By Ahmad Sabri
You’re thinking, “How are Malcolm X and KSA related?”
This year many people in America and across the world commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, the influential Black Muslim leader who was shot dead in Harlem in 1965. But what does this have to do with KSA? It turns out it has a lot to do with Jeddah and Makkah.
Malcolm X was known for his defiance, his militant stances, and for being unapologetically supportive of the right to self-defense even if it was in the form of armed self-defense. But he was also a member of the Nation of Islam, an ideologically opaque group that preached racist notions. However, this changed towards the end of his short life when Malcolm X traveled to Hajj and received the cultural shock of his life. The shock that changed him forever and possibly cost him his life.
He expressed this cultural shock in the letters he wrote in Makkah and Jeddah, from the Kandara Palace Hotel (recently demolished) to be more precise. One such letter, sent from Jeddah to his autobiographer Alex Haley, is still preserved and has the Kandara Palace Hotel logo on it.
In another letter, sent from Makkah, X states:
“During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions in the deeds of the ‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.”
His words marked a major shift in his thought and in the Black movement. His previous stance on inter-racial wars were moderated and his belief that there is no solution for the race problem disappeared. Malcolm X wasn’t surprised that Muslims of all colors managed to overcome the race problem, rather he was surprised that in Islam there was no race problem in the first place. He wasn’t impressed by how Muslims struggled for equality in Hajj but by how this equality was flowing effortlessly.
His remarkable words, “the spiritual path of truth – the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to” and that “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem,” are still relevant today with the current racial turmoil erupting in various US cities and communities, but is it relevant to us as well? This is the question to ask and issue to contemplate. Had Malcolm X made his Hajj journey in 2015 would he be as deeply moved as he was in 1964?
How successful are we now in implementing the teachings of Islam in the lands of the two holy mosques? Are we discriminating against any nationality, race, color, gender or class?
This is our responsibility and our challenge whenever we remember Malcolm X, may he rest in peace.
Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it. — Malcolm X