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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal


Muslim Journal

The Historical Perspective Of The Indigenous Muslim

Imam W. Deen Mohammed


First Conference of Imams of the Continental Masajid of North America, Washington, DC — August 2-4, 1991
The following is the opening presentation by Imam W. Deen Mohammed:

We witness that there is but One Lord and Creator, and we witness that Mohammed, to whom the Qur'an was revealed, is Allah's Messenger and Last Prophet, the prayers and the peace be upon him and what follows of that most excellent salute to the Last Prophet. Amim.

In the days of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (May Allah forgive him his sins and grant him Paradise and reward him for all his good works in this life and after) we were concerned to make it known that we wanted separation from the "white" race and that occupied a lot of our energies and almost, in fact, it did set the idea of race for us in our minds and in our thoughts.

That has changed very, very profoundly for us. There's been a great change from that race relations problem. Today, we don't see the "white race" as we did in those days.

In those days we were addressing under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's leadership the evils of the European American people. The "white race" and the Honorable Elijah Muhammed, in time, saw and acknowledged the changes that were being made in this country, because of the hard work and the great sacrifices of the Civil Rights movement and also because of the hard work and the great sacrifices of the Black Nationalists movement. If I may include the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who I think was in the forefront of that kind of movement.

He began to invite us to see the changed realities for us in this country and to welcome good treatment from the European American people and be wise to return the same treatment to them.

It should be known also that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, though he did speak very, very firmly and he was very cutting with his words against the "white man's" behavior towards us, he also during all the years that I knew him (and that's all my life,) stressed that we shouldn't copy the bad ways of the people who were oppressing us or mistreating us. That just because they were doing evil by us, meting out injustice to us, we should not copy their ways. But that we should remain God-fearing people and have decent, honorable, intelligent behavior.

He didn't teach us an eye-for-an-eye or a tooth-for-a-tooth. He taught us that God's justice will come, and that we were to be decent and peace loving people and only fight, only attack when we ourselves were fought against or when we were attacked. I'm sure that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was voicing what he had read in the Qur'an where Allah Most High says to us, "Be not aggressors."

We live in changed circumstances. That is the point that we are making now, that we live in changed circumstances for the race. And our race consciousness today is one for the social benefits and race consciousness that will favor us getting social benefits. When we think of ourselves as a race, we think of ourselves as a social body. And we would like to see our race, the African American, attending the needs of family and preparing the family for a future in a world that is more affluent than any other that I know.

I am speaking of America now as a world, a nation, the Western world as more affluent than any other, a world of plenty in spite of the bad conditions that we may be suffering in many parts of the country and for many unfortunate groups of people who may be suffering joblessness and other serious material problems. But we have to acknowledge that this is, when we look at the whole entire world—the whole world of people, an affluent nation. And we should be thinking of ourselves as a special group, when we think of ourselves as a race.

We have been poisoned by generations and centuries of racism, and we have to now address the affects of racism on our own behavior. We must make sure that we are not responding in a way that cripples us as a people.

I will go now to the moral issue. Similarly for us, the cost of the wickedness of the Caucasian people who were discriminating and segregating and terrorizing African Americans in the ugly back page of our history in America, the moral awareness was confused. I would say it was decided by the moral issues imposed upon us by that treatment we got from the European American people.

With that change now, the moral issue is brought home. We now want to look at how we are faring morally and if our own moral attitude, moral perceptions and moral behavior are crippling us or depriving us of a good life. In other words, we are doing what all religions invite their adherents to do, and that is first search our own soul.

The moral focus now is on our own behavior rather than the behavior of other people. And I think if we keep the moral focus on our own behavior, we are certainly going to make improvements. Because I find that not only ignorance and not only the absence of jobs or the absence of decent income or fair income hurt the life and the future of a people, but perhaps more so than any other thing the incorrect moral perception can hurt people.

People can do very evil things in the name of moral righteousness. We seem to think that morality is the same, is a consistent term for everybody, but it is not. We may live in the same house, in the same family, and one will have one moral perception and the other will have another moral perception. And they will be living at odds with each other and hurting each other very seriously, because they don't see morally the same way.

We have to come up with what is intelligent, moral thinking, what is God's approved moral thinking for us. God has approved a moral thinking for us, and we as religious people should search our religion and determine for ourselves what is hurting us in our moral thinking. We must improve upon our moral thinking, so that our moral behavior will favor us having a strong and more productive life.

At this point I would like to leave that issue, although it's a big issue. I am just saying a very few words. I am addressing it very brief and will now go to the material interest. In the days of the Nation of Islam, we called it by the full name of "The Lost and Found Nation of Islam." That was to distinguish it from the Ummah of the nation of Islam internationally or the international body of Muslims all over the world. So during the time of the Lost Found Nation of Islam, the material interest was also decided by our situation with the European American people, the "white man."

Because we had been denied equal opportunity, we had a program of self-help and a program of centralized business operations, where the headquarters in Chicago was writing the plans for business growth and business interest for all the members in the Nation of Islam. As it was called in those days and still now under Minister Farrakhan.

Because of that we were fated to come to the same end that the great and powerful Communist world has come to now. But thank God, we saw early that that centralized concept for business was a problem, where everything is managed, operated, decided and directed from a national office somewhere located in some city like in Chicago.

Now this is not to disrespect any of the good intentions and any of the good works of the Nation of Islam. This is just to make a point and just for clarification and to point to a better way.

It is not to say that that wasn't a justified way or a good way for the circumstances back then, but it's to point to a better way. We realize that by trying to establish an independent system for us within the American system, that we were putting ourselves in a situation to be pointed to as troublemakers, as disrupters of the American order. And it was justifying the FBI, the CIA, the intelligence department of the local police department to work covertly, if not openly, against our efforts.

We were troubled and hurt by infiltrators, who would come in as believers in the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and confuse what we were doing and divert our energies and spoil our morals. Nation of Islam was at one time, in spite of it's strange religious concepts when we think of what the Qur'an teaches us, a religious organization. Its people believed in being decent and brotherly toward each other.

That community or that great congregation of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was changed to one that was given an image of "Black Mafia", etc., etc., in certain cities of this nation, like in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City, even the New York area, and even somewhat in Chicago. We were getting the image of a people who were establishing some kind of Black Mafia organization or something.

Now we are looking at material interest again as a social requirement. We need business in order to have strong families. We need business to have healthy families. We need business to have self-sustaining neighborhoods. And when I say self-sustaining, I mean neighborhoods that don't require any more assistance from the government than the average neighborhood that we will find in the city.

We need to have material interest that will dignify us as an ethnic group. We need to think of pouring money into cultural concerns, not only into business concerns but into cultural concerns. We need to think about putting more money into education, and I mean private education. We believed in private schools under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and we believe in private schools today.

Our interest in our private schools, if anything, has increased. It has not been diminished by change in our moral perception and a change from I would say a nationalist Islamic idea or movement true to Qur'an and true to the Life of the Prophet idea.

I thank you very much, and I hope I have made it very clear what those emphases are in the change, in the change for us regarding race, moral perception or the moral issue and material interest.

If I may, if I have a few minutes, I think it is very important for us Muslims to always see our religion correctly. And I don't know of any briefer way to do this than to quote our Prophet Muhammed, (The Prayers and the Peace be on him). He taught us that this religion is structured or built upon five essentials.

He said, these essentials are to witness openly or to acknowledge openly that there is but one God and Mohammed is the Messenger of God. That statement is the most important statement of faith that bind or bring all Muslims together in one community of brothers. That statement says perhaps more than meet the eye. For a long time I heard the Declaration of Faith, "La illaha Illallah, Muhammedan Rasulullah"— "There is but One God and Muhammed is God's Messenger", and this just registered as it was said. But then I began to think there are some religions that say the Prophet of God is also the son of God, or God with God.

Our Declaration protects us from ever confusing the two. God is God and Mohammed is His Messenger only—not God. And the Prophet said we are to pray, which is the second of those essentials. We are to pray. We know Muslims make salat or prayer five times a day. And the Prophet said that we are to give in charity, to do zakat, to be charitable is a third essential.

And he says we are to fast the month of Ramadan; we fast every year—one month out of the year during the daylight hours. We don't only abstain from water or drink and food, we abstain from sex during the daylight hours and we abstain from anger. If we have a temper, we work hard to keep that temper cool during the daylight hours of fast. And we just have an all around effort to present ourselves in the best way to ourselves, to our families, to our friends, to the public and most of all to God.

And the last of those essentials is the Hajj, the Pilgrimage that brings Muslims from every corner of the world, from all nations, from every continent, where Muslims reside to meet in Mecca. In the Holy Precincts there at the Masjid Al Haram, the sacred Masjid in the sacred precincts there, and to gather on the Mt. Arafat we get to know each other and benefit from meeting each other and having interchange with each other.

That Hajj symbolizes the importance for us in Islam of seeing ourselves as one people; despite our different nationalities, our different colors, we are one people. And the same thing that we advocate for the Muslim perception, we advocate for the perception of all people. We are to see humanity on this earth as one people, and God says, "And you were once one community."