With the Name of G’d, the Merciful Benefactor, the Merciful Redeemer
The praise and thanks belongs to G’d, the Guardian, Evolver, Cherisher and Sustainer of the Systems of Knowledge. And the Prayers and Peace of G’d be upon Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions and all of those who follow them in excellence until the Day of Judgment then what follows.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of the Imam and teacher of hundreds of thousands of American Muslims primarily of African descent, Warith Deen Mohammed (RH).
Since his passing, I’ve been asked by Muslims and people of other faiths as to who is or will be his successor. As of today, there is no one person who is his successor in leading his following, many who were former followers of his father the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. Imam Mohammed (RH) surely did not appoint a successor, nor was it necessary for him to have done so. However, the confusion, which has ensued since his passing does summon the need for a clear leader, but not on the same level as he.
After the Imam’s passing, drama started to brew between his widow and her family and some of the Imam’s children, which has spilled over into the courts. Also, the Imam’s business venture known as CPC is now also embroiled in some legal issues with some of the principled investors launching allegations at Rafah Muhammad, who took over the management of the company after the Imam’s passing. These issues, although troubling, are the least of the issues that I believe summon immediate attention.
I have a saying that a body without a head is dead, and this affiliation of Muslims is currently headless. Some discuss the Imam (RH) as if he is still alive, which he is not save the life in the grave. As the Imam (RH) used to say, “A spirit without a body is a spook”, and a community needs leadership in a man, not just a spirit. Many, however, correctly state that the Imam (RH) did not mean for his following to have an broad organization such as the defunct American Society of Muslims in which author Mustafa El-Amin unsuccessfully attempted to lead after the Imam resigned from it. The Imam (RH) clearly wanted to decentralize his leadership in an attempt to break up the power-plays and the blockage of access to him that some of the Imams were exercising over community members. However, Imam Mohammed (RH), and more importantly the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s teachings instruct, dare I say mandate, the need for leadership within every group (jama’ah) and council/gathering (majlis). And the leading body must have an Imam.
From Musa (AS) leaving his people for 40 nights and appointing Harun (AS) to be leader in his absence to the appointment of Abu Bakr (RA) by a council after the death of the Prophet (SAAS), there are clear signs that there must be a leader to represent the interests of any group.
The Prophet (SAAS) clearly stated the following:
“When 3 persons set out on a journey, one of them should be appointed as the leader.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)
“One who dies without having bound himself by an oath of allegiance [to an Imam] will die the death of one belonging to the days of ignorance (Al-Jahiliyyah).” (Sahih Muslim)
“Whosoever dies and does not know his Imam, he dies the death of the days of ignorance (Al-Jahiliyyah).” (Musnad Ahmad)
When I speak of the need for clear leadership, I’m not speaking of a charismatic leader or even a teacher as Imam Mohammed (RH) was for the community. I don’t believe that anyone would be accepted as such for this following, nor should anyone attempt to present himself as such a leader as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and Imam WD Mohammed (RH) were for this historical community. The need for leadership resides in two primary concerns in my view:
1) The need for a representative body with a clear head with governments and interfaith/civic organizations.
2) The need to both increase Islamic literacy especially among the Imams while preserving history and community sensitivities.
As it relates to a representative body with a legitimate leader, there frankly is not one at this time. The Mosque Cares clearly was not established to be such a body for the community when Imam Mohammed (RH) resigned from the American Society of Muslims. The Mosque Cares was the Imam’s charitable organization, and WD Ministry was his arm to distribute his books, CD’s, DVD’s and arrange for his speaking engagements. The Mosque Cares’ legitimacy rested in the body of knowledge and the charisma of the Imam (RH) himself. In other words, its’ primary legitimacy was the Imam (RH), who is no longer alive.
Currently, there is a council of Imams that have had two meetings thus far in Kentucky to discuss community issues. The problem with this body itself is that the Imam (RH) had little confidence in these same Imams, whom he stated on numerous occasions were holding the community back and were working against his interests. In fact when the Imam (RH) resigned from the American Society of Muslims to his last interview given to Islamica Magazine shortly before his (RH) passing, he (RH) stated that no less than 80% of these Imams are not educationally qualified to carry the title, for most of them cannot even read the Qur’an. Thus, there is a clear legitimacy issue with this body to represent the community interests as Islamic leaders with the Obama administration, governments of Muslim countries or international and national interfaith and civic organizations from the Vatican to the NAACP.
As it relates to how governmental bodies or organizations do outreach, they deal with actually recognized entities not loose bodies like an Imams council that has no 501©3 or legal status. The Mosque Cares does not serve as such a legitimate body in the absence of the Imam (RH), and the Imams council, which lacks legitimacy in the minds of many community members, is not a formal, authoritative body. Thus for instance, the Obama administration has a current issue with who to reach out to as a representative legally functioning organization that represents the interests of American Muslims of African ancestry.
Going back to the need for increasing Islamic literacy while preserving history and community sensitivities, this must be done in a structured manner. Believers are not to be haphazard in any matter based upon the teaching of the Prophet (SAAS) that “Surely G’d loves that when you endeavor upon any task that you seek to perfect it.” (Musnad Abi Ya’la) Hence, there must be an organized effort to increase literacy that we begin to have the majority of our masajid with qualified Imams in the following:
1) Reading the Qur’an (which is only in Arabic) with comprehension, not just recitation.
2) Learning the biography and traditions of the Prophet (SAAS) from the earliest, authentic sources (which happen to also be in Arabic).
3) Learning early Islamic history.
4) Studying the rise and fall of civilizations.
5) Learning the historical evolution of the Nation of Islam and considering Imam Mohammed’s commentaries.
The Imam (RH) again addressed that there was a clear shortage of Islamic knowledge, especially among the Imams who have been giving deficient instruction to their congregations, while seeking to introduce younger Muslims to it through initiatives that sent students to Malaysia then to Syria under the guidance of Shaykh Ahmad Kuftaro An-Naqshabandi (RH).
The need for an organized effort is to introduce in oral and written forms lessons that pass on the history and sensitivities in a preparatory fashion while liaising with the proper school(s) for students to receive traditional Islamic knowledge. The preservation of history and tradition of the community is essential while at the same time not having students go on their own without guidance from the community. Moreover, students that go it alone may pick up influences that are counterproductive for establishing model community life in America and/or pick up extreme teachings.
There are various discussions going on within the community right now. Some of these concerns were just discussed at the recent Mosque Cares conference. With the permission of G’d, there will be some movement on the 2 issues stated above.
May G’d forgive me regarding anything incorrect in this discourse, and may He forgive you. And praise be to G’d, the Guardian, Evolver, Cherisher and Sustainer of the Systems of Knowledge.