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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal


Muslim Journal

The Role Of The Masjid

Imam W. Deen Muhammad


(Editorial Note: The following lecture was delivered by Imam W. Deen Muhammad at the Masjid Al-Faatir Open House held Sunday, June 26, 1988, Chicago, Illinois)

We greet you with peace the greetings of Muslims, As-Salaam Alaikum. Al-Alham-dulilah Rabil allamin. Praise be to the One Lord, the Creator. We witness that Muhammad to whom the Qur'an was revealed, better than now 1400 years ago in Arabia is the last of the Prophets, the last Messenger of this One God. We pray that the peace and the blessings be upon him and upon his descendants, his companions and we wish peace and blessings upon you and upon us.

I have been asked to speak on the role of the Masjid. The proper name in the language of the Qur'an in Arabic is Masjid. We say Mosque in English. I am also to speak on our responsibility as Believers, as Muslims to the Mosque or the Masjid. Let me first say, that Allah's words to us in His Holy Book, Qur'an, is the best resourceful material for us. No matter what our concerns may be. And the life of His prophet or the Sunnah of the Prophet Allah is the second of these two sources. Those are the best sources, no matter what our concerns may be.

I will now go to the Qur'an first, and Allah, Most High, says in His Holy Book words that call our attention to the foundation for a Masjid, to the purpose of the Masjid. Then one who establishes his building, on a particular conscience - the conscience of a Believer in the One Lord, the conscience of a Believer in Almighty God, Allah, 'Most High, and seeks His pleasure is better than the one who establishes His building on the "Edge," the edge of the pit of hell fire! He establishes his building right on the edge, and with a little touch he will go right over causing all to be lost, gone and all destroyed. "And Allah will not guide the wrongdoers or wrong doing people. So, in my opinion, this is where we should begin to understand what the Masjid role should be in this community, as well as in the public that is mixed with non-Muslims as well as Muslims.

The role of the Masjid should first be to call the people to religious consciences. And in our case as Muslims the first awareness, or the first respect we should have in our minds in our hearts should be an awareness, it has been mentioned to us already by the Imam who introduced me, that all praise is due to Allah God. He is One, and He is responsible for the things we are that is good and all the things we enjoy that are good. Now any preacher in his sane mind would have no objections so far. So this is the purpose of the Masjid. The purpose of the Masjid is to keep alive, to keep awake religious conscious, so we have the proper regard for our Maker, our Creator, our Benefactor, who is responsible for all the good that we can imagine. That's the first requirement.

What does that conscience for the religious person also suggest to us? That this conscience is good for society. It will make us decent people. So we should be aware that God wants us to have this religion and a place for our worship and for our activities as Muslims, so that we will grow in decency. Be decent people. This is a common word I'm using. I am using it, because it reaches all of us. Even in this permissive behavior time of ours, when some of us just don't have any shame or shyness at all, the word "decency," goes home. So the purpose of the Masjid is to bring people together under the proper respect for their Lord, Creator into religious conscience. Where they will be decent with each other and decent with other people. The Arabic word is "Taqwa," which is a very beautiful and powerful word.

We also know that our Prophet, peace and the blessings be on him, is the human model that God has given to us. He says to us in His Holy Book, and I’ll give you the English: "You will certainly find in the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) the most excellent model for anyone." Not just for Muslims, but for anyone who believes in God and the Last Day. Now look at these two qualifications, here: Anyone who believes in Allah, One God, the Creator, Himself, alone. And anyone who believes in a Day where you have to account for the wrong and be rewarded for the good, for the right. So, anyone who believes in that, they will find Prophet Muhammad to be the most excellent model. I am speaking to all of us here.

Many of you here are not Muslims. It is our deepest wish in our hearts that you become Muslims, but we know our religion forbids us to pressure you into becoming Muslims. For Allah has told us in His Holy Book, "There should be no coercing in Religion." We cannot push you to get you to come to this way. God says that the Way is clear for any who wants to follow it; any who pleases may believe in this, and any who pleases may disbelieve in this.

With this pronouncement from Allah's Words, I am now going to tell you where I am just coming from. I have just arrived; the plane had just landed, and I didn't have time for anything else but to grab a change of shirts quickly and to come right here. I am coming in from Williamsburg, Virginia. Do you know how big you've made me? Let me tell you. I was there as one of 14 ceremonial signers at that historical place, where some of the greatest intellectual giants of American life and democracy worked so hard and labored so hard to set this country on what they thought was a safe course. And I still believe it's a safe course, if they follow the best of it.

They asked me also to make a statement, so I signed my name to my statement, W. Deen Muhammad. But I spelled it as it was on my birth certificate, because this is going into history and I don't want any conflict on the document. I spelled it: M.O.H.A.M.M.E.D. and I wrote as "An Imam in the society of American Muslims." Now you say, "where's that organization? It only exists when Muslims come together in America. I also wrote: "Son of Elijah and I put in brackets Poole (P.O.O.L.E.) Mohammed with the spelling M.O.H.A.M.M.E.D. I did it this way, because that's the way my father's name is on my birth certificate. And I wrote Clara, and in brackets I put “Evans" (E.V.A.N.S.) Mohammed spelled M.O.H.A.M.M.E.D.

Now, what was I there signing for or on? It was to reaffirm our commitment as a Nation to the Freedom of Religion. Allahu-akbar! And believe me, that "Takbir" is not for me; that "Takbir" is to tell me that "Takbir" is for Allah.

Let me return now to the role of the Masjid. We mentioned "taqwa" which is the right conscience in religion. It is also purification or purity. The Masjid is a place for purification. God says that He sent Muhammad, (pbuh) to purify us, to lead us into purification. And Allah even includes money, and we know money is dirty. We sometimes say of the money that comes into the community, that it has been washed. Meaning, that it was real dirty and came from illegal traffic. Then we threw it into a so-called legitimate or creditable institution or a bank, so it could be washed there.

We don't think of materialism and the material world and material interests as needing purification. But Allah, Most High, says to the Prophet, in the Holy Words in His Holy Book, the Qur'an, "And take from them, something of their wealth for their purification." So that tells us, that if people would be willing to give something of the material things that they love for Allah's sake, for His reign, for the path of God, then that act would have the effect of purifying them materially. And their material interest, in time, would not be impure or corrupt, but it will be pure also.

There was a Brother before me today, Dr. Hassan, and it is the first time I'm hearing him. I am calling him "Doctor" Hassan, although he's in a different field than medicine. He's a doctor in a different field. He has mentioned four areas of our life. But we are also aware that Allah has said to us that the whole of life should be pure. We think of a spiritual person as being pure, in that he's a saintly person. So we say, "Oh, he's pure." But the banker in our religion should also be pure. The politician in our religion should also be pure. The general on the battle field in war should also be pure. Because whatever we have to do of a necessity, God has approved. And if we do it according to His Will and Pleasure, it will be pure! Yes, I can kill you purely, when I'm killing you according to God's Will. And for killing you, I go straight to heaven so I must be pure. If you are a threat, a danger, a terror to the Muslim life, and you are oppressing us, you are killing our life; you will not stop, and we have made every kind of appeal to you, but you will not change your ways, then, if I come to you and kill you, I will be conducting a pure slaughter and I go straight to Heaven.

That's what I love so much about this Religion. This is a Religion that has no moral contradictions. This is a Religion that has a consistent morality: it has no moral contradictions; And that's what brings my heart to peace. The moral man wants to be at peace with the moral idea that he follows. I am at peace, because I have found the moral idea in the Qur'an and that was preached by our Prophet is a consistent, perfect, sound, moral idea. It does not say one thing in this quarter of life and something else in another quarter of life. And that's why I'm so committed to it with my life.

Knowing how the time has been spent here today and it has been spent so profitably for all of us, I am going to cut this short. We've learned many lessons here in a short time. And what I am saying here, in a few words, is that we should be aware of the most common thing for us in the Religion. Some of us want to stretch our minds too far. The African-American slaves or the black slaves in this country called Negro slavery used to say, even before the White man allowed them to really be accepted into Christianity "Give me the ole time Religion." This is what they sang. And that's all we need — ole time Religion. We need the same teachings that the Holy Prophet gave the people. We don't need to stretch our minds and imaginations and come up with something way out in space to get the job done. No! Be simply honest and sincere. The Prophet (pbuh) said Religion is sincerity, be decent, honest, sincere, and be morally upright.

I want to recall from the readings of the Holy Book: "Surely those who say, Our Lord is Allah." And what does that mean. "Our Lord is the One God. Allah is the One God. "And thereafter live an upright life. There is no fear for them." So we are called to the Masjid. The Masjid should be a place where we have no fear. We should be in a safe environment here. And we should not have any fear from anyone here, because we all should be having the right conscience in religion, the fear of God, the love of God, the proper respect for God and His Messenger, believing and obeying His Messenger and proper reverence for His Holy Book, the Qur'an. We should have proper regard for each other as His most dignified creation.

Allah says, "Surely He has made the human being what He wants, in the most dignified mold, the most honored, the most respected mold." And the Prophet has told us also, that the sons of Adam are dignified. And he said that the children of Adam, which means any of us, who eats the dish of food that his own resources made possible for him, that he worked for, that there is no meal more enjoyable for him than that? That tells us that we should want to work! And if there are people in this Masjid that want to work here in Chicago on 47th Street and Woodlawn, this will go a long way towards relieving the fear. You should want to work.

Now, we know that there are provisions in our Religion for the poor, but Zakat is not only a provision for the poor. Zakat is for many things, but the poor has a right to Zakat, if the poor qualifies. Not just any poor. Should I give to a poor brother who came to the Muslim and I smell liquor on his breath? He swears and curses, he is all the time in some situation where he is disgracing the behavior of Muslims — that is not a Zakat for him. That's not a Zakat for him, even though he says he's a Muslim, even if he says "As-Salaam-Alaikum, brother." When he comes to me and says, "can I have some Zakat?" I will say, "No!" "Well how come I can't have any Zakat?" "It is because you do not Qualify." But, I am poor." "Yes, you are poor, but you are unrighteous! You are indecent! You are a burden on us in your moral behavior! Show some shyness first. Then maybe we will consider your application for some Zakat. Show some shyness first." This is right! The Prophet (pbuh) also told us in the acts of charity between two people where one is giving and the other is receiving. The hand like this that is giving is more excellent, than the hand like that that is receiving.

All of us, if we are sensible minded people who respect ourselves or want to be something, if we are in that situation now, we should want to hurry up and get out of that situation where the hand is asking for something. You are saying, "Well what does this have to do with the role of the Masjid?" It has a lot to do with it, because this Masjid is in Chicago, on 47th and Woodlawn.

I conclude now and wish I had more time, because there are many more things that I think would be good for all of us. And all of it will come from the sources that we should be depending upon for understanding, guidance and light in these other things. That's the Qur'an and also the Sunnah of our Prophet, or the life of our Prophet (pbuh). Someone asked the Prophet to tell them something, saying, tell me something that no one else can tell me." Now that's a big challenge isn't it?

Would you believe that I've had some come to me the same way. You know they exaggerate my importance and exaggerate my image and everything. So, I have some people who ask me "Brother Imam, tell me something; give me one of those precious gems of wisdom." So I was at a loss, until I learned what the Prophet said in his reply. He replied to this person by saying, "Say, I believe and thereafter be straight."