449The Path To Human Freedom And Dignity - Part II
- Jan 6, 2008
Compton Community College
The Path To Human Freedom And Dignity
By Imam W. Deen Mohammed
When you see forces bigger than you, then you want to know how to relate to or how to surmount those forces. Our scripture tells us that God created the human being with the capacity and with the potential strength to surmount the forces in his environment. We gather from scripture that God intended for him to be the main beneficiary and that he should take charge of his environment. God says, "I'm going to create a man, a Kalifah, a Ruler and put him in the earth." We know the story, that God gave man dominion.
In fact, you sisters who have a problem - I belong to the E.R.A., too, but not quite in that group. To you sisters who have a problem, "man" means mind. Man means a free thinking being, it can be in a female body or in a male body. It doesn't matter. One sister suggested that we don't use "man", that we don't say "he" when we refer to God. Now that's a big problem. I think the best way to overcome that is to just explain exactly what we are talking about. The language doesn't have to be changed. We have a problem with "he and she" in some languages. But in most eastern languages, there is no problem with he and she; because if I'm going to talk about the light, I've got to say "he or she." When I speak of the Sun, I've got to say "he or she." When a person who speaks the Semitic languages says "he," it doesn't suggest sex in the manner most westerners see it. We can say "he" in the Semitic language and no one would think that we are suggesting that God is male. In Arabic grammar the word "Moon" is masculine and the word "sun" is feminine. Those people are used to talking about both animate and inanimate things in such terms? here we have male, female, and neuter gender. A thing is male, or it's female, or it's neuter. We don't have that in Semitic and Latin languages. Arabic is thought to be the purest and most original. The male symbol ( O) says in principle progressive spirit shapes the mold of instinctive behavior to become innovative, creative, scientific, ruler on earth. The female symbol ( 9 ) says in principle, the female form is checked under the mold of rested evolution. Hence, woman is womb of both life and the creative urge symbolically designated male and man. I don't think any woman would be offended, if she understood what we are talking about, we don't mean that every female is bound under that symbol. We don't mean that every male is an outward movement or liberator. We mean that males generally aspire to that role. I'm sure we all will agree, if we are not drunk on our ideas. We need the sense to bear our responsibility. To keep life bases secure and in tack. We need the sense to hold the good structure of life and to preserve it, so that there will be some solid ground, some solid basis upon which to build and from which to move out forward into improved conditions and resources. The female principle is very important to our lives. So important to our lives that Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be on Him) has said, that the woman who carries out her responsibility of motherhood enters paradise: "Paradise lies at the feet of mothers." Maybe she didn't pray as much as the Imam, maybe she. wasn't as pious, but she carried out that essential job of motherhood and guarded the family welfare - she doesn't have to be fertile and have babies herself. Every woman, every female is a mother.
Let me tell you something. I need a mother. I'm the leader of this community; they call me "Chief Imam." Sometimes I want to tell them that the Chief consults Shirley sometimes. Yes, it's not any one principle making for the advancement of life. It's a combination of principles. What does that have to do with the concept of human life? It has all to do with it. Because our concept of human life grew out of a view of nature. The concept of human life grew out of the revealed knowledge implied or implicit in nature.
It wasn't those Greek philosophers that introduced basic truths. Long before the Greek philosophers there were people of Africa and Asia having the concept of God and believing in the oneness of God. It's no Greek discovery. If you study the history of ancient Egypt? you will find that long before the movement of the Judaic people began, there was a ruler in ancient Africa who conceived God as being one and that there should be no likeness or no gods associated with him. This is a fact of history.
We have to understand the oneness of God is a concept that man is urged toward and into because of the nature, that he was created in. The nature of man, the things that threaten and aid his nature - the environmental conditions forces him to look at his whole environmental picture and try to make some sense out of it. Man is given the nature to find uniformity, to find consistency, to find order, and then to discover what is responsible for that consistency, what is responsible for that order. Thus, man naturally comes upon this path of searching for truth and understanding.
He testifies: "God helped him." We know God helped him, but we have to understand that the support that God has given us is actually our own life form and creation. Our own creation is the support that he has given us. Actually our own life form and creation acts as a prompter, a stimulus to stimulate us and to prompt us towards a fruitful productive pattern of life; that we be urged onto the paths of progress, and if we don't respond intelligently to the natural prompters that are in creation for our right direction, then the same prompters will punish us. We say, "oh, if there is a God, why is my life so messed up?" Because you have stopped hearing. You have stopped seeing. You have refused to hear; you have refused to see. Your narrowed focus have put yourself in a bad way. You have to be punished in order to get back into composite life. Don't blame God, think about yourself first. In our religion we are told that actually it is not God that punishes us, we punish ourselves. It says that if we want to charge God with something, charge God with helping us. When we are sinking under our problems, charge that to ourselves; because he has given us five senses and a will to surmount the things that are giving us trouble. Therefore, we have to question and scrutinize our own thoughts and actions. Say, "have I been using these five senses properly? Am I meeting the challenge of life? Or am I just caught up in this compulsive gravity of self gratification and incapable of intelligent thought?" If all of us would do that, I'm sure we would stop blaming others for a lot of our problems. We would see that most of our problems are our own doings.
A human being in faith and true religion is the most capable creature in the creation. He has limited free will and the tools of intelligence and potential skills. If he aspires and put them to work, he can do wonders. I do believe this. Allowing ourselves to settle a while in a state of truthfulness and fair mindedness to be insolated from the metropolis and fast life, I'm sure that we could be healed in time. We would gain back that power, that strength, the use of that potential that we are talking about. But who wants to back up? We can't back up; we don't want to go back to day zero. What are we going to do? We are going to depend on some idea that has been tested by time. That's the answer.
I'm not here to enforce our will or force anything on anybody. But I am here to invite and to suggest that we depend on ideas that have been tested by time, more than we depend on the Merry-Go-Round or on the quick dreamed up notions that we are living by today. Negativism. Positivism. "Be positive." Think positive. "Don't be negative." But we are not aware that in everything we do, in everything there's negative and positive. Sometimes you can be talking positive, you think, and be behaving positively and actually if someone examines and studies exactly what is happening, they'd say, "look man, you call this positive, but that's negative." Sometimes we lose proper focus, and we lose proper grasp of just what we are caught up into, of just what is happening. Positives become negative and negatives become positive and much is left to confusion.
What I call negativism is this undue, un-thought-out impulsive criticism of everything. Some people when you suggest anything, right away the automatic reaction is "I won't buy it. It's no good. I don't believe it. I reject it." You can get in the habit of rejecting things, and before you know it you have fallen under the principle of that philosopher that said "I am formed by my activities." You may find you are being given over habitually to a certain attitude or to a certain way of behaving. In time you have conformed to that way of behaving. In such state it is not likely that intelligence will have any role in your decisions. It's habit, a habitual way of responding causing you to make your decisions in matters of self, family, and country. So if someone says, "we should unite" for persons in such state the compulsive reply is, "I disagree." You didn't think it out. It's automatic. Someone may say, "I think our problem is that we don't have enough unity. We ought to unite." The impulse says, "I disagree." And if you ask him why, he's thrown off his feet. "Huh?" "Why do you disagree?" "Oh". "I just disagree."
We aren't entirely responsible for our thinking like that. The environmental influences have gotten the best of our ability to function. Irresponsible policy makers are responsible for us thinking this way. A lot of us don't like to hear that. We dislike being told that some forces outside our control, controls us and style-setters are the masters over our feelings and appetities. But that's the truth. Most of the people, the common masses would not think the way they think, if they were free to work out the kinks in life away from the fires and away from the flood waters of dragons.
When we look at our circumstances, our economic condition is so bad, I'm talking about one minority, the African-American, thirty million people or more and where is our proportionate representation? Where is our representation in the maintaining of the city, in the maintaining of Government, in the maintaining of the economy? What are we supporting? What are we responsible for? We are a race of consumers. I'm not the one who said this, I heard if from somebody else. But I see it, I believe it. I see evidence of it. We are a race of consumers. We have no normal economic role in America. It is said, we are a constrained colony of consumptive spenders who are too burdened to come to grips with our habits which enrich our outside beneficiaries. We have been told that factual data says one Caucasian capitalist can be found that is worth more than the combined purse of all our businessmen. There is one caucausian living in America who is financially worth more than all our business people combined.
Now, do we like that situation? I don't think so. I think that's why you invited me here. That's why you invite Dick Gregory. That's why you invite Farrakhan. Because you don't like the situation. You want to hear somebody that has something different to say. You want to hear somebody say something new. You don't like that situation. A whole race of people depending on white employers and welfare.
Moreover, what's worse is the attitude of our educated people. Educators without courage to search the future to a path for race and country. Blacks who see with the eyes of white Americans. No vision of their own. Most of them don't have the courage to step outside of the mold that the European, the Westerner created. They don't have the courage to step outside of that mold and look back at it and say, "let me see can I find a problem with that." The problem is not always in the people. We think that the white created structure have to be perfect. The way the white man thinks has to be perfect, especially when we talk about scientific principles and scientific matters and institutions. The way the white man thinks has to be perfect! Who will bring improvements to whites, to European American thinking?
America is a place for improvement. We shouldn't accept old structures, old ways of thinking without questioning. Especially when we are having difficulty living. Even the concept of freedom, we should question that. Question everything. Don't be afraid. Have the courage to step outside of a mold and study it unattached Say, "is it sound? Is it correct? Is it suited to me and my life?" Have the adulthood and firmness of mind to say there are some corrections to be made on it. Men lead, children follow. A race that only follow asking for benefits and thinking not to carry a share of burden to work for the future of their country is a child.
What I'm asking and inviting us to do more of is exactly what white people have been doing every since they've been in America. They have been looking at things. The things they have invented or made themselves, they are not satisfied with it. They look back upon it, and they question it so they'll make improvements on it. We need to get into that way of thinking.
Instead of being in the race of color combat, conflict or having monkey wars with each other. "You're a black monkey." "You're a pink monkey." We are just exhausting ourselves calling each other out of our color. We need to come out of that kind of race consciousness and come into the race to advance the whole human family, and this nation we share in, America.
The white man is a global politician and a global scientist. Now let us have the same faith that he has in himself. Let us get into the race to advance the whole human family. That means that I'm going to compete with the white man. I'm going to compete with him for ideas. If his idea is not as good as I think mine is, I'm going to get out here and tell people that I've got a better idea. If he comes up with a concept for the new world order, and if I can come up with a concept that I think challenges his and is better than his, I'm going to come out in the public and tell the people, "look, I have an Idea for the new world order of the future. I think that my idea is more suited to the nature and to the needs of the human family." Why shouldn't we?
Now that is human rights. See, we think human rights is just getting what the power structure has established that is due us as citizens. Human rights go beyond structures. Human beings and human potential are going to outlive all these structures. What we are innately, is going to make our environment and our structures come to be formed more suitable to what we are in our excellence. It is not the environment that is Khalifah (leading), it is man's vision, revealed insight, man's understanding of what the future hold for his human possibilities. Potential for excellence, that is the factor that's changing the world. I'm a human being; how come I can't be a factor for global change. Are big ideas for non-blacks?
With this spirit I'm saying, I'm not going to ask the white man anymore to give me what he has established to be my rights. I think that's inferior thinking on my part today. I'm going to ask the white man to give me the same respect he gives himself. In fact, don't give it to me Mister, but respect my demand that I be given the same recognition. Many of us fear and step back from that.
I admit that this is a daring step on our part. I know just yesterday I was Jim Crowed. A little before that I was a slave, and I was owned by these white folk. Now I know that. "Hey young boy, just a hundred years ago you were owned. You were ours. We bought you. You've got the nerve to stand up here this soon and say you are going to aspire to equal recognition and equal power and equal authority over the circumstances of man's life and the future of the world. Why you are talking awful big, young fellow." Look, the time to talk big is when you see big. You don't have to wait. As soon as you recognize that you are big in ability that's the time to start talking big. I've had some good teachers. My father was a great and bold man, a bad little man. He talked to the white man like he was the white man's daddy.
However, Elijah Muhammad was also a man with a vision. I think human life should first be established upon a concept of human purpose and destination. There has to be a clear concept of just what the human being is. We know science and philosophy speak of the human being as homo sapien, a thinking being and as homo erectus, an erect upright being. In our religion the Prophet Abraham is seen as the Homo Erectus, but not in the physical sense of evolution. His uprightness was moral excellence. Abraham was upright. I remember when they used to say, "stand erect." When you were slouching around before the class, and they were trying to discipline you, the teacher would say, "John, stand erect." It meant discipline and uprightness.
In science in anthropology, they suggest the ability to stand up erect has been responsible for much of man's advancement. Science explain the difficulty that man was facing, when he was crawling around like an animal. He wasn't able to have the free use and swing of his body. He wasn't able to fight off animals as well as the later homo erectus. But when he gained balance and was able to stand erect, then he was able to strike freely, wheel the weapon and defend himself much better against the wild creatures in his environment. This position also gave him the ease of posture and greater work skills. He stood upon his feet, and therefore had the free use of his hands. With more ease he became more creative and more productive. That was after much suffering and toil. That was the thrust forward for man.
Now let us look a little further. In the word human is humor. "Humor" means the ability to respond with the heart of light or serious emotions. If a person has no humor, he has no sensitivity and no personality. But if you have a rich heart, you most likely are a person that has humor. You can laugh at the right joke. You can frown when on the right impulse. You can respond as a normal human being. That's being human. So we need, in order to qualify as human, a heart, a full range of emotional sensitivity, playfulness, seriousness, joy and sorrow. Sensitivity in ourselves is also a factor aiding man and projecting man, carrying him forward to greater and greater expressions, discovery and insight. Many of us don't understand how important the soul is. But now that Reagan is in office, I think we're going to have more occasions to sit down with our souls.
In Africa there is President Kenneth Kaunda who has adopted the human concept of humanism and has fitted that concept to the political life of his nation. His political philosophy is scientific humanism. The human rights of the people of Zambia are defined in terms of their concept of human beings and scientific humanism. Humanism for some of us may simply provoke an emotional response. But humanism in Zambia, right away suggest an ideology.
We have concern for human rights, and I'm speaking of the group that I belong to now -The American Muslim Mission, once called Black Muslims, Lost-Found Nation of Islam and Temple of Islam. We see human rights as being natural expression out of nature that we didn't make. God created it. Upon our human principle we have identified with the American Constitution. Perhaps you have heard that we have become American patriots. Some of our people get the wrong idea and think that we are just emotional, sentimental lovers of America. Our emotions are deeper than that. You can't come out of the Nation of Islam and fall into any sentimental romance or shallow involvement. You are looking for something solid, if you've got your Muslim senses. Our patriotism is not what some people think it is.
Our patriotism is an acceptance of what supports human excellence. We see in the U.S. constitution something that is compatible with our religion and with the concept of man In our Holy Book. So we identify with the human spirit in the constitution. We cherish it. We think that beautiful concept is responsible for the longevity of the United States and its democracy. These United States have endured, while many Governments and political concepts have fallen and gone. Governments come in and go out with the seasons. It is happening in most of the world. In its essence the constitution is a statement of human life force - an excellence that will be known and accommodated. We believe that it is this precious idea that is central and very basic in the whole political ideology that we call American democracy. That idea says every man is created equal. That idea says that someone some combination of people had given some serious thought to the nature of man. They had concluded that man has a basic unity, a common essential form and likeness, that man is essentially one. It suggest that people may differ because of circumstances, but they are essentially one constituted life and that's what the Holy Qur'an says.
The language of the constitution goes on to say that all men have been endowed with certain inalienable rights. We believe that. That's the same reasoning we have in our religion. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia certainly treasured and appreciated that idea, because he has formed a whole political philosophy on humanism based in nature. The idea of human nature evolving upon an unfailing potential.
Then how is failure explained? What has happened to society? How come we are losing our reverenced life? How come we can't find intelligent accord? How come we can't find family peace and accord? How come we can't find national accord? It's because the old charge words have become sapless and dead. They used to tell us that "you know, we are good Christians," and the majority of America would listen. They would have their ear. There was a time when it could be emphasized that all of us are Americans, and the majority of Americans would listen. The speakers would have our ear. But these charge words now are sapless. The American has become so liberally extreme in his thinking, and he has seen so much to question in the international world, that it make him now want to question old structures at home, and old institutions that disciplined and lead him. Now the new sensitivities have made mute the once precious ideas that used to be strong enough as charge words to hold us together.
In approaching the terminal point we're told the only answer is the old answer. When man comes up with a scientific definition of what he is, of what his responsibilities are then he can chart a course for self and others. The concept of the future is humanism. The identity to rally us is human identity.
I accept what God offers me in my religion. But I know we are not going to change this world to make the whole world Muslim. We will never be able to stand up as Americans and appeal to people and say, "let us do this Muslims." No, there are a lot of people who are Christians, and others. We are not going to be able to get started again by emphasizing our American identity.
"Let's do it, because we are Americans." That's not good enough anymore.
But if we could agree that we have a natural based sameness, a common nature that deserves all of our support, and that this nature holds the potential for future growth, that it holds the design for future advancement, then we will scientifically study the needs of this nature, the possibilities for all of us and we will raise up the flag of human identity. Not Jesus Christ, not another charge word, but hold up the banner of the sameness of man and call all people to rally around that and to support that which is equally theirs. That's the idea of the future. That's the idea in our community.
I challenge the white man. To have life, I don't need him. God has connected us to the spirit, to the strength, with the knowledge, with the science, with the way into the future. We don't need the white man to take us by the hand. I believe that my future and the future of people in our situation does not depend on who is in the White House. We are determined to do just what every other free people have done. Take their life into their own hands and chart their own future course and respect structures that are here in society that many Americans still respect, but not depend on them anymore than the Irish depend on them, not any more than the Italians depend on them, not any more than the Chinese depend on them. We are as capable of supporting our own life as others are. That is what we are determined to establish, and by God, I've got the kind of people with me that are going to make that a reality.
President Kennedy was a wonderful man. He said a lot of great things. One great thing he said was, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your '* country?" I believe my ancestors expressed that courage long before he did. I think our ancestors and their strivings live in us. We are also their soul on this side. I want to know if my country is prepared to get the hell off my back and out of the way of our progress, while we do something for self. If my country would just do that, America will be peaceful and productive. We are going to produce. We are determined to be more and more productive as we go from day to day.
We have realistic, practical and feasible programs. The President has cut out a lot of jobs. In the last two weeks we have created about twenty jobs in just one location. We have a plan to increase every year, job opportunities. We hope that every year we will increase the number of working people. Any resources we command will be used to bring up the whole people.
Peace Be unto you. As-Salaam-Alaikum.
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION:
QUESTION: What can I do to help produce some alternatives through music or the arts? What can we do to help advance our people?
Imam Muhammad: Just keep on thinking independently. You who write songs should think more independently. You shouldn't write what the people who control the industry want if their want is not in accord with what you feel will best serve and benefit the people. You should continue to think more creatively and more independently.
There is something else you can do, also. The artists can get together with their local leaders and national leaders and discuss ways of supporting each other and of ways of bringing the people who are oppressed by adverse culture together in a wholesome mental state. If we were willing to do this, our community right now is ready to support the artists.
I think we have the numbers and the support to buy facilities to house entertainment in the major cities. We don't have to depend upon other people for booking a good program. If you have a good program, you also must have a facility for that program. If we would just get together and support each other, we won't have to go to other people to book all our entertainment. I would like to see us owning big theatres to accommodate 20,000, 50,000, to 100,000 people, in the major population centers. We must compete also for ownership. Why should we be content with our fate so completely in outsiders hands? That's a shame. It's very easy. Don't worry about the gangsters, the gangsters respect strong and good people. They respect intelligent people. They say, "Oh, the gangsters control boxing." "Well, you know entertainment is controlled by the gangsters." Is that so? We don't believe it. We think some of the best people are producing and sharing big profits. With or without outside help we are going to work and prosper. We are going to get places to accommodate entertainment. We are going to build brand new movie houses in these major cities, and in time we are going to produce our own films. We don't have to depend on outsiders to these extremes.
Don't the Chinese have their own movies? The Chinese came here from China, he looked and said, "oh, what a nice place, beautiful America, very nice. Can you change that roof on the house? Make the roof on the house more like Chinese?" He takes the old roof off and puts a new roof on to recall Chinese architecture. Pretty soon when you come to his quarters, you will be moved to think that you are in China. He has taken that neighborhood that he came into and made it new China.
We don't have to go that far, maybe. But we have to establish our worth, our collective worth. Don't be afraid to do that, be a shame to be found having that fear.
Question: How do you expect us to get together here in America, seriously, when we are being kept apart and in captivity by the white man?
Imam Muhammad: Let me first say that America is not a country that guarantee anything to anybody other than freedom freedom to compete. We have seen moral lost in America. We have seen intelligence lost in America. Why? Because America is an experimental concept. The idea was created as an experiment in productivity. We must come to know that we cannot enjoy continuous life in America without the protection offered in a well defined idea of community life. To live in America is one thing, but to live in a structured ideology is j identity and stability.
When the black man came under the church, they were at least under some kind of idea. Some idea was holding their life together. They left the church, and they went into the streets, into the shifting winds and illusive life styles. Now nothing holds us together. We can't even get the support of our people anymore to do easy intelligent things. We don't have any directed collective strength anymore. How are we going to change all of this?
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad once said you will never be equal with the white man, until you get equal knowledge. I believe that, the first step is to work hard to get knowledge equal to that of the white man or equal to that of anybody that is challenging you. This is a highly competitive environment. America is highly competitive, and we have to accept to compete. That's first. So get knowledge that will enable you to compete.
The next thing to do is to understand that it is the trendy culture of this society that snaps out our light and takes our good senses away. Then let us come before our people and tell them that you cannot accomplish anything much until you first get your mind and your life out of the drift and drive of this trendy un-christian culture. If we are going to be taken off the path by a new pop tune, by a new fad, a new dress, we will never get anywhere as a race except behind. We will never do much as a people.
Some of us are looking for an Einstein solution to our problems. The solution is simple. It's not complicated. You have to be prepared even to die. Don't you know that people will kill you for being good? Now what I invite people to do is be good. I'm inviting people to be good, to be as morally strong as you possible can. Believe me, that threatens the crooked, strays and bad elements in the establishments.
If I was a preacher who came out here and preached racism, white or black, they would have me on all these campuses. It's hard for me. Look at the crowd. Let somebody come here and talk bullshit and the place will be filled up. I know the realities. I thank God that he has shown me complex America. Now that I know it, I know it offers me nothing as precious as the chance to fight.
Thank you very much. Peace Be Upon You. Don't let anyone fool you, I get fiery and like my father.... my feet too are always placed squarely and solidly on the ground.