Posted Posted on 2008-09-12
Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, who passed away this past Tuesday, in Chicago, Illinois, was not the best known American Muslim of his generation. Unlike his friend Malcolm X (al-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz), he would not become a symbol of black rage with excerpts of his speeches creatively spliced into the songs of contemporary artists who have defined the evolving hip hop movement.
Unlike Muhammad Ali, his refusal to be inducted into the United States Armed Forces, and his resulting three-year prison sentence would pass unnoticed. Such was his life and example of courage, dedication and a stubborn defense of his principles. If one was not a member of his community, one would probably not notice his momentous deeds.
Unlike Minister Louis Farrakhan, he was not a charismatic orator capable of mesmerizing crowds for hours on end. His recordings are not circulated widely among Muslim students on college campuses across this country like those of Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, and others. Perhaps, fittingly, that is not the case, for Imam Muhammad will always be best remembered for what he did, not for what he said.
During the 1950s and 1960s, his father, Elijah Muhammad, ably assisted by Malcolm X, had built the Nation of Islam into a movement that came to epitomize, in the hearts and minds of many urban African Americans, black pride, self-sufficiency, and militancy. However, for white Americans familiar with its teachings, the organization was a mysterious cult-like group that in the name of combating white racism, countered with a menacing brand of black racism, whose signature slogan, “The white man is the devil!” served to place a wedge between the “Black Muslims” and mainstream American society.
Assuming the leadership of that movement in 1975, upon his father’s death, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad worked doggedly to remove that wedge. He introduced his followers to the message of Islam as a universal religion whose ranks include adherents from every race and ethnicity on earth. He initiated reforms that led to members of the organization adopting the traditional Islamic rites of prayer, fasting and pilgrimage while maintaining an emphasis on black pride.
However, for Imam Muhammad, black pride did not mean identifying with cultural relics that have little to do with an American frame of reference. For the Imam, black pride was to be manifested in the moral and academic excellence that constitutes the true basis for the greatness of any people. That message resonated in the hearts of his followers. Today his community boasts accomplished scholars like Dr. Intisar Rabb, who has completed a JD at Yale and is in the process of finishing her Ph.D at Princeton; world-class athletes like Sharif Abdul Raheem, an NBA all star; promising businessmen and women, and multitudes of upright men and women who have been inspired by the Imam’s teachings.
Perhaps the greatest work Imam Muhammad engaged in was his effort at “indigenizing” Islam in America. At a time when many converts to Islam were being led to believe that being Muslim involved dressing like an Arab or a Pakistani, and cultivating a bitter anti-Americanism, Imam Muhammad was encouraging his followers to wear business suits, make a strong commitment to their families, and to embrace America as full participants in her ongoing saga.
His approach in the latter regard was not in the spirit of an uncritical “Uncle Tomism.” Rather it was a realistic acknowledgment of the fact that whether we like it or not this is our country, and true Islamic teachings urge us to acknowledge that fact and to do all we can do to advance the common good. For Imam Muhammad, pursuit of the common good did not mean an abandonment of the right to criticize and dissent, for often the common good can only be attained through dissent in the defense of truth and principle. We should never abandon this position.
Today, we find that forces of obscurantist bigotry are working to place an intractable divide between Islam, Muslims and America. Those of us who are Muslims living in this country must work to keep the mission and message of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad alive. This is indeed our country. We are not Africans, Arabs, or Asians. We are Americans, and we must do everything in our power to advance the common good.
Ina Lillahi wa ina ilayhi raje''oun. Allah yerhham Imam Muhammad.
As-Salaamu Alaykum. I agree with your comments, Imam Zaid. Imam Warith Deen was a visionary. He had a view of being Muslim and American without compromising either one of them. He was unfortunately heavily criticized for this (I admit I was one of them) by many Muslims and Muslim leaders. It was not until post 911 that many Muslim leaders began to hold these views. His encouragement to his community to seek Sacred Knowledge is now producing some of the most dynamic young Muslims in America. People that have a firm foundation in the Islamic sciences and Arabic and also have secured their secular education and financial pursuits. Not to mention his giving shahada to multitudes of people in the 70's. Allah knows best what kind of reward he will receive for that. I was just thinking a few days before he passed that I wanted to meet him. I regret never getting that opportunity. May Allah reward him with the highest station in paradise. Ameen.
Masha'Allah, Imam Zaid, you never cease to inspire me! What an awesome piece!
Well said, May Allah accept his efforts in this dunya, accepts his deeds, use his works as a saqiqah jariyah, may Allah ease his families loss, may Allah keep him in the hearts of all of us whom were influenced by him and his works, peace upon the prophet, his family and the devout followers of this perfect religion he left for us. Ameen Ameen
Being both a member under both father and son I appreciate your comments. You told it like it was and is. Thank-You. What is your stance on greeting belivers "Ramadan Mubarak".
Heya ! I personally like the logic and thinking of the writer. Terrific to observe such aspects talked about on the internet. You need to ought to promote website visitor interaction and dialogue <a href="http://www.magicessays.com/plagiarism_free_term_papers">Plagiarism Free Term Papers</a>. Stick to the great job!
Very good material. Many thanks for your blog post. Merely a recommendation. That's not me advertising Google the slightest bit, but I have noticed that you are not making use of Google Analytics on your site. That is the fantastic way to boost your site and monetize it in a more efficient manner. It really will allow to keep track of visits to check out exactly what particular information is more popular. I endorse it. Another great software package for that goal is PIWIK and it's an open source free package that you install on your own hosting account <a href="http://www.royalessays.com/research_papers">Research Papers</a>
Excellent web page. I like your placing comments system. Apologies for the off-topic posting, however I was very pleased with Djokovic's play in the final of the Aussie OPen this year. The man is just unequalled. He revealed he was as powerful as stainless steel. Simply think about he he can defeat Nadal who was so stimulated to gain as well as really was so pumped up while in the fifth set. I am commencing to think that Djokovic is doing some psychic work to take some forces on his side that help him win this kind of matches against the finest players in the planet <a href="http://www.royalessays.com">click here to buy essays</a>. What's your opinion in relation to Rafa's game?
That's just some very good material written here. I thank you for terrific content. I 'm creating a research paper with regards to nation-wide politics and your site aided a good deal. I am a higher education college student and if you're in a insufficient time I suggest to seek out help with regard to <a href="http://www.my-writing-service.com">Customized Essays</a>. Cheers!
I wish to give thanks to you pertaining to your weblog. You have a considerable amount of helpful stuff therefore the site is valuable. I'm a student in Cal and I have an significant term paper due this month. Now i am caught up as well as have got writers-block for the time being as I am studying. Only need anybody to aid me revise the free article I ran across via the internet <a href="http://www.customessaymeister.com/customessays/Anthropology/3668.htm">body language: cultural or universal? essay</a>. That paper fits my personal requirements but is written in an unsatisfactory style and there are sentence structure blunders. Do you reckon I ought to proceed? Now i'm simply anxious for help, and so just about any tip could be great.