Malcolm X; the Autobiography of Malcolm X

Reviewed by Abdul Hai

“In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious.”

“I say to the one who finds fault in blackness with foolishness, and in blackness, there are certainly those who find fault in it and those begrudge it. If the fault you find is the blackness itself, then know that musk and al-Oud are black too. And there is the black corner [of the Ka’bah) of which people touch to attain Shifa, and towards which people fall in ruku and sujud. And if not for the blackness of the eye, its sight, would not be correct, and it would not sit right while it sleeps. And if Al-Mahdi knew of color better than it, he would utilise another color for his banner when his affair arises” Abu Muhamamd Al-Abbasi

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Portuguese airline released an anti-racism advertisement featuring a Caucasian woman who expresses her dissatisfaction to the air stewardess, demanding a seat change due to the presence of a black individual sitting next to her. The air stewardess, after consulting with the captain, informs the woman that a first-class seat is available, not for her, but for the black gentleman, as he should not have to endure the company of a racist individual. The conclusion of the video emphasizes the importance of placing racism in its proper context. This advertisement draws parallels with the renowned story of Rosa Parks, who refused to relinquish her seat to a white man on a bus. The distinction lies in the fact that in the advertisement, the authority opposes racism, while in Rosa Parks’ case, the authority supported racist practices. Despite significant progress, recent events such as the Black Lives Matter Movement raise unsettling questions about the resurgence of racial discrimination.

In such challenging times, the lives of civil rights activists serve as points of reference. Malcolm X is an exemplary figure in this regard. Recently, I had the privilege of listening to a lecture on the life of Malcolm X delivered by Dr. Uthman Latif. Additionally, I possess a copy of Malcolm X’s autobiography, which provides valuable insights. Rather than conducting a book review, it would be more beneficial to extract lessons from the life of Malcolm X, our esteemed brother (may Allah have mercy on him).

Malcolm X serves as a role model for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, particularly African Americans. As Muslims, there are several qualities we can learn from him, with dedication being paramount. Malcolm X’s life can be divided into three distinct periods: pre-imprisonment, the Elijah Muhammad era, and the orthodox Islamic phase. Throughout these stages, Malcolm X consistently demonstrated extraordinary dedication. In the pre-imprisonment period, although he unfortunately became involved in criminal activities, his dedication to those pursuits made him well-known and sought after. For instance, when affluent white individuals desired drugs, they specifically sought out Malcolm X due to the trust he had established through his unwavering commitment and hard work.

During the Elijah Muhammad era, Malcolm X’s dedication reached its zenith. While in prison, he exhibited remarkable devotion by transcribing the entire dictionary and immersing himself in extensive reading. His reading list included notable works such as “Wonders of the World,” “The Story of Civilization” by Will Durant, “Outline of History” by H.G. Wells, “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson’s “Negro History,” and J.A. Rogers’ three-volume series on sex and race. Malcolm X’s commitment to reading was so profound that he recounts sitting on the floor, taking advantage of the corridor light’s glow, to continue reading after the lights-out period.

It was only a matter of time before Allah’s guidance  would rescue Malcolm X from the misguidance of Elijahism and lead him towards authentic Islam. Malcolm X return to  Orthodox Islam can be traced back to his pilgrimage to Hajj, which took place shortly after his separation from Elijahism. His well-known letter demonstrates his initial commitment to truth and his willingness to alter his worldview, once he recognized the truth. The transformative experience of Hajj played a pivotal role in reshaping some of his most radical views. Upon his return from Hajj, he declined offers of high-ranking government positions in various African states, instead opting to return to America to rectify his past mistakes and continue his fight for the civil rights of African Americans, not through racist means, but in pursuit of the betterment of humanity.

Malcolm X has emerged as an influential figure in the fight against injustice, with his approach to engaging with diverse ethical and cultural groups serving as an exemplary model. The contemporary Muslim community, particularly the younger generation, can draw valuable lessons from his teachings. During a time marked by darkness in its history, Malcolm X offers a sense of dedication that goes beyond mere theoretical and rational activities, emphasizing the need for active engagement and leadership.

In a reported statement by Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), he sought refuge in Allah from a Muslim who lacks dedication and a committed disbeliever.

Dedication, with the permission of Allah, plays a determining role in shaping one’s future, ambitions, and place in the world. Throughout our history, numerous remarkable individuals have served as examples for future generations due to their unwavering dedication to their respective endeavours. The ultimate exemplar of dedication is our holy prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), whose entire life serves as a testament to excellent and unwavering commitment. One particular example that comes to mind is when the leaders of the Quraysh tribe pressured Abu Talib to cease the prophet’s call. The Prophet’s steadfast dedication to the truth led him to respond powerfully and resolutely, stating, “O! My Uncle, even if you put the Sun in my right hand and Moon in my left, I will not give up this mission.”

While this example from the life of the Holy Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) serves as a motivating force, a few additional illustrations can provide even greater benefit. It is said that Imam Al-Bukhari wrote one of his books under the illumination of the moon each night. Ibn Khuzaymah, on another occasion, recounted how he and his companions walked for three days and three nights to authenticate a hadith of the Holy Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). In more recent times, the great Sultan Abdul Hamid II proposed the construction of a railway line from Damascus to Medina. Initially met with ridicule from those who considered Islam merely a cultural heritage, the railway ultimately became a significant success due to the Sultan’s unwavering dedication, only to be later destroyed by the envy of certain Arab leaders influenced by external forces.

Dedication is the key to achieving success in this world and the hereafter. Throughout history, no group has achieved success without wholehearted dedication to their endeavours. Muslims, in particular, must have even greater motivation for dedication than others. Failing to assume our responsibilities as Muslims and lacking dedication to improving our current circumstances would be foolish, as it would be unreasonable to expect future generations to bring about any meaningful change. The blame for our situation lies not with the past or the future but, as Imam Shafi’i eloquently expressed in his lines, only with ourselves:

“We blame our time though we are to blame. No fault has time but only us. We scold the time for all the shame. Had it [time] had a tongue, it would scold us”

And lastly, all praise is for Allah, and may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon his last prophet and messenger Muhammad (May the peace and blessing be upon him) and his noble family and companions.

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