"Light Creates Understanding" - The Life and Legacy of Malcolm X
By Naseeha Tayob

Published in: Self, World
Date: 16 / 02 / 21

He stood on the other end of the spectrum as a civil rights leader, Malcom X fought a war against inequality with the power of his words, leadership and strength. Though things were rough for him, he used those challenging circumstances to progress. He transcended and rose above it all. Malcom X went from convict to icon, spreading his message all over the world, from violator to a voice for the voiceless. A man who not only wanted change and progress but became it too. I can’t say whether he understood the idea that in order to make any change, you must first start with yourself, but he certainly took the steps to do so. He became a worldwide icon, a figure of history remembered till today, studied till today, inspires till today, leaving behind a legacy of lessons each one of us can use, learn from and entwine in our own lives.

For those who are avid readers, you’d understand when I say that reading a book, changes you, you see things differently, learn things, notice things about yourself and society and you notice things you were blindly unaware of before. That is the power of a book. The good ones, the good books, they have the power to complete change your life forever. One of my favorite lines of his is “the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive…”

I’ve heard of Malcolm X, I've seen clips of him, read his famous quotes and aced history tests in school. But I've never actually read him, his life and his struggle. I never knew his story, until I was actually given the task. Thank you Faisal. Reading this book allowed me to reflect deeper within myself, my purpose and opened my eyes to a whole new perspective.

For many people behind bars, they feel shut out of the world and disconnected from society - that is surely what I’d feel if I were in a prison. But there is goodness, khair even in the darkness of the tunnel so for Mr X, prison was more. It was within those 4 walls where he found resources to raise himself, work on himself and discover his next move. In prison he was given the gift of time where he could heal, feel, think, learn, ponder, wonder. He withdrew from all the nasty and toxic things he was exposed to and cleared his energy in time for a fresh start. Clearing his mind, body and energy made it easier to focus on carrying out Allah’s orders/commandment on a believer.

At some point in life, we all will find ourselves in a dark place, lost with no hope or direction. Times like this often bring down our confidence and we lose sight of our person, purpose, potential but there is a bigger picture for all of it - a new perspective is on the horizon.

Rumi said it perfectly - “If you`re irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”

“A wound is a place where light enters your soul.”

“Keep breaking your heart till it opens.” When Allah places you in a dark place, it’s so that you can REstart, REmember who you are, REmind yourself of your purpose and REdirect your energy.

The book, the documentaries and interviews all show that Malcom X was an educated man, though self-educated, educated nonetheless, visionary who was passionate about what he fought for. His relationship with himself took many moments of self-reflection and growth to eventually be a man who had self-respect and discipline. He held on to the principles, morals and values that he found on the road in the journey of life. Those principals, morals and beliefs were what made him a proud man with a purpose who had the potential to pull it off.

In his autobiography he writes “Many who today hear me somewhere in person, or on television, or those who read something I’ve said, will think I went to school far beyond the eighth grade. This impression is due entirely to my prison studies.” The time spent in prison was certainly time well-spent since he read books on philosophy, history, literature, science and of course, Islam.

He knew just how draw in an audience with his words. When he caught your attention, he held it, powerfully delivering his point across. He also held a belief a lot of people need to hear today - mistakes are a learning curve. They are lessons to be learned from. I believe this to every end. If you have made a mistake, or mistakes, then all those methods are telling you that your methods are not working. Another attempt with a different method could be your jackpot. DO NOT GIVE UP!

Education is important, knowledge is a duty upon every muslim but street smarts are now an important tool in life’s survival kit. You can read all the book on the shelf, but it’s how you apply it. You could perfect yourself in the art of speaking and body language but it’s how you get your message across. Both textbook and street smarts work hand in hand in all areas of life. Malcom X found himself on the streets, but he used that opportunity to gain street smarts. He became courageous and it brought out the leader within him.

It is a well-known fact that Malcolm X was on a path to Allah, a journey to strengthen his Eman and had a hunger for Islamic knowledge. Within the lines of his autobiography, I found that once he gained spiritual enlightenment, it became easier for him to carry out his mission. He had a vision of what the world should be and he was prepared to run miles to let it happen. That spiritual enlightenment gave him an understanding of how to go bout his mission within society and not against it. This was the wisdom that came from his journey to Mecca to perform Hajj.

He left a legacy - it has been 52 years since the death of Malcom X and his words and his fight live on. What he created, what he built is still standing today with his message written clearly - “You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.”

One of the highlights in Malcom’s mission was the fight for unity, diversity and equality among all. Sadly, we hear about injustice and racial inequality in almost all communities, small crowds, one on one meetings and the microscope gets even smaller. Incidents such as the death of George Floyd and many others who died for the color of their skin has proven that racism is an on going issue and has been since the days of Hadhrat Bilaal (r.a), the first person of African ancestry to become a Muslim. Racism is by far one of the biggest causes of turbulence in our flight forward to a more peaceful, united mankind.

When Malcom X journeyed to the Holy land of Mecca, there his life changed even more. He met people, different people of all colors, races, nationalities and languages but with one thing in common - brotherhood, of Islam. It changed him, yet again. This was when his approach to carrying out his mission had softened because he gained deeper enlightenment. His mission was not to stand up against the White supremest, but to stand together, all men, all women, united!

This was a man who had been through it all - lost parents, separated siblings, school drop-out, prison, theft, bad company, you name it, but he didn’t dwell on the past. Whenever he woke up to take the day, It was to MOVE FORWARD, not sit back and think and then overthink on yesterday.

After reading this book, seeing his world, Malcom X made me realize how important it is to leave behind something of value and in order to do that, you need to live a life of value. It made me reflect on my life and where and how I need to made changes for a better quality life for myself and those around me.

There is something to be healed within the mind of society, a shift that is necessary to occur to stop the injustice and cleanse the world of this sickness. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) spoke some strong words when he said: "There is no favor of an Arab over a foreigner, nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin, nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness."

Everyday we have the opportunity to create something new and build on it. Everyday we are given a choice. As Muslims, we need to make a conscious effort to make better choices with our thoughts and actions - this too will change the negative opinion about Islam and Muslims that the world seems to hold. Through small changes on our part, we can bring communities together, grow our circles, invite and influence others to believe that Islam teaches us to respect all human beings and regardless of race, treat each with dignity and kindness.

He said: “Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. Therefore we need more enlightenment. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, loves creates patience, and patience creates unity. Once we have more knowledge about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a United front will be brought about.”

About the author

I speak. I write. I coach.

I want to make the world a better place.

As an avid reader and writer, it’s no surprise that communications became my career and line of work. There is never one thing in particular that defines who I am, except the fact that I am passionate about everything I do. That made me the odd one out most of my life. It made realize how important it is to listen to my heart.

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