Our responsibility to freedom

February 11, 2011 in How does Memphis test your Faith? What gives you faith in Memphis?, Question of the Week by Rashad Sharif

How does Memphis test my faith? What gives me faith in Memphis?

I was born in 1947 and raised in segregated Memphis. I went to the Fairgrounds on Tuesdays and to the zoo on Thursdays — the days allotted for “Colored”. I rode in the back of the bus (except once, when I was 10, and not for long. The bus driver called for the police to come and make me move to the back.) I came up believing, like many others, that our lives were determined by “them,” and that things would be better one day when “they” changed.

I heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declare from Mason Temple in Memphis on April 3, 1968, that he had seen the Promised Land and that we, as a people, would get there. Even then, as a senior at Memphis State University, I presumed him to be speaking of a day when things would be better because “they” had changed.

At that time my faith was still untouched by any guidance from the Qur’an.  I did not yet see the Promised Land as a destiny where people have gotten past issues of becoming free and have moved into freely making the best possible life for themselves (“Do For Self”) with total responsibility for what they do or don’t do with their freedom.

The Qur’an stated a timeless, maturity-accelerating, truth over 1,400 years ago in two words: “Alaikum anfusakum!” My teacher from 1975 forward, Imam W. Deen Mohammed, explained that this amounts to “Upon you all is the responsibility for your own selves.”

Another Qur’anic passage calls attention to the “Self-Accusing Spirit,” which is seen as an indispensable step for becoming free of one’s own base inclinations and growing into full human development.

And yet another passage, a chapter entitled “The City” speaks to the spirit of irresponsibility compared to the duty-consciousness shown by those who rise responsibly to the challenges presented by the life of the city. In our city now, as in so many cities across the centuries, there are countless instances of citizens avoiding responsibilities – whether it be the responsibility of being a strong support in the lives of one’s children, the responsibility of younger citizens to get the most out of the free educational opportunities provided, or just the responsibility to promote responsibility in general.

To paraphrase someone else’s wisdom, “I have found the problem, and it is US” (Unobligated Spirit). On the other hand, what gives me faith in MEmphis is that Memphis starts with ME.

By the way, every Friday and Sunday in the upcoming month of March, Masjid Al-Mu’minun will feature national and local speakers on the theme of “Responsibility With Freedom – A Personal Pathway To Change.”