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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles


Progressions Magazine


Imam W. Deen Muhammad


I would like to begin this article with a few words from the Muslim Holy Book, the Holy Qur'an, wherein God says that He does not desire oppression for anyone in all the world. This tells us that God wants justice for everyone. We know that when a seed is put into the ground and covered with earth, and if the right conditions exist in the environment, such as temperature, moisture, etcetera, then we expect that seed to burst forth from its dead body through the earth to become a living thing and bear its fruit. This is a burden, but it is not oppression. The seed was put in that situation because that was the situation ordained by its Creator for its regeneration.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that are uncomfortable for us. But many times those uncomfortable situations are required in order to bring the best out of us, or to bring us from our dead state back into the life processes. We should begin to understand those circumstances that we thought were placed on us as a burden. We should see them as having been intended by God in order to put pressure on us; to put us in a situation where we would have to use our own strength, our own will. We would have to struggle with our own limited resources, the limited powers of our mind, our hearts and experiences, We have to struggle with our limited resources to gain understanding.

We know that the mission of God's Word in human life and society is to advance the process of freedom, and not just the freedom of the physical body. This distinction is very important for the African-American people who think of freedom in the circumstances of their own life and history. When the word freedom is mentioned, it usually strikes the African-American as freedom from physical bondage or physical restrictions.

The higher idea of freedom is not freedom from physical bondage or physical restrictions, but freedom of the human intellect, of that rational potential that God gave equally to all people. You cannot enslave a man's will or potential. You may capture or hold him back physically, but if he remains in the order God created him, and doesn't sacrifice the spirit for forward movement God put in him, he will remain free though he may be physically confined.

The African-American needs to leave the old idea that captivity means being physically restricted or held back. They must come into the new idea that real freedom is to move in our intellect to a greater vision, a greater purpose, to a greater responsibility until we are comfortable with ourselves in our life and in our purpose on this earth. Until that happens, we will continue to be a burdened and confused people. It is a natural requirement in the life of every man that his intellect be liberated. Regardless of how ignorant a person may be academically speaking, there is in every person the same will that is in any other noble or excellent and powerful person no matter whether that person is black, brown, red, yellow or any color. Whatever God put in them, the same is also in the African-American. And we will be a burdened and oppressed people until we come to a higher vision of what our purpose is on this earth, and what our rights are in society.

Let us look at the African-American historically. During the period of slavery, this world recognized the African as physical objects. And because the African was not regarded as a higher person, they thought them fit for bondage. The Word of God and its influence on man and in man, and on the direction of this new nation of America brought help from political, spiritual and religious quarters, and thus came the Emancipation Proclamation. But before the Emancipation of the slaves, many of them were not in physical bondage. Many were not shackled or carrying chains. Many were well dressed, met with dignitaries, and had an educated tongue. Some were the doorman in the mansion who met the guests of the man of the big house.

Those slaves were not in physical bondage. They were physically free. But not spiritually or intellectually free, because the order of society at that time did not give them the same rights it gave to whites or others. They ate as well, and dressed most likely better than many of us do today. I am talking about the house Negro, the number one black man in the whiteman's mansion.


The Potential for Excellence

Along with the desire to be free intellectually is a desire to be respected. Your very soul feels entitled to that. That urge is an expression of the potential that God has put in every human being for excellence: a capacity for honorable and dignified roles in society and in the life of man. God has put that in us, and when it dawns in the intellect, we say, "Oh, I am just not satisfied not knowing anything, I want to know something." Thus we become intellectually and mentally curious. You begin to read more. You begin to look into things and examine them. Once you reach that higher level, you begin to notice how people are treating you. If they are not treating you right, something in you says, "Hey, I'm not a dog. I'm not a mule. I'm not a piece of wood. I'm a human being." And if someone would ask the complaining person, "What is a human being?" he might be lost for words. He might be blind to the technical terms for expressing his complaint, but not blind to the urge of the requirement within.

When a people lose their potential for excellence, they are truly dead. As a people, we were not dead when the white man held us in bondage. We were just contained. We died when we accepted this promiscuous life-style over the last ten or twenty years. In fact, our whole race as a people has almost died. Only a few are still alive. But as a whole race, our people have died. Most of them want nothing more than a job. They want nothing more than what the slave had. The slave had a job, and it was a guaranteed job at that. As a race, most of us only want a means to keep our mouths fed, an opportunity to go out with the lady on Saturday night, and to show off our physical possessions, such things as a fancy garment, an expensive car, jewelry, etcetera.

The deadest thing you will ever see is an African-American with no ambition, carrying a lot of expensive rags, and a house full of wealth that he cannot use. All he can do with those things is to show them off to the people. As a whole, we have lost something. History tells us that even while in physical bondage, the slaves would sing, and the masters would become disturbed upon hearing their songs. Their masters would say, "We have broken the slaves back but we have not broken their spirit. They still want to be free."

When the Emancipation Proclamation came, observers have recorded that the African-American people were so anxious for an opportunity to learn, to feed the intellect and become knowledgeable that they could be seen resting on their plow or leaning up against a tree reading. Now those people were alive. But today the average African-American does not understand the role of knowledge in the life of a person or in society. He sees knowledge as a commodity that can be bought and sold. He sees knowledge as an exchange to be passed on for a convenience.


The Need for Integrity

There are African-Americans teaching in public and private schools mainly for the purpose of living better physically or having more material affluence. They are not there because they want to improve the state of man or the state of the poor. The average teacher is there because it is an opportunity to make money.

The African-American has lost what the majority of slaves had. The slaves shared concerns for each other. They shared the burden that all of them were bearing in their spirit. And by being sensitive and sharing each others burden and sharing the whole situation of being slaves, they had something that is missing in black Africa-America today, and that is spiritual integrity. Today the average African-American is confused internally. And what is worse, does not care to clear up the mess. We are disorganized within and pulled in every direction. We don't know where our loyalty should be, and we don't know where we should establish ourselves. At one time we were a people with something called, "spiritual integrity." And that spiritual integrity gave us a sense of health, of soundness, of consistency, of unity and a sense of well-being. Though our national and physical circumstances were horrible during slavery, we enjoyed within ourselves a sense of well-being. And we would tell the master, "My day is coming, I know the Lord will deliver us one day."

That spirit and determination was still within us when Dr. King was walking this planet. He said "One day, I know there is going to be a change." He believed, so he was at peace within. He had faith in the future. His enemies were gritting their teeth and biting their fingernails, but he remained composed and set in his purpose. But look at our condition today. Many of us say, "Oh, this is the end. What is there to life? Let's drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." We have taken on the mind of those who have given up and accepted failure. And you just can't do that.

We need the same kind of spirit and determination we once had. We need to re-establish integrity. We need to have faith in the future. One African-American writer said, "The popularity of Ronald Reagan, his leadership, and the losses we have suffered under his administration in terms of social program cutbacks had to happen to make black Americans question their own behavior." He went on to say, "If an unruly, disrespectful child gets in enough trouble, his conscience will come back." Now I am not agreeing with the writer, and I don't think he really means what appears on the surface.

I don't think the writer approves of what is happening, but what I believe he was saying is, "Let's face it. Let's live with it. These are the circumstances that have appeared, and we could not prevent them. They are upon us now, so let's see if we can derive some benefit from them. This Republican prominence is a negative for the African-American people, so let us see if we can get a positive out of it. It may disturb most of us to search our souls, to examine ourselves, to look back at our own behavior to see if we can find some faults on our part. But if the revelation proves beneficial, it will be good."

Now I believe that is what the writer was trying to say. And in that respect, I agree with him. I do not want to see our people set back socially, but when you look at what the Democrats allowed as a growing situation in the life of the African-American poor, I believe you will agree with me that the programs we received under their administrations were not social progress.

Monetary benefits alone that bring cash into a person's hand to buy a new table or to pay the rent and medical expenses, etcetera, does not amount to social progress. But if that money is used to improve a people's social status, to improve the life and dignity of the family, to increase their social sensitivities, then that is social progress. If money is given to people to lead a permissive life, to spend it for a good time, or spend it for material things—living carefree on the working citizen's money, that is not social progress. Therefore, we must accept that the Democrats allowed a situation to grow within the community of blacks and the poor of this country that does not represent real social progress, I believe it was the Will of God for that wasted money to be stopped. Money for social programs should not be a cause for social ignorance or social irresponsibility on the part of the recipient. I believe God is against that, and when God is against something, you cannot change it.


A Time For Soul Searching

It is time for the African-Americans to do a little soul-searching, to examine self and get back to the excellence God created within us. The time is overdue to question our own behavior. As a people, we have become a traitor to our own cause. Many of us have become so attached, so devoted to a narcissistic relationship with ourselves that we don't like to hear a thing discrediting of ourselves. We need to get out of this situation. It is really painful for a people to have so much that accounts for nothing. The situation of a slave a hundred or more years ago was much easier to bear than the present situation. Every bill imaginable has been legislated for the freedom and dignity of the African-American, and legislators are still straining their minds to come up with other legislation.

All of that soul power and spirit, singing for freedom and legislating has brought freedom of movement and material affluence to many African-Americans. But, this material affluence has come to oppress them in their own homes. In many of our homes, you can't get around without stepping over expensive toys of the children. If you come into your house and try to hang your coat in the closet, there is no place to hang it because the closet is filled with other coats and clothes. If you inquire and observe, you will find that this is the state of poor black America.

It is painful to have this much freedom and material affluence in your life, yet have no dignity, nor any establishment. How much money can you get for all of the clothes or appliances if you sold them? You would not get very much. We have allowed the false life of material plenty to capture our souls, kill our spirits, corrupt our morality, kill our sense of right and wrong, and deprive us of collective direction. What happened to the spirit of collective direction? At one time, the Church preached it, and the politician represented it. The little man in the street used to identify with it—a collective direction, collective purpose, collective dignity, collective role on this earth. But that collective spirit has been left behind, robbed from us by a spoiled way of life.

A people in our situation must first come back to spiritual integrity. And after that, there is another stage of integrity for the human being—contextual integrity. You don't just live by yourself or within yourself. You have to live with other people. Therefore, you have to be responsible for your behavior in the society and environment of other people. Many of us have no responsibility, no discipline, not even in the small environment of our own home.

We must become responsible again. We have to attach ourselves to purposes bigger than ourselves, and to values bigger than material values. We must come back to the human life and the human context. When that happens, the world will see a people making use of the opportunities here in America, a people who cooperate humanly with each other for the excellence and the progress of the whole. That is the day we pray for. That is the day we work for. That is the purpose for which we are created and existing here on this earth.