“I am and always will be a Muslim. My religion is Islam.” – Malcolm X
Every year, on this day, February 21st, I always get reminded of how this extraordinary man had a profound impact on my life. Reading his autobiography and studying his life in college showed me a human being who epitomized the meaning of a true leader. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t curse or swear, and a lot of that was inspired by Malcolm X. To me, his life represents the life-long human learning experience. Unlike our contemporary politicians and so-called “world-leaders,” he was a man who was never afraid of admitting his mistakes. His humility, passion, and perseverance in the face of sheer adversity will always be admirable to me.
His life also shows how people can dramatically change by the Infinite Grace of Allah subhanna wa ta’ala. Here was a man who was involved in drug dealing, robbery, gambling, lusting after women, and steering prostitutes. Although he did not convert to true Islam in prison, Allah found him and pulled him out of darkness. Malcolm X gave up his old habits and turned towards self-educating himself. It’s amazing how much he would read in prison and take so many notes, and eventually become one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.
He broke off from the “Nation of Islam” (which is very different from Islam, so much so that the teachings are completely contrary to what Islam teaches) after performing his Hajj in the Holy City of Mecca. Rumi says one must travel to Mecca in their heart first, but there are such places in the world that are just so filled with the Divine Spirit that they touch people’s souls in such incredible ways. Malcolm states in his autobiography that he had never experienced such sincere hospitality and brotherhood as practiced in Mecca. The Hajj, as Malcolm says, made him change his whole way of thinking. He learned that judging people by the color of their skin was not only wrong, but also un-Islamic and represented the worst human being. Malcolm discovered that there were Muslims of all different colors in Mecca. Malcolm says that, in Mecca, it was the first time he had ever stood before the Creator of All living things and felt like a complete human being. When Malcolm left Mecca, he said:
“A part of me, I left behind in the Holy City of Mecca. And, in turn, I took away with me, forever, a part of Mecca.”
It’s heart-wrenching for me whenever I think about his assassination on February 21st, 1965 and how he was murdered in front of his wife and children. I know that if Malcolm were alive today, many things would be different. There would be more understanding and far less ignorance. But his life continues to inspire young Muslims and non-Muslims around the world. His teachings and his message is needed more than ever now, and it should be our duty to carry out that responsibility. As many say, Malcolm was not killed for who he was; he was killed for who he was becoming. Muslims and non-Muslims alike take great offense when Malcolm is labeled a “racist,” a “black supremacist,” or an “extremist.” Anyone who brands Malcolm those things has never studied his life or listened to the beauty of his words.
May we always remember brother Malcolm in our hearts and prayers for he symbolizes the voice of truth, social justice, and equality; the Martyr of God who will never be forgotten. May our Loving Creator bless his beautiful soul and grant him peace.
“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem… I am not a racist in any form whatsoever. I don’t believe in any form of discrimination or segregation. I believe in Islam. I am a Muslim and there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim, nothing wrong with the religion of Islam. It just teaches us to believe in Allah as the God. Those of you who are Christian probably believe in the same God, because I think you believe in the God who created the universe. That’s the One we believe in, the One who created the universe–the only difference being you call Him God and we call Him Allah. The Jews call Him Jehovah. If you could understand Hebrew, you would probably call Him Jehovah too. If you could understand Arabic, you would probably call Him Allah.”
– Al-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz (Malcolm X)