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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal


Muslim Journal

Community and Personal Advancement: Part 1

Imam W. Deen Mohammed


(Editorial Note: The following is Part I of Imam W. Deen Mohammed's address at the Masonic Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday, November 201 1988.)

As-Salaam-Alaikum. That is peace be unto you. First we acknowledge the One Lord of all the worlds. Allah; for Him is the praise. We pray the prayers of peace and blessings be upon Muhammad, the last of the prophets and the Universal Messenger, and upon his family and upon his Companions and what follows of the appropriate salutation. Believers, ail people, Muslims and non-Muslims if non-Muslims are here, we wish you peace and Allah's mercy and His blessings.

On this occasion as on all occasions we ask for Allah's Guidance and His approval and hope that Allah will accept what we offer. Last evening was another great occasion for us at the Eleventh Testimonial Banquet. And I wanted to say last night that I was really very, very happy and very pleased inside to see so many distinguished, well known, well established people from their good and hard works joining Imam Clyde Rahman and the supporters from the Muslims of Cleveland — the Congressman Louis Stokes and all the honorees and other dignitaries from the outer community and especially from public services.

It was really a beautiful evening to see them so relaxed with us. That is a new thing for us. Years ago we would have distinguished persons that came among us to be with us for major meetings, bat they would not he with as long. And they didn't seem relaxed with us. Some of them would give the impression that they were with us and the impression that they were making was strong sometimes, but I didn't see it as a situation that offered a relaxed atmosphere. And then the atmosphere was not relaxed. But last night I witnessed the most relaxed atmosphere that I have ever witnessed between Muslims and very noted and distinguished leaders from the outer community and from the public and government world of public service and politics.

We are very happy over that, for we think of that as an indication that our worth is being established, and people are accepting us for our true worth. I also hope that you will feel the same thing that I felt, for it makes you feel better inside and it does not help your own condition as a Muslim to feel bad inside. And to see persons as the distinguished persons we saw last night joining us in our Testimonial Dinner and Awards Banquet and being so at home and relaxed with us is really a great encouragement to me to work harder for this cause that I have accepted and that many others have accepted.

Our address today is on community and personal advancement. Our desire is always to see that what we offer is a factor for influencing more progress in the community life and more progress in the personal life of those who attend the gatherings. Many times we work hard for something, and we are not able in ourselves to clearly identify what it is we are working for.

We simply say that we are working to please Allah and that we are working for the deen; I hear the common expression now of "We are working for the deen." And most of the people who we are talking to still do not know any Arabic, and we say we are working for the "deen." They hear the word and do not know what we are talking about half of the time. But I understand the spirit, and it is nice to see us get attached to these new words. But rather than saying we are working for the "deen," just say we are working for the "religion," so everybody will know what we are talking about. We are working for the religion and for Allah, God, Lord of the worlds.

So they will say, "Well, we have to give the people the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet." That is true. But supposed we were talking to a different audience, an audience of individuals who for many generations were having the Qur'an, were knowledgeable in the Qur'an and having the Sun-nab — the life history of Prophet Muhammad — and being familiar with it, what would your purpose be then in teaching them the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet? Would it be to remind them?

Supposed they are a group of people who are very "up" on what you are talking about, and they are always reminding themselves. There are many Muslims who don't need to be reminded of what is in the Qur'an and what is in the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him. They are very well up on that, and they accept the personal responsibility to keep their own minds remembering what Allah has revealed and remembering the life works of our Prophet, peace and the blessings be upon him.

In America, we should know what we are trying to reach. We should know what we are aiming for and what we are after, when we stand before an audience and begin to talk to them on our concerns — Al-lslam, the religion, the life of Muhammad the Prophet, peace be upon him, and on the Qur'an and Sunnah or any other subject within the big and broad context or focus of our religion; we should know what we are after. Ask: "What is it that we are after?"

You do not speak to every audience alike. Audiences differ as to their concerns and as to their needs; they will have different concerns and different needs. In America our needs are greatly different from the needs of many Muslims in many of the lands or countries of the East and Middle East, and Far East where Muslims live as nations as in north Africa, west Africa and east Africa and even some in the southern part of Africa, although not in the so-called nation of South Africa. But also in the Far East as in India and Pakistan and Afghanistan, in China and in Russia even — for there are many Muslims all over the world, as well as in parts of Europe and the islands of the Pacific.

There are so many Muslims all over the world, and when we meet them we will find that they have different concerns and different needs, Although we' all have the same general concern which is the concern for the Muslim, for his religion, for his Muslim life, and we all share that general and broad concern. But we should recognize that when we are addressing an audience, that audience will have certain sensitivities that are characteristic of their life and experiences. We should try to recognize those sensitivities and do our best to present the religion to them respecting what their sensitivities are, what their major concerns are, and what their real needs are.

There are many things that we would put "small emphasis" on. For example, a Muslim leader will make a big mistake by just preaching faith and goodness to an American audience. The big mistake will be that they are used to that. That is the way the religious people of America come to them most of the time — with faith and goodness, to believe and be good. So can a Muslim say that any better than church people can say it? "Believe and be good." You can't say it any better than church people have been saying it. So we have to find out what does our religion offer that is of benefit to the people that we are talking to. How does our religion offer that is of benefit to the people that we are talking to. How does our religion address their situation and their condition, and then we do our best to present the religion with that kind of respect.

If we do so, the outcome will be positive for the people. Whether they embrace what we believe in or not, the outcome will be positive, It is because you are addressing their concern. If Allah has given a healing medicine for ills, and if you will recognize the medicine in the religion for those ills and you administer it, whether the people acknowledge "la illaha illallah" — that there is but One God, the Kalimah which acknowledges the Creator for Muslims and that Muhammad is His Messenger — whether they acknowledge that or not, still they will be benefited.

So I am the type of person who feels that we should be preachers or teachers of the religion with an awareness of the practical approach. We are not just to be moved by emotions and feelings, but we are to be moved by what is practical. And if you are a true believer, you don't have to worry about emotions and feelings.

A true believer—if he worries about emotions and feelings, he is worrying about drowning in them. He worries about the danger of giving himself too much to emotions and feelings. That is what I am saying. The true believer does not have to make a point of coming across as an emotional pack of energy. If he does that he will mess up; be is going to lose himself and the people will all lose. We should look for what is practical and to work with that kind of respect; look for what is the practical needs in the life of the audience that we are addressing.

And my opinion is that when I am addressing any African-American group or any group of Americans period, then I feel that what we need is just good sense. The biggest thing that we are lacking is just good sense. And it so happens that our religion more so than any religion that I know, and I think I am pretty much up on religion, addresses the human being as a creature of intelligence. He is a creature of faith and is a political creature.

Our religion recognizes him in all the roles or major persuasions — the political, academic, social, moral. All of these are recognized in our Holy Book and in our Prophet, peace be on him. But the first recognition of the form of man is that of a creature of sense, a creature of intelligence, a creature with rational ability, a creature able to reason, to make decisions, and to have choices. He can choose between right and wrong, between what is sense and what is nonsense, between what is good for him and what is bad for him, between what promises him a good life and what promises him a bad life.

The human being should also be able to sense where something is taking him — not in just what it is doing right now, but in where it is taking him. Our religion wants us to be aware of that and wants us to be aware of where we are, where we should be, where we should be going, and where we are likely to go if we are a "no caring" people and if we just don't care about anything.

In addressing this topic, we are not going directly at the need for the community to advance or the need for the individual person to advance in society and in his private life. We are going at those conditions that we think are most responsible for a people succeeding and failing. (To be continued)