Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): First I would like to officially congratulate you and the believers in Austin in recently receiving the status of Muhammad Mosque No. 64! What level of work, dedication and love did it take to accomplish this as a unit? What, if any, aspect of the process surprised you especially relating to yourself as the Student Minister?
Robert L. Muhammad (RM): We built Muhammad Mosque No. 64 by focusing on a core group of registered active believers. We ensured that this core group of believers were spiritually sound through strict adherence to study group attendance and the delivery of relevant subject matter during Sunday mosque meetings. We recognized that 20% percent of the study group members were responsible for 80% percent of the work and embraced that fact by employing them to open study circles throughout Central Texas. The biggest surges in growth came when we focused on women and the youth. To date the most active demographic among the mosque is among our youth.
What surprised me is the level of dedication needed from me as a Student Minister. I engulfed myself in the study of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and some of his top helpers like Student Ministers Ava and Nuri Muhammad. Armed with faith and the careful study of the proper representation, I began speaking in every arena where there was the presence of Black people. I spoke in prisons, to youth, in local colleges, at churches, at rallies/marches and on panel discussions dealing with any issue affecting our people. As a result we’ve had mosque members traveling from up to 150 miles to attend our Sunday meetings.
EM: This is a two part question: The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been in the ministry for over 60 years and does not appear to be tired or slowing down. In fact he is increasing momentum/strategy. According to your interaction, observance and study of Minister Farrakhan, how would he describe his ideal student minister? Along with his request of one thousand new ministers that are young, what is the significance of a youthful age and a youthful spirit?
RM: Jesus said “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” The greatest testament of scripture is the living manifestation of it. So it does us little good to study and believe in the scripture and not the one who is in fact the physical manifestation of such scriptures. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad instructed the nation that when we see the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to look at him, where he says go to go and where he says stay from to stay from. Then he says continue to hear my Minister Farrakhan. He’s instructing us to study and follow the Minister’s way because he is the valuable final product of the coming God in person. A good student studies his good teacher.
I had the opportunity to be in the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s presence during the Houston leg of his Justice Or Else promotional tour last summer. While in his presence, he asked me several questions about me, my family, my profession, the believers of Muhammad Mosque #64, the city of Austin and my ministry. He listened to every answer carefully and asked more questions based on the answers he received. He then responded to every answer that I gave in response to his questions. He used math, science, color, history and theology to teach from the answers that I gave and even used a part of my personal history to forecast my future in the ministry.
This experience allowed me to see the fact that he is a good shepherd that is always concerned about the flock and if we as student ministers are to be successful we need to concern ourselves with the wellbeing of the people. So from this experience I learned three things: 1. Smile. 2. Be a good listener encouraging others to talk about themselves. 3. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
All of the prophets began their work as youth. The Holy Quran records the father of all monotheistic faiths, Abraham, as a youth that destroyed the idols. The Joshua generation of Moses’ time are referred to as youth. One of the valuable ingredients of youthfulness is that of fearlessness. That fearlessness is the ingredient that is used to circumvent the things deemed as impossible throughout time. The spiritual resurrection of the dead is the one thing that we know that is near impossible and we need the spirit and energy of fearlessness to overcome the worldly limits that have been place on our rise.
EM: How real of an issue is burn out, resentment or even bitterness when it comes to being in the ministry? How do these sentiments enter the mind/heart of the one positioned to serve? How does one combat against it?
RM: These challenges are ever present in the ministry. The ministry was a calling for me. It was not something that I was seeking. In fact I ran from the responsibility for a number of years. I now find that the more I concentrate on it the easier it becomes to handle the moments and trials that cause you to burn out.
As a student minister you are constantly called on to give of yourself and put on the best face at all times. This can be very difficult when you’re aiding in the resurrection work. In my second or third year as the student minister, I approached the rostrum in front of a room full of chairs. There was only one individual in the audience and she was consumed with attempting to get her son to remain seated. I had experienced a new low in my history in the ministry. What was the problem? Who could I blame? Was I the blame? Had the hypocrites decimated our small community? Was I that hypocrite? Was I now an enemy of my nation? I was burned out and entertained quitting.
After several months of contemplation entering into the holy month of Ramadan, I decided to turn inward. I employed a regimen heavy in prayer, Quranic study, and fitness. I felt excitement and vitality returning to me. This particular trial prompted me to rely heavily on Allah, His Christ and the guidance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. It was this recalibration of my mind that helped to escape burnout and prevent me from falling into resentment and bitterness.
Remember we are present in a time where we are witnessing the breakup of the old world and the emergence of the new. This time is full of traumatic events that can cause damage to the mind as well as damage to ones faith. There are ups and plenty of downs in the ministry. The question is how do we handle both? We seek refuge in Allah through fasting and prayer. We must pay close attention to our mental and spiritual health as well as our physical health.
EM: I always hear the Minister give care and consideration in his opening. He does not waste one word throughout his messages. What kind of spirit does it take and what kind of love does it take to overcome exhaustion where it doesn’t affect one’s ability to convey the word of Allah?
RM: We must ask Allah to replace our heart of stone with one of flesh. After we receive the heart of flesh it must be circumcised to ensure that there is no disease growing and tainting the love for our people. As we are growing the love for our people we become purer vessels of truth like our Minister.
EM: What are the complexities related to tiring out? For example there are some student ministers who work full time jobs. How does that or how can that affect one’s spiritual energy? How does physical health and fitness contribute to one’s spiritual energy?
RM: The complexities of life are real. Things like jobs and bills are worldly distractions that if are overcome the student minister, his family and the believing community all benefit. A wise person once told me that you can’t be all things to everybody and nothing to yourself.
The human body is the best conduit of electricity on the planet. When life is present in the body electricity is also present in the body. When life has left the body all electrical currents cease to be present. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan mentioned to us in the early 90’s that the acquisition of knowledge is a kin to increasing the presence of electricity in the body. Therefore the body has to be in good shape in order to qualify as the proper conduit. Otherwise the increasing amount of knowledge, like electricity, will destroy the inadequate conduit.
EM: As it relates to sacrifices, what do you consider healthy sacrifices vs. unhealthy sacrifices when it comes to being helpers in the cause of Allah?
RM: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36
Some student ministers and believers errantly sacrifice their families and use the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s leadership and the program of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to shield this practice. No! We should not sacrifice our families for the Nation of Islam’s citizenry is constructed of the membership of families. If the real measure of a man is the condition of his woman and his children, how can I be qualified as a good shepherd if I don’t begin at home? How can I be attractive to a community comprised of broken homes if I won’t move heaven and earth to keep my family maintained? The family is Allah’s sacred institution and it should not be sacrificed lest we find ourselves sacrificing the very nation we desire to build.
EM: The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said that we must look at ourselves and be honest with ourselves in terms of our Faith and belief. I love how transparent he was in his message the Pathology of Hypocrisy and how open he has been lately of his experiences throughout. It takes a tremendous level of growth and humility to exhibit that. What are some of the dangers current student ministers are faced with if they fail to see the signs of their own hypocrisy and what kind of effort does it take to reverse it once it is discovered?
RM: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan teach that the Creator did not like the darkness so he went to war with it. The end result of that war was that he brought light in the form of the sun forth from that darkness. The sun is 853,000 in diameter and shines rays of light that travel at 186,00 miles per second giving vitamins and life to everything in the universe. We must do the same.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said that doubt is the mother of hypocrisy. When we find doubt in our mind about any aspect of the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad or the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s leadership we must go to war with it. We have to combat that doubt until we can yield light from it like the creator did with the darkness. We must seek counsel and research the subject of the doubt until we can find answers lest we spiral down ward into hypocrisy.
Our meeting place was firebombed in October of 2001 shortly after 9/11. More pronounced than the actual bombing, the loss of mosque membership and the visits by FBI and ATF agents was the response from the community and our nation. We received an outpouring of support from the community which spanned from flowers from organizations from the UK to armed community members holding post on the actual meeting place. However the most disappointing aspect of that time period for me was the lack of response from our Nation. I assumed that there would be an outpouring of counsel, guidance and attention to the fact we were the only city in our Nation that experienced such an attack. We were waiting for a cadre of F.O.I. to descend on the city to show the hidden perpetrators and the believers that we were not alone. When that didn’t happen I was disappointed. That disappointment caused me to entertain doubt about my own perception of our nationhood.
In order to combat what could have resulted in my own hypocrisy, I was drawn to two articles by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan that were frequently published in the Final Call newspaper in the 90’s. “Look Toward The Leader Within” and “We Must Rely On Allah And Ourselves”. Reflecting on these messages by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan helped me to rethink the condition of our Nation and its resources. The wisdom displayed in these articles also caused me to reassess my duty and responsibility to our Nation rather than the Nation’s duty to me. By doing so I was able change my mindset from focusing on what appeared to be a problem to becoming the answer. Once I was able to do that as the student minister the mosque grew from being an island to a land mass connected to a Nation.
EM: For those who have some trepidation about what their life/role will be like afterward the ministry, how can they continue to serve, be great helpers and feel as though they are still of use away from the rostrum?
RM: The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has employed us to discover what we were born to do and be found doing it! The rostrum is but a small part of the ministry. There is a big field awaiting the wide awake man and woman to work out in. This means that there is much in the world to get involved in whether we are in the ministry or not.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said in the Pathology of Hypocrisy that we should get the young people and groom them to take our place. He then said that we should not hold on to or squeeze these posts because when we die we can’t take them with us any way. So we should not be looking to be in these posts forever but we should be looking to empower someone coming after us.
EM: You mentioned that in your 23 years in the ministry and 11 years as a Student Minister that you have been contacted by the FBI. What was that like for you and your family? How does believing in, following and representing a man like the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan make you fearless of anyone?
RM: It was simply confirmation that the work that we are involved in is so great that the greatest government on the planet and the greatest nation in the last 6000 years deem us so important and such a threat that they must keep tabs on us. They are sifting us because they want to have their people at the helm of leadership in the Nation of Islam when the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan departs.
After 911 our mosque was fired bombed and my two oldest sons were placed on the no-fly list. This was a trial for all of the believers experiencing some of these things. I even know of some that legally went back to their slave name. I don’t judge them but I know that’s not something that I would consider. The scripture says that if you disown me before man I will disown you before my father. My family and understand that we must first submit to Allah and whatever he allows to happen we can’t change it. And if it leases Allah it pleases us.
EM: If you don’t mind sharing one, what hurdle did you have to overcome to experience a significant growth that may have been life saving for you in the ministry?
RM: When I was a processing believer I was involved in a drive by shooting. I will never forget that night in Houston, Texas. There were four of us riding in a vehicle and three of us were processing and one an occasional study group attendee. After a brief argument with some other young men shots rang out which resulted in every occupant of that vehicle being shot including one killed, except me. I remember going to the police towing yard to retrieve our belongings and seeing the vehicle riddled with bullets and splattered with blood on the interior. The only part of the vehicle without bullet holes was where I was seated. This had a profound effect on the next few years of my life. It was shortly after this time period that I became a registered member of the Nation of Islam and realized my ability to speak through a program called 13 week curriculum.
EM: What do you attribute to your success in being able to overcome it?
RM: Faith in Allah, his Christ and their Minister! Also I realized that Allah protected me for a reason. When the man seated next to you takes eight bullets and you don’t get so much as a scratch, it causes you to ponder Allah’s intervention. I thought about the protection that I received during this great incident in my life and it was obvious to me that I was to focus on the study of the God that spared my life. For the next 4 to 5 years I had a laser like focus on the studying of the Teachings and the work of the mission. I believe that it was this focus that helped me to overcome this most traumatic event in my life.
EM: Based on where the Minister is, his desire and vision for his Student ministers and with our overall mission, what words or piece of counsel would you offer to the current student ministers as we prepare for his departure and how critical their role will be to his flock (internal+external)? What words would you offer the upcoming student ministers?
RM: I would only say study the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan! His life is sufficient as an example to help us overcome any trial that befalls us. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan gives us a very intimate look into one of his greatest trials in the lecture “Pathology of Hypocrisy”. All student ministers should study his trials in order to better understand his way. There is no better book to study than the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan!
EM: Yes sir, indeed!!! All praise is due to Allah! Thank you so much for your words, experience and transparency! May Allah continue to bless you in your work and service to our Nation!
(Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad is the Austin, Texas Representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Nation of Islam at Muhammad Mosque No. 64.)