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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal


Muslim Journal

Be True To Your Label: Part 2

Imam W. Deen Muhammad


Editors note: This is an ex­cerpt from a speech given by W. Deen Muhammad in Dallas, Texas on June 7, 1987. This is a continuation of Imam Muham­mad's 'Sacred Life Connection' tour of the U.S.A.

Muslims' hope in God's word "We must put our hope in something bigger than Amer­ica. Muslims' hope is in Allah, in what He reveals the Qur'an. Our hope is in the life that was demonstrated to us by His Prophet, His Messenger, Muhammad the Last Messen­ger of God. That's where our hope is. Muslims, don't forget where your hope is and work on keeping your identity. Muslims must work on keeping the Mus­lim identity. You know, things may be created or produced, and a label put on them, that truly identifies what has been made or produced, or created. But if those things are perish­able, in time, the contents won't be true to the label, unless you find a way to preserve it.

In our life as human beings, wehave this freedom, to con­form or to not conform, to obey, or to disobey, and in the society that we live in sometimes en­courages too much freedom, im­moral freedom, and we find ourselves without knowing it, losing the original content of our lives. However, we continue to identify as we identified when the contents were correct. Muslims may call themselves Muslims, long after they have lost their Muslim lives. They still call themselves Muslims, and we are happy to say we are Muslims. But often, the Muslim life is left behind, long time ago. So we have to live true to our identity, true to our contents. If we don't, we are going to lose the life.

Keep identity before you, and keep the true meaning of identi­ty before you, not just as a name, because names are just in the air, unless you can just grasp the full meaning of what that name represents. The name "Muslim" connects us with a meaning. Islam, or Al-Islam as it is called in the Qur'an, or in the Arabic lan­guage, connects us with a meaning. It's not guaranteed that we are going to keep the meaning, unless we make an effort. The Muslim name is known also to Christians; they know it, they say, "oh yes, a Muslim, sure, we know what a Muslim is."

But does a Christian know as much about a Muslim just by hearing the name, as a Muslim who knows the meaning of Mus­lim, from the Qur'an and from the life of Muhammad, the Prophet? No! Likewise we iden­tify as human beings, and many of us continue to call ourselves human long after we have lost the human content of our lives. We have to make an effort to keep the content true to the label. And again, I am as you are, from the experience called the Black Muslims, and I know for a long time we were emph­asizing the dignity of race. We were searching for identity, a comfortable term for the black mental makeup. And by some happening, we all came to call­ing ourselves "black." And we used to remind ourselves of the necessity to live up to an image of ourselves that we were satis­fied with; to live up to a quality of the race that we were aspir­ing to — to live up to the achievements, of the race, and the hopes of the race. We had these ideas, and we would re­mind each other, "Brother, re­member the race." The same thing happened; we lost the content. We continued to talk about race, and I am sure there's strong race-consciousness in Dallas now.

But what about the contents? When we think of ourselves as a race, we think of ourselves more than black, as a color. We have to think of more than just a col­or; in fact the color is supposed to connect us with the broad meaning, with the whole mean­ing. When we say "black," we are to think of the people, the life of the people and that word should signal our attention, our minds, to the whole meaning for the people, for the life of that people we call "black." But when we get all charged up, confronting each other on issues, that are explosive, we forget the content of life, that we want for ourselves, and we are just carried suspended with the definition, with the — sim­ple shallow definition of race. That's what we have to avoid. And the same prescription we give for the Muslims, to stick to his identity, for the human to stick to his identity, we give it to the race to stick to that identity.

Keep in touch with meaning of the race

Recall the life you want for the race; don't leave the life you want for the race. Keep the name, the symbol in touch with the meaning you want for the race. And if the black will do that, if the brown will do that, if the white will do that, we'll have less problems. But I'm sure many whites, though they are not in a situation where they have to think of them­selves so much, as a white race; most of them will think of them­selves as a ethnic body — a body with an origin back in Europe somewhere i.e., Polish-American, Irish-American and so on. But we are constantly put in situations where we have to think of ourselves simply as "black." And most of us are not in a favorable situation where we can even give more meaning to that, or put some more lan­guage to it, and say "black America." Many of us are in situations where it's not even comfortable for us to say "black American." In fact, I heard no­body today say "black Amer­ican." And I'm sure all day long you didn't hear anybody say "black American."

Keep the meaning of your life before you

But, you must understand, if you are going to be interested it preserving the race and advanc­ing the race, whether it's a black man or a white man, or a brown man I'm talking to, you must be interested in keeping the meaning of your life before you, keeping the label or the name with the content of that life you want.

"So-called Negroes"

We used to think of ourselves, when I was a boy as black people; the followers of the Temple of Islam, called themselves, "black people" and "so-called Negroes." Yes, the followers of Elijah Muhammad were calling themselves "black" long before it became popular in the United States of America. The black nationalists, many of them, were calling themselves "black" long, long before that term be­came popular for us here in America.
But we had different mean­ings before us. The race name carried different meanings; and a broader meaning. Most of us now, if we say "black," we have been conditioned to think of "black" in contrast with "white." "I'm black," we mean we're not white. We don't mean we came from Africa; when we say we're black we're not saying we came from Africa. So the average one today, when we say "black." we're not saying we are a product of the slave parents, who sacrificed and suffered that their children will have a better situation in America. We don't tie into our forefathers on this continent when we say "black"; we are not consciously tying into Africa, or tying into the progressive-minded, hardwork­ing, sacrificing forefathers of ours. We are simply responding to this race thing. We say we're black, meaning, we're not white. We say we're black, meaning we're oppressed. We say we're black, meaning we're denied; we say we're black, meaning we don't have what other people have.

Stop crying the blues

We have to stop thinking like that. Allah, Our Lord, says in the Holy Book, 'There can be nothing for the human person without him struggling and striving for it." So don't get caught in a situation where you cry the blues; I don't care what kind of situation it is.
It can be a situation where you are denied economically, politically, and socially; I don't care what situation it is, don't fall into the pool of the blues. And understand that the best resource to get you out of that situation is God, and your pri­vate and personal relationship with Him. Allah tells us and the Prophet has told us, that there is nothing separating the suf­fering person from his Lord, when he calls on Him. No peti­tion between you and God: if you're in trouble, if you're being treated unjustly, if you're being oppressed, if you're being wronged, our religion says, there is no petition, nothing blocking your access to your God: turn to your God, and then assert yourself, go forward and don't cry the blues. Let the weaklings cry the blues, you be their big brother.

Hold true to the identity. You know why I'm saying this in this way, because there are -many people, I've read now for many years, people trying to address the problem that we have in this modern society, and many have told us, don't forget meaning, don't be sepa­rated from real meaning. Life is fast-paced, language is constantly changing and no words are charged more than racial terms; black/white; these are strongly charged words — they make you drunk; they intoxi­cate you, they take your feet off the ground, they send you run­ning in the air. We don't want that.