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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal

December 23,1994

Muslim Journal

Al-Islam -A Practical Religion

Imam W. Deen Mohammed

(The following excerpts are from the book, "Focus On Islam," a compilation of interviews with Imam W. Deen Mohammed by Robert Islam of Pittsburgh, Penn.)

RI: That Islamic conscience that's in a man — when it begins to be revived, it runs so very deep. I guess it moves him to do things that seem to be almost impossible.

WDM: Well, no. I don't think so. At times I think I have been naive, and I think I have tackled the impossible in my growing up. But I don't think the religion is that way. I think the religion is a practical religion, and the emphasis in the religion is on what is practical - on faith and what is practical. I think that most of the Muslims are not trying to perform miracles; they're only trying to do what is decent of them and what is practical. And we can do that.

RI: Well, that's almost a miracle in this day and time.

WDM: Believe me, I understand that. But if you keep your mind in the context of your own life and keep your mind in the framework of your own life, then it is not so difficult. But if we live outside of the framework or the context of our own life in America, it's like a bodiless being and that being has no protection. So it would be terrible.

What I mean by that is this country offers us the freedom to choose our way of life. America is perhaps a place where the idea of freedom is developed to its highest degree. It even carries freedom beyond the definition of freedom that's held by civilized man. It stretches the meaning of freedom so that it even accommodates the uncivilized man. So in this kind of environment, if you don't live within the context of your own religion or in the context of your own life that you have chosen, then you're going to get swept away; you're going to be tossed about in the winds.

RI: That which you just said, in that it even stretches beyond the concepts of what the civilized man understands freedom to be. Is that good or bad?

WDM: It's good and bad. In America it's good, because America has established that this country is a country where a person can come and can live their life and do whatever they want as long as they respect the laws of the land. So you don't have to be a Christian to come and live in America. You don't have to be a God-fearing person either; you can be an atheist and you're welcomed. No one can say: "You have no right to live in America, because you're an atheist." No one can say, This man is not a morally conscious person; all he wants is money."

You can't put any person out of America because he wants money, or because he wants money number one with nothing else coming first. He's free to grow in America. His influence is going to grow eventually, if he's allowed to progress. Eventually his influence is going to reach me. Now when his influence reaches me, perhaps he's selling things to me, he's appealing to sentiments in me with his commercials that push his products that are unhealthy for me in the context of life that I have chosen. Now, if I don't know that context, if I'm not in that context, then the context of my life is subject to be destroyed by the influences of that man. But he has that right. I can't deny him that right, not in the nation we call America. This nation provides for that. And I think it's pretty good.

RI: I can appreciate what you're saying. But doesn't that cause a lot of destruction?

WDM: Maybe not as much as would happen if one "holy-holy" becomes the dictator for all America. We might have more destruction.



RI: There's a term in Al-Islam that is called jihad." Would you explain it. I think many of us when we hear the term "Jihad," we think it's just of holy war. I think that's the common understanding.

WDM: Certainly, because it has been used to identify with war more than anything else. But if you read the Qur'an you don't get that meaning, because God says "Jaheedu" from the word jihad as a verb. The verb is Jah-eedu when we're addressing many - the plural. God says "jaheedu." And He said, Tis sabillaah," or in the way of God with your persons, your wealth, etc.

What is the purpose of jihad? The purpose is to improve society, even if in the war. If people will war against us or will aggress upon us to take away this precious life, then we have to also 'jihad' in the battlefield. We have to struggle in the battlefield, too. But the word jaheedu is very conclusive. It means struggle in everything that God has established for you to do. There's a need to exert yourself at times, and if you're not prepared to exert yourself, you will lose your moral life; you will lose your intelligence. You will lose everything, because there are temptations and influences that will induce in us tendencies to give up on life period. So if we are not prepared to jaheedu - to struggle - to persist - to exert ourselves to put forth effort, then you will lose all that.

The emphasis on jihad in the Qur'an and in the life of Prophet Muhammed was not for the purpose of conquering lands or overthrowing nations, it was for the purpose of liberating the higher instincts, the higher aspirations in man. And we are to put forth this effort for education, for cultural development, for business, for government - for everything. If people will try to suppress that or dominate you and deprive you of that, you should be even prepared to struggle with your physical life, to put your life on the line and fight if you have to. But we live in America; we don't live under Islamic law. So in this country we trust that this country will remain civilized and protect the rights of Muslims, as it protects the rights of its other minorities.



RI: Sir, the other question that I wanted to ask you is about Hajj as a symbol. What does Hajj really represent in the life of mankind?

WDM: The highlight of Hajj is really the coming together on Mount Arafat. And it is said that Prophet Muhammed has said, Peace be upon him, that the one who misses Arafat has missed his Hajj. So Arafat is very important for Hajj. Without Arafat, there is no Hajj. And Allah says in the Qur'an that He has made us into tribes and families, which means smaller units of man and bigger units of man - tribes and nations or tribes and races. He made us this way not that we should stand over each other, but that we should get to know one another and become acquainted with each other. This expression in the Qur'an is very rich. It's a profound statement. It is very rich.

If you study the word "taawrafu," you will find it means "getting acquainted, meeting each other, or to know each other." This is done by sharing information with each other. So how would the modern world have discovered what we call now mortal weapons, gunpowder, or even the rocket, if someone had not gone from the West to China and found them using black powder, later called gunpowder? So how would they have found that, if they hadn't gone and met the Chinese? God did not deposit everything in all people. He only deposited the potential in everybody, but He put the opportunity in many places of the world for that potential to come forth.

The environment that we find in Africa is an opportunity for that potential to come out. But that environment in Africa does not give us everything. The environment in Europe will give us something different from the environment of China. In the Philippines it is different from being in America. Allah wants us to come together, although it was He Who spread us out. But we find these rich environments, and He wants us to come together and share what we have found with each other to make one big strong, great, and progressive world. That's the main purpose of the Hajj. It is to bring Muslims from different nations and different nationalities and different lands to come together and share with each other their knowledge, so that all of us would have broader knowledge of what the global community offers man when they work together.

RI: So you are saying that when we do come to Hajj, we come as one humanity?

WDM: Yes. We can't come any other way. God says that you should get to know each other, not stand over each other and not to despise each other. Prophet Muhammed, in his last sermon said and appealed to his people from the depths of his heart. And he would call on Allah, God Almighty, occasionally to have as his witness. He said, "God, be a Witness that I have delivered the Message." And in this major sermon of Prophet Muhammed, he said, "There is no superiority of a white over black or black over white. There is no superiority of a national or of an Arab over non- Arab. The only criteria in this religion is your good deeds — Taqwa - faith in God and in good deeds." It is your behavior in God's eyes which will be the criteria.

RI: Then the goodness that we express is the key for humanity?

WDM: I believe these same teachings that I just gave, though more expressive perhaps in the Islamic language, can be found in the Christian society.

RI: Then I assume that one of our real roles in humanity is to perfect our behavior, to have a better behavior towards other people and other national groups, other ethnic groups, and other social groups?

WDM: Certainly, that's the purpose of religion. It is to awaken the consciousness of man; to make him see that it is good sense - not only is it charity or good deed, but it is good sense to be right by other people. Because when you're not right by other people, that has a damaging effect on you. Just to behave that way reinforces a spirit and an attitude that will eventually rob that person behaving that way of his or her own life and of good opportunities to live a good life in the nature. You don't, get happier by making other people unhappy.