REPRINTED FROM THE MUSLIM JOURNAL
TONY BROWN: Thank you very much for this honor, I want to call it, to have the opportunity to sit down with you and chat. I know based on what I have done in my research, since the attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, you have not given a television interview or a public statement. I know you have issued a printed release. What has compelled you at this time to want to address the Nation and sections of the world in terms of what is going on now?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: My assistant, Earl Abdulmalik Mohammed, and also other top people in my office and in our organization had made me aware that we need to reach the public, because we have our own voice and something that may help the public better understand what’s going on.
TONY BROWN: Right now, as a result of this tragic event, this attack on our country, I understand that many of the best-selling books are on Islam. Americans and people around the world are trying to under-stand it. Students are demanding it.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: The Qur’an is leading the list.
TONY BROWN: The Qur’an is at the top of that list. Students are demanding in universities and schools, in multicultural programs, that a background or explanation of the philosophy of Islam be given to them. Within Islam, there is a debate over the efficacy of what is being said by Osama bin Laden and people like him. Among Christians and Jews and people who are not Muslims, they are trying to understand Islam, in order to understand the motivation primarily for these terrorists.
This will give everyone an opportunity to come to you as someone who is an expert and get a precise explanation. You are the spiritual leader of 2.5 to 3 million African American Muslims.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: That is what I am told.
TONY BROWN That is what I am told as well, and I do know for a fact that you are a person, a man who is greatly respected and some-one whose opinions are strongly sought after. I don’t think there could be a better time in history than to come to you and ask you to help all of us to understand Islam and help us develop an insight into what is happening. From your point of view, what is happening in terms of Osama bin Laden and his version of Islam?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I am not sure that Osama bin Laden has been accepted as the leader of the Islamic community life worldwide or even anywhere in Saudi Arabia. I think that he is not. I would think that the Islamic world is still divided by many schools of thought and also by many personalities – like Osama bin Laden. But definitely, he has captured the attention of the world, because he has been identified as the mastermind behind the horrible thing that was done to our country.
I feel that most of the Muslims of the world are relying upon their local religious leaders for understanding and guidance. And a great number are depending on themselves. They go to their Holy Book privately and depend on their own opinions and minds and thinking. Thank G-d, most of the Muslims don’t accept to have their freedom taken away, even in countries where the freedom is taken way. They go privately to the Word of G-d and they know about Prophet Muhammed. They know his life, and that is what is really ruling in the Islamic world.
You can’t see that, because the powerful Islamic state -the political order or government – is not accepting that the people express them-selves openly and freely.
TONY BROWN: There are based on my research! Something like 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. One writer estimated that about 160 million of this 1.3 billion – which is not that many people compared with 1.3 billion- are pretty much lined up ideologically with Osama bin Laden’s point of view.
Because there are so many Muslims, then one percent of Muslims who do anything is a tremendous number of people. There are non-Muslim now who are saying: “See, a] Muslims are like Osama bi] Laden.” That we know is no true, any more than like a] Christians are like a Christian who goes into the opposite direction. But the impact of Islam as a result of this small fringe of extremists is giving shape to many people’s opinion of Islam.
What I would like for you to help us do is for us to gel a correct understanding of the tenets of Islam. Let us begin, if I may, with violence Osama bin Laden advocates violence. Is this a basic tenet of Islam?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: No Islam is a religion of peace -I peace with G-d and peace) with the creation as G-d made it, keeping the beautiful innocence of the human nature and the beautiful purity of the human nature This is an obligation on Muslims.
Muslims are spiritual people and religious people who want peace for themselves, peace for their fellow man and peace for the world.
TONY BROWN: What about aggression?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Aggression is forbidden in Islam. G-d expressly says in our Holy Book: “Be not aggressors.” Even in cases of war, it says | that if the other side shows a willingness to have peace or a willingness to stop the war, you incline toward them also in like fashion.
TONY BROWN: What about suicide?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Suicide is a great sin in Islam, as it is in Catholicism and most of Christianity. It is one of the major sins.
TONY BROWN: If a person believes in suicide and they believe in the murdering or killing of the innocents, can that person be a Muslim?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Most of the scholars, members of the ulama, religious scholars in Islam condemn such. They say and I say along with them that there is no support anywhere in Islam – in our Holy Book or in the life of our Prophet – for such.
TONY BROWN: What about Jihad, which means holy war?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, it does. We are told that the greatest jihad is when you put your own life on the line, when you sacrifice your life for your cause. Perhaps that is. But we know that our Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, the 7th Century Prophet, said that the greatest jihad is the jihad we have going on in our hearts and souls to conquer evil and bad inclinations and present ourselves peaceful and in good behavior before our G-d. That is the greatest jihad.
Every sincere religious person knows that jihad. Jihad simply means, if literally translated, “struggle.”
TONY BROWN: It is a struggle within?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. Firstly, with yourself to conquer that which is taking you away from the good per-son or behavior that G-d wants for you, according to your Holy Book and according to the Prophet, who showed us how to live our religion. That is the first jihad.
We are obligated also to struggle in the world with our souls. But we are not to struggle in the world with our souls, until we first have our souls conforming to what G-d wants for us. So a per-son who is taken over by violence by bitterness, by hate, by rage, that person is not good for our jihad in the world.
The first jihad in Islam is the struggle within yourself to keep out bad influences, to keep out bad thoughts, so that you remain peaceful, obedient, respecting your fellowman and his life and respecting G-d. Jihad out in the public is to carry that struggle out into the public and be an influence in the public life to conform to what G-d wants.
When you are at war, G-d says struggle with your wealth and with your own souls in the Path of G-d. This is not the path of the world, it is the Path of G-d. So if we let a worldly spirit rule us even when we are at war, we are not fit as Muslim soldiers. The spirit of G-d’s Words should be always prevailing in us over the spirit of the world. So if something causes me to act out of bitterness -hate or injuries caused to me or to my family or to my nation – and to fight in the spirit of bitterness, then I am not fit as a Muslim soldier.
We are told in our Holy Book that we are not to allow the hatred of a people to influence us with bad con-duct or to do wrong and swerve us from doing justice. This is the Word of G-d. This is not me saying it. I am quoting our Holy Book. So that tells us that no matter what the circumstances are in the world, we are still to obey G-d and conduct our-selves in a way that is acceptable in the Presence of G-d.
TONY BROWN: Even when a Muslim has been done wrong by someone else, when a Muslim is angry about his or her own social or economic situation, there is nothing in the Holy Book, the Qur’an, that gives the Muslim the right to be aggressive, to take a life or to take his or her own life? Is that accurate?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. G-d tells us never be the aggressor. But to retaliate and respond to what has troubled you and has made your life miserable or attacks upon your life. Certainly we are authorized and justified in doing that. How-ever, there is a conduct imposed upon us by G-d, no matter what the situation is, even violent physical war. Still we have to conform to what G-d asks of us. And the Prophet taught this to the believers. They were at war and were not the aggressors.
Prophet Muhammed was so peaceful and so much interested in giving the message of Islam to the world, that he took a lot of abuse. Once he was rejected by the people of a mountainous rich area in Saudi Arabia called Taif, and they rejected his message and him very harshly. And as he was leaving that mountain area, it is recording in history by Muslim and Bukhari, who are the two authorities in recording the history of Prophet Muhammed, that blood could be heard in his sandals as he walked away. The Prophet did not try to get an army and come back to destroy that city of Taif.
TONY BROWN: Did they physically attack him?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, they threw stones at him. Most of them were little children throwing the stones and there were some adults.
But his body was bleeding.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, the blood was running down into his sandals and making the swishing sound. He never said, “Now I have a strong army, so let’s go take care of Taif.”
TONY BROWN: Or that they deserved what he was going to do to them?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes.
TONY BROWN: Is there anything in the Qur’an that justifies, no matter what America’s foreign policy is or whether one agrees or dis-agrees with it – and G-d knows, America’s foreign pol-icy has done a lot of bad things. It has done a lot of good things, but also it has done a lot of bad things. No matter what America’s association is with Israel, no matter what America believes, is there any justification according to the Qur’an for the terrorist attack that America suffered on September 11, 2001?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: The answer is no. There is no justification for any Muslim to kill innocent people to get at the guilty ones. You don’t kill the innocent to get to the ones you think are guilty.
TONY BROWN: Among those who are not Muslims, I have read a lot of articles and there is the tendency to take the belief of an Islamic cult or sect and generalize it to the world’s entire population of Muslims. I read an article by one writer who said, “President Bush is trying to convince the world that Muslims are peaceful and a handful of Muslims are doing these things. But what I am seeing now is that there are so many Muslims agreeing with Osama bin Laden, that this must be what Islam basically teaches.” How do you respond to that?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: The developments in the world, presently, not to mention the Crusades that are still in the minds of the Muslim world and not to mention 1947 when they were establishing Israel as a state in what was the home of the Jews and the Palestinians, the things happening now like the problem for the Palestinians and Israelis and Kashmir and India, all of these struggles on the minds of Muslims and espe-cially for Muslim leaders, we can’t just look at what happened on the llth of September and isolate it from all these other things.
What we have is a dam-aged psyche of the Muslim world and of most of the Islamic leaders. When I say damaged psyche, I am sure they won’t agree with me. But when I say damaged psyche, I mean that these troubles in the world that have been used by them in their thinking to say: “This is why we don’t have peace in the world. It is because Christianity fought against us in the Crusades. It is because in colonial days, they imposed their life on us in our countries under a colonial state. And because of what they did in the Middle East to establish Israel over there on us and take Jerusalem as its capital….” All of those things are on their minds.
With these things on their minds, naturally they are becoming more bitter and more bitter, and some are enraged and very destructive and self-destructive as well. So we have to look at the whole picture and see what is the psyche of the Muslim world. When I say Muslim world, I am speaking mainly of the Muslim leaders who influence the Muslim world to their way of thinking.
There are readings in the Qur’an and portions of the Qur’an that address the problems that the Palestinians are having in Israel. But never are we to become the wrongdoers in the Eyes of G-d because we want to get at wrongdoers.
TONY BROWN: So what is wrong with being a wrong-doer? What would happen to a Muslim if a Muslim went against the laws of the Qur’an and wanted to destroy all Jews or wanted to destroy all non-Muslims?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: He would be going against the Qur’an and he would not be a Muslim.
TONY BROWN: So that would make him a non-Muslim?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. You can’t consciously do that and be a Muslim. The Qur’an says that there is an example or a party among the Jews and among the Christians who promote fair dealings and righteousness for mankind. And the same is required of Muslims. G-d says: “Let you be a people promoting fair dealings and righteousness for mankind.” If we say all Jews are to be condemned, we are going against our Holy Book.
Our Holy Book goes even further to say that G-d says: “Whoever is a believer in G-d and in the Last Day and believes in being accountable to G-d, he should have no fear, nor should he grieve. His reward is with G-d, his Lord.”