Freedom In America
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
Among the philosophers, humanist and lovers of humanity of the New World, the builders of the idea of American democracy, are such men as Frederick Douglass. Perhaps we don't see him as a man that God blessed to have great philosophical insight. But American history tell us of the development of democracy, and contributions to it by such men as Frederick Douglass and Jean Jacques Rousseau, who said in his famous essay, The Social Contract,
"Passing from the state of nature to the civil state produces quite a remarkable change in man. For it substitutes justice for instinct in his behavior, and gives his actions a moral character they previously lacked. Only then when the voice of duty replaces physical impulse and a sense of what is right replaces appetite, does man who had till then regarded none but himself, perceives that he must act upon other principles, and to consult his reason before listening to his inclinations.
Although man is deprived in this new state of many advantages which he enjoyed from nature, he gains in return others so great, his faculties so unfold themselves by being exercised, his ideas are so extended, his sentiments so exalted, and his whole mind so enlarged and refined, that if by abusing his new condition, he did not sometimes degrade it even below that from which he emerged, he ought to bless continually the happy moment that snatched him forever from it, and transformed him from a circumscribed and stupid animal to an intelligent being and a man"
Here in these words of this man of great insight, is a definition for a man. According to Rousseau, if you don't have the above characteristics with intelligent orientation in your life, you are not a man. If you are acting only upon instinct, neglecting to consult reasons and to follow excellent and intelligent behavior, you are not a man.
When we, the African-Americans, were brought to this country and reduced to brute savages by the cruelest system of slavery that ever existed upon the earth, we lost our manhood. Our masters called us boys no matter how old we were. All African-Americans should yearn to be recognized as a man.
You should listen to the wise, and hear what they give as the definition of a man. Then you should say, "Thank God, now I know the definition of man. I'm going to try to be a man, because that is what I was denied." The African-American situation is calling for men. Yet, because of the moral neglect and the disrespect in our life, we are still boys.
Rousseau goes on to say, "In order to draw a balance between the advantages and disadvantages attending his new situation, let us state them In such a manner that they may be easily compared, Man loses by the social contract his natural liberty, and an unlimited right to all which tempts him, and which he can obtain; in return he acquires civil liberty, and proprietorship of all he possesses"
Let us take a look at the African-American people in America. What is their typical behavior? Most could be described as -seekers of natural liberty, unlimited rights to everything that tempts them, whether it be good or bad, right or wrong, whether it hurts self or others, and whether or not it destroys the character, the lives, or the community.
Most African-Americans really don't care. Most follow silly blind inclinations, the impulse to be completely free. However, for the enlightened man that God made, this is not complete freedom. God's freedom calls first for restraint.
Freedom for the man that God made, dictates in his life to first check his passions, his inclinations and his impulses so that his intellect will be free to rise up to the excellence God intends for it. That is the true freedom. It is FREE-DOME, referring to the dome on top of your body, your head. And it is a fact that your mind will never be free as long as your mind is corrupt.
If we claim to be men, whether we be Muslims or not, it is important to know what we are and what we want. But for those of us who call ourselves Muslims, we should look to the Qur'an to see the Muslim life, the Muslim identity of what God wants us to be. We should also look to the history, to the personal life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to see how that is demonstrated in the life of the human being.
Many African-Americans are still behind because they don't know what they want. Don't think that the individual situation of any supposedly rich and powerful African-American changes the situation for us as a people. We are still a deficient, poorly represented people in this country.
Speaking for Muslims, we want our fellow members in America to accept us on the basis of our worth. We believe we are qualified U.S. Citizens, having the best qualifications for U.S. citizenship. We are citizens with a contribution to make to the national composition of America.
We know that America welcomes all that come to compliment and to contribute to her pluralistic national character. And our soul yearns to join those who want to qualify to be included in this special pluralism. But, we don't want to lose ourselves in America. We don't want to lose our identity in the history of our ancestors, nor lose our identity as Muslims.
The Striving Poor
We would like to be counted among those who chose to live in the tradition of which can be referred to as the striving poor. The fact that we don't have established wealth and power in this country is no reason for us not to aspire for great roles and great responsibility as citizens here.
God says in the Qur'an "And we have certainly given dignity and honor to every child of Adam." Where is the dignity in being a child of Adam? It is in following the best inclinations, following the best impulses, to exercise good reasoning. It is in following the excellence of our whole life and in accepting to suffer in order to preserve that excellence rather than give it up for temporary conveniences.
As American Muslims, we want to be welcomed into the civilized citizenry of the United States. Some people will say, "Well, we already have that. We are citizens. We have all our legal rights." Yes, but our spirit and our attitude keeps us on the outside.
If we get it in our hearts and in our spirits to be concerned about the state of this nation, its future, its image in the eyes of other nations, its future for our children and generations to come, and let that concern be published, upright men in the circle of the rich and poor in America would be happy to know that we are part of the American citizenry.
We may think that we are politically aware, but political awareness means the awareness of the need within for economic dignity, for business development, for a sense of business, and not just in a few individuals, but in all of the people. African-American businesses fail in their community because their community has been disciplined against business development.
Most of us do not have business sense as a people, and that is why we are not represented business-wise in America. We are a deficient and extremely dependent people—dependent upon taxpayers who have establishment, who have an economic base, and are not dependent upon charity. We are dependent upon the Messiah, the Christ in the White House, or the Democratic party that will treat us as their little children, and protect us, and pour out to us charity from the rich of this country for the poor black masses. That is pitiful.
I repeat once again that which Prophet Muhammad said, "No descendent of Adam enjoys a food better than the child of Adam who earns it with his own hands lawfully." What does this tell us? It means that if we want happiness, if we want to enjoy life, then we must accept to work for it.
We should not accept being a beggar. We should not accept to be constantly on the welfare rolls with our hands out waiting on somebody to give something to us. We should not enjoy eating food all of the time that we did not work to get. If you have to eat food you did not work for, at least have in your stomach a distaste, a rejection for it. Don't accept to receive free food as a permanent situation like so many of us have done.
Any people that accept to exist like that and don't desire in their souls to change their situation, they are not deserving of respect from other groups in this country who have a business sense, who are willing to struggle, who will sacrifice and live in poor conditions until they can, with their united support, improve their financial situation.
There are other ethnic groups who recently came to this country, and together with a united effort, improved their financial situation within one, two and three years. They established themselves as competing Americans in the business life of America, while we are still crying the blues as a people. That is a disgrace.
For example, if we study the history of the Jew we find that they were rejected by most of America, but they didn't cry themselves into a pool. No, they pooled their resources and their talents. They united upon their common interest and they said, "Wherever a Jew is, we must be. And if a Jew comes to us, we must not reject him. If we will reject him, who will accept him?" That makes sense. Now where is our sense?
The conditions of extremes to which slavery reduced us in this country disconnected us from the true life of the human person, and most of us are empty vessels in terms of what we should be as men on this planet. We have to wake up and take the first breath of true human life and real human concerns into our lungs in order that we may live.
We have to accept the responsibility for announcing our own concerns, our own needs, and then accept the responsibility for bringing those needs to maturity. We must become bigger than our instinct form concerns: hunger, sex, rest, sleep, the desire to play, to laugh and be merry. All of that is in the happy dog. And he is not a man.
Another concern is that we have to get out of the conditioned habit of trying to be what we think is the ideal person in the eyes of white people. There is an Uncle Tom Igacy, a legacy left over from the weaklings, and it is not from the striving poor, nor from such people as Frederick Douglass, and others.
We must become normal in our sensitivities as a person and as a people. We must question our judgment and our opinion in the light of what should be natural and intelligent for the human person, rather than lingering in the fear of being laughed at or being rejected by the white man.
What am I referring to? We have seen Asians come to this country, and they are not ashamed to bring their religion or the Buddhist Temple with them. And you don't look at them and say, "Hey, what did you bring that strange looking temple here for?" But just let black folks choose to be Muslims and choose to have mosques and minarets, and some weak Negroes are disturbed. They are afraid to acknowledge our presence here in America. They are afraid to express appreciation for a Muslim life in black America. They are not true to the best contents of Christianity, but they claim to be Christian.
They are ashamed of their Muslim brother. They are ashamed because they fear the criticism of the white man. They should make up their own mind, and stand upon their own intelligence. The white man disrespects our intelligence when he expects that we will choose nothing but what he approves of. Well today, we are going to give him something to respect us for. We are going to chose Allah, His Messenger, Muhammad, and Al-Islam as our religion. That is the decision that has to be made. That is the courage that you need. You need the courage to accept and insist upon what your intelligence dictate, whether you think the white American majority likes it or not.
Many African-Americans choose to be a dope addict or dope pusher. They choose to be a killer, murdering their own kind, murdering the members of their own neighborhood. They will sell dope, putting death in the veins of their own people. They will even risk their life or go to jail to do such things. But they won't risk their life to do what is right.
With a knowledge of the popularity of Muslims in this religion on the continent of our ancestors, why aren't there more mosques in the community of blacks in America? Other ethnic groups brought their religion with them to America. Now we have been freed, and we know that most black folks in Africa are Muslims.
The African-American should be interested to know the value of this religion. They should be interested to be represented in America like all other ethnic groups. They should go back and bring their goods and their treasures from their past in Africa. And not from the savage or pagan Africa.
Do you want respect in the international world? Do you want establishment? Do you want worth as a people? Then change your idea of freedom. Join the white man in America in his idea of freedom—freedom for the Founding Fathers, of the writers of the Constitution. Freedom is the opportunity to gain more and more independence.