My Battles With Vanity: "Vain Behavior is Completely Void of Proper Motivation"

by Willie Muhammad

The Honorable Louis Farrakhan recently gave a lecture titled, “All is Vanity.” Like many of his lectures it has caused discussion, debate, self-examination and self-reflection. As I pondered on the words of the Minister, I thought about my own run ins with vanity and how subtly dangerous this characteristic is. In this brief blog entry I want to share two of my experiences and the lessons I've learned about vanity.

I will begin with an experience I had in my early days (mid-90s) as a processing member of the Nation of Islam. A childhood friend and I made a stop at a popular Black owned bookstore in New Orleans. I wanted to go to the store to get some conscious reading material and my friend was just along for the ride. While there I overhead a gentlemen, who was a former member of the NOI, talking about the Honorable Louis Farrakhan in a negative way. The friend who I was with heard him also. I remember tapping my friend and saying, “Watch this.” I tapped him because I wanted him to watch me approach the man and set him straight about what he was saying about the Minister. So with my limited knowledge and VANITY, I approached him and attempted to offer a defense. Let’s just say I left feeling like I did not do a good job and embarrassed in the eyes of my friend. After that experienced, I did some soul searching. I realized that my approaching the man was not so much about defending the Minister, but rather more about my own vanity. That experience helped me realize the need to really study, but the most important lesson I learned was the value of being properly motivated. Vain behavior is COMPLETELY void of proper motivation.

A second experience I had took place at the first commemoration of Hurricane Katrina. People from all over traveled to the city to participate. There was a bus that came from another Southern city that happened to have a few MGT, one of whom served in a laborers capacity. The program began by the levee in the Lower 9th ward that was breeched. There were media outlets from all over the world which caused many to jockey for positioning so they could be in view. While they did that I noticed people who were gripped in great emotional pain who were clinging to the wall of the levee crying. The sight of them deeply impacted me and my mind was filled with thoughts about what can I and our mosque do to help our people. The MGT who served as an official in another city approached me because she saw that I removed myself from the camera jockeying. She began to lecture me about why I needed to be positioned in view of the cameras and how she always makes sure her minister is always positioned where he can be photographed or videoed. I listened and respectfully told her that I did not want to be where the others were because, “None of that vanity would do anything meaningful for those who are crying at that levee wall.” She looked at me with disgust and as if I was not a true helper of the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, but I did not care. Because I knew that when everyone got back on their buses, planes etc. the real work would still be there for us to do. That experience taught me the importance of not getting caught up in the vanity of others. When we try to fit into other peoples warped view of us, we are moving out of a spirit of vanity.

That first experience really left a taste in my mouth that caused me to disdain vanity and to constantly inspect my motives for doing much of what I do. As I listened to the Minister’s lecture and read scriptures about vanity, I realized that if what we do is not driven by a sincere desire to fulfill Allah (God’s) Plan for us, it is all vanity. Allah is the only reality and if what we do is not in accord with that reality, then it is like it never occurred or existed (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

(Willie Muhammad serves as the Student Minister at Muhammad Mosque No. 46 in New Orleans. Follow Twitter @BroWM46)

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