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Interview With Minister Ishmael Muhammad

Tuesday, October 10, 2006Brother Mustafaa

Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad

Taking on the mission

Minister Ishmael Muhammad, 36, is the son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Mother Tynnetta Muhammad. He recently celebrated his 10th anniversary as assistant minister to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at Mosque Maryam. He sat down with The Final Call to reflect on the past 10 years.

Final Call News (FCN): How did you react when you first got the knowledge you would be minister at headquarters mosque.

Min. Ishmael Muhammad (MIM): In my youth, Minister Farrakhan always encouraged me to become more involved in my father’s work. He has inspired me and given to most of us a deeper appreciation for the work and life of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. After being in Mexico for a few years, I decided to come up and help the Minister, which was always my desire. My preference would have been to work behind the scenes and to help better organize the nation so we could be more effective in our programs and outreach to the community. I called him one day and said I think I’m ready to come up and help you. He told me to come and first begin teaching so I could build a level of comfort between myself and the people and the people and myself. I was to just teach, and not assume any administrative responsibility. My role and capacity as assistant minister was phased in.

FCN: This year marks your 10th anniversary. Reflect on what it has been like to be minister at headquarters mosque coming from Mexico?

MIM: I feel especially blessed and fortunate to have as a mentor, teacher and example the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I have said that I would not have a purpose or reason to live if Min. Farrakhan did not rebuild the work of my father. He has given to me a cause bigger than myself. There is no greater cause to live for than the cause of freedom, justice and equality.

I believe I have come a long way and it has taken this many years for me to finally accept the position I hold in the Nation of Islam as assistant minister, and the tremendous responsibility of leadership. It has been a tremendous struggle. It certainly has had its trials and setbacks, but I’m more determined now than ever before to help Min Farrakhan in this work and to help the Black community out of the condition it suffers.

FCN: You have spoken of being reluctant to accept the full burden of the task of ministering at Mosque Maryam. When you finally overcame that reluctance, did it relieve a burden?

MIM: After many restless nights I just decided to do what I feel I was born into the world to accomplish. I don’t necessarily like leading, unless I feel there is a void. And if those in front of me are not in harmony with the mission or spirit of my father, then I will step up. The condition of our community, both internally and outwardly, has caused me now to re-evaluate my own gifts and skills and finally look around and say, ‘well, who’s going to do this.’ It’s time for me to be a little more confident and sure of myself, and take charge. I believe I can do more than I have done in the way of serving and giving the people what they need.

FCN: Your mother has played an important role in shaping your life, but what role has she played since you’ve assumed the post of minister of Mosque Maryam?

MIM: Contrary to what many people may think, in terms of my preparation as a son of such a great leader, my mother never directed me or pointed me in the direction of leadership or successorship. Her greatest desire is that we would find our own place in her husband’s mission and do something in the way of keeping the legacy and work of our father alive and well. She wanted us to be helpers to Min. Farrakhan as Min. Farrakhan was an excellent aide and helper to my father. She’s played a very supportive role. All of her critiques have been done with love and care.

FCN: Oftentimes children of great people don’t have a normal childhood. How do you look back on your childhood, and what do you wish for if you had a wish?

MIM: That’s a very sensitive area for me and most of us as Black men who have not had the presence of a father. There’s a human side to this divine mission; and in as much as I accept and recognize the divinity of my father, I have always yearned for attention. My contact with him before his departure in 1975 was very limited. I appreciate the few moments and words he shared with me personally; I cherish them. But then the teenage years, the adolescent period of human development, were very difficult because I needed guidance. I wanted to talk to my father. To this day, I still yearn to talk to my father like a son—to have him help me in a few areas that I’m struggling in my development. The older I get, I don’t know if it gets easier or more difficult, even though I have him present in the Minister [Farrakhan]. As the burden of the mission increases, I find myself more and more reaching out and talking to my father and looking for a sign or something that would make me to know that he is pleased.

FCN: Why were you reluctant to accept this responsibility? Were you afraid or just didn’t feel you were prepared?

MIM: Surprisingly, I, like countless thousands of others, suffer from low self-esteem. Even though I have one of the greatest men, fathers and leaders to ever walk this earth, I don’t see myself in any significant light. And if I had a choice, I’d rather live a simpler life. All of us run from responsibility. That’s why you have in the Bible the prophet Jonah, called the reluctant prophet. When you have a great future or destiny, when it is told to you there is a tendency to run from it. I hope that signifies humility in the individual, which I think it does. But I think it takes a while for one to really accept their destiny. It is the same for Blacks in this country. It is very hard for us to believe that after all we’ve been through and suffered, that God has a destiny for us, as it is written in the Bible and Qur’an, that we would become the masters in the house where we were sold as slaves.

FCN: Give us your outlook for the coming few years.

MIM: Min. Farrakhan has encouraged me to focus my attention on the youth. The future of our community, our nation, rests on the shoulders of these beautiful, talented, gifted and brilliant young men and women that are in the elementary, middle and high schools across this land and in colleges. Our children need direction. They need strong male role models and examples for their lives. Our young men are growing up with the wrong perception of the female. If we are going to stop some of the abuses that we’ve experienced in our lifetime and seen in the previous generation, we’re going to have to stop this with the new generation that is present so they can grow up with dignity, honor, self-love and self-respect.

FCN: What medicine do you apply to young people’s minds to get them to change to the way you’re describing.

MIM: The only way that we have is the one that has proven tremendously successful to us. We have to introduce to our people a proper concept of God and then connect them to God, Who is the source of wisdom and knowledge. If the human being is to develop the gifts, the qualities, the talent that is already innate, then they have to connect to the author of life, the Creator of the universe, so that He can properly develop, nurture and cultivate himself in the human being. We want to introduce to our people, particularly our young people, and their potential in life. And if they submit themselves to obey God, His statutes, His laws, His commandments, then there is nothing that they desire in life of good that they would not be blessed to achieve. The medicine, the goal, is to connect the human being to God.

FCN: Thank you.


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