I’m in Oxford, England this week with the Elijah Interfaith board of World Religious Leaders focusing on the theme ‘Friendships Across Religions’. This Board of 60 includes archbishops, cardinals, swamis, chief rabbis, sheiks, monks, nuns, grand muftis, and even the Dalai Lama.
I’m here among this august crowd because of my hero, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, whose work and wisdom earned him this board seat that I have humbly occupied since his death in 2008.
Thirty-seven years ago, Imam Mohammed awakened my life and the lives of hundreds of thousands to the depth, broadness, practicality and spirituality of the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammed, the Muslim life in particular, and religious life in general. With God’s help and guidance, he single-handedly dismantled the secretive, separatist and peculiar self-help organization founded and led for 42 years by his father, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. Imam Mohammed transformed the “Nation of Islam” into an authentic Islamic community of God-conscious Muslims with regardful of their global and American identities. He said, “The future of Muslim Americans will be well-served when we serve the best interests of humanity. We must work for a productive mind that will enter and affect a change of soul, not just for one people, but for the benefit of all people.”
Imam spent countless hours introducing and inducting Muslims into spirit and practice through interfaith work and friendships. Imam Mohammed would often say, “stop trying to get together as Muslims, Christians and Jews. Trust, respect, and appreciate our common essence and get together as believers and true human beings.”
I studied under Imam Mohammed for 33 years. I assisted him in his work with such dignitaries as four U.S. Presidents, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, kings, governors, mayors and multitudes of ordinary people. He was always the same: humble, reflective, insightful, humorous, wise, God-conscious, and regardful of both the individual and collective soul.
Several months before his passing in 2008, he asked me to represent him at the Elijah Interfaith Board Meeting in Amristar, India hosted by the Dalai Lama. I asked him was there any particular message which he wanted me to deliver. He said, “Yes, tell them that our differences are a strategy from God.”
by Imam Plemon T. El-amin