business. When they hire our people, they make a great sacrifice.
This is the reality, and this is what black leaders are afraid to tell us. However, it is this kind of teaching that will make us shape up and become a strong people. Our people need to get their life under some kind of control and not look for an immediate reward. We must work hard for the future life. God tells us to do what we can today, but work hard for the future. Prophet Muhammad said, "Live in the world as though you are going to live forever, but live also as though you are going to die today."
Work hard to have an achievement on your record today, but look to the distant future for achievement down the road. That takes sacrifice, waiting, and the ability to hope for a reward that is not coming immediately. That is the kind of life, the kind of spirit, and the kind of discipline we need if we are going to pull our race up out of this deficiency of extreme dependency upon outside circumstances.
How can we charge everybody with responsibility for our situation as a race when we are neglecting the major cause that is right at home in our own hands. Black people need to stop looking to outside circumstances for their future. We must stop counting on other factors for survival. We must accept the leadership for our immediate family, for our neighborhood for our community, and for our people. We must have the courage to envision a better life for the indigenous African-American people in this country.
Nomads of America
We as a people must stop being the nomads of America. We are always moving into a neighborhood behind some other ethnic group. We live in their deserted mess until it becomes too financially burdensome for us, then we wait for the City to come in with an urban renewal plan and open up another neighborhood for us. We need to stop moving all over town waiting for the white man to make another neighborhood livable. We should tear down the unlivable structures where we live and put up better ones.
If the African-American does not have the courage to envision or make a better life for themselves, then the Muslims must do it, but let me tell you something. We are not going to do that alone. That is the message to the outside community. We need them, and they need us. The Muslims are a new thing a new life in America. We have something to contribute to the plurality of American culture and to the plurality of America's system. We represent a strength within ourselves. We have a distinct identity which is the Muslim life.
In the Muslims there is hope for the neighborhood, but we can't do it alone. Let us team up with the rest of America. Let us all come together and' work to make a more beautiful life and a more beautiful future for this country.
Muslims must become more involved and more responsible as citizens of the total country, but we must start at home with our immediate circumstances. Then we move out into our immediate community. We have to embrace the whole country, share in the whole concern and become actively involved to raise the dignity of the whole. We must pray to God that we become productive, successful and most of all, more responsible.