New Africa Radio Logo
W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal


Bilalian News

Respect for the Elderly

Imam W. Deen Muhammad


With the Name Allah, the Gracious, the Compassionate.


(Editor's note: Following are excerpts from Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad's masjid lecture in Miami, Fla., Oct 20, 1979.)

"How should we handle the situation where elderly among us are outspoken and continuously offering suggestions?"

When you say elderly I think of somebody 65 or over, or somebody that has aged that much before they got 65 or over. You have to respect the elders and we have to hear with them. We have to have more patience, with our elderly than with the young. If they grumble, let them; you can learn a lot from their grumbling. Listen to them; they might be passing out some wisdom.
Don't be so quick to jump on elderly people and correct them. They are our mothers, our fathers — they have lived through a lot, they have suffered a lot. We have to respect them because of their age and their experience — for what they have contributed to life.

Even if they don't deserve it, we still have to respect them, because many of them do deserve it. We can't single out and treat them wrong. Once we treat them wrong, then we get a reputation or an image for abusing elderly people, and we don't want that.
If we let the elderly people serve the community, we will hear less grumbling. They have the human rights that we all have. There is something for them to do.

In Chicago, we hope to provide a facility for elderly people. It will be a youth-grooming community service by senior citizens. We can't afford it now, but we will have a facility where elderly people will have recreation, social activities, educational programs and receive visitors.
Our youth will visit them at certain times in the day to ask them questions about life, and whatever, and they will listen to the elderly people speak on life experience and the social problems and attitudes in today's generation. This will help bridge the generation gap.

We benefit from the experience and wisdom of our elderly people. What hurts us so much is that we have lost the family ties and the family tradition where the elderly people pass down community building experience to the young. We are suffering the need for that.

So we hope to create a facility and have elderly people cared for during the day and given some activities. However, they also will have a responsibility to share their knowledge and experience with youth during a part of that day's program.

We don't have to wait until a facility is made. We have Pioneer sisters and brothers in Chicago and we occasionally invite them to talk to the community, talk to the school, and talk to the youth so we can learn from them. We have considered the Merit Chevrolet site for this and a skating rink.

If we have programs like this where the elderly people can exchange communication with the youngsters, you'd be surprised at how much the youngster — and I include myself among the youngsters — can learn from them.

Maybe they never sat in a schoolhouse or never had one year or one day of formal education; that doesn't mean anything, they have years of knowledge from experience. They have feelings, they have a matured soul; they have a hungering, starved soul. They have a lot penned up in them that they want to say, and we can learn from what they have to say.

We had an act of violence happen because we allowed this big gap to come between the youthful and the aged. Because we have an image, or picture of old people as troublemakers, agitators who complain all the time. That makes us inclined to be impatient and inconsiderate with them.

We have to do something that society hasn't done and we can't wait for society to do it. They want to build nice homes for the aged. We need to make programs for the aged to participate in the development and progress of our community until they get ready to step out of it. They're never too old.

"What should we do about inactive members of our community falsely representing us to the outside community in business, government and education?" All we can do is represent what we know to be the right thing, and when we know somebody has been given the wrong picture` go behind them and correct it. We can't stop people from making trouble; all we can do is try to do more good than they are doing evil. We want to be doubly busy making things right.

"A Washington Post Staff writer in recent articles about American Pouch Foods stated that the company processes pork products. Please comment"

The company is not a Muslim-owned company. It is partly owned by Muslims and partly owned by non-Muslims. When we made the agreement to go into this food processing and packaging business we didn't tell our partner he couldn't sell pork, so he sells pork and we have part ownership in that business. It's not a situation that we like, but it's a situation we have.

We don't buy the products and we don't sell the products to any Muslims. The Christians sell the products to the Christians. We have asked that we have a food facility built that will handle nothing but the halal products. We don't have the money to do it. We have to wait. But when we are able, we are going to have a facility that handles nothing but halal products and that will be the facility that we will distribute from.

Most of us don't understand American Pouch Foods, we think American Pouch Foods is Muslim owned and operated. It's not. American Pouch Foods is a business for improving job conditions for minority people.

We joined the venture because we had a facility that we weren't using that could be used for that. We have no food technology at all. But we have jobs because we went into this merger. So this business partnership brought jobs to our community and to others members of the minority community and all we invested was a facility that was not in use — no cash.

We are getting a great deal out of this. All we ask is that they have pork-free products for us if we get a market in Saudi Arabia or somewhere for our own use. For their use, that’s their business.

Can we tell a Chinese man what to do with his business? That's his business. Our partnership does not mean that we take over his business. Our partnership only means that we want a facility to process separate from his, we have the right to get it. Eventually we'll get it, but we're not able right now.

I assure you one thing, the products that say beef are beef. There's no pork in them at all.