[Editor’s Note: This is a reprint and was published online April 8, 2003]
The first time I ever saw the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was in 1955, in a restaurant we Muslims owned in New York City. He looked at me with the same beautiful expression–the centerpiece of which is his rich, genuine smile.
I don’t know how many times from then to now I have heard him give what we Muslims call the greetings of peace and/or paradise. But I can honestly say that my experience with him–whether in private or in public–is that he always gives the greetings of peace in the same heartfelt way. He means what he says. Ask anyone who has known him over the years. They will bear witness to this fact of him.
For most of us, Black people born in the United States, the first time we ever heard the words, “As-Salaam-Alaikum” was when in the company of followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, whether prior to 1975, or since, especially under the leadership of Minister Farrakhan. Of course, many may have first heard that expression when in the company of other leaders in the Islamic community, such as Imam Mohammed, a son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
There is no doubt, however, that the man who is most responsible for making this greeting first known is the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I have the first part of a speech he made in April, 1960. In it he explained the meaning of this term, “As-Salaam-Alaikum.”
At the beginning of that speech he said: “The first thing that I would like to acquaint you with is that greeting that you heard coming from us, ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum.’ You heard that word. You want to know what it means. That’s an Arab word, or the Arabic/Arabians word or greetings in their own language. It’s an Arabian–it’s an Arab word; means peace. That’s what it actually means. It means ‘peace to you, brother.’ And I think that that is a very good greeting to use. To say ‘Peace’ to a people who have not been able to enjoy peace for at least, to their knowledge, and their history, four hundred (400) years. It is the very greeting of God, Almighty.
“You find in your Bible, even the prophets of old, Jesus himself, it was their greeting. It was the disciples of Jesus greeting word, ‘peace.’ Right? So why should not we use the word, in its original language, or the greetings. We should say it in the original language, which is ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum.’
“Let us again remember that we have not had a greeting between us that means peace of what the slave masters have taught us. The slave masters have taught our fathers, [and it] came down through their children to say, ‘Good Morning,’ ‘Good Evening,’ ‘Good Afternoon,’ ‘Good Night,’ and ‘Hello,’ ‘How are you?’ or ‘Hi so and so,’ or ‘Hey so and so and so.’ That is not a good and intelligent greeting.
“It sometimes proves untrue. Even ‘Good Morning’ sometimes is not a good morning. It’s sometime too hot for us; too cold for us, or sometimes the weather is too bad for us. In fact about it, we have to be careful to remember when we have actually enjoyed a good morning. But yet, the greeting of the Christian world is ‘Good Morning.’”
“There are Christians who also use ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum,’ but they are using the word as a pass word, or greetings, in a secret society, known as the Moslem Shriners. Moslem Shriners use the same greetings because they represent themselves as being Moslems, as we are. And they study the Holy Qur’an. And they profess to believe in the religion that we call Islam–the religion of peace. But they commercialize on that religion. I’m sorry, brother Shriner, but my subject is ‘Truth.’
“We must remember that we should teach our children in such way that they too may be able to teach their children the truth. And truth banishes everything that hinders the unity and peace of the Brotherhood. As the sun rose this morning, it banished all the confusion that we had last night in the dark trying to find our way around. Right?
“My beloved brothers and sisters, ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum’–everyone of you should greet each other with that same greeting, As-Salaam-Alaikum. And I will say to you, ‘Wa-Alaikum-Salaam’, meaning the same thing, ‘Peace to you, Brother.’
“It also has a greater significance to it. Saying ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum,’ also signifies freedom, justice, equality to you, Brother. You are my equal. You are justified as being my equal. You’re justified as being my Brother. You and I are equal. You and I are free. I’m free and you are free. I extend to you freedom. I extend to you justice because you are free, justified to be my equal. My beloved brothers and sisters, it means a whole lot.”
I’m among others who heard him say the greeting was actually a short prayer for the other.
Some have used these wonderful words to interrupt another during meetings, where another term was far more fitting to use for that purpose. A few have used it to quiet others–a crowd or even their children. Most use it rightly. But it does not hurt to improve our understanding of what comes out of our mouths.
Now, while most (when extending these words of greetings) really mean it, there are others who say these same words but do not mean what they say at all, or they mean it for some and not for others. Some may not feel too good about another, and, for one reason or another, won’t give nor return these greeting. That’s never justified.
Minister Farrakhan is not like that! In fact, I saw him (on a video tape) correct a Believer for not returning these greetings of peace to another. That incident caused me to recall that 1960 speech by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, out of which I quoted what you read above. It has taken me a long time to locate it [and I only have a part of it] and put it here to bear witness to my Minister and Brother, Minister Farrakhan.
The legacy of slavery is still very much with us. In fact, that is why we are being taught Islam, by Minister Farrakhan–as did his teacher before him–to bring us out of every form or kind of slavery.
The King James Version of Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:8 reads: “Finally, brethren, [author’s note: sisters too] whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Other translations use the following words as “fill your minds with those things that are good,” “Fix your thoughts on what is true,”etc.
The writer, Paul–a sign of Minister Farrakhan–asked his followers (verse 9): “Put into practice what you have learned from me.”
We will then be better able to use Minister Farrakhan’s spiritual bridge making efforts to get where God and His Christ wants us to be. More next issue, Allah willing.