Ebony Muhammad (EM): I want to talk to you about this concept of psychological imprisonment, however let’s begin with the physical imprisonment that we see a lot of and I want to talk about it in the sense of poverty. I remember the first time I joined the Nation of Islam, and we went Fishing (Spreading the Word/Inviting guests to Mosque) in these projects that were right across the street from the university I went to. One of things a brother brought to my attention was the origin and the design of projects. He asked me, “Do you know why they call them ‘projects’? Do you know who designed them, for what purpose they designed them and who they are designed for?” I didn’t know the answers to those questions. He really broke it down for me, and I looked at it completely different after that.
So I would like for you to touch on that, the origin of the projects, who designed, and for what purpose?
Nuri Muhammad (NM): You know what’s interesting about the question itself is that in our Supreme Wisdom Lessons it talks about the 17 Million poison and rusty locks. Of course poison is something that has an impact on a living organism, but rust has an impact on an inanimate organism. So you can’t have something that can rust and be poisonous at the same time. Therefore, this definitely wasn’t talking about a piece of metal or some regular inanimate object. It has to be talking about our hearts and minds that represent this lock. The Messenger, of course, said that he believed we could beat the old prophecy prediction, that we could cure all the poisoned and rusty locks.
I’m saying all of that to say that there is a lock. When you asked that question it gave me chills when you said that brother told you this in the projects, because it seems as though there is a certain key concept or idea that unlocks a person’s mind that gets them open to other forms of truth that will save his life. That’s what opened me up; that exact statement that you just said.
My wife now, who was my girlfriend then, was trying to get me to read Message to the Blackman In America; she wasn’t in the ranks, but she wanted me to read that book. I wasn’t trying to read nothing. She said to me one day, “Have you ever wondered why they call it the ‘projects’”? I said, “No”. She said, “Don’t you know that project is another word for experiment? They are experimenting on our people.” I’m saying that it immediately brought chills to me and that was the key statement that helped unlock this particular rusty and poisoned lock named Brother Nuri to the other aspects of truth that would offer us salvation to me and to bring me into the ranks. So that within itself as a concept hits home with me.
When you look at an experiment, of course, look at the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s language and how he describes the power of this world. He considered the Enemy to be a god of this world, and he (Hon. Elijah Muhammad) said about him (Enemy) that he is a scientist of evil. He’s not somebody who feels like doing bad and does bad. He’s not someone who just haphazardly goes at it doing evil toward a people. He’s a scientist of evil, and scientists deal with experimentation. Hence, there is something about the way that the homes are structured, where they’re located, what they’re built on top of, the kind of people that are present, the fencing; everything about it is a carbon copy of a concentration camp or a prison. This is the science that they know. As a scientist they have already studied that 92% of the people that are raised in an environment are conditioned by that environment, and they never escape that conditioning even if they’re in a new location. Therefore, if a person is raised in an environment that is a carbon copy of a prison or a concentration camp that whenever they leave that neighborhood and move out of that so-called project; yes they might have moved out of that project but if 92% of the people who leave never actually escape the condition of the environment, then they are still looking for a place that is like that in order to live. We visit brothers in the Federal Penitentiary. I go to about nine Federal Penitentiaries, and in those nine Federal Penitentiaries that I’ve been to there’s always a nice amount of brothers that are, what you call, institutionalized, which means that they actually believe in their heart that this is where they’re supposed to be and they can’t live or survive nowhere but there. This is their world.
The Enemy can have a child in Kindergarten, which means in German, a kind of a garden. Well what are they doing? They’re planting seeds in the mind of five year olds or four year olds that they know are going to become a trunk, branch, and produce fruits 20 or 30 years later. They know what they’re doing as the scientists of evil in the educational world, and they know what they’re doing as scientists of evil in the world of environments where they take us and put us in a carbon copy of a prison knowing that 92% of the people who leave that environment will never escape the condition. They will actually begin to unconsciously, on a subliminal level, look for another environment like that and find themselves in prison almost enjoying it.
EM: Yes sir. When we talk about being free and talk about having equality and justice, that’s not something we’re used to seeing or experiencing to this day. How does a person come out of that condition and that environment when they are around people who think like that, and survive? How do they come out of that type of thinking?
NM: Well this is the beauty of it. There’s an example in the scripture that it can, in fact, happen. Jesus said about himself, “I am in the world, but not of the world.” That means that he was the positive in the environment that was abstract and opposite to what he thought, what he felt, and the way he saw things. Yet, he had inside of himself so much wisdom and so much strength, and so much focus that his internal force was greater than the exterior force that was around him.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan teaches us that they human being has approximately 14.7 pounds of atmospheric pressure per square inch of the human body, which means when you do the square inch of a human body multiplied by 14.7 we have millions of pounds of pressure from the outside of us pushing on us, yet, not human being implodes. Why don’t we implode? Because we have more in us as air pressure than the air pressure outside of us so we can exhale. By exhaling we are able to push out more air that the air that is being put on us as far as atmospheric pressure.
The lesson in that is if I’m in an environment that’s full of negativity, then the way I win is that I have to have more positivity in me than the negativity that’s in my environment. If I have an environment that has more falsehood in it than truth then I have to have more truth in me than the falsehood that dominates my environment. As long as there exists inside of a person more than the opposite that is in their environment, then they can stand in the projects, in jail, in the ghetto, and any trenches in America. They can say it like Jesus said but with a modern twist, “I’m in the projects, but I’m not of the projects”.
The reality is that when a person begins to become strong enough on the inside on a mental and on a spiritual level then the environment doesn’t have the power to change them, they now have the power to change that environment. Therefore that individual that is unwilling to bow down and compromise, and by not bowing down and compromising to the negativity that dominates the environment, then they will in fact have knowledge and they will in fact have wisdom and will power that they will in fact be successful and they will be happy. Guess what happens when a person is happy. In the midst of a world like that, people start looking at them as a small candlelight, while they’re in the midst of darkness. They start looking at them and saying, “How come they’re so happy? How come they’re smiling? How come she’s happy? Why does she look like that? Why does she dress like that? Why does he talk like that? Why does he do it like that? I’m striving to become happy by selling these packs. I’m trying to be happy by joining on to this particular clique or crew or set. I’m striving to the happy by listening to this song. I’m striving to be happy by messing with this guy or messing with this girl, but I don’t seem to be happy but they do. Let me go where the light’s at and see if they’ll share some of that light with me”. You’ll see that people will actually be magnetized to the one that’s in the environment that has never bowed down to the circumstances that dominate the environment, and before long the man that was not changed by the environment will be so powerful and attractive that he or she will absolutely change the environment he’s living in to reflect himself.
The Messenger said it like this, “Heaven is not a place. Heaven is a state of mind”. In another part he said that it’s a state of being, and in another part he said that it’s a condition of life. He’s not contradicting himself, he’s giving us a process by which we bring heaven into an existence. First, it has to be a state of mind. Then, it has to be a state of being. Now once something is a state of mind and it becomes a state of being-a state of being means I’m acting out on what I think. If I’m thinking it and I’m acting on what I think, then it produces a condition of life. This means that in my small little environment that I have control over, I begin to manifest heaven. If I’m living in a bigger environment and people see me in a state of mind, a state of being, and in a condition of life that they’re striving to achieve, why wouldn’t they want the heaven that I have while we are in the midst of hell? It’s definitely possible to have that kind of impact.
EM: That’s powerful!
Next I would like to discuss the mental or intellectual aspect of imprisonment. I remember hearing a pastor talk about how we are imprisoned by the opinions of other people. He talked about being imprisoned to your condition, social status, wherever you’re from, your circumstances and whatever you’re going through from your past and be engulfed in what people think about you. How can a person break free from that type of imprisonment; intellectual and emotional imprisonment?
NM: You are telling the truth. Most of us, a lot of times, are emotionally incarcerated and we are in the prison of guilt, shame, or uncertainty. We’re doing something and we’re not for sure how to do it right or if it is right, or we’re doing things or we’ve done things that we know were wrong or we’re doing things that we know are beneath us. As a result it produces either uncertainty, guilt or shame. From that uncertainty, guilt or shame it produces an emotional prison. We end up being like someone who was physically incarcerated. A physically incarcerated person only has access to moving in a small 6×9 cell. They don’t have the freedom to move around the world and institute his ideas nor communicate when and how he wants to.
I was thinking about the fact that when the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was teaching us, and is still teaching us, he described us based upon the way the prophets described us. They didn’t just call us lost people or people who were asleep. They considered us to be dead people. When they bury a dead person, they don’t give them a lot of space to work with, because they don’t need it; they’re not going to do anything. They put you in a casket in a little hole. Well how much space does a dead person need to work out in? None, because he’s not going to do anything. That’s the kind of way we get into the emotional or psychological prison. We end up finding ourselves self-trapped, self-incarcerated to our own thinking. As the Minister taught us in saying, “Whoever gives you the diameter of your thinking prescribes the circumference of your activity”. So if I don’t think enough about myself, if I don’t know enough about myself and my rich legacy as a people then my diameter of my knowledge is so small that the circumference of my activity is going to be even smaller.
A greater circumference of activity brings about results. You don’t get paid for what you know; you get paid for what you do. If you go to a beauty shop and you see somebody standing there, and she’s talking about how good she can do hair, “I’m the best stylist in the city”. Yeah, but if she doesn’t start shampooing and setting, and she just talks about how good she is, she will not get paid. She will not get paid for what she knows she gets paid for what she does. Our circumference of our activity is what’s going to ultimately bring us the results and give us accomplishment.
I think where we get trapped a lot of times in the opinions of others is that too many of us are too interested in having self-esteem when we should be more interested in having self-worth. Self-esteem is what I think about myself based upon what other people think about me. Self-worth is what I think about myself, the confidence I have in myself that comes from my motives for doing what I do and how close to Allah I am in my everyday life. If a person feels and knows they are pleasing Allah and they’re doing the right things for the right reason and their motive is right then that produces true pure confidence that comes from self-worth. However, if all I am is leaning on whether someone likes what I said or likes what I’m wearing or likes who I am or likes what I look like; if I’m waiting on human beings to be my primary feedback mechanism to determine what I’m going to think about myself instead of God and my own motives then I’m going to constantly be in another form of prison that is the prison of other people’s opinions.
I say that the foundation of it is 1) let us have confidence from what Allah thinks about us and how we’re serving Him, and 2) how pure my motive is for doing the right thing. If I’m doing the right thing for the right reason and I’m striving to be a good submissive servant of Allah then my confidence is coming in that which gives me self-worth. If people happen to like that and respect me and think something of it, all praise is due to Allah. That’s just the added bonus. I’m just not going to allow what other people think about me to override my self-worth. If we had self-worth versus self-esteem as a foundation I think that would check it.
The other thing I think that would get us out of that self-imposed, emotional, intellectual prison is simple mathematics in the words of Jesus, My people are destroyed from the lack of knowledge”. If whoever gives us the diameter of our knowledge prescribes the circumference of our activity, if we want to do more to have more, if you want to do more to produce more accomplishments and success, then we have to have more knowledge in our head to do more with. Therefore we have to start feeding our mind; 1) knowledge of God, knowledge of Self, Time and the Enemy 2) knowledge of anything we are striving to do as a profession. If we do that then I think we will be able to get out of jail, have our own, imprinted in our mind, “Get out of Jail Free” card.
EM: Thank you.
Now the last question is similar to the question of psychological imprisonment, but I think this is a little more spiritual. In the Nation of Islam we’re taught that fear restricts. It could be the fear of success, the fear of failure, the fear of responsibility, the fear of happiness. I think a lot of us, because of our past and because of what we’ve been through we may not feel as though we deserve to be happy.
NM: Well you know that’s bad.
EM: Yes sir. I think sometimes that’s why we remain in the condition we’re in because a lot of us don’t believe we deserve anything better.
NM: That is so true.
EM: In regards to fear and getting out of that kind of fear, I was told that the Minister spoke on if we are not persecuted, evil spoken of, if you do not encounter trials for my name sake or as a follower of mine then you are not a follower of mine. A lot of times we may want it easy and we don’t want to encounter those hard trials. We fail to understand that the Hon. Minister Farrakhan and the Most Hon. Elijah Muhammad have experienced that and continue to experience it to be examples for us in what we must go through in order to become one with Allah and in order to acquire our full potential and to be the best and to be free. However, there are many of us who shy away from the loss of life, the fear, the diminution of fruit. Yet, if you’re not reading or if you are not preparing yourself spiritually you won’t be prepared for it when it actually comes.
I want to ask you for those who are not prepared, for whatever reason, how does one prepare their mind, body, and spirit for such an endeavor?
NM: Brother Jabril made mention of what the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said. He said, “One of the biggest things that Black people lack is readiness”. There’s a saying in the world that proper preparation prevents poor performance. Therefore, it becomes absolutely necessary for us to become prepared.
How does one get prepared? The Quran says that Allah is closer to the Believer than their own jugular vein. Then it says that the Messenger is closer to the Believer than their own selves. So when God raises up a messenger, he doesn’t have the normal sight like people do. We see into the moment so we have insight. We always say that hindsight is 20/20. Why? Because we can pretty much see the past quite clearly. We couldn’t see it that clear when we were in it. So we have insight and we have hindsight. The Messenger of God has that too, but he has something that we don’t have and that’s called foresight. Therefore anything that comes as a specific command, suggestion, request or advice from a Messenger of God, is actually that which will give us readiness or the preparation that will prevent that poor performance. He has not given us something to do today to just fix what happened in the past or to help us in the present. He’s giving us something that will absolutely help us in the future, because that’s how he sees things.
The Minister who is, without question, a man that has been anointed and appointed for the time that we live in to not just provide us with hindsight and insight, but to give us foresight. Everything that he’s asked us to do we have to try to obey it.
On the flipside of it, technically, nobody deserves what we are striving for. The Quran says it like this that if Allah was to judge man for his sins there would be no soul left alive on Earth. That erases the fact that two or three other people deserve to be happy but you don’t deserve to be happy. He said all have done enough that warrant elimination from the planet.
The Minister made a statement. He said, “There is really no perfection in hell”. We’re living in hell and there is no perfection in hell. I said to myself, “If Allah says there is no perfection in hell then He is not looking for us to be perfect, but He is looking for us to make progress toward perfection”. More so than perfection Allah is looking for some progress in us. As long as we continue to engage in self-examination that produces a self-analysis; I examine myself and now I came up with exactly what I am doing that works and what I am doing that doesn’t work and what I should do more of and what I should do less of, and now I’m going to engage in self-correction. Then, that person continues in the process of resurrection. By remaining in the continual process of resurrection they are able to make progress, which always keeps a smile on Allah’s face versus waiting to be perfect.
We all are going to be tried and tested, but according to the story of Job, Job wasn’t tried and tested because he did something wrong. He was tried and tested because of what he did right. Therefore if he was tried and tested for what he did right, he was considered perfect at that time and Job was a perfect servant. Well if he was a perfect servant and was considered right and exact and yet he still lost his wife, lost his children, lost his livestock, lost his property, lost his appearance, lost his health then why should we think we’re not going to be tried? The Holy Quran says it like this, “Do men think that they will be left alone in saying that they believe and will not be tried? When surely we tried those before you so that we might know the truthful ones from those who are liars”.
Allah already knows who’s true and who’s a liar, He knows who’s real and who’s fake because he can read hearts. So this isn’t the Supreme Being saying that he needs to know, this is the god in us that needs to know what we are made of.
EM: Yes sir!
NM: The fact that the god in us doesn’t quite know how strong we are then Allah puts tests on us to allow us to see how powerful we are and are becoming. Why? Because a man’s strength, and woman’s strength is not determined by what she can do and produce or just by what he can do and produce. It’s also what he can take or what she can take and still produce. So great people aren’t people that can do a whole lot and when something goes bad they fall apart, nor are great people one’s who sit around and do nothing but can take a lot of pain. Therefore when a great person is considered great, it’s because they can take a lot and still produce at the same time. Since we’ve already been told by Allah, Who is closer to us than our own jugular vein, He didn’t introduce Himself in the Holy Quran by saying, “I, Allah, Am a better Knower”. He said, “I, Allah, Am the Best Knower”. After He says that, there is nobody you can go and get an opinion from that will be able to match up to what He’s already said. He said the best Knower, not the better Knower. He says He places on no soul a duty or burden beyond its scope. The Minister said that scope means mental capacity. That means there’s nothing we’re going through and there’s nothing being asked of us that we don’t have the mental capacity to handle it and still keep making progress.
There’s a Hadith that talks about the difference between the Believer and the hypocrite. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says that the hypocrite is like a pine tree. When we wind blows it rebels and stands erect, therefore, the wind uproots it. The Believer is like a rubber tree. When the wind blows it bends with the wind. So when the wind passes over it stands back up erect and its roots become stronger. So if you look at a forest, the trees that are on the outside that receive the most wind and the most heat, they actually grow bigger and stronger and produce more fruit than the trees that are in the center of the forest. The trees on the outside are blocking the resistance of wind, which is not causing the roots of the trees in the center to go as deep, which means that that tree is weaker an doesn’t produce much fruit. So when Allah is putting wind on us through loss of property, loss of life, diminution of fruit which is loss of money or even hunger; He’s trying us so that He can put winds on us to make our roots stronger so we can grow better, grow taller and produce more fruit than the rest of the world.
The Minister said that those trials that come from the outside and some people are like sandpaper. Sandpaper is designed to agitate the wood, but after it’s all finished it makes the wood smoother and more valuable than what it was.
Then he described other people who gossip and backbit, he called them mud slingers. He said when you go and put a mug mask on, you let the mud dry up and you pull it off and it purifies your skin. Well that’s what people are doing to you that are backbiting and gossiping. They are a mud mask to help purify your character.
Then he described them as manure. Whenever they put mulch together and put on gardens or around bushes, mulch has cow manure in it. The cow manure serves as a natural fertilizer to help the vegetable or the tree grow stronger and better. Well some negative situations are manure that’s just designed to make us grow better.
I keep those principles in my mind; manure, sandpaper, mud mask. We’re all going to be tried and by our trials we are going to be made stronger rooted and we’ll produce more fruit. I say all praise is due to Allah. If you keep that in front of your mind I think that will help us to deal with the storms that are present.
EM: Yes sir, that was absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much Brother Nuri. May Allah continue to bless you in all of your endeavors of good.
NM: Thank you for the opportunity!