The Idea of Freedon in Al-Islam - complete article
The Idea of Freedon in Al-Islam
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(The following address was given by Imam W. Deen Mohammed as the opening address to an interview for the TV program, W. Deen Mohammed and Guest, on Nov. 10, 2006.)
With G-d's Name, The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful Redeemer. We greet you with the Greetings of Peace, of all Muslims in Al-Islam, As-Salaam-Alaikum. We are very pleased to be addressing the topic of Freedom in Al-Islam.
First of all, the Prophet of Islam, the last Prophet, Muhammed - upon him be the Prayers and the Peace -is reported to have said: "Everyone of you is entitled to his or her opinion." So I start here with the idea of freedom in Islam.
Human beings are prided in Islam for human intelligence. Muhammed the Prophet said of the human brain, that G-d made nothing more resourceful, nothing having more or better use than the human brain.
When we look at man's influence in the natural environment, we see that no other life presents itself as human life presents itself. No other life has changed the natural environment as humans have changed the natural environment.
I think it is very inspiring, really, to see how impressive some of G-d's small creatures, much beneath man in evolution and developmental growth over the history of their life, have contributed to their environment.
Bees, for one, build their nests or honey combs and have a very impressive community. There are the ants. There are the beavers and how they work and cut wood to build them a house on the water. They are very impressive.
But nothing compares in any way with man's imprint on the natural environment. Man has altered the natural environment greatly, so much so that the animals and plants and everything have been changed somewhat, have increased or decreased, have improved or not improved - because of man taking over and dominating the environment.
I am not looking at the problems for the environment right now. I am just looking, and hope you are looking with me, at the great power and usefulness of the human brain. Man use to live in the wilds like animals, but his brain would not let him stay like that. His brain produced for him ideas and plans for changing his environment.
Today, we live in the human environment, and it almost shuts out the natural environment. There are so many constructions built by man - roads, buildings, transportation. They are built by man for man.
So you walk out of your house or private quarters and most of the time, there is no attraction to pull you away from what man has established - unless it is raining or storming; then you will look up at the sky. Or if it is hot and very bright, you might look up at the sky.
So our attention is drawn to the works of man. And because man has been given the freedom in this creation, in the material world, to think and act upon his thoughts, we see man as being very, very special in the creation of all the things that we know in the material existence or material world -in the universe.
Because of this very, very special endowment - G-d has endowed the man with this brain and intellect and freedom to think and then act upon his thoughts - to alter his creation and to alter his own life for the better, hopefully always. It is a precious gift, a precious freedom that we have.
That is where freedom should really start, with the most useful part of human life. It is useful in terms of serving human betterment and also in terms of serving the betterment of the natural environment.
When we think of our freedom in the United States of America, we see that freedom started with freedom of the intellect. In fact, our great leaders of our society would trace the great history of freedom to the philosophers, the thinkers, men of deep thought. One of the great philosophers said, "I think, therefore I am (therefore, I exists)."
For human identity, we have to start with the human mind. The human mind is where we see the true human identity. If we were not free thinkers, if we could not think independent of our circumstances, if we were created and formed in the earth like an animal or plant, we would be governed by habit.
The bird builds a nest; it is instinct, habit over a long period of time. It has become habit for the bird to build the nest.
We could take any other living creature in creation and look at its life and history, and we will see the same picture - that they are not changing the way that man has changed.
They have not changed the way they live over long periods of time, the stretch of their lifeline or existence, except when you look at the progress for their biology.
Science says that many of these creatures, the way they look now, they did not look like that originally. But they were not formed yet, so we are not really talking about those creatures. If you are talking about something biological or some germ for a dog and it is not looking like or having the picture of a dog, then we are not talking about a dog.
It is the same thing for humans. If you are talking about some form of life that existed but didn't take on this design and this picture that we have, then you are not really talking about humans.
You are talking about some existence of life. But once that life takes a life form then we can say we are talking about human life.
When you look at man and look at other creatures, we can say that man is much more superior to all other living things. Man has taken pride in his superiority, the superiority of his intellect, intelligence and superiority of his brain.
The brain serves community. The brain serves family. The brain serves the human heart. The heart tells me, "Oh, this is a burden on my heart to look at these conditions the way they are."
The heart tells me these are bad conditions in my neighborhood or area, for my friend or for a stranger. My heart will dictate to me that this is not comfortable.
Who takes over the responsibility to do something about it? What part of me does that? It is my brain. So when the Prophet said each of you is a leader in his own right, entitled to his own opinions, the Prophet was giving us an idea of freedom in Al-Islam.
We have a concept we call Shura, and that Shura is a governing body. We are told in our Holy Book, the Qur'an, that the believers, the Muslims, conduct our affairs by Shura.
This means having members in a body qualified upon their good character and knowledge and experience as Muslims, how to judge a matter, how to contribute to decision making on all levels of concern, from the smallest to the biggest.
This is required of Muslims. If we address an issue in our life, we should address it with respect for one another, those who have knowledge, experience and good character and can make a contribution to a discussion and to coming to a decision. It is called Shura Baiynihum.
That is respect for each other's character and intelligence. A lot of us forget that intelligence evolves man; it evolves even man's moral life. Intelligence evolves man's romance with females. Without intelligence, his romance would be disgraceful in a human society.
We tend to want to separate moral life from intelligence or rational life. We can't do that. Moral life is intelligent life, if it is advancing. There is intelligence in every aspect of the human form. There is intelligence in my hands, in my ears, in my skin. If something gets on my skin and my skin tells me it is uncomfortable, that is intelligence in my skin. Man's whole life is intelligence.
When the baby cries because it has dirtied its diaper, it is so someone will come and clean it and put on a nice diaper. Do you call that morals? Has the baby grown up to understand what we mean by morals? It is not morals, it is intelligence.
We seem to categorize intelligent life, saying this way is moral and this other way is rational. You cannot make that kind of separation and be correct. If it is good moral thinking, it is also rational.
Freedom should be "freedom of the dome." This is the "free dome" on top of the house, on top of the temple. The President sits in the Oval Room, a big dome. Churches and Mosques like to have in their designs big domes. It all started with the head, the brain.
An open area is really a reference to the sky. Country dwellers, when they wake up in the morning, don't look at buildings and all of this that obstructs the view. They look at open land, and it seems as if the sky is coming down and touching the earth like it is one big dome over the earth.
That is the freedom we want, the freedom to engage the total environment with our brains. All of us won't be interested to do that. But those who will be interested, we want them to do that.
We want philosophers in modern times; they shouldn't just be a thing of the past. We want philosophers who will engage creation with their intelligence, with their hearts. The heart is intelligence.
Nat King Cole sung a song once titled "My Foolish Heart." For there to be a foolish heart, there also must be an intelligent heart or he wouldn't have used that kind of language. We want intelligence and to take pride in intelligence. We want freedom in our intelligence.
You can lock my body up in a cell for some reason, justified or not, but if I have an active mind, my mind will be free. And I will make a lot of progress for my life while physically confined. Maybe, it will be a year or two or 10 to 20 years in confinement. Still, I will come out with a plan to build a wonderful life for myself, using my intelligence when my body was confined. My intelligence was free.
The idea of freedom that we have today, I would say, is a reaction to bad experiences or reaction to denials. "Oh, the United States used to hold us back. They aren't going to hold me back anymore. I am free now!"
So you are free to play music so loud, it hurts my ears, punishes my ears and with about 10 years of it, I won't be able to hear. But I am free, and I can turn this box up as loud as it will go and pull up beside you and give you some, too. They will pull up beside you in the street and shake your car with their volume. You are free to do that.
You are free to be vulgar, to be rude, disrespectful in your home, to disrespect family members - your mother, your father - this is freedom? No. That is not freedom. It is only freedom for the ignorant interest, not for the intelligent interest. Real freedom starts with the freedom for the intelligent interest not for the ignorant interest.
I hope we will be able to come back to what is real freedom. This is freedom in Islam and also for Bible people. We have the same freedom given to us by The One G-d, Who revealed the Scriptures to the Prophets. The Christians have it as the Bible, and we have it as our Qur'an, the Holy Books.
Don't think that I am telling you something about Islamic freedom that is not
also true of freedom for the people who follow the Bible.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS presented by Imam Shaheed Abdul Ghani, Imam Darnell Karim and Imam Elam Muhammad
Q: What is the greatest hold back today to keep us from enjoying our freedoms, the freedom of mind or whatever?
IWDM: The greatest hold back is the separation from progressive life, the loss of our best traditions. That is the greatest hold back. We have lost our best traditions.
Our leaders, before the Emancipation Proclamation, were leading their people to have an appreciation for human life and to not tolerate a life subhuman or the life of a slave under a people that claimed human superiority over Blacks.
That was the beginning of our freedom. Our leaders, males and females, our thinking people who proved to be very helpful and got recognition from their own people in the bad circumstances became the mouthpiece for those people.
They were trying to address us to give us a stronger spirit for declaring our right to be treated as other human beings are treated - Whites or anybody else.
That tradition was taken over by the church in time and became the place for those discussions. The text of the preacher would have teachings and words that would influence the members of that subjected, controlled society, to get a better sense of worth as a person and to build on that, so their spirit to demand change and better would grow.
So from the slaves and church leadership, from DuBois and the political leadership we would progress. These leaders were doing the same thing: Addressing the need for us to appreciate the great beautiful life that we call human life and put pressure on a society that was denying us to express that
After DuBois came other movements. In education, we had Carter G. Woodson, and he was saying the way we were perceiving our own life was influenced by those who were denying us our life. And that we should come to see our life with our own eyes and our own intelligence and take responsibility for writing our own history.
When we look at our life in the past and how that life was advanced from slavery to today, we see a continuous effort to better the human condition of Black people in society and also at home.
That is our real lifeline and that is the real lifeline of a people. So to forget that, if we lose that life - we are supposed to give it to our children, like the ones living on the farms and plantations gave it to their children. They didn't leave their children without that understanding; they gave their children that understanding.
DuBois said that we will progress in the measure we are willing to teach our children to think. He didn't mean to just think anything. He meant to think progress for the human life of the Black people.
This is what we are missing more today than any other thing. We are missing the traditional life. We are missing the progressive life. We have forgotten about it and have been separated from it, so we feel no consciousness to conform to something that is truly ours.
Our history and our life is ours; it is nobody else's. So we don't have that consciousness anymore. So every influence in the air can reach us, even the bad influence that can take us away from having a good human condition into giving us bad human conditions.
Q: The expression in the Qur'an - I will give a few words of it: "Enter into Islam all the way...." Can you elaborate on that?
IWDM: Yes. Actually this comes from the root word for Peace. It is saying enter into the state or condition for Peace with your whole life. Don't just enter with your individual soul; enter with your family and your community.
Your life extends. You are not living separate. Your life is not separated from your family and your community. Your life belongs to them. So to enter into Peace completely, don't leave out your interest in your family and in your community. You won't be satisfied, until all of this is at Peace.
First, it starts with the individual. You don't want Peace just for your spiritual side. A lot of people think that you shouldn't expect Peace in this world, except for your soul.
So what about the Peace for my interest in being able to support myself and my family without begging somebody or being on welfare or public assistance?
Every aspect of the human life wants Peace. That is what Allah is telling us in the Qur'an.
Q: There are many misconceptions about Islam in the media that give a negative image. What is your position on the media and how do you feel that, as Muslims, we can correct this?
IWDM: First of all, Islam is to be expressed in community life. Life needs opportunity for expression. And there is no better opportunity for expressing human life than the community setting.
So I think if Muslims will just come into that spirit and know where they are to focus their life - in community - in time, we will make more and more contributions to our community picture.
The picture of the African American and the Muslim community will get better and better. It will improve more and more.
When the south suburban newspapers learn from us that we are planning our life in the suburbs, that we intend to have businesses here and homes in the suburbs and build homes here, they came to us.
The newspapers came to me and others and were very excited about that. What they gave us in their report was very favorable; it was impressive and good.
We can go and talk to them about ideology and all that, but until we grow our life form in community setting, they are not going to have too much to say about us.
Q: I have a quote from the Bible on John the Baptist who baptized Jesus, that says the heavens open up to him and the Spirit came down to him like a dove. Can you explain that?
IWDM: I recall reading that in the Bible. John the Baptist, as I understand it, symbolizes one who wanted to awaken and arouse the senses in the person. And Jesus, according to John the Baptist, was really too high in his mind, in his opinion of the person Christ.
It wasn't comfortable for John the Baptist to baptize Jesus, but Jesus requested it. And he had to baptize Jesus. So I think the Scripture is just saying that when Jesus' human sensitivities were called upon to awaken or respond, that his sensitivities were not down here on earth with us. They were in the heavens.
The symbol for his sensitivities was the dove. Jesus was a Messenger of Peace. The dove is used to carry messages; it is the messenger bird.
Q: We often speak about Muslims, Christians and Jews in terms of us having connections with others. How do people of faith find common grounds with each other - in their faiths? And what do we need to do to find Scriptural connections with each other?
IWDM: First, we need to study - if we are going to live together, and we are we are not going to have a planet where we can go to just for Muslims. G-d has put us together, and we have to live with one another.
The first thing for us to do is to study what is responsible for my life. Study what governs my life. For us, it is the Qur'an and Muhammed the Prophet. For the Christians, it is the Bible, mostly the New Testament and Christ Jesus.
We Muslims, who want to have dialogue and a working relationship with Christians or Jews, should feel obligated to study or read what governs their life. Read and study it with respect, not with prejudices.
Some of us are not prepared to do that, so they should not head up such an effort. If they have an interest, they should follow those who head up such an interest who are free and not restrained by envy or jealousy or dislike for Christians or any kind of negative thing. Those are the ones to head up such an effort.
And it is the same thing from the side of the Christians and Jews. When they want to dialogue with one another and with us as Muslims, we should make sure that there is at least a welcome by all parties for one another and also for what governs their life.
Then be honest and open. Our acquaintance should grow stronger. How does an acquaintance grow stronger for anybody, for a friend? It grows stronger, when you ^ experience living with each 1 other or dealing with each i other. The acquaintance t should grow stronger.
At first, it will be just talking about similarities for s faith. That we believe in the Same G-d, that we believe in t the Scriptures, that we believe in the Angels and all of these similarities. We should start with just Faith.
But at some time, our embracing each other upon our common Faith in G-d should progress to our aspirations: What do you want in this neighborhood, and what do you want in these United States? Do we want similar things for ourselves and our children?
Then begin to address our aspirations. What do Christians want? What is the Christian life in America? What do the Jews want? What do the Muslims want? We are the newcomer, so we have to tell them what we want.
Lastly, we have to be willing to tell them that our Scripture takes issues with Christians and Jews. We have some issues.
"We want to have a good feeling being your neighbor. But we can't have that good feeling being your neighbor, without disclosing to you things that will not make you happy with us."
But it is necessary for these things to come out, and you will have a better chance for better relations. If a husband and wife keep secrets from each other and reveal nothing but those things they know each other is going to love, some situation or some event is going to bring out what they are hiding one day.
Now they not only have what they were hiding working against them, in being comfortable with one another, they now also have deceit working against them being comfortable with one another.
Q: You mentioned Carter G. Woodson, when you were talking about freedom. In the book that he wrote, "Miseducation of the Negro," he mentions that the only person dedicated to go to the church would be the ones looking for money, to line their pockets.
Would that statement keep those who wanted to help and to be educated not to go to the church, or how do you think that statement fits in, as Woodson was trying to bring the people up intellectually?
IWDM: I can't agree with that opinion. I know there are many people, who will see an opportunity to make a comfortable life financially or materially, if they step into the role of a preacher or as leader of a church. I am sure a lot of them have been attracted to become leaders in the church for that reason.
But I know the better church leaders, who have kept the church alive for all of these many generations, were not going into the church because of the money they could get. They were going there so they could serve humanity under G-d. That is what I believe.
A lot of them are very intelligent, educated and graduated from colleges and universities and went to divinity school to get their divinity qualifications. While I can't agree with that, I can understand that expression and I don't take offense at it.
RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES MISSING
Why? It is because especially today, we have too many people claiming to be interested in telling us all about G-d and how to get ourselves ready to meet G-d, but their lifestyle is that of one who hustles the ignorant people, the ignorant masses. Their religious principles are not there.
The real principles of a religious person or religious leader, we don't see them shining in them. They are not illuminated by virtues and decency and honesty and truth. We don't see that when we look at them.
We see show business and money collected at the end of the show. I can understand that kind of criticism.
We hate to knock anybody, but we know that from Islam and Christianity, we find a good percentage of the leaders uneducated and not established for their intelligence. There is a problem there.
SEPARATED from LIFELINE
Q: Is this part of the hindrance of African Americans achieving their goal of freedom?
IWDM: Yes, I do believe that. In the early history, when we had leaders making great contributions to the betterment of African Americans, they sought to be educated and did the best they could to get more education.
That motive is not that popular now. I think you are correct; it has a lot to do with the deteriorating community life and moral life and spirituality of our people.
Thank you for your comments and questions. They have been very helpful for this presentation. I would like to take this time to address this life that has gotten separated, cut off from the lifeline of our people.
When I say lifeline of our people, I am talking about the best traditions and best performance we have in our time that we have been in America as a people.
I am addressing that absence of conscious as to what that did for us, to bring us to where we are today as a free people in these United States.
I would like to make a strong appeal to our people at home, to the parents: Uphold decency. Stand up for decency. Don't let yourself be so burdened at home with the work you have to do to get ready for work, to keep the home the, way you want to keep it. Don't let two jobs burden you so much, that you cant have a word about decency, when it is necessary.
When you see your children, your house getting nasty, speak out against it. When you see the behavior of persons in the family getting nasty, speak out against it. Even if it means being hated by the household, speak out against it.
Real friendship is standing up for what is good for a per-son, not ignoring what is bad for the person and seeing them going to hell or to the garbage can and not trying to stop it.
(This begins the Nov. 5, 2006, text of Imam Mohammed's First Sunday Worldwide Radio Broad-cast)
As we read in our Holy Book of Scriptures, "Without G-d's Guidance, there is no guidance." If all we have is ourselves, it will count for nothing in the end. Only G-d's Guidance will take us safely to the end.
PARABLE of the PLANT
We are told that a parable of human creation is the parable of the creation of a plant. We know that plant life normally begins in the dark and eventually grows in size from a seed and breaks the crust of the earth on top of it and shows itself to us.
That is one likeness. That both the plant and human seed grow out of our sight, away from our observation; we can't see what is happening.
But in time, the growth increases to show us that a child is growing inside the mother. Eventually, in nine months normally, it presents itself- it, shows itself to us.
That is one comparison, But the comparisons get a little more difficult for us to readily grasp, for there are many, many of them. The child comes and crawls about on fours, like an animal. But eventually and not too long, the child makes the effort to stand up straight.
The child manages to stand up straight, and that is another comparison. The plant does not present itself as standing up straight, firstly. The plant is growing roots in the ground and the roots are going down, not up.
If it has more than one root, some roots will be growing out and some will be going down to anchor or stabilize the tree, so that it is firm and balanced. But in time, the plant shows itself growing up straight. And the little child comes and is standing up straight now, up on his feet.
When they stand, they grow in a definite symmetry, they grow in a definite pattern and make a picture. They obtain the balance; the same that is on the left side seems to be on the right side.
It is the same for the plant. Its growth on one side looks exactly like its growth on the other side. It may differ somewhat, and if it does, it knows how to adjust its balance.
If a large limb grows out from a tree, the other side will grow enough weight on one side to balance out the abnormal side. Normally, the tree will look the same, on both sides, all around. That is how we humans are, too.
In picture, in our physical symmetry, we are balanced; what is on the left side seems to be the same as on the right side. It may be slightly different, because we spend more energy with our conscious mind and thought.
If the doctor examines us, he will find that the right side is slightly bigger than the left side. It is because we are concentrating so much energy and thought on that side.
Normally, we are right handed and are using the right side more. Some people even tend to chew on the right side more than on the left.
These things throw off the symmetry a little bit, but not enough to be detected by the average person with average eyes. But I guess we are human and should have a little defect, for us to have a true picture!
EVERYTHING HAS ITS SEED
Life begins with the seed; everything has its seed. The seed is put away from our eyes, out of sight, away from observation. The seed is placed hopefully in a quiet and peaceful place, wrapped up, covered away from the sunlight.
There it grows in peace. There is a song that says, "I woke up and the sunlight hurt my eyes. But then I looked at you, and the world was alright with me." That "you" can be anyone, but one thing for certain, that person must have truth. Sometimes the light hides the truth.
Our light in the house, our light in our own minds, our limited light sometimes hides the truth. And we have to see the truth in order to bear the light. "I can make it in this light; it's alright."
A plant is a noun, the name of a thing. When we think of the plant, we see life - plant life. As a noun, also a plant could be an establishment. The seed is put in the ground for cultivation or to grow, and it has to be given proper care like the human child.
The job just begins when you get the child from the mother, just like you get the seed that has shown itself above the surface of the ground.
Now the work begins for the farmer. He has to make sure that weeds don't crowd it out. He has to make sure that it gets proper water.
The same we have to do for the baby, and there are many comparisons, as we go on to talk about the plant being a parable for human creation. There are many similarities to be observed. We will observe only a few.