Change. Change. Change.
A major problem among people isn’t that we don’t want to change, but that we don’t think we can. We think it’s too late to fix our mistakes or to re-evaluate the way we’re living our lives. But once one reads the biography of the honored and revered Malcolm X, we can all see that with will a person can become whoever they want to be despite their past.
For a large part of his life, especially when he was a member of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X believed that the only way to achieve rights for African Americans is through separation. He preached that the white race as a whole was the devil which made sense to him and all of Elijah’s followers because of the way African Americans were treated at the time. It wasn’t difficult to convince them that white men were evil because they lived prejudiced lives and their ancestors had been enslaved and tortured by people of the white race. His revolutionary ideas were constantly being condemned and attacked for being “violent”. Like any other human, Malcolm’s decisions weren’t always the wisest and he understood that. His continuously changing ideals showed his capability and perhaps even desire to learn and accept better methods to achieve change. These changes often occurred with his changing religious views.
Malcolm’s downfall took place after he dropped out of high school and moved to Harlem. Looking back, Malcolm greatly disapproved of everything he did. The high school dropout was nicknamed Red for the amount of hustling, gambling, sleeping around, and smoking he did. He even began to deal drugs and commit armed robberies and eventually got caught. When Malcolm first went to jail, he was so anti-religion that he was known as Satan. Later however, after hearing of the Nation of Islam from his brother Philbert he converted. This offshoot of the religion of Islam, preached that God came to America and told a man by the name of Elijah Muhammad that he was God’s messenger. The followers of the religion believed that the entire white race was collectively the devil and the reason African Americans were considered inferior and having difficulties achieving any success. Malcolm accepted the religion and after being in jail for seven years, he left to spread word of the belief and recruit followers. This new religion changed the course of Malcolm X’s life and he believed it would help the black men and women of America break from the whites and stand up for their selves. “I’ve never been one for inaction. Everything I’ve ever felt strongly about, I’ve done something about,” and he felt very strongly about the Nation of Islam. He dedicated his entire life to recruiting members, and promoting the well-being of the messenger Mr. Muhammad and the life style of a proper Muslim.
No one ever would have thought that Malcolm would eventually be betrayed by the Nation of Islam. After going against Mr. Muhammad’s request to not make any statements about the assassination of President Kennedy by saying that hate is what killed the president, Malcolm X was suspended and not allowed to speak or be associated with the Muslims for 90 days. Tension increased between Mr. Muhammad and Malcolm, until Malcolm decided to travel to Mecca for the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the Hajj. At Saudi Arabia, Malcolm once again went through a life changing experience that would in essence contradict everything he had been preaching for the past 12 years, and it changed his entire opinion on the white race.
The Hajj pilgrimage occurs annually and billions of Muslims from across the world all travel to the same place to go through a series of prayers and rituals meant to bring them closer to God. The first thing that shocked Malcolm was how everyone dressed the same way. The ihram clothing that the worshipers wear is meant to unite the billions of worshipers as Muslims regardless of where they may be from or who they are. He was shocked to see people of all races interacting with each other with total ease and described them as being almost color blind. He could not fathom the amount of respect he received from princes and royalty. His previous life experiences convinced him that there was no way there would be possible, but the unity of the Muslims in Mecca made him realize elsewise. Everything he had ever believed about the white man being a devil was changed right away and instead he spent the rest of his life preaching to people of all races and admitting that what he previously preached was wrong and that interracial integration was possible according to what he saw in Mecca. From that moment he converted to orthodox Islam and continued to fight for African American rights but this time he spoke to people of all races and religions. Unfortunately Malcolm didn’t live much longer after that for bitter members of the Nation of Islam assassinated him during one of his public speeches.
Malcolm X’s life teaches us that change IS possible and it shows the power of unity. Islam promoted integration long before the United States was even a country. The amount of good things that our religion teaches and tries to implement cannot be overseen. So don’t give up if you feel like you might have strayed a little from the right path. “Indeed Allah loves those who offer repentance and those who are pure.” (2-222) Islam changed Malcolm X, and it can change you just as much if you put in the effort.
Hadeer is a high school student and gifted track runner from New Jersey, USA.