Excerpt of the December 5, 1997 Interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed
Q. What is your vision and concerns for the building of the community?
IWDM: First, building a community is an obligation on all Muslims and believers who live in Muslim lands or in non-Muslim lands. I think having excellent models of community life in a predominantly non-Muslim society is a more conscious demand for us than for citizens of Muslim lands. It is imperative. It is not something we can say "yes" or "maybe" about. It is "yes," period. We must do this, if we are to fulfill our obligations as Muslims under both the Qur'an - the word of G'd, and the leadership of Muhammed (PBUH) - the Messenger of G'd. I believe that G'd has given us the community to focus our efforts, be they private, family or other. It is in man's nature to live and achieve in the community. G'd has given him an industrious spirit and nature to want to work and achieve community establishments. The full picture of that establishment is a community where responsibilities, benefits and opportunities are shared. Man is created for his share of responsibility to G'd for community.
Efforts to have civilized communities started with men going out in the field and facing the rough nature out there in the world, catching the animal, bringing back its meat for the table and its hide, selling what they could not consume to the next community if they could. After a while the income from their industrious labor and spirit would give them enough money (or good to barter) that they would not need to sleep in a tree, or on the ground, or in a hole in the mountain. They had the time to build a house and make progress. Pretty soon they would have a river boat, or a horse for transportation. I believe for that reason, man is described by some great teachers of Al-Islam and non-Muslims as being a creature who is plural and singular in the same time. He is singular in himself, but he is plural in the possibilities that G'd has made for him. He is plural in the spirit that G'd has given him . He can't live to himself -alone in his mind or spirit. In that sense, he is a temple within himself that has not one person's interest in it, but has the interest of many in it. He is plural, not in terms of psychology (that means you have a mental problem). Man is plural in terms of his interests and concerns. Therefore, he takes in his family, loved ones and his friends. He takes in the people and his country, and all those interests dear to his heart are now within his mind and spirit. He lives with them as a plural and complex social organism. He is living the life of one person, and at the same time living the interest of more than one person. This the way. G'd created us. When we can express this in the living environment, we are more content and free.
People who are dull and wondering why they are dull spirited, many times it is because they are not motivated to share the responsibility for more persons than themselves. Muslims want to see their brother's life and his family in a state of excellence. All of that is necessary for the fulfillment of our spirit, and our soul's needs won't be fulfilled unless we have that. Community is the focus for us, and what I see as the most important thing to start with in building a community is the establishment of a nucleus. A Muslim community is established to accommodate the lives of people who believe and worship G'd. Every community will have a house of worship (or many). Communities are built to accommodate the needs of the family. The first need outside of the home is to have a school to educate our children. Then the community wants to have a township, ordinances, rules and regulations. After a while you will have many jobs and somebody regulating the town, which means government. This is the traditional pattern. The first step in our plan is to have a place of worship where we can worship and conduct the Friday Jumuah (congregational) service. The next step in our plan is to have the people employed, earning an income to support the other segments of the plan. Therefore, in this nucleus is worship, education and economic achievement. This is the first three.
We already live in a civilized society. We have the township or city, country and state services. As we develop in the three areas of the nucleus and feel comfortable, then we should also want to begin sharing the responsibility for the township and its conditions. This includes examining the benefits going to citizens from the government. Asking, is it an encumbering government? Is this too much to ask of government, or should we ask for more? All of this should not be just the concerns of non-Muslims. It is the concern of all the citizens. Muslims should take it upon themselves and become a part of the efforts to have the best environment possible for the citizens of the town or area. Muslims should share in that responsibility, when they are able to free themselves up enough to have the masjid (mosques), schools and employment to support their assets or investments. That is the plan in order of priority or interest. In my opinion, when it comes to making the plan materialize, the steps to success are not always a fixed approach. They say: "Build a masjid first"; we can have a masjid in rented facilities, in our homes, depending on how large the local following. This means we should study the situation and address how best we can realize the establishment of this nucleus - a place to worship, a private school for our children, and especially support for our men, so that they can have business establishments and employment.
Which one then is the best to start the process? Again, in my opinion, when it comes to implementing this in society, we have to begin increasing the income of the community, if it is deficient. It is more practical when we are terribly deficient in income to first address that need. While this is being realized we will be worshipping in a rented facility, or at home, or on a piece of land. Therefore, the second effort is to provide decent facilities for the daily and the Friday Jumuah prayers. All of that is in the mind first, but maybe they don't realize it according to their preconceived notions. Sometimes the last thing is what we should first do in order to best accommodate the first thing. For instance, when a group effort is terribly deficient financially, it is best to address that issue first and try to create situations to bring in income. And once you have the income, then you can come back to first principles and cause them to materialize. Again the vision is for a nucleus where Muslim families will be living in close proximity with a masjid facility that also houses a school, or two different facilities. That is number one, along with the creation of businesses. In the nucleus they must all come together at the same time. The building of facilities should include the building of economy housing for the low income residents and decent homes for the leadership (more economically developed).