[Editor’s note: The following excerpts are from the keynote address delivered by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan on September 21, 2008 at Union Temple Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. on the occasion of their annual Men’s Day program. Reverend Willie Wilson and Union Temple’s congregation honored Minister Farrakhan, Akbar Muhammad, Dick Gregory, Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy, and former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry with the Gye Nyame Award, named for the West African Adrinkra spiritual expression “Except God,” meaning one fears nothing except The Supreme Being; The Omnipotent and Omnipresent. To order this message in its entirety, visit store.finalcall.com.]

I thank God that I was here to witness and to be a part of honor being given to men who have lived their lives and given their lives to make life better for others. I am happy to see my brothers honored, because what I know of them and their great works, honor that you receive today can never pay for the sacrifices that each one of you have made to improve the quality of life of others.

But, who really knows these men? Who really knows the path that they have trod to get to where they are? These men who are honored today: Their story can never be fully known by their contemporaries. We can read about each of their accomplishments; we can hear them in a sermon or on the radio, or personally experience their goodness, but that’s not all to their life story.

The contemporaries of Jesus didn’t know him like those who came after him would come to know him. When death comes and puts a period to our testament; and the historians come and gather the bits and pieces of our lives, then History will grant us our place and reward us kindly, and generations down the road that never heard your voice will praise your name, because no man can get his reward, truly, while he lives.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

Our frailties and our shortcomings will go down in the grave with the flesh, but the good things that we have done, in the name of He Who Lives Forever, that is what lives, and that is what will cause all good men to be remembered.

God’s Standard for good

Good men, and good women, start by recognizing how insufficient we are, and how Great God Is. In the Muslim Prayer Service, you see us raise our hands near our head as if we are in an act of surrendering to Allah (God), and we say, Allahu Akbar, which means “God is Great.” Not “I,” but God is Great. Then, as we continue the prayer, the Muslim goes into a bend, where he says, “God is Great. Blessed is the Name of God, and surely God answers him who praises Him.”

But then the Muslim says even bending is not enough, so he prostrates himself, returning to the fetal position (sajdah) to remember that he was once in the womb, made from worthless water, and God brought him forth. So who are we that we should get carried away with ourselves? Humility is how you start making a few—just a few—good men.

Now, when we say a few good men, the word “few” means “not many; a small number; a minority group”—a select group. The word “good,” according to Webster, means “suitable to a purpose.” A lot of people are suitable for some purpose, and they are effective. They may be efficient. They may produce favorable results, and the results may be beneficial. But they are not yet a few good men, because “good” is not what we define. “Good” is what God defines.

The scripture teaches that “God is Good.” Well, if God is Good, then it is only He Who sets The Standard, or gives the yardstick by which we measure what is good! Unfortunately, we don’t use that yardstick, and that is why there are only a few.

How do you define “man”? In the Book of Genesis, it reads: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good. …”

After He did all of this work on the first day, it intrigued me that God then said that it was “good.” See, God is letting us know what The Standard is. The Standard to being one of the few good men is that you have to be creative! You have to be a producer! You have to do things that are good in order to claim that you are good!

And at the end of the sixth day, He said, “Let Us make man.” God breathed inspiration into the good man that He made, but the difference between that man and everything else He created was that God gave man free will. Since God respects Himself, and made man like unto Himself, He gave us free will—but in that was the test. When man broke the covenant with God, and lost the Garden, he did so because he became disobedient.

The Holy Qur’an says that after the devil made them slip, God turned mercifully to him, and granted him favor. Isn’t that wonderful? It doesn’t mean that because we’re trying to be good men that we don’t make mistakes. It doesn’t mean that because we’re trying to be good men that we don’t sin. The scriptures teach that he repented, and God showed mercy, and God has been showing mercy ever since, still looking for a few good men.

The Three Stages of Goodness

“Surely Allah enjoins justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion. He admonishes you that you may be mindful.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah 16, verse 90)

In the above verse, Allah (God) is trying to tell us what His yardstick is for measuring who is good. Now, there are a lot of people who are good to you, but who are not good, because we don’t use the yardstick that God uses. Hypocrites can look good, and even do some good—that affects good—but they are not good people. Isn’t that something?

There are three different degrees of goodness. The first degree, or lowest stage, of goodness is the fulfillment of duties and obligations. For example, a man who brings home his paycheck, and gives it to his wife, and gets some food for the children. That is good—but there are only a few good men. If you have a wife, your duty is to maintain her. Unfortunately, she is the hard worker today, and she is maintaining us. Not so good. A woman cannot honor a man that she is taking care of.

Men who make babies, and walk away? Is that good? I watched dogs and cats, and lower animals, take care of their young. I watch animals fight to protect their young. We don’t see too much of that among us, so some of us haven’t even gotten on the ladder to being one of the few good men. And the duty you have to yourself: You violate that duty to self when you smoke, drink and eat the wrong foods, because you are destroying the body that God gave to you. That is not good.

The second stage of goodness is the doing of good where man has received no visible benefit. There are a lot of people whose apparent acts of good are tainted by ill motivation. When you do good in places where you don’t even think that you are going to get a benefit, you are ascending the ladder toward becoming one of the few good men.

The last, or highest, stage of goodness is that in which a man’s nature is so inclined to good that he doesn’t have to make an effort to do good. He does good to all people, because his nature is good. When God made man in His own image and after His own likeness; and said that it was “very good,” then He made us with a nature to do good not seeking a benefit because The God Who created us in His image does nothing seeking some benefit from us. The only thing it seems that He requires is gratitude.

Our gratitude is not for His benefit, because He is God whether we are grateful or not. He preserves the Heavens and the Earth, and it tires Him not. There is nothing you can give Him because He was God before you even knew Him. So, if you praise Him, and are grateful to Him, that is a blessing for you. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (God) says over and over again, “Surely man is ungrateful,” because Allah (God) hates ingratitude. And humility should always precede honor, because God dislikes people who seek exaltation before submission.

Good can be tainted by impure motivation Those of you who are coming up, wanting to be leaders, should not follow in the way of the vanity leader. Vanity leaders love to be seen; they love to be heard; and they love to have the uppermost seats in the house! We have a lot of them. These people have a need for ego gratification in the name of leadership!

There are some who preach “Christ” because it’s considered “big business.” These kinds of preachers are not the few good men, but they have the appearance of good. And there are those of us who give charity to be seen of men: If you gave to be seen of men, then your heart was not elevated to the point where you would be giving not seeking any praise or wanting any favor, for what you have done looked good, but the goodness was tainted by impure motivation.

The Qur’an says, “Do no favor seeking gain.” Don’t do good looking for some good reward, because then your motive is tainted, and The Spirit of God cannot be with what you’re doing! Satan only comes in on a promise God made to you not yet fulfilled; or, a desire that you have that he can grant you on condition that you bow down to him.

That is why in Islam, Muslims love Jesus; and we praise Allah (God) for Jesus, because he was a perfect example of the Law of God from the Qur’anic viewpoint. From the biblical viewpoint, he knew he was a king, but he knew his kingdom had not yet come. But Satan also knew this, because he was trying to tempt Jesus: “Now Jesus, come up on the mountain with me. There’s something I want to show you. Look at all of those cities: They are mine. But if you bow down to me, I’ll give that to you.” And what did the Master say? “Get thee behind me Satan.”

How many of us have the strength to tell Satan, “Get behind me!” If you want what God is going to give you, you don’t care anything about what man can offer you!

A Few Good Men

How in the world do we get to be a part of that select group that is so few? From the scriptures of both Bible and Holy Qur’an, let us study the lives of the following examples of good men: Abraham, John, Jesus The Messiah, and Prophet Muhammad.

Abraham is the father of the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the Holy Qur’an, Surah 2, verse 124, it reads: “And when his Lord tried Abraham with certain commands he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make thee a leader of men. (Abraham) said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the wrongdoers, said He.”

Abraham was an upright man. He was not one of the polytheists. He only worshiped God, and God alone. So he is the father of the few good men.

The circumstances surrounding John’s birth were such that from the womb he was chosen: “So the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary Allah gives thee the good news of John, verifying a word from Allah, and honourable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah 3, verse 38)

John was made good by God from the womb, so God blessed him with wisdom and kindheartedness. John was pure, and he was obedient; he was not insolent. He was kind to his parents. Deeper than that, John was submissive to God.

And right after mentioning John, the Qur’an speaks of Jesus: “When the angels said: O Mary, surely Allah gives thee good news with a word from Him (of one) whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, worthy of regard in this world and the Hereafter, and of those who are drawn nigh (to Allah), And he will speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and (he will be) one of the good ones.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah 3, verses 44-45)

Do you know that in this book, Qur’an, the mother of Jesus is honored more than any other woman in the world? The mother of Jesus is honored more than Abraham’s mother, more than Moses’ mother, more than Muhammad’s mother. Why? She was a pure woman; and the Book teaches that the angels contended with one another over who would have charge over her. Mary was so pure, that God used her womb to bring into the world The Messiah through Whom the whole world would be blessed! The Goodness of The Messiah is not good for a few. The Goodness of The Messiah is that He is good for all.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was a good man even before he received revelation. He was an honorable man of good character. Allah (God) says in the Qur’an that he had “sublime morals.” He was sympathetic, he was generous, he was faithful, he was forgiving, he was courageous, he was steadfast!

And as a Muslim, I love reading the Bible, because Prophet Muhammad, as I understand him, was well versed in the Torah, the Injil (Gospels), and the Qur’an. Prophet Muhammad was a good man! He was so wise and cosmopolitan in his view, because he wanted to bring Muslims and Christians and Jews, and the people of Zoroaster and Tao and others, into oneness, so he had to lift them beyond the things that divided them against themselves.

The Disciples of Jesus

Jesus was trying to make a few good men out of his disciples. When he said to his disciples: “Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, or even unto the Samarians, but go ye to the lost sheep of the House of Israel,” Jesus was very specific and narrow in his focus at the beginning of his ministry; where you would say he was a “nationalist,” and was raising these “nationalistic disciples.” But Jesus was trying to make them a few good men! His ministry was to take a few up the ladder with him!

But these disciples were trifling young men! They kept worrying about who was going to “sit at the right hand,” and where their sustenance would come from; as well as those who were envious and jealous of him. Jesus knew they had madness, but he had to cleanse them. He would wash the feet of his disciples. Jesus did lots of things to show his disciples that humility is the start of going up the ladder to becoming a few good men.

But it is interesting, as in the case of Jesus’ crucifixion, how people sometimes will get more from you when you’re dead. I don’t know why that is, but it’s like when death comes, the person is divested of the thing that gives problems, which is the flesh. Sometimes when the flesh is gone, all you have left is the body of knowledge that a person brings.

And the knowledge is more perfect than the body that housed the spirit of a man who gave us that knowledge, because there is no human that is without sin. The flesh is a covering for the real you, but it gives you trouble. Until we can master this, we can never really get up that ladder to be one of the few good men.

After the death of Jesus, those disciples were transformed in an upper room experience, and, they became good men in him. They lost that foolishness of who was going to be “first,” or “last”; or who had this or that. The disciples were now focused on the assignment to: “Go ye into all the world and preach this gospel to every nation, kindred and tongue.” Those men, then, were willing to give their lives for that Gospel! Many of the early Christians in Rome did exactly that. They were good people who died for a good cause because they gave their lives that you could praise him today!

I hope that God will allow us to ascend that ladder to be among the select few, because God doesn’t need many to turn the world around. Sometimes He just needs one good man, because in every prophet of God, that one person was able to do magnificent things in the name, and with the help, of God.

All of us today are being called to do what is apparently impossible, which is to raise our people from the mentally dead; to overcome the adversity of a negative world; to plant and nurture the seed of a New World; and overcome all opposition to The Truth of that Word that will bring in The Kingdom, until that Truth is firmly established in the hearts and minds of the people.

But this can only be done in the name, and with the help, of God. And all it needs is just a few good men.

Thank you for reading these words.