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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles


A.M. Journal

Exclusive Interview With Imam W. Deen Muhammad

Imam   Muhammad  comments on   the American Muslim community,
its direction and leadership.


WAM: There's a growing question about protection of the community's properties. What would you say to the believers in terms of fostering a better attitude toward what we have obtained and the protection of it?

IWDM:  First we have to realize that our community, since the passing of the     Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and even before -    in the few years prior to his passing  -our community   suffered  the  same kind of deterioration of values that the general society has suffered.

We were known to be people who dressed neat and clean and kept up our properties. But that image was destroyed  I  believe  by  the  same wave of deterioration in values that struck this country and the world - especially the Western world.

Now we are trying to recover from that.

I think what we should understand in the call to protect our properties more than anything else is that we need to turn back to that kind of respect and appreciation for property that was demonstrated by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

Secondly, and just as important, though, we have to do all we can to make our properties productive.

If we have buildings with nobody staying in them, buildings serving no function, those buildings are not profitable — it's un-Islamic to keep them. You either have to make them profitable or you have to sell them and use the income from the sales in a progressive or productive way.

The courts, in my opinion, have us in an un-Islamic position. When we have assets -- real estate, land, and properties — that are not in production, that's un-Islamic.

As I said, for us to have properties, or wealth, and not have it in production or in circulation is un-Islamic. It has to turn over to better the life of people, it has to produce jobs, it has to produce income to further the propagation — it has to produce.

If it doesn't produce, it's deteriorating property and that's a sin in Al-Islam.

WAM: Recently at the Educational Conference in North Carolina, we had a lot of emphasis placed on "the commentaries of Imam W. Deen Muhammad." The question arose as to how to obtain these commentaries or where this information is available. Should we go all the way back to 1975 and try to get articles and books and pamphlets?

IWDM: I caution the Imams and the community; I often caution the Imams concerning the use or putting in circulation now, comments, instructions, sermons, lectures or whatever that are 2 or 3-years-old, simply because the whole community has been in a state of continuous transition.

I, myself, know that I have vision for this community, and with the guidance and help of God, I'm trying to calculate the best time to bring about a new idea, or introduce an advancement or an advance in something that has already been established or introduced.

The terminology is very, very critical. If we use commentary that contains terminology from years back, 1975 — in the '70s or even the '80s — I'd even be concerned to know what is being used from the '80s simply because what we are doing is creating language and moving language.

What I mean. by creating language is that what is in the Quran is in Arabic and what is in the religious scripture is to be understood by people who are blessed with insight as well as with knowledge.

A lot of us are scholarly; we're blessed with knowledge, but we don't have insight.

Every community that has developed as a Muslim community from the introduction of the Quran to its society has had this language transition that I'm talking about right now. A language had to be formed for those people whether they spoke Yoruba or Ibo or some other African language, or whether they spoke Urdu in Pakistan or Hindustani or whatever the language was before that.

They had to have a development of language in their own tongue. And that language process, as it develops, carries the mind of the people further into the knowledge of the religion, further into the knowledge of the changes that they must make in order to conform with the principles — the high principles,    the   high standards and directives — of that religion.

So that explains, I think, what the situation is. Now that should tell all of us that most Imams are not qualified to lead this community. In fact, I doubt if any other Imam can lead the community in the way that I'm leading it.

Not that they couldn't lead it, because if I should be put in a situation now where 1 would not be able to carry on my responsibilities in the community as leader, I do think the community would go on, and it would progress. But not as it is progressing under my leadership.

The progress then would be, I think, just typical of the progress that we would have under any Islamic kind of instruction.

But the progress that we are realizing now is a progress that is relieving a special kind of people, the Bilalian, African-American people, of the misery, the confusion, the superstitions and all the other religious confusions, religious burdens - - and not only religious burdens, but the burden of many deficiencies in us. This religion is correcting it and there's a special process underway to do this for African-American people who belong to this religion under my leadership or in this community.

I hope that all Imams in the community will understand that and will not try to anticipate where I'm going without serious study. They should make serious study. They should very carefully study how I have developed myself as a leader, and how I have led this community, then, perhaps, they can anticipate where I'm going and better assist us in leading the community - leading the general membership of the community.

WAM: That leads to another question. What would you say are the basic qualifications of an Imam in this community? What should a person study who wishes to be an Imam?

IWDM: The most important requirement would be no different for us here than it would be for any students of the religion in any country of the world.

The most important requirement would be a study of Quran and Hadith and the history of Prophet Muhammad. That's the most important area.

Now we include in that: law, jurisprudence and an understanding of that, fiqh - an understanding of how the teachings of Al-Islam are to be applied, especially the rules and regulations in the religion that govern personal conduct, individual conduct.

They should have a general and basic knowledge in those main areas of Islamic studies -- Quran, Hadith, Seriah or history and jurisprudence.

Where the problem comes is when we develop our study program for a particular people, a people who speak the English language and a people who have certain cultural habits that shouldn't all be discarded or uprooted, but treated Islamically in order to enhance the cultural life of those people with Islam.

In this religion, many qualified leaders — scholars that are Imams - have said that one of the beauties about this religion is that it didn't seek to eradicate the cultural life of the people that it came to.

When this religion came to a people, it didn't seek to totally destroy or wipe out their culture. What it did was enhance that culture, build on the good foundation that was there and left them with their own cultural identity.

If we go to Pakistan, we find Pakistanis there. Culturally they are Pakistanis and they are Islamic. Their culture is Islamic, but they are also Pakistanis. The same thing is true for Nigerians.

We can go to Nigeria or to Sierra Leone - wherever we go we find Muslims there in the world, even China; we'll find that they'll be Muslims but you won't have any problem identifying them as Chinese or as Nigerians or whatever.

When people come to us in the United States of America, should they have any problem identifying us as African-Americans? No! They should be able to identify us as Muslims, certainly, but they should also be able to identify us as African-Americans or as Bilalians as we call ourselves.

Some of us have a tendency to go to extremes and try to imitate Arab personality or Pakistani personality, and that's a problem that doesn't always indicate a personality problem for blacks, but in many cases it does represent a personality problem for blacks because we know that most of the African-Americans have and still suffer from identity conflicts, identity problems because of the experience of slavery, Jim Crowism and racial rejection in this country.

When we consider all of these kinds of complex, involved problems for us as a people seeking spiritual direction and cultural progress, then the job here is not simply a job of just teaching the religion without regard for the special situation the special spiritual and cultural situation that we are in.

So I would say that the needs in Islamic study for us are to accept the leadership that Allah has blessed us with in myself, and to trust that I will work with those persons most qualified that we have among the Imams to form an Islamic studies program for the Imams, for the college and for the elementary school - for the whole community that would be best for this community.

I would hope that more of the Imams and more of the professional people in our community, as well as the people in the general membership, would join us in trusting my leadership.