Malcolm X also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz was one of the greatest African American Muslims and poster child of civil rights movement in the United States. He was born in 1925 and converted to Islam in 1946 at the age of 21 years.
Initially, he advocated violence against white people and separation of black from white. Later, after performing Hajj in 1960s his life had transformed and he supported brotherhood and integration of races.
In a heart-wrenching letter to his friends in Harlem, during his Hajj visit, Malcolm X highlighted how Islam was misunderstood and how it presented the model of non-racism. The letter was published in ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’.
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad (SAWW) and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.
“I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca, I have made my seven circuits around the Ka’ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad, I drank water from the well of the Zam Zam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt. Al-Safa and Al Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat,” he wrote.
He said a large number of pilgrims from across the globe were performing Hajj and they were of all colors and races, but were participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood. He said such unity and brotherhood could never exist between the white and non-white in America.
“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,” he said.
Malik el-Shabazz said people would be shocked to hear this from him but the Hajj had transformed him and compelled him to rearrange his through-patterns and shun his earlier beliefs.
“This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth,” he said.
“During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept 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 deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.”
The civil rights movement leader said all of them were just brothers because of the common belief in one God which had removed the white thing from their attitude and minds.
“I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in color.”
He suggested that the problem of racism which was plaguing the US could be resolved through Islam. He said every moment in the Holy Land provided him greater spiritual insights into what was happening between black and white in the US.
“But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth – the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to,” he wrote.
In the end, Malcolm X concluded his letter by saying, “Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a white man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed. Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors – honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King – not a Negro.”
“All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds.”
Following his Hajj journey, his perception against white people completely changed. In an article written by the Institute for Islamic Education quoting ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’, Malcolm X was of the opinion: “I am not a racist… In the past I permitted myself to be used… to make sweeping indictments of all white people, the entire white race, and these generalizations have caused injuries to some whites who perhaps did not deserve to be hurt. Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as the result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true Sunni Muslim. I must repeat that I am not a racist nor do I subscribe to the tenets of racism. I can state in all sincerity that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”