[Editor’s note: The following article contains edited excerpts of a message of the same name delivered by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Calif., on January 10, 1982.]
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.
My task, as I see it, is to properly represent the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to Black people in America and throughout the world. Why must Elijah Muhammad be properly represented? It is because that man and that man alone holds the key to our victory over mental death and our victory over the hell that we have suffered in our 400-year sojourn in America. Since Elijah Muhammad is such an important man to our future and the future of the world, it is necessary, it is proper, that he be properly understood.
It is necessary and vitally important that his word, his teachings, be properly understood by us all that we may act on the good counsel and advice that he gives to us, and save our lives and the lives of our families. It is not in the interest of our enemies that “The Messianic Figure” among us be properly understood. It is not in the interest of the United States government and her agencies that any true leadership for Black people be properly understood or seen in a proper light; therefore, this government and her agencies have worked night and day to destroy the image of proper leadership for us, and they have worked to give us leaders that they themselves control. The direction that these leaders travel in is a direction given by the very enemy that we should be seeking to get away from.
So the leadership that mouths the sentiments, the feelings and the programs of the establishment are those that the establishment pushes. But anyone that speaks a word that the establishment feels is dangerous, the establishment wants you to misunderstand that kind of man: We misunderstood Marcus Garvey until long after he was gone; we misunderstood Noble Drew Ali, we misunderstood W.E.B. DuBois, we misunderstood Booker T. Washington; we misunderstood Frederick Douglass, David Walker and Denmark Vesey—we misunderstood our giants! And it is not until after these giants have gone that the establishment feels you can get a proper understanding, because you are too far removed from that person to properly act on the principles that that man or woman taught us. So what they do when they lift up that kind of leader: They give us a “personality,” but never a “program.” So you can always have birthday celebrations for the great leader or the great teacher, but never concentrate on programmatic steps that would lead us to the goal that that leader had in mind for us.
The need for repetition in teaching a mentally, spiritually dead people of God
Elijah Muhammad was quite a strange man among us, and his word was definitely strange among us. And the impact of his message and what his message produced had a strange effect in the Black community. [One of the definitions of “strange” is “unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand,” or “not previously visited, seen, or encountered; unfamiliar or alien.”]
Many of us as Black people probably heard of Elijah Muhammad and became acquainted with him through the representation of his teachings by his students. But somehow or another, the learned of our people didn’t feel that the message of Elijah Muhammad had any importance to them; the learned of our people said, “Oh, yes, Muhammad? He’s quite a man for the junkie; he’s quite a man for the prostitute. He’s doing a wonderful job for the prisoners. … But I don’t need that, and I don’t need that message.” And it’s not the fault of the learned as much as it was our fault in the way we represented his message to the learned.
You know, it’s easy to beat on people; it’s easy to say you rejected him—and of course we did; but the hardest thing to do is to take some of the weight of that rejection on ourselves for not properly representing the man and not properly representing his message. You may ask, “Well, why did you improperly represent his message?” The scripture reads in the Holy Qur’an (Moses speaking): “My Lord, expand my breast for me and ease my affair for me and loose the knot from my tongue that they may understand my speech, my word.” The Holy Qur’an teaches us that Moses didn’t speak a “distinct” or “clear language;” the Holy Qur’an teaches us that Moses had an “impediment of speech.” The Bible bears witness to the same.
But what is meant by an “impediment of speech”? Was it that Moses had a slow tongue, and that Moses couldn’t make his points clear that he didn’t express himself well in the language? It could be that. But there is a deeper aspect to the “impediment of speech” than just the fact that Moses had a slowness of tongue—let us look at it from another angle: Every prophet spoke a language, and every prophet brought a scripture which in itself represented the Divine Language for that time. Now as “tongue” could mean the languages of “Arabic” or “Hebrew,” it could also mean the components of that message represents a language.
Jesus spoke a “language”; Moses and Muhammad brought a “language.” The language of these three, Jesus, Moses and Muhammad: Their language was similar, yet different. For example, Jesus spoke in “parables.” He spoke in parables because he was in the midst of his enemies, and he himself had not fully grown into the position of power that he was destined to grow to. Therefore he spoke in such a way that those who could hear would hear and those who could not hear would remain deaf; that those who would see, would see and that those who were blind would remain blind. Jesus spoke in symbols; he spoke in parables—but that was “language.”
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad brought us a message from God, and that message constitutes a “language.” In the 1930s, when the Honorable Elijah Muhammad began to teach us, our minds were considered by God and the prophets as being totally dead (“mentally dead”): We were grown in physical manifestation, but we were totally immature in spiritual development. So the same way you approach a baby: You do not give the baby meat, you give the baby milk—but in the milk are particles of the meat, so that the baby’s delicate digestive system can digest the milk and grow to be able to eat the meat.
The scriptures of the Bible talk about the “sincere milk of the word,” and it says we cannot give meat to babies. God’s Word has a “meat capacity” and it has a “milk capacity.” The White people who held our fathers in bondage blinded us spiritually. They never wanted us to come into the reality of The Knowledge of God, The Knowledge of self and The Knowledge of other than our own selves, so they blinded us so thoroughly that The Word, The Revelation that Almighty God Allah brought to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, had to be put in a way that it would attract a mind that was underdeveloped. It had to be put in a way like stories, but stories that actually contain lessons, and lessons that contain principles, and principles that contain laws.
But if we were wise enough to hear the story and extract the lesson, then go after the principle and carry the principle into practice, then we would have learned the lesson and grown more mature spiritually—and then we would be ready to “eat meat” and put up “the baby bottle.” (All praise is due to Allah.)
Now many people heard the Honorable Elijah Muhammad say certain things “over and over and over and over again.” Some misunderstood that, and said: “Well, Elijah Muhammad must have run out of knowledge. … He keeps saying the same thing over and over again.” They never thought [the reason] might be them. They were not getting the message properly, so he kept going over it. And that’s the great way to teach, through repetition.
Well, now, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is not among us, and all his work, near all of it, has been apparently destroyed. And so now there is a yearning on all of our parts who knew him to understand him more, to know what it was that he was driving at. And so in this Qur’anic passage from Surah 20 (“Ta Ha”), verses 27-28 read (Moses talking): “And loose the knot from my tongue, (That) they may understand my word.” “Loose the knot from my tongue”—actually, this is pointing to something very profound: “Loose the knot from my tongue”: “I’m giving them a message, but there’s a ‘knot’ in it—and that knot will not be able to be untied until after I am out of their midst. Something is impeding the people’s understanding of my word.”
If we had understood the word of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and if we had acted upon that word, we would be free right now. And then there wouldn’t be anything that would stop us from getting what we wanted. In fact, we would not waste any time talking about White people. … They would hardly be worthy of a mention. Do you know why? Because in The Message of Muhammad is the mastery of yourself and that which comes from yourself—so you do not have to bother with that which you already have mastered.
It is precisely because we didn’t understand the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s message that we never gained the mastery over ourselves, and so the White man now is still “the big boogey man.” But he’s not “the boogey man” at all; he’s just another man that can be mastered if you understand the principles that The Messenger was teaching, and put those principles in practice. You can master him and master his foolishness that now has you and me mastered.
‘Let my people go’: Whose people? Go where, and how?
Think of the words “Let my people go.” According to the English language, this is an imperative; this is a command, an order. If it is a command, then “who” is giving the command, and why? Is this command history? If it is history, does it have any relevance to today? Or is this command prophecy? And if it’s prophecy, then “when” and “where” and “how” will such an order be given today? If it is both “history” and “prophecy,” then how does it relate to us [now, who are living in cities throughout America]? And it didn’t say “let my brothers go,” “let my sisters go,” it says “Let my people go.”
“Let my people go”: What lessons can be extracted from those words? Didn’t you know that those few little words contain lessons? And did you know that in the lessons there are principles? And didn’t you know that undergirding those principles there are laws? So hidden in this command are consequences for rejecting, and hidden in this command is blessing if it is obeyed. “My” represents the possessive pronoun (“my people”). Who is talking here? Who owns the people? Who owns a nation? How did such owner come into ownership, that he could justify saying to another “Let my people go”? According to the scriptures, Israel was destined, prophesied, to go into bondage in Egypt. That’s like The All-Wise God passing sentence: “Okay John, you’re going to go to jail. … John, you’ll be in jail 400 years.” But after his time is up, what does John expect? He expects not parole if he did his time; the only way you give him parole if he hasn’t done all his time. But if he’s done all his time, he doesn’t expect parole! He expects to be let go.
“Let my people go”: Go where? Go how? On what principle, what program? You’re not a dog that you just can open the door and let you just run out crazy; that kind of “letting you go” was what they did in 1865: They let us go but they didn’t give us anything to go with. They let us go but they didn’t teach us how to do for ourselves, so we ended up turning right back around going back to the master saying, “Master, yes, I know you did let us go … but Lord have mercy! It’s so hard out there. We don’t know nothing but your plantation—let us stay on a little while?” He said, “Well, I can’t pay you.” See, brothers and sisters, you must remember that there was full employment during slavery; everybody had a job. No, we don’t want that kind of “let us go,” because the Holy Qur’an makes it much more clear; it says “send us forth”—that’s a big difference! Not just “let us go” like “turn us out.” “No, Pharaoh, send us! And when you’re sending me, you make sure that I have something to go with: Put something in my back pocket; put something in my front pocket. Give me some kind of sending on my journey. Remember how I reaped down your fields and how I laid your tracks and how I fought in every war for your freedom and your liberty and your justice? Remember me, Pharaoh, and send me forth”—but don’t send me alone; God says in the Holy Qur’an “send them forth with us.”
In Surah 20 (“Ta Ha”), verse 47 states, “So go you to him and say: Surely we are two messengers of thy Lord; so send forth the Children of Israel with us”—don’t send them forth alone, send them forward with Jehovah, Moses and Aaron; let them go with these because these will guide them into their nationhood! Not only did The Qur’an say “send them forth,” but pay attention to the concluding words of verse 47: “and torment them not”—stop this tormenting of the people!—“Indeed we have brought to thee a message from thy Lord, and peace to him who follows the guidance.”
Modern-day Pharaoh’s continuous plagues at not heeding Divine Command
Now what is the lesson and the principle hidden in this “Let my people go”? First, it is The Command of The Sovereign Ruler of The Universe to a great ruler. Second, He is giving an order, but in that order is an appeal that is respectful to the position of the Pharaoh. Third, The Sovereign Ruler is offering the Pharaoh peace, but He is warning him that if he rejects, punishment will follow. Now when you come in that manner, which is The Way of God, then Pharaoh takes “a position”. …
One more aspect of “Let my people go” is that it means “Pharaoh, you have time. Go on and do the right thing; you let them go. Don’t let Me have to take them—go ahead Pharaoh, you let them go.” That’s a Wonderful God, that’s a Merciful God! “Pharaoh, while the ball is in your court, act like you have some sense. Pharaoh, let them go.” But the scripture comes back with “an answer and a question”; in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 49, verse 24, it teaches: “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?” Here now “the mighty one” who is holding the people as a hostage and a prey, the question is asked of them “shall the prey be taken?”
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad warned you; he said, “Get up from the master’s gate, Black man! Come on and let me show you how to do something for yourself.” … And so, my beloved brothers and sisters, God is plaguing America now. One of the plagues that He hit Pharaoh with was flies; one of the plagues He hit Pharaoh with was lice. And God said He would plague Pharaoh with blood, and now in America blood is running in the street because “murder and mayhem” is the order of the day in American society. Children are killing their parents, parents killing their children; family members just slaughtering each other—America is going to hell with blood.
Look at it Black man and woman: He is plaguing her. America’s society is falling apart—her education cannot solve the problem she is in (revolution against itself): The workers are revolting against the management, and management is fighting against labor. Look at the country, it is torn with strikes and strife. … And the White man is saying, “Lord, what’s happening?” … And now as the economy falls, White people are saying, “Well, we have to lay off,” and I see White people in soup lines now; I see White people at the unemployment office now. I see you in long lines waiting now for other Whites to give you a check, knowing that in a few days the check is going to run out and then you’re going to ask, “What shall we do?”
There is murder and mayhem in the Black community now because we’re beginning to feed on each other. Just look at it: So you’re hating yourself now; because, it’s not the White man robbing you, it’s your own Black brother beating you in the head, taking your wallet, knocking you down; the sister robbing the old lady, robbing the old man. You’re beginning to prey on one another now so there’s no more love in you for your Black self, no more love in you for your own kind. And you’re lying there in the ghetto, having hope now in the only thing you ever had hope in, and that’s the White man. …
So look Black man, Black woman: You are headed right now into death jaws. And I’m sorry to tell you this, but Allah (God) has to do this in order to wake you up. It is written in the Holy Qur’an that Moses prayed to Jehovah to destroy the wealth of Pharaoh because Moses’ people were in love with Pharaoh’s riches. So Allah said to Moses, “Your prayer is answered,” so He destroyed the wealth of Pharaoh because He knew that when Pharaoh had no more wealth, he wouldn’t be attractive to you anymore. And now that the White man’s wealth is diminishing, and it has no real attraction for you because you can’t see what your place is in it tomorrow or the day after, now you’re beginning to think a little bit more about yourself and your future; and you want direction now for your life. “What direction should I go in? What steps should I take? What shall I do?”
I say in a very humble way to the president of the United States of America and to the United States government in the words of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, The Messenger of Allah: Let this people go. Do not continue to torment Black people; and don’t trick them with false promises of integration and social equality, giving Black people some of your women and girls as a hedge against poverty and want. Pharaoh, let this people—who are The People of Almighty God Allah: Let them go!
It is not Elijah Muhammad, nor Farrakhan, that is bringing this command to you (the government of America). We are speaking In The Name of The Lord of the Worlds. Let The Black man go!