Conversation with Imam W. Deen Mohammed On Shura in the ASM
Conversation with Imam W. Deen Mohammed
On Shura in the ASM
and the Function of a Representative Body
(questions by Imam Earl Abdul-Malik Mohammed)
February 29, 2000
Question: After reflecting on the comments that you made about Shura in the meeting Saturday ( Feb. 26, 2000 ) I has some questions I wanted to ask, the first of which is what you identify as the most important need of the Muslim American Society that you expect the representative body to address?
Answer: The most important need for our community is Islamic knowledge or Islamic education. First, the Imams, I think they should be encouraged to study the religion more, study the Qur'an, get acquainted with the Qur'an and to struggle to try to learn more Qur'anic passages in Arabic so they can recite more in Arabic and understand what they are reciting. And they should meet with the more educated in Islam within our community, the Imams and others who are not Imams, that may not have that title but we know that they are sincere in the religion and are knowledgeable in the religion. Then we should try to find a situation that would include such persons that the Imams can meet them for the purpose of increasing the Islamic knowledge of the Imams.
The schools also, we should look at the schools and make sure that the schools understand that Islamic knowledge and the ability to read Qur'an in Arabic is the number one need within the Muslim community. If you cannot read the Qur'an in Arabic you are missing a whole lot. The schools should be looked at. The Imams and the teachers should all be encouraged to increase their knowledge of Islam beginning with the Qur'an and the ability to learn Qur'anic Arabic and recite and teach with quotations from the Qur'an in Arabic.
Except for the need to study Islam more, the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet, there is the need too for the Imams and the schoolteachers to be aware of Islamic History. So they should have a general idea of what is Islamic History. What has been achieved for Islam for the progress of knowledge in Islam in the world in the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and since the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). And who were the major supporters and contributors to the progress of the correct understanding and picture of Islam. I put it that way because Islamic history is too much for us to try and learn. Unless we are going to become historians, we don't need all of that knowledge. All we need to know is who are the legitimate peacemakers for Islam and the office of Muhammad the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Not war makers, peacemakers.
I could say in one statement. An interest in the knowledge of the teachings of Islam from the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet.
Question: How do you hope that the representative body of the Shura will serve this need?
Answer: One way that I think they can serve it very easily is the use of the Muslim Journal. I think the circulation would increase if there were more attention to the religion of Islam in the Journal. And not just speeches, but attention to the study of the religion of Islam. I am sure there are persons I have named in this group that I have suggested should be at least included in the representative body to facilitate the needs of Shura, or the activities of Shura for our community: among them we have persons who can write articles occasionally or on a regular basis in the Journal addressing this concern and actually offering materials that would help to educate the Imams and schoolteachers in the knowledge and in the study of Islam. That would be the first thing I would suggest. Except for that, we should try to identify the stronger ones in Islamic studies and make sure the weaker ones have access to them. The annual convention should be a sharper focus on what we need most. There should be workshops that would seek to educate Imams and Schoolteachers in the knowledge of Islam with the Arabic language.
Question: How responsible should the representative body be for the content of the activities of the convention?
Answer: Unless the individual member has already been appointed to some role or job in the planning of the convention and the success of the program than I would say that that person just because of the mere fact of being a member of the representative body to facilitate Shura for the community wouldn't be a reason for that person to necessarily have any involvement in the planning of the convention or in the responsibility for the program of the convention itself. They wouldn't have any authority just because they are on the body. That would be separate from that body. But as the representative body of Shura they should as individuals offer their service. But as a body they should just be aware of what is going on. And when they think their input could be good or is needed, they can offer it. And they should offer it directly to the persons that would be appointed or selected to be responsible for the convention. My point is that merely being on that body is no reason for us to think that they would have control or position in the planning of a convention or the success of the program for the convention
Question: What do identify as the failure of the body that existed prior to the restructuring. What was the trouble that prevented them from serving the interest of Shura
Answer: I think the main reason for the failure of that group formed as a Shura for us, the main reason, is that they didn't make that particular need a priority. They continued to have their eyes fastened to matters in the same fashion as it was before as we attempted to have Shura. As for the body I nominated being that they are obviously resourceful persons and forward directed persons, otherwise I wouldn't have even recommended them; it would be expected of them that they call our attention to persons who are responsible and can help the growth of Islam in our community.
We have to look at the local situations in the mosque differently. We Have the Qur'an and the Prophet and that is for all of us. That's why I can't see myself or any Imam or any group of leaders receiving or handling complaints or questions from any local Mosque. The local people have to be responsible for handling questions like a man or woman committed adultery or the Imam is guilty of this or that. Our work will become too encumbered if we try to attend all of these issues. We can't have an investigator keeping track of what is happening in all of the mosques or a captain executing judgments on the people. That won't work in real Islam. So. The people will have to be told that our interest is that everybody knows the Qur'an. And the Imams that claim to be really Imams they have to familiarize themselves with the teachings of the Qur'an. And they are easy answers, they are not hard. A twelve year old student in school can be taught these things and recognize what to do if someone violates the commands or instructions of G'd.
So we are following the old way, wanting problems to be solved by a national office and wanting a particular person, an Imam or a special person to give the final word. That's no good. That won't work. And it never has worked for any growing society. You can't grow and be burdened down like that. And it's just not necessary. Like I said, everybody knows what is right and wrong. Most of these injunctions in the Qur'an addressing bad conduct are no different than any moral or religious order. In a good Christian society you will get a bad name if you violate these laws. So why should they have to come to some high authority to make a judgment? If they are guilty the only thing we want to know is how do you interpret what their punishment should be. Any fool can read the law, but it takes a wise man to apply it.
Question: What general comments would you make about this representative body and its function?
Answer: They are a body serving to keep the community aware of what's going on in the broad community that can help us a lot or hurt us a lot and knowing when it should be made a national concern. And they should never assume that they are an executive body to execute judgments or orders, or that they are a body to control or order the community. They are not. They should not think of themselves to be responsible for something like the national convention. They are not.
Every time we have a national convention, it depends upon where we will have it to determine who will be the host people. If those host people are too weak or need outside help, then it is not only the visible body of leaders that are responsible for that, but it is the best minds and persons in the community for that particular need that are responsible for that. And they should come forward as persons needed to make the convention a success in any city that we would select and give their help. They have to come forward and identify themselves. We have now also a visibility for our professional people. The brainstorming committee and its efforts have identified persons who are available to us.
The youth too. It's very important that we don't forget the youth. The youth need to be encouraged to come into manhood and womanhood and into responsibility for society, beginning with this society, the MAS, the Muslim American Society.
I don't know if all of those persons are going to be accepted that I suggested, I don't know if their numbers will represent the main vehicle and point of expectation or window of expectation. We will be looking in the window that they will provide for us for most of our expectations when we are looking for help for the whole community. Good advice, good counsel, etc. I am not sure of that because this is newly announced and we don't know how many other people may come forward. I don't see as many as 50 being too large a number to be seen as this representative body to facilitate Shura for the whole community. I could easily see 10 to 15 females, and not to mention the males. I could see at least that number of males and more.
Question: The persons you nominated, what combination of things did you see as value in those persons for this function?
Answer: I tried to name persons that would reflect the anatomy, for want of a better description, of the body of our community as a working body. There are some that are like the heart. Some are like the brain in the community. Some are like the feet and legs. Some are like the hands, the right hand. Some are like the eyes. Some are like the tongue. Some are like bones. Some are like flesh.
Its very important to have a body like this registering the important needs of the community, to assist in family life, social work and family counseling. We need legal advice for how to handle issues like properties for the local gathering, ownership, trusts, etc. We need lawyers. We need psychiatrist to advise us how to deal with certain persons we have to work with. We have to work with them because they have so much good ability but we have to take all of this other stuff. So how should we deal with them? We need accountants, people that know about business management. It would be good to have a travel agent. We need a medical doctor. I hope one day in a sizable gathering, a Masjid or Center, there will be a member who is a registered nurse on staff. And we shouldn't seek these kinds of persons based on what we heard their knowledge is or what their formal training is. We should seek them based upon what we know their proven ability is. We need more attention to the sick and widows in our community who have lost their husbands and are alone. They are carrying a lot of burden. So we need more attention to that.
Once this body is put in place and it is accepted by the community, and that's the way it should be accepted. We shouldn't just appoint these people. At the convention or somewhere, a big gathering, we should do a sample and see if there is strong support to give these persons this particular importance, because it is important. They are going to be subject to listen to what is coming from the whole community, all of those different areas. So they have a great importance. And those people who have been given this importance, we should know that the support for them is very strong in the national membership.
This body should be looking to guarantee the community, the largest congregation and the smallest congregation, their interest. They should say we have your interest and you can depend on us serving you by responding to you as we should, and by making known to you things that we think can benefit you. Even serving you to help you bring your best people forward or get help from the nearest center or mosque with persons to answer your need. So that's what we mean by facilitating. A body to facilitate Shura from the smallest issue up to the biggest issue. And most of the issues the local people are qualified to handle. 95% of their concerns won't come up. And if they are not qualified than a good professional group of people or a more educated body of people, they should be looking at the ignorance in the community and coming up with some suggestions so that they won't be ignorant. That's the biggest problem we have is ignorance. The biggest problem we have is ignorance.
Some of the Imams they see their responsibility as the responsibility of a person to make du'a for the gathering and remind them that we are Muslims. He reminds them that we are Muslims and he opens with du'a and he closes with du'a. They believe their whole assignment is just to make sure the people don't go anywhere, that they stay right there in that Masjid. And that's the only assignment he's got. He doesn't want anybody slipping out of the camp. So that's the big job you all have to work on. To educate Imams so that they will feel more useful. If he is not educated enough, if he is not trained enough I mean education from the Book and from the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him. If they are not educated and informed they can't even have the kind of confidence in themselves that they can do more than just stand over people to prevent them from leaving the camp.