The greatness of purpose, Malcolm X

Feb 23rd, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Social, World

Some men are great, some are remembered and some go on to live forever in the minds of millions.

Alexander was great but what did he do but conquer lands? Einstein was a genius but what did he do but lead humanity to its worst nightmare, i.e. the nuclear bomb?  Many philosophers are believed to be great but what did they do but solve some abstract riddles? A man in love with wisdom was Socrates. His death which was otherwise so meaningless and ordinary, was never truly his death and he lived on in the hearts and minds of people to this day.

What is greater is the immensity of purpose. I believe in categorical moral reasoning, and so I do not care what influence that man has had on society. What he did and why he did it is supreme for me rather than how successful that certain person ever was. Power, influence and acknowledgment mean nothing in the minds of the crazy ones.

Isn’t it madness that describes change in its complete form? How can we talk of change without talking of madness? Change is not the property of the same, or sane. It’s the belonging of those who resist, who can’t stand sameness, or sanity, or the status quo, or the world order as we know it.

When there is something unjust in the world it is these mad men that find it in themselves the power, the Khudi (In Iqbalian terms), to say it in the face of injustice without any sign of weakness, and without compromise or any sugarcoating of reality.

‎And here are the words of a madman

“… you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone, I don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

When he championed extremism I believe he intended to describe the position of truthfulness met by extreme and extra-ordinary opposition.

This is Malcolm X, great in a many ways but what I value most is his greatness in purpose and will. He had given his life a purpose which was to fight a war against injustice.

Born to a poor black family in a racially charged American society, he can be assumed to be quite accustomed to the realities of discrimination. But as obvious as this sentence may seem, it is not.

In relation to his own people, he had always been very bright skinned. This had added to his social status and he always saw it as benefit and a good thing. But after some time he did realize that this was nothing to be proud of. To be brighter, to be nearer to white was not anything that he had accomplished. He realized that this belief was imposed on his people by the white man who enslaved his people ages ago. This white man taught his people that they are inferior and it is the white man that is superior.  With time, an inferiority complex was ingrained in the minds of the blacks, which he believed was not only misleading and false, but also disastrous in its implication for the community.

The realization that his big lips, curly hair, black complexion and all that follow to be part of his African being are not to be ashamed of, didn’t come that easy. It came as a lightning bolt saying “the White Man is the Devil”. He started to hate white people from then on.

Not only did he witness the outright hypocrisy of this certain ‘white race’ that played lip service to democracy, freedom for all, equality and the likes, while indulging in the worst crimes of humanity, he also read how in history this race has taken with itself a ‘white man’s burden’ and a ‘civilization mission’ under the banner of which whole nations have been whipped out, mistreated as animals, colonized, raped and plundered.

When asked why he hated ‘the white man’, he bluntly replied “For the White man to ask the black man if he hates him is just like rapist asking the raped, or the wolf asking the sheep ‘do you hate me?’. The White Man is in no moral position to accuse anyone else of hate”

In any case, he understood that the decolonization of the Afro-American mind was the greatest need of the hour. He would say “A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.”

He joined the ‘Nation of Islam’ a distorted movement initiated by Elijah Muhammad, who claimed to be a prophet of the black people. This movement taught him ‘the white man’s the devil’ doctrine. Interestingly all of his education took place in the jail’s library for which he would famously say that

My Alma mater was books, a good library. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.’’

Being a self-learned and self-skilled person as he was, Malcolm X remained always critical and open to new thoughts and considerations. After taking part in a formal Muslim pilgrimage, he converted to mainstream Islam. Religion was not the only thing that changed, it was his whole world view. Upon seeing the sight of Hajj where people of all races, nationalities, colors and complexions where walking together in harmony and love for the Almighty and His creations, all in the same cloth regardless of socio-economic backgrounds, he was simply amazed and astonished. It was here that he realized that some of his previous convictions were wrong. It’s not the white man who is to be condemned; it is the deeds he has carried out.

His letter following the pilgrimage says that

“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered ‘white’–but the ‘white’ attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.”

This great man was martyred. According to the autopsy report, Malcolm X’s body had 21 gunshot wounds. He lived and died a brave and proud man.

I see him as a person who truly liberated himself. The greatest freedom is the freedom of the mind. This he accomplished by first decolonizing his mind from all the silly beliefs of inferiority imposed by the European race. He later freed his mind from the prejudices he had established regarding the white man.

In these tough and rough times, the need of the nation today is to have its very own Malik El-Hajj Al-Shahbaz, A.K.A Malcolm X

Saad Lakhani

About the author

Saad Lakhani is a student of Social Sciences based in Karachi. He tweets @Saadlakhani12

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  1. The journey he traveled.. until he got to The Truth is really enlightening… reading his biography was a great learning experience. It broadened my vision to know about a person, who was born and raised in west, and had a quest for truth, which I found in medieval spiritual stories of East only.

  2. weldone, saad. it is really excellent piece of work on a man of purpose and a purposeful life. those who dare to change always has the two things in common. purpose and will. this blogg reminded me the much needed task of our society, prepare youth with purpose and will to bring positive change.

  3. […] in our own national, cultural and religious heritage. We have promoted such figures as Iqbal and Malcolm X for this very reason. And to quote our favorite activist for change, the latter of the […]

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