Imam Sultan Muhammad: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has brought us the practice of our faith in a sense of gradualism as at one point we started in December with our Ramadan fasting and dear Minister, as you have taught us that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad also points to fasting with the Muslim world, in How to Eat to Live on page 58 saying that the Muslims as I for said do not eat nor drink from before sunrise until the sun sets. If you take it with them (the Ramadan fast) with them you are doing the right thing until the evil world has vanished.
As we have transitioned over the years I want to say there has been some misunderstanding, and I think it comes to this idea of ritualism creeping in. The Quran has spoken about how the Jews when given a command and ordinance would ask questions so detailed that really it exposed that ultimately it would lead to a very ritualistic practice of the command given or the fact that they really didn’t want to perform the command of Allah. I think we see this in the Quran when it was asked and commanded to slaughter a calf and the questions became what size calf, what age calf, what color calf by the time all of the questions were then explained it becomes a very difficult process.
If we apply this to the Believers, as we have now grown under your instruction to fast with the broader Muslim world, there has been some concern or questioning about many details as it relates to the difference between our National fast and the Ramadan fast and it’s observance.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan: What is our National fast?
Imam Muhammad: When I think of our National fast I think of our 3 day unity fast that we strive to do once a month…
Minister Farrakhan: That is suspended during Ramadan.
Imam Muhammad: Yes, Sir. That is a frequently asked question among the Believers.
Minister Farrakhan: You know what, that’s really just common sense. The National Fast could never take precedence over Allah’s command. He said, “fasting especially during the month of Ramadan.”
Imam Muhammad: A frequently asked question is whether or not it is permitted to eat land animals during the Ramadan fast and another frequently asked question, dear Minister, is regarding the times of fasting. According to our prayer times in this season the Fajr prayer comes in at roughly 3:30 in the morning and we are told in the Quran to begin fasting before sunrise. This would mean we should stop eating when the Call to Prayer is sounded (athan). But now there is conversation of whether we stop eating at ‘astral twilight’ or stop eating at ‘civil twilight.’
Minister Farrakhan: I don’t know what the hell you are talking about ‘astral’ and ‘civil’? What does that mean?
Imam Muhammad: Yes sir, this is part of the issue. I feel among some Believers we now start to strain at details when it really is common sense and our intention. If we go to the Quran it simply states that we are to “eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night.”
Minister Farrakhan: Thank you! What does that have to do with these two words that you mentioned to me that I never saw in the Quran?
Imam Muhammad: Yes Sir, the Quran speaks of it in Arabic it mentions a thread, it uses the word thread of white and thread of black…
Minister Farrakhan: Brother, you know, this to me is damn hypocrisy really – I’m more righteous than you because I follow that thread to the letter – I solved it, come on man. That’s just like you say, they slaughter the calf – how big, how small, how this, how that? It didn’t say it just said sacrifice the calf – that’s it. What are you putting weight in it for, size in it for, color in it and you just keep going cause you really don’t want to do what Allah has ordered.
Now, the thing with us is that we took our fast not with the Muslim world. We took it following the order of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and that order was rooted in, “Allah does not wish hardship for you, He desires ease for you.” So, we took Ramadan in December – the shortest daylight of the year. Now, some would argue well I think we should go back to that because this is hard. Well, of course it is hard but damn this is harder. You’re not killing yourself to fast, if you’ve been doing your National Fast for three whole days why should it bother you to fast a few more hours. We’re making excuses and since the Messenger has put me in his seat to give an order and tell the Believer whatever he tells you to do you do it and don’t bother me about nothing else! He gave me an order – “find a way to unite with the Muslim world” and I found a way in our observing Ramadan with the entire Muslim world. Some are angry with me for that, some are saying well that’s not what we did when the Messenger was here – the Messenger is still here!
Imam Muhammad: Yes Sir that’s the truth.
Minister Farrakhan: Just tell them to keep trying. Even if you miss, you’ve tried. Allah is not going to kill you because you tried and you were overtaken for a day, or two, or three – keep trying. And one day Allah will bless you to do the whole fast in the hottest month of the year which we are in right now. It eases up as time goes on. It’s not like this every year. So when your mind is focused and made up you don’t make excuses – you try. If you fail you try again. And if you mess up you can make up days. I don’t know – everything has been given to us. I don’t know why we have to now try to find a way back to December.
Imam Muhammad: And in regard to the eating of land animals during Ramadan?
Minister Farrakhan: That’s your choice. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us to eat fish during that month (of Ramadan). He is breaking us away from meats. That was a wonderful way to do it and use the month of Ramadan for fish. I did that too during one of my Ramadans. We would just eat fish. Breaking away from land animals is a right thing to do he already told us no meat is good for us. So, when are we going to get to that point where we are meatless. But occasionally, I will eat a piece of meat. A decision that the faster has to make. He is not breaking the fast if he eats a piece of meat or if he eats a piece of fish. If he’s vegetarian none of that will matter anyway. That makes it easy for the Believer.
I would go back to the law that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad that is directly out of the Quran. And then the gray areas where you are not sure… your conscience will tell you that, ‘if you don’t know if it is right or wrong–then don’t do it.’
(Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad is the National Imam of the Nation of Islam and resident Imam of Mosque Maryam National Center, connect online- Instagram, twitter, Periscope @ImamSultanM, #ImamMuhammad)