Prior to breaking the Ramadan Fast and enjoying an Iftar, a “Father’s Day” program brought young adult brothers, their fathers/grandfathers, some sisters and others together to hear a talk by Command Sergeant Major, Sultan Muhammad, USA Ret., about “How to build men.”
Imam Talib Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, opened the program and led the congregation in prayer with Al Fatiha. He then extended Father’s Day greetings to all present and introduced the M.C, Ibrahim Mumin.
Before going forward with the program, Bro. Ibrahim asked for a moment of silence in memory of the nine members of Emanuel AME Church who were killed in Charleston, SC, on the first day of Ramadan. He then explained how the idea for the program came about after he and Imam Shareef had attended the retirement program for Bro. Sultan at Ft Belvoir, VA. He said that while sitting in the auditorium at Ft. Belvior’s McNamara Headquarters–Defense Logistics Agency, he heard Lt. General Andy Busch, USAF who was presiding, refer to Bro. Sultan as the “soldier’s soldier” and a “master instructor who was battle-tested.” It occurred to him as he sat in the auditorium listening to the contributions Bro. Sultan had made to the United States Army that you never know who is sitting on the carpet next to you at Jumah. He had observed Sultan in his Army fatigues quietly participating in the Jumah congregational prayers on several occasions. Mumin said he thought, “We are living in a culture and society where we are struggling for positive examples of leadership, someway for boys to go from adolescence to manhood. He mentioned to Imam Shareef that the Masjid should ask Sultan to speak at the Father’s Day program because most of his 32 years in the U.S. Army had been spent cultivating, developing, and leading men. Imam Shareef agreed and said, “Lock him in.”
After his brief remarks, Mumin then invited Imam Shareef back to the podium because he felt he was uniquely qualified to talk about Bro. Sultan’s many military accomplishments and explain the significant number of military awards he had received. The Imam, himself, is an Air Force retiree after 30 years. Imam Shareef began by explaining that, at one point in time, 1/5 of the service of the United States was under Bro. Sultan’s command. That included all branches of the service; army, navy, Marine Corps, and air force. The Imam went on say that, to this day, he held the highest position of any enlisted Muslim in the military. He was recognized as the nation’s picture of strength through his inclusion, diversity, and fostering an environment that welcomes and facilitates the natural aspiration in all of its members to achieve their full potential. The Imam went on to mention that he was a family man and why that was important to Bro. Sultan. He wanted the audience to know that Sultan places a high commitment to his wife Dana, their two daughters, son and grandchildren.
Sultan Aziz Muhammad, a second generation Muslim, and now a civilian, humbly but confidently, strode to the podium dressed sharply in his fashionable civilian clothes. He began his talk by telling the audience that it was his dad, Captain John (Yahyah) Muhammad, who taught him how to dress. After extending the greetings to the congregation, he moved into the major points of his talk by saying, “I have been truly blessed over my life to be a part of an individual that showed me what it was to be a dad.” In fact, Muhammad spent much of his presentation discussing how it really was his father who shaped his early life by setting a positive example. He said, “Someone must set the example, someone must show you, someone must take that role on to provide and set the example.” He told the audience that he was presenting us with a scorecard, as a template, and he was rating himself at the same time he was asking us to voluntarily rate ourselves. He said this process was not easy for us or for him, because we all have high and low marks between “A” and “F”, depending on the categories. He listed 5 value categories: 1. Commitment, 2. Unconditional love, 3. Selfless Service, 4. Kindness, 5. Good Student. The question he posed to the audience was whether we are a father or a dad. He suggested that by the end of his presentation, we may want to say “Happy Dad’s Day” instead of “Happy Father’s Day.” Where a father brings in the physical life, a dad he said is someone who also provides guidance to see the child through their entire life — good, bad or indifferent. He emphasized the words “see the child through their entire life.” Now at 49 years old, he said his father was still guiding him from above.
With humor he made reference to the fact that he was born in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Both were two very tough cities to raise African American boys. There were 8 children in his house, 4 boys and 4 girls, and he thinks there were times when his dad may not have wanted to guide him through life, but probably wanted to end his life because of the challenges he was presenting to him. But, at the same time, he knew his father saw something special in him just as Allah (MABP) saw something special in him. So, Muhammad continued, a daddy lets his children know by his daily interaction with them that they are the priority; that they give purpose to his life. The level of personal commitment our children require can sometimes seem overwhelming, but he said Allah does not put on us more than we can bear.
He said his father was always committed to the family. He went on to say a man does not do this service by himself: loyalty and commitment to a wife is also required to be an effective Dad. His father and mother were great parents. His father gave him confidence and his mother, Aziza, gave him compassion–the two elements needed to make a whole person.
Sultan continued by sharing what he believed were nine qualities to be a successful Dad. They ranged from putting Allah first, to doing something for fun once a week with the children; to modeling the values you want the children to reflect.
The time flew during his talk and only ended because it was time to break the fast.—During the brief question and answer session, he spoke about two important concepts: The need for education and confidence in your own ability.
On the subject of education and schooling, Sultan said he was probably reading on the 6th grade level when he joined the Army. He said he had tried to avoid securing more education. This attitude changed however, when he observed that to be successful as a leader in the Army he was going to need more education. The modern Army not only required its leaders to be physically fit, but also required them to be mentally fit, including possessing the ability to write and do critical thinking.
On the subject of confidence, Sultan shared how he experienced an insecurity attack when he began getting promotions quickly in what he describes as, “Rapid Acceleration.” He consulted with his mentor, his Dad, YahYah, and his Dad reminded him that his name was Sultant Aziz Muhammad, and that name had not been chosen lightly. His Dad also reminded him that he had been a leader in the Jr. ROTC and he had been skilled and successful at leading men, even before joining the U.S. Army.
The session ended when the Adhan was called and the audience recessed to the Social Hall and continued informal conversations.
(A CD of this historic program is available through the bookstore at Masjid Muhammad: firstname.lastname@example.org.)