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Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): I would like to talk to you about your religious background. You shared with me the last time we interviewed that you considered yourself to be an Atheist before joining the Nation of Islam. Therefore, when we talk about the Reality of God and how you’ve grown in your scholarship and study of the Reality of God, can you take me through the turning point that took you from being an Atheist to now teaching the Reality of God?
Wesley Muhammad (WM): Yes ma’am. In the Name of Allah Who came in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad, I bear witness that Allah is God and that Muhammad is His Messenger.
I came into this as an Atheist. I was very confident and a very embittered Atheist. I fell upon Atheism, because I had questions as a Christian. I had question regarding the Bible, and I went and asked individuals whom I believed would have an easily digestible answer for me.
EM: Before we go any further, would you please clear the word “Atheist” according to how you considered yourself?
WM: Yes ma’am. For me, I was convinced that there was no God and that all religion was a farce. My beef was with religion. When I threw out religion I threw out the baby with the bath water. My questioning of these religious people would go to Ray Pipkins who was the community Afrocentric scholar and Dr. Ben. They shuffled me to him and he dropped on me, that faithful day, all of this information about religion; Jesus never taught Christianity and about the manipulations of religion. I was angry. I was mad. Again, with throwing out all organized religion, I threw out the very idea of God. My bitterness stayed with it. I mocked God when I was in high school. Discussions would come up in class, and I would mock God, the believers in God and purposely challenge, in a disrespectful way, their belief in God. I was bitter and I was comfortable in my general belief and to find out that religion has been so manipulative and so many lies were involved in religion, it pissed me off. Therefore, I became an Atheist and mocked the very idea of there being a God. I was really arrogant in it, but ironically not really academic with it. That did not inspire me initially to get into the study. I was bitter, arrogant and confident that there was no God.
I had already been introduced to the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan and his lectures, but I was a budding revolutionary. Therefore, I loved Farrakhan for his social and political message. Whenever he would talk about religion, I would just close my ears. His message was always multi-faceted enough where everyone could get a piece of inspiration. So I just closed off my ears and mind to the religious part of the message and rallied around the social and political.
So I’m an Atheist; arrogant but non-academic. I’m not studying it. However, when I went to Morehouse I met Brother Barnar Cushmeer Muhammad, Brother Jabril’s wonderful son. We befriended each other. I loved the Muslims for what they represented about Blackness. I’m a Black revolutionary and Atheist. Brother Barnar dropped seeds from the Minister’s spiritual message, but they fell on stony ground, as the Scripture says. Brother Barnar wouldn’t engage my Atheism at the time. I wasn’t making mockery; I had enough respect for the Muslims. I had passed up my mock-making stage. Brother Barnar dropped something matter of factly when my Atheism came up and I invoked my Atheism. He said, “The Minister said you can put two Black babies on an island by themselves and leave them alone, and they would grow up believing in God. They would look at the cosmos, the creations and observe it closely enough and they would naturally come to the conclusion that there has to be a Creator”. That just hit me so hard, the logic.
I was in a physics class and we just so happen to be going over comets, which we take to be very random, cosmic occurrences, but they follow a mathematical law. The force of that logic just stunted me, and I could not justify in the face and force of that logic. It had been eating at me for days when Brother Barnar dropped it on me. It shattered my arrogance as an Atheist. I’m not confident anymore in my Atheism. I was finally able to tell myself, “I don’t know what the hell is going on”. Therefore I made the decision to divest of all belief and disbelief.
Shortly before that I walked into the Morehouse cafeteria to see Barnar. He was engaged in an argument with a Five Percenter, Brother Wakeel, whom I didn’t know at the time. The Five Percenters and Muslims in Atlanta are always engaged in this “Who Is God” debate, because of the different perspective on the Supreme Wisdom. Brother Barnar was arguing that Master Fard Muhammad, which is what we Muslims emphasize on, is God. Brother Wakeel, the Five Percenter, was arguing that the Black man is God. Both are true. Yet, I had never heard that before. That was the first time I had ever heard that, and that too was like, “Whoa”! It was most attractive, but I’m an Atheist. He shook that confidence as an Atheist, and then when I met him in the cafeteria and overheard in his argument Wakeel mention that the Black man is God, it resonated with me. It sunk me into another crisis of belief. I said that I was tired with blowing with the wind. I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. I literally divested myself of all belief and disbelief. I don’t believe anything and I don’t disbelieve anything.
I studied anything and everything. The chief victim of my Atheism was my mother. I was most inappropriate, so the first thing I did was call my mother. That journey started with the white Bible I had (laughs). It was a white Bible I had gotten it from my Grandmother. I carried this white Bible with me and would read it. I had questions and they wouldn’t have any answers, but it was this white Bible that started this process after the Atheism and disrespect. I called my mother and asked her to send me the white Bible. She thought I was turning back to the church. Nah…I was going to study it all. I was going to give that little white Bible another chance. I went to the Moorish meetings, the Nation of Al-Kebulan, an Afrocentric church under Minister Ramses. I was almost there. His Ma’at, his Egyptian science cognates with what Wakeel was feeding me from the Five Percent perspective and there was reason for that ancient Egyptian Ma’at and Islam all cognate traditions; birds of a feather if you will.
EM: I want to be clear, when you say the Five Percent Nation are you referring to the Nation of Gods and Earths?
WM: No ma’am, but that’s important. Yes and no. As Brother Wakeel has documented, the Nation of Gods and Earths technically morphed from the Five Percent Nation. The Nation of Gods and Earths, as it exists today, has a particular ideology. It’s relatively new. There’s a particular perspective in it in general. It’s most vocal representatives had a particular sentiment, for example, regarding the Nation of Islam. It defines the Nation of Gods and Earths, but it’s new. When I came in, we had a Five Percent Nation of Islam. The Nation of Gods and Earths, that wasn’t the language that was used. That’s a relatively new phenomenon. Therefore, no, I was never a part of, what is called, the Nation of Gods and Earths. That’s very much a religion with its priesthood and its dogma. That wasn’t my experience. Wakeel came up in the New Jersey area when it was the Five Percent Nation of Islam. It had not morphed into the Nation of Gods and Earths as we understand it today.
He was feeding me from the teachings of the Five Percent Nation of Islam which was the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but I was studying it all. I say all of that to say that I came back to God. It was logical questions and academic material that made me an Atheist, but it was the academic approach, the empirical approach to the question that ultimately brought me back to God. That has determined my approach from that day and I will never, Allah Willing, depart from that approach.
I can never do dogma, dogmatism. That has never been a part of my religious experience, and Allah Willing, it will never be my religious experience. Dogmatism, that approach to our religion and our theology is close-minded. It not only has no meaning for empirical evidence but is afraid of empirical evidence. Empirical evidence might challenge our faith and force a re-evaluation of things. In my opinion, if we are in Islam for five years or longer and we still believe and understand after five years the same way we did five years prior, then there’s a problem.
I fell in love with Wakeel’s particular aspect of the teachings of the reality of God. It lit a fire in me that has consumed me since that faithful day in 1990. It has dictated my life for its good and bad, but it’s the approach, my approach to the question. The empirical evidence must inform our understanding of these theological questions even most particularly the theology of the Supreme Wisdom. Our Islam is mathematics and mathematics is Islam, and we absolutely don’t have the luxury of being dogmatists with our Islam. That description puts a burden on us to be mathematical with our Islam and to be objective and empirical with our Islam. That is, has been and remains my approach to the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It’s that approach that has made me, by Allah’s grace as Brother Berve wonderfully puts it; I’m a convict in this. All praise belongs to Allah. The level of conviction, that’s Freedom. There’s irony there; the conviction is Freedom. We’re free from the fear that most religious people have, whether they articulate it or it’s in the front of their sub-conscious or the back. It’s the fear of facing you’ve been proven wrong. That’s why we run and hide from evidence. We don’t go where we think somebody is going to say something against what we believe. Once we achieve conviction, we’re free from that fear that there’s some book that we can’t read for fear that something in there will challenge our faith. There’s no lecturer that we can’t go to even if they’re giving a lecture specifically against what we believe. We can go to that lecture and gain something of usefulness in our Islam.
Conviction is preparatory for Freedom as a religious belief. When a believer becomes a convict, as Brother Berve puts it, and believer becomes free as a believer. However there’s a process. You don’t get to conviction by just believing hard enough, sitting in the mosque saying, “I believe, I believe, I believe”! That’s not the path to conviction. You have to be genuinely and thoroughly convinced of the correctness.
Belief doesn’t automatically morph itself into conviction. For me, crossing this Teaching, I went through the ringer. Putting it under the fire of critical scrutiny was my path of conviction. Let me give you this illustration. My first month in the Teaching, when I was convinced enough to say, “Brother Wakeel give me lessons, I want to be a Five Percenter”. I’m sitting in the common area at Morehouse, and there was this Sunni Muslim there, and he’s talking to Wakeel and he sees me as a “newbie” and he commences to tell us how Master Fard Muhammad is a white man, and I’m listening. “For real, I didn’t know that…”. I’m listening, if this is some information. He said that Master Fard Muhammad was a white man and worked for the CIA, and his purpose as a CIA agent was to mislead Black people. I’m listening and taking it in. I want to know. As he was talking, it dawned on me. The CIA wasn’t set up until 1944, 1945. Before our Muhammad brought our Mission in 1930, so how can that be? He (the Sunni Muslim) stood up and left. I wasn’t arguing. I’m willing to hear this and examine it up. If this is some information I need to have about this thing. I believe I want it, but I am going to be equally critical in every phase of this thing and that’s the point to me. I have, by Allah’s grace, been able to cast the fire of critical scrutiny on this Teaching of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad for 22 years and every single time and this Teaching proves itself. So this is true. It’s not a matter of whether any aspect of this Teaching is true or not.
The empirical evidence in the era that we live in right now, is distinct from the prior era that had a lot of faith. They believed stronger than we believe. They didn’t have all of the evidence to justify their faith and they had strong faith. They had a lot of faith but not a lot of understanding. Therefore, when their faith was challenged with seemingly academic stuff they couldn’t sustain it. Today we have available to us what wasn’t available to them. Allah (God) is bringing all of the pragmatic data to light now.