I am for the acquiring of knowledge or the accumulating of knowledge-as we now call it; education. First, my people must be taught the knowledge of self. Then and only then will they be able to understand others and that which surrounds them.
Anyone who does not have a knowledge of self is considered a victim of either amnesia or unconsciousness and is not very competent. The lack of knowledge of self is a prevailing condition among my people here in America.
Gaining the knowledge of self makes us unite into a great unity. Knowledge of self makes you take on the great virtue of learning.
Many people have attempted to belittle or degrade my followers by referring to them as unlettered or unschooled. They do this to imply that the believers in Islam are ignorant. If such a claim were so, then all the more credit should be given for our striving for self-elevation with so little. But truth represents itself and stands by itself. No followers, nor any other people are more zealous about the acquiring of knowledge than my followers.
The Purpose of Knowledge
In The Name Of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.
Why should we gain education? What is education? What is the purpose for education? No one should go after knowledge with a vain motivation. If all we want out of knowledge is a good home, a decent car and a little money, then we fail to see the real purpose for the creation by the God of knowledge.
The Holy Qur’an teaches us that Allah (God) created the heavens and the earth with truth. The Bible teaches that God established the heavens and the earth with wisdom. So, we are birthed into a house of knowledge. The universe is full of knowledge. Everything in the universe is truth. There is nothing false that God created, and as long as you live, if you live to be 1,000, you could never exhaust the knowledge that is in this universe. The Holy Qur’an teaches that, if all the trees were as pens and all of the seas with seven more seas added to them were as ink, you could never exhaust the words of Allah (God).
Since we recognize from the Bible and the Holy Qur’an that this universe is created by a wise Creator called the Author of the Truth, then He must have a purpose for authoring the truth by which all of us exist, subsist and maintain and perpetuate our lives. What is his purpose for learning? Surely, the wise Creator did not intend for us to learn to come to any of these fine institutions to come out and get a fine home, car and a good paying job, and then become totally corrupt.
What is the purpose for knowledge? The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has taught us that the purpose for knowledge is to feed the development of the human being until that human grows into divine and becomes a true manifestation of the characteristics of God. Both books, Bible and Holy Qur’an, say that from God we had our origin and to God we return. Does that mean we came up out of the earth and we go back to the earth, and that’s our return? No. It means that the Author of your intelligence is the Creator and the evolution of your intelligence is to the Creator.
If the purpose of knowledge is to evolve man into a true manifestation of God, then the hunger for knowledge is a natural desire in the human being that should never be frustrated. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has said to us that God created himself in darkness. From the first atom of life, He, God, created Himself and He makes all life bear witness to His self-creation in the darkness of the womb of space. None of us who come to life come to life except we bear witness to His coming to life.
Our first beginning is from a watery substance called sperm. The Holy Qur’an teaches that man, in his first state, is nothing to speak of. The first state in the evolution of men and women from ignorance into knowledge is also nothing to speak of. Beloved Black Brothers and Sisters, you are right now in your first state along the path of human development. You are a long, long, long way from where you and I yet have to go. White people today rule the world. They are not in their first state of development, but Caucasian people should not mock the development of those who are coming out of colonialism, up from under imperialism, up from under a dark night of ignorance as they struggle to evolve. They should not make their evolution make them think that they are superior, lest it produce an arrogance that stops their growth and development. The first stage of the Caucasian people was not something great to think of. They, too, struggled with the life in the hills and cave-sides of Europe. They did not know how to bury their dead or cook their food. They lived the life of the lower animals until the divine light came to them through Musa or Moses. They do not talk about their beginnings. It is nothing to speak of. You do not find Caucasian people glorifying the caves. They put that behind them, because they have put it behind them. One day, we will never look back at this stage of our development. We will have evolved so far above where we are that we will never speak even of this condition that we find ourselves in because, like sperm, it is nothing to speak of.
The cell becomes a clot in the second stage. The cell is where you begin and you cannot begin until there is a unit and a union. Likewise, our progress as a people does not begin, Brothers and Sisters, because we are fragmented. It begins when we recognize the value of each other and come together as a unit; then, life begins for us as a people.
The cell becomes a clot, a lump of congealed blood, but in that clot there is a growing intelligence.
In the Holy Qur’an, the first word that Prophet Muhammad of Arabia (PBUH) heard was “Iqra” in Arabic, which means “read.” The words appear in the 96th Chapter of the Holy Qur’an, but it is the first word that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had and the name of the chapter is “Al Alaq,” which means “The Clot.” It says, “Read in the name of thy Lord who creates.” Read “and thy Lord is most generous who taught men by the pen what man knew not.” A clot is a lump of congealed blood, but intelligence is hungering to grow within that clot. It just needs to be fed and it will evolve.
It is only through reading that your intelligence is developed. When you open a book, it looks like a bird with open wings. When you learn to read with understanding, when you can open the book of knowledge, when you can understand what you read, then that is like giving a man wings. There is no condition that we suffer from that we cannot rise from with knowledge. We are not oppressed because we are Black; we are oppressed because we are ignorant. It is ignorance that keeps us on the bottom, not Blackness.
The Blackness that we must fight against is not the Blackness of our skin, but the Blackness of ignorance is something we must remove. It is a scourge on Black people. As long as you do not open the book, as long as you do not know how to read with understanding, you will always be looking at White, Yellow and Brown people, crying about your condition; but it is not anybody’s fault. You have to get up and learn what there is in order to evolve.
The next stage of life is an embryo. The head has to be formed first, because you do not need hands without a head. It takes the head to put hands to work. God would not give you hands without a head first. The head has to develop first, then calls into existence the hands and feet, and gives them something to do.
How can we, as Black people, say that we do not need a leader? No wonder our hands have not done anything. What do you do with your hands and feet? You disco and party. What are you building for your people? Nothing.
If you are building nothing with your hands and going no place with your feet, then that is a sign that you really have not developed a head to direct your hands and feet. This is why this society has worked to destroy leadership among Black people because, once you get the right kind of leadership, we have to get up out of the condition that we are in. Every Black leader who has stood up for us has been castigated and destroyed, because as long as you do not develop a head, then somebody else’s head will direct your hands and feet.
People criticize underdeveloped Africa and other underdeveloped countries, but you only have an underdeveloped country because you have an underdeveloped intelligence. Nobody wants to sit down next to or look at a lump of congealed blood. We are rejected in the society and nations because we have not formed yet as a people of intelligence.
After the head is developed, the fourth stage is called a fetus. And all of this develops in darkness. These four stages are the basis of a life that is ready to come out of darkness into light, and master the forces of life. When the baby is born, that is the fifth stage.
Within 12 months, the baby is walking, doing things that none of us taught them to do, because there is a native intelligence in that sperm that is of divine. That intelligence must be fed in order for it to grow, as that sperm grew from a cell to a clot, to an embryo, to a fetus, to a baby, to a child and then to an adult, which is the completion of that physical development. How far can the intelligence grow if the intelligence is properly fed?
The scripture says, “God made man in His image and likeness.” Then, He says to man, “Replenish the earth, and subdue it.” He wants man to master the laws that govern the earth. You can do that. All we have to do is be fed properly.
Where are you on the scale of human development? Have you reached the human level yet? Frankly, there is hardly a human being on the earth. The whole earth is populated by beasts. We have been short-circuited in our growth and have degenerated into the lower forms of life. We have not justified our existence on the earth, and thus sentenced ourselves to death.
The mind is created to feed on truth. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that the brain cell is created to think rightly because the brain cell is created to feed on the truth of the universe.
When you feed on truth, you think in harmony with the truth, you think right. When you feed on lies, you feed on that which is against the nature of the cell of the brain, and destroy the beauty of the brain cell. It is like planning wood against the grain. The more you plane it against the grain, the uglier you make it. The more you think against truth, the uglier you become spiritually, mentally and even physically.
This is how important it is for us to be taught right. We live in a world in America where a people have not treated us right. If we have not been treated right, do you think that a man who will not treat you right would teach you right? We have never been taught right from the cradle, and that is why we are in our current condition.
Thirty million Black people and we do not produce anything. We all have on shoes, but we do not have one shoe factory. We all have clothes, but we do not have one clothing factory. We all eat food, but we are losing the little land we owned in the South. We are totally dependent on Caucasian people to feed, clothe, educate, shelter and employ us. What have we been fed in our minds?
Our beautiful Black students are ashamed of the Blackness of our skin. How could you be fed properly and hate yourself? How could we have been taught properly and feel that there is something divinely wrong with kinky hair that we have to burn it out, pull it out, blowing it up, curl it up to try to look like White people, because we hate ourselves? How can other people love us if we do not love ourselves? How can other people respect us if we will not respect ourselves? Why should we expect other people to do for us what we are unwilling to do for ourselves?
Something went wrong in our learning, but do you think it was an accident or was it on purpose? How far have we gone in our development?
In the darkness, we are like a clot in that we have never developed a hint of leadership to direct our arms and legs to make progress. As a beast walks the earth with his head down, following the plane of the earth, a human being that is not fully developed walks the earth with a head after low desires. We walk the earth following our low desires. In fact, man has become so weak and wicked that his knowledge serves his low desires. His desire is to rob, steal, plunder, exploit, enslave, oppress and suppress. His knowledge is used to destroy, rather than build, because man is not a man. Man is a beast in human form. We are not being taught by human beings; we are taught by beasts, so how can we manifest human qualities when a beast is our teacher.
The education from these institutions is worthless; feeding from archaic principles of a decadent mind that is not keeping pace with the onward motion of men and women’s minds; feeding these youngsters methods that have been dead a long time ago; feeding them psychology that they cannot use. If the teachers do not grow, how can they grow their students? They are already dead because they think they have arrived. They do not study anymore, so they cannot grow others. When the students feed from their teachers, they are feeding from death itself. All the teachers want is a salary. The students are suffering for the lack of knowledge; the whole of America is suffering for the lack of knowledge.
When God gives man knowledge, He gives man a duty and responsibility. A man who knows is responsible for the one who does not know. When God gives you knowledge and responsibility, and you fail in that responsibility, you forfeit the right to know. So your knowledge that you profess to have becomes darkness; and you lose a grip on the light because you refused to carry out your duty because you knew and you would not teach those who did not know.
If you do not have character development, knowledge will bring out the worst in you and it will make the one who knows suppress and enslave the one who does not know. When the poor person who does not know seeks to get free, you suppress and kill them to maintain your position of preeminence that you cannot maintain by love and right; you can only maintain it by force. This is the way America has become today. America cannot maintain her position in the world by right, so she has to maintain it by might. When you suck the blood of the peoples of the world, at some point there is going to be a natural combustion because people are going to revolt against the man who knows and kept knowledge from others to oppress, enslave and exploit them.
They have allowed us to attend all of the fine academic institutions, but there is something missing. With all that we have learned, we cannot quite put it together to do something to help our people. We have more education than the respected country of Great Britain: over 14,000 Bachelor of Science degrees every year, 775 Master degrees every year, 125 doctorate degrees every year. Every year, we are producing scholarship, but the scholarship is producing nothing for the people. It is because we have been deprived of the knowledge of ourselves.
It takes God, Himself, to intervene to get us up out of this—and God has intervened. I thank Almighty God for His Coming, for without Him we were totally lost and inhuman. But thanks to Almighty God Allah, He gave us Elijah Muhammad, a man that the prophets predicted would be among us. Your Bible ends in the Old Testament prophesying that Elijah would come. The Holy Qur’an prophesied that a man named Muhammad would be around at the time of the resurrection of the dead—not ghosts from the cemeteries, but Black men and women mentally, morally, spiritually, economically, socially and politically dead. People would get the truth and the truth would begin pulling the dry bones together; and the bones would stand up and they would start evolving again into true manifestations of the characteristics of God.
The man that you have been looking for all your life is to come from among a dead people that have been dehumanized. Powerful wisdom of God is going to rise up in the last days from out of a dead people. When you hear a people—whose intelligence was killed by the world—speaking words of wisdom and the institutions of learning did not teach them, then you know that God, Himself, has intervened.
The system is set up to destroy the cream of the Black crop, because White people do not want to see a head develop among us. They are watching at every turn for leadership, to destroy that leader. But God has given us a leader who has put his thoughts and wisdom in our heads. Even though he is absent from among us, he is very present in the knowledge that he has disseminated among us. You can kill the man but you cannot kill the plan. You cannot kill the idea. He is come to birth now in so many of us, until you do not know where to start to kill.
We have to make a change; we have to stop feeding from corrupt sources and start feeding from God and grow out of the bestiality into humanity into our divinity. We will walk out of death into life, out of an old world into a new world, and fulfill our destiny. We are born to become true manifestations of the characteristics of God.
Editor’s note: The above text is an edited excerpt from a message delivered by Minister Farrakhan at Wellesley College in Boston, Massachusetts on Feb. 16, 1983.]