[Editor’s Note: The following text is excerpted from a message delivered May 13, 2001 by Minister Louis Farrakhan on the topic of respect for women and mothers. ]

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

My subject today is taken from the 4th Surah of the Holy Qur’an called “Al-Nisa” (The Women). When Allah (God) revealed the Qur’an, He wasted not one word. He revealed this chapter at a time when the Arabs were guilty of infanticide, the killing of female children. He titled it “The Women,” not The Woman, meaning one woman. It is not dealing with color. It is not dealing with nationality. It is dealing with a gender and a nature that cries out to be understood.

The Qur’an starts with seven oft-repeated verses called, Al-Fatihah. In English it means “The Opening.” Some scholars say the root word of Al-Fatihah is Mifta, which means the key. These seven verses are the key not only to the book, but, these seven verses are the key to understanding the nature of Allah (God) and the nature of His Creation. It is also the key to understanding the profound wonder in the nature of the female.

Let us look at the attributes of Allah that are found in surah Al-Fatihah. It starts with “Bismillah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim,” translated, “In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.” Did you know that every woman is a mercy from Allah (God) to us as men and to the world? Not only is every woman a mercy from Allah (God), but, every woman is a sign of His Beneficence. In her nature is ar-Rahman, Beneficence, and ar-Rahim, Mercy. The next attribute found in the first verse of the Qur’an is, “Al-hamdu lil-lahi Rab-bil ’aalameen,” meaning, “Praise Belongs to Allah (God), the Nurturer of each of us, making us to evolve stage after stage until we reach our eventual perfection.”

In the womb we start as sperm mixed with ovum, then a clot, an embryo, then a fetus. Who is nurturing? The mother is. She is Rabb, the nurturer; she is a little Rabb from the Big Rabb (Allah). Her nurturing does not stop when the child comes to birth. She nurtures it from her breast. She nurtures it from her lips. She nurtures it from the warmth of her body. She does not sleep unconscious of the new life. She is not only its nurturer, but, she is its natural protector from the force of death that would kill the new life. She is the first nurse. She is the first teacher. She is Rabb. Rabb means Lord. Rabb means Nurturer. Rabb means Cherisher. Rabb means Evolver. She is all of that.

Then we say, “O Allah, guide us to the straight path.” Who is your mother? She is your guide. How can she guide if she does not know? It is in her nature to guide the new life that she has brought onto the planet, which is the furtherance of you and me as men and women. You cannot further yourself; it starts with her. Any woman that will lay down and give you a baby is a mercy from Allah (God) to you, but, little it is that you give thanks. We are an ungrateful people and that ingratitude is shown in the way we treat our women and in the way we treat our mothers.

Sister, you are the guide for your children. Young females that are not yet mothers, you will one day be a mother. You should be preparing now by filling your head with the right kind of knowledge that you can impart to that which you will bring forth onto this planet.

A foundation is that upon which we build. The earth is a foundation out of which we come. Everything that is on the earth is built because the earth is fundamentally sound, except when Allah (God) shakes it. The woman is the foundation upon which civilization is built. We do not judge the degree of civilization of the people by a man. The wise always look at your woman. By looking at your woman, they can tell how highly civilized you are or how uncivilized you are because she is the reflection of your degree of civilization.

To be civilized, according to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, is one who has knowledge, wisdom, understanding, culture, refinement, the pursuit of happiness, and, is not savage. What is a savage? A savage is a person who has lost the knowledge of themselves and is living the life of a beast or lower animal. Beloved brothers and sisters, you are in the condition of a savage because you have lost the knowledge of yourself. You have been robbed of that knowledge, therefore, you live a life that is not in accord with your nature and your possibilities. You live a life similar to the lower animals.

Any society that increases the knowledge, the wisdom and the understanding of a woman is a society that is on its way up. Any society that denies knowledge, wisdom and understanding to the female is a society that is on its way down, because a woman of knowledge, a woman of wisdom, and a woman of understanding, when you see her, you will see that she is refined in her manners, in her morals, in her speech and in her actions. She represents the highest of culture, and, she will open the door to the pursuit of happiness if she is granted the pursuit of real happiness.

Sisters, you are not really happy. Brothers, you are not really happy. Nothing in creation can truly be happy if it is other than itself. To be happy is to be fulfilled. It is only when you fulfill your destiny and are in accord with the nature of your creation that real happiness takes place, because real happiness gives you peace and contentment of mind.

All women represent the foundation upon which civilization rests. All of the greatness that we marvel at, that we see in men and women, past and present, came through her. The womb is a very sacred and special place. It is the place in which life is developed or formed. The Holy Qur’an teaches us that, “We should reverence the womb that bore us. Reverence is a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe and veneration. The outward manifestation of this inner attitude is a gesture indicative of deep respect and obeisance. If the womb of the female is sacred, and, we are told to reverence the womb that bore us, then, what is the attitude that we should have toward our mothers? I am talking about attitude, not a card or a flower. I am talking about a state of mind that isn’t for one day. It is for every day of the year.

Next to Allah (God), the Messenger of Allah (God), and, the Truth, your best friend is your mother. I do not care how much you venerate your father. After Allah (God), the Messenger, and, the Truth that frees your mind and your soul, your mother is your best friend. When the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was asked by one of His companions, “After Allah (God) and the Messenger, who should we honor most?” He said, “Your mother.” The companion said, “Who then?” He said, “Your mother.” Well, after that, “Who then?” He said again, “Your mother.” Then He said, “Your father.” She is 75 percent of value because she makes you. Allah (God) says, “The one that is best among you is he who is kindest to his or her mother.”

In Surah 3, verse 34, it reads: “When a woman of Amran said: My Lord, I vow to Thee what is in my womb, to be devoted (to Thy service), so accept (it) from me; surely Thou, only Thou, art the Hearing, the Knowing.” When you are pregnant make a vow that what is in your womb will be devoted to the service of Allah (God), and, ask Allah (God) to accept what is in your womb for His Service.

So, when she brought it forth, she said, “My Lord, I have brought it forth a female–and Allah knew best what she brought forth–and the male is not like the female, and I have named it Mary, and I commend her and her offspring into Thy protection from the accursed devil.” There is something growing in her womb and before she knows what it is, she offers it in service to Allah (God). Prophet Muhammad recited this to an ignorant Arab people who were killing their female babies. I am reciting it to an ignorant people who are destructive and abusive of our females.

We live at a time when women all over the earth are fighting for what is called Women’s Liberation, but, to some of the sisters Women’s Liberation means putting down men. Women’s Liberation means a lot of things that are negative toward the male. I understand that because men have not been what they should be, but, real liberation is not to liberate you from a man. Real liberation is liberating you from the ignorance that would allow a man to abuse you. That is real liberation.

Allah (God) wants each of us to be free, but, not free to say anything you want to say and do anything you want to do whenever you want to do it. That is not freedom. That is what is called license. Only the devil will give you a license to do anything you want to do, say anything you want to say and go anyplace you want to go.

Freedom suggests discipline. You can be free to be the best in the parameter that has been laid down by Allah (God). There is no creature that Allah (God) has not prescribed limits for. The planet that you stand on, that you depend on, is disciplined. It cannot get out of its orbit. If it does, we are all destroyed. It is free to move within the limits ordained by Allah (God).

You can be free, but, what are the limits that we should not exceed? Allah, (God) Who is the Architect of our being, and, knows the nature of His Creation, is the One that prescribes the limits. Not to enslave us, but, to prescribe what is best for our growth and development in that which He created us to be. Adopting a life style that is beyond the form that Allah (God) has you formed in is destructive.