Twenty-five years after his death, Malcolm X, Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, still towers above the statue of liberty. He refuses to die. Wherever injustice and oppression takes place his smiling face and uncompromising message fills the atmosphere.
Yes, they killed the body but not the spirit. When he was alive, Brother Shabazz was the most feared man in America. And the most loved. The situation hasn’t changed.
For the deprived and the oppressed African-Americans, Brother Shabazz continues to be the hero, the inspiration that makes it possible for them to maintain their sanity and dignity in a vile society which can’t stop despising them.
We, as Muslims, are often angered to see Br. Shabazz identified as a Black Nationalist rather than a Muslim. While the anger is justified, we must understand that people generally emphasize the aspect of a leader’s life which is in harmony with their own aspirations. While some African- Americans will continue to invoke the nationalist side of Br. Shabazz, it is for us to see that his Islamic personality is projected to the world!
The Pilgrimage to Makkah
When he was in Makkah, Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz wrote a letter to his loyal assistants in Harlem… from his heart:
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.
“I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca, I have made my seven circuits around the Ka’ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad, I drank water from the well of the Zam Zam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt. Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat.
“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white – but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.
“You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
“During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.
“We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.
“I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in color.
“With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called ‘Christian’ white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster – the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves.
“Each hour here in the Holy Land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities – he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth – the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.
“Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a white man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed. Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors – honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King – not a Negro.
“All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds.”
Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz” (Malcolm X).
(From the “Autobiography of Malcolm X” with assistance from Alex Haley, the author of Roots)
Malcolm X saw and experienced many positive things. Generosity and openheartedness were qualities which were impressed on him by the welcome which he received in many places. He saw brotherhood and the brotherhood of different races and this led him to disclaim racism and to say:
“I am not a racist… In the past I permitted myself to be used… to make sweeping indictments of all white people, the entire white race, and these generalizations have caused injuries to some whites who perhaps did not deserve to be hurt. Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as the result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true Sunni Muslim. I must repeat that I am not a racist nor do I subscribe to the tenets of racism. I can state in all sincerity that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”
Malcolm X was vehemently anti-White. That’s the way he was taught as a ‘Black Muslim’. But his trip for Hajj changed all of that. He came to see that all men are equal, regardless of their color. True anti-racism is color blindness. That is what he preached on his return to the United States. And that is why he was assassinated. While he preached separatism, keeping people aware of color differences, that was OK. Blacks vs. Whites is an acceptable dialect. But when Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz started to preach the Oneness of God and the equality of races, and was prepared to act in any lawful (halal) means necessary, he had to go: Truth vs. Falsehood is an unacceptable dialect.
Islam believes in the unity of the human race. Islam says that all mankind are the creatures of One God, they are all equal. Division of color, class, race or territory are sheer illusions; and ideologies which are based on such distinctions are the greatest menace on earth. Humanity is one single family of God, there can be no sanction for these barriers. Men are one and not White or Black, Aryan or Non-Aryan, Occidental or Oriental.
Islam is based on the universal brotherhood of man and practices the universal brotherhood of man. But the importance of this concept is of great value as it is the only solution to national and international problems. This is said to be age of freedom and restoring unto every man his dignity and despite all the phenomenal changes in the political stage of the world, our age is still unable to think in terms of human dignity and this is the dark specter of social concern of our time. For, despite man’s conquest of space and mastery over the forces of nature, man has not been able to rid himself of the primeval prejudice of race and color. The stark reality of our time has brought in its trail a great desolation and frustration as we find ourselves face to face with chaos, war, the miserable conditions of living of the masses of mankind and the exploitation of one nation by another. This leads to selfishness, fear, and hatred; class, tribe and race discrimination and subsequently the division of man against man is the order of the day, even in the so-called Socialist countries.
Islam’s greatest contribution to mankind was the abolition and extinction of distinction based on race and color. The Holy Qur’an declared:
“Mankind were one community, then they differed among themselves, so God raised Prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners…” (Al-Qur’an 2:213)
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female; and made you into nations and tribes, that you might get to know one another. The noblest of you, in the sight of God, is he who is the most righteous. God is All-Knowing and Wise.” (Al-Qur’an 49:13)
From the above verses, it is clear that the whole of humanity from its diverse races was originally one, deriving its existence from One Creator, and that all barriers that separate humanity by race and color must vanish and the superiority of a person be judged by his conduct only. A good Muslim considers himself a fusion of all races. Anyone who enters into the fold of Islam becomes part and parcel of this fraternity, forgetting all pride and prejudice. On the basis of this principle, Islam seeks to build an intellectual, moral, ideological and international society, as opposed to the existing tribal, racial, linguistic and national societies, which have turned the world into a racio-color holocaust.
“No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity and endeavor so many and so varied races of mankind. The great Muslim communities of Africa, India and Indonesia, perhaps also the small community in Japan, show that Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of the East and West is to be replaced by co-operation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition.” (H.A.R. Gibb, Whither Islam, p379)
“The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue…” (A.J. Toynbee, Civilization on Trial, New York, pg 205)
“How, for instance can any other appeal stand against that of the Muslim who, in approaching the pagan, says to him, however obscure or degraded he may be ‘Embrace the faith, and you are at once equal and a brother.’ Islam knows no color line.” (S. S. Leeder, Veiled Mysteries of Egypt)
The Legacy of Malcolm X
Malcolm X was born into Christianity as Malcolm Little and died in Islam as Malik Shabazz. This is something to think about and is an expression of his legacy. Malcolm X went through the transition period of the religion of the “Nation of Islam”, a religion of American origin borrowing some terms from the Muslim culture of the East.
It appears that Malik Shabazz went through five stages in his short life. The first stage was his childhood under the shadows of his religious parents. The second stage was his adolescence until his moving out to Harlem, NY. This was a rowdy and irresponsible stage in his life. In Harlem he began the third stage of his life which, eventually landed him in prison. The fourth stage of his life was in the “Nation of Islam” which was not real Islam. In the “Nation of Islam”, on one side, Malcolm was a very disciplined man, on the other side he became a black racist, a separatist and a demagogue. In the fifth and final stage of his youthful life, Malik Shabazz reached the apex which he could only achieve in real Islam, not in the cultist “Nation of Islam”. Malik Shabazz entered the real Islam as a result of his journey to Makkah. In Islam he became moderate and conciliatory. He shed his racism.
The legacy of Malcolm X is the real Islam taught to us by the Prophet Muhammad of Arabia, not the racist cult of the “Nation of Islam”, presently lead by Louis Farrakhan and others who branched out of the old following of Elijah Muhammad. However, Elijah’s son Wallace D. Muhammad, now known as Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, moved away from his father’s religion. He is coming to the real Islam adopted by Malik Shabazz for which Malcolm was assassinated. Malik Shabazz shall be remembered by all Muslims as a martyr for the cause of Allah.