THE BURDEN OF SISYPHUS
THE BURDEN OF SISYPHUS
By Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Editor's note: The following are excerpts from Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad's address at the Radisson Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City, Mo., June 23, 1979.)
With the Name Allah (In the Name of God), the Gracious, the Compassionate.
All praise is due to Almighty God, the guardian evolver and sustainer of all the worlds. The blessings and peace be upon Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah to us all.
0 Allah, guide us, forgive us our faults, and grant us the blessings of faith. I bear witness there is not deity except Allah, and I bear witness Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger. Peace be upon him, his descendants, his companions, the righteous servants, all of them, and upon us in America and throughout the world:
Dear people, as you know, I am a man who follows scripture. I am a man who believes in following the guidance of God. I am a Muslim, and we Muslims understand that even a Christian can be Muslim, a Jew can be a Muslim. In fact, when we follow God in our hearts, in our minds when we yield our will to Almighty God in the Muslim's language we all are "Muslim."
So I am happy to see all of you Muslims out here tonight. Now if you don't mind, I want to take the time to take this off my neck and put it close to my heart.
I would like to begin my talk today with comments on the Bible, the Old Testament, concerning a fast of a certain prophet. And the fast of this prophet was a fast to see a yoke taken off the human being the band of slavery, denial, to be taken off the human being.
I have read that in the Bible and I have associated it or connected_ it with the Quran's teachings, too the Quran concerning Prophet Muhammad and his mission. And I have here the Quran open and I want to read this translation by Maulana Yusuf Ali. His English reads:
"Those who follow the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own scriptures, in the laws, and the gospel. But he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil. He allows them as lawful, all that is good and pure, and prohibits what is bad and impure. He relieves them from their heavy burdens and from the yoke that are upon them. So it is those who believe in Him, that honor Him, follow the light which is sent down with Him, it is they who will prosper.-
I read this verse from the Quran and God speaks the truth. I read this verse from the Quran so that we can see that the hope of humanity is one. The real hope of humanity is one and our hope is for peace, and peace to us means freedom from the things that frustrate life, that corrupt and burden life and frustrate good human essence.
Muslims and Christians are closer to each other than we know. The Crusades and the ugly propaganda that came with the Crusades, until today, have really separated us and put us farther apart than we actually are. Today, I see with the rise of the new enthusiasm among Muslims for the true propagation of the faith of Al-Islam, and with the enthusiasm that I've seen among Christians and Jews a new, healthy spirit of faith that brings people together, respecting their common concern and playing down their petty differences.
I see in the universal rise, respect for the old fundamental teachings of religion. I see Muslims and Christians coming together. I see Muslims, Christians and Jews coming closer together. There are Muslim representatives of the Islamic world in Arabia and in many other of the great Islamic centers who are working with representatives of Christian society and Jewish society to make this coming together easier for the people of the faith. So we are living in a very fortunate time, dear people. and we are going to be helping each other.
When people come together to solve problems that are problems for them as one world community, they benefit tremendously because much of the mystery that's in our own homes is understood by people outside our homes. And I have truly come to believe that contacts between the people of the great religions are going to bring about a better understanding even in their own home.
That is, Christians will come to understand their Christianity better, Muslims will come to understand their Al-Islam better, and Jews will come to understand their Torah better when we all come closer together following the spirit that says humanity is one. We must battle the common enemies of human life together in order for us to survive and make progress in this world.
Dear people, I brought out here with me tonight a Photostat copy of cartoons that appeared in a Durham, North Carolina publication.
The cartoon shows the President of the United States carrying a Sisyphus rock on his back. I didn't particularly like it because he is responsible for a lot more (good) than the "inactivity" some of us see in the leadership of the United States of America. He has been responsible, I think, for the regeneration of moral conscience in the world; also, the moral action he has taken since he has been in office (helps) to get the society back in the right frame of mind.
Now, many of us might not know what the Sisyphus rock is. Well, a writer who won a Nobel Prize wrote a book on the struggle of the human spirit, the human soul, and one chapter is devoted to Sisyphus. At the ending of the story, a man who was a king was punished for some wrong that he had done, and his punishment was to carry a huge rock from the bottom of the hill to the top and he would do this over and over again. He would get the rock up to the top of the hill and the moment he would place it down, 'the rock would begin rolling again. It was a round rock; it began rolling down the hill again and he would go chasing it and catch it and start up again.
So he was doomed eternally to this day to taking the rock up, struggling with it, getting it to the top of the mountain, and once he placed it down, because it was a round rock, it rolled back down the hill.
We don't like this but for many of us, in fact, life has been like this for the world because the masses of people have been carrying a Sisyphus rock. By Sisyphus rock, I mean something that is not logically structured.
I think that no book, no scripture shows more clearly what this particular task is for the human family than the clear Quranic teaching that tells man that the soul of the human being has been made in the most excellent mold. The human being has been created for the most 'noble achievement, the greatest amount of freedom and achievement.
"And he exceeds who attends to the needs of the soul, but those who ignore the needs of the soul, they fail, they fail."
God says that He has made us in the most excellent mold, but by the consequence of our own ignorance and our own weaknesses, we are reduced to the lowest of the low.
In the story of Sisyphus, the rock gets heavier and heavier as he climbs and climbs the hill. The cartoon is showing the story and the rock that he struggles with up the hill got larger and larger to show how it got heavier and heavier.
I don't know if you are following me or understanding what I am saying, but most of us don't live by logical principles: most of us live by sentiments, by emotions, by sentimental drives, by emotional drives that's what characterizes our lives, that's what sets the pattern of our lives.
So we go out of the house looking for something, driven by some sentiments, driven by some emotions. Others go out of the house driven by some logical set of principles, and that's the difference between the masses and those people who succeed in life. Most of us are carrying a Sisyphus burden and a few of us know what life is all about.
Dear people, I don't like that our President has been described as a person who follows emotions, who has an illogical program. He does not have an illogical program: it is the duty of the leaders in the society to explain to others the President's program.
But our society has been made argumentative like the rebellious followers of Moses who couldn't get into the Promised Land because they loved to argue. because they were filled with symbolism and mystery, and couldn't see the light of day and wouldn't trust their leader who knew where he was going. Now many of us have become like that. We would rather condemn than to say "Amen."
Dear people, when a society becomes so given to the spirit of argument and they can't hear truth from listening for weaknesses and defects, the society is almost dead. In terms of getting out of our problems, we can't go anywhere when we are just listening for the purpose of criticizing or attacking. That's what has been done to our concept of freedom.
Our concept of freedom has been made a burden on us. We think freedom means to attack a person the moment they open their mouth. We think freedom means to close our ears and not let a word another person is saying in our heart. That's not freedom, that's ignorance.
Allah is the perfect being. Allah is righteous, truthful no imperfections in Allah. Allah is Supreme and Perfect without any imperfections.
O Allah. Make us of those who purify themselves and of those who repent, and guide us in your path. Amen.
Peace be to you
Your brother in service to Allah,
Wallace Deen Muhammad