In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam

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By , Fard had established the Temple of Islam, which had its own worship style and rituals; a school, the University of Islam, to propagate his teachings; the Muslim Girls Training group, which taught home economics and proper Muslim behavior to female acolytes; and the Fruit of Islam, an elite group of male members that provided security for Muslim leaders and enforced disciplinary rules.

One of the earliest officers of the movement and Fard's most trusted lieutenant was Robert Poole — , also known as Elijah Poole, who was given the Muslim name Elijah Muhammad.

Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam: Part Two

Although he had only a third-grade education, Elijah Muhammad's native intelligence and hard work enabled him to rise through the ranks rapidly, and he was chosen by Fard as the chief minister of Islam, presiding over the daily affairs of the organization. Fard's mysterious disappearance in led to an internal struggle for the leadership of the Nation of Islam among several contending factions.

As a result of the severity of this struggle, Elijah Muhammad moved his family and close followers several times. Throughout the s, Elijah Muhammad reshaped the Nation of Islam and gave it his own imprimatur. Muhammad continued the teachings of Fard, but he infused the lessons with a strong dose of the black nationalism voiced by such earlier movements as Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association and Noble Timothy Drew Ali's Moorish Science Temple. Under Muhammad's guidance, the Nation of Islam developed a two-pronged attack on the problems of the black masses: the development of economic independence and the recovery of an acceptable identity.

The economic ethic of the Black Muslims was a kind of African American puritanism—hard work, frugality and the avoidance of debt, self-improvement, and a conservative lifestyle. The reputation of Black Muslims for discipline and dependableness helped many of them to obtain jobs or to start their own small businesses.

During the forty-one-year period of Elijah Muhammad's leadership, more than one hundred temples and innumerable grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, and other small businesses were established nationwide. The Nation of Islam also became known for its famous bean pies and whiting fish, which were peddled among African Americans to improve their nutrition and physical health.

In such small steps Muhammad's teachings had the unintended consequence of paving the way toward Islamic orthodoxy. Muhammad's ministers of Islam found the prisons and the streets of the ghetto a fertile recruiting ground. The message of self-reclamation and black manifest destiny struck a responsive chord in the thousands of African American men and women whose hope and self-respect had been all but defeated by racial abuse and denigration. As a consequence of where they recruited and the militancy of their beliefs, the Black Muslims attracted many more young black males than any of the other black movements or institutions, such as the black churches.

In his book Message to the Blackman in America , Muhammad diagnosed the vulnerabilities of the African American psyche as stemming from a confusion of identity and from self-hatred caused by white racism; the cure he prescribed was radical surgery, the formation of a separate black nation. These myths and doctrines have functioned as a defense of God's goodness in face of the existence of evil for the Black Muslims, an explanation and rationalization for the pain and suffering inflicted on black people in America.


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Dropping the surname and taking on an X, standard practice in the movement, was an outward symbol of inward changes: it meant ex-Christian, ex-Negro, ex-slave. The years between Malcolm X's release from prison in and his assassination in mark the period of the greatest growth and influence of the Nation of Islam.

He founded the Nation's newspaper, Muhammad Speaks , in the basement of his home, and he initiated the practice of requiring every male Muslim to sell an assigned quota of newspapers on the street as a recruiting and fund-raising device. He rose rapidly through the ranks to become minister of Temple No.

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Who is Louis Farrakhan? 10 things to know about the Nation of Islam leader, black activist

Elijah Muhammad recognized Malcolm's organizational talents and his enormous charismatic appeal and forensic abilities by naming him National Representative of the Nation of Islam, second in rank to the Messenger himself. Under Malcolm's lieutenancy, the Nation of Islam achieved a membership estimated at , But like other movements of this kind, the numbers involved were quite fluid, and the influence of the Nation of Islam refracted through the public charisma of Malcolm X greatly exceeded its actual numbers.

Malcolm X's keen intellect, incisive wit, and ardent radicalism made him a formidable critic of American society, including the civil rights movement. As a favorite media personality, he challenged Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X felt that the integrity of black self-hood and its independence was at stake, rather than the civil right to sit in a restaurant or even to vote.

As a result of an internal dispute on political philosophy and morality with Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam in March in order to form his own organizations, the Muslim Mosque, Inc. Malcolm was assassinated on February 21, while he was delivering a lecture at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. From until Elijah Muhammad's death in , the Nation of Islam prospered economically, but its membership never surged again.

Achieving the Dream: Nation of Islam

During this period, the Nation acquired an ultramodern printing press, cattle farms in Georgia and Alabama, and a bank in Chicago. However, within two months, Mohammed shocked his Black Muslim followers and the world by declaring that whites were no longer viewed as devils and could join the movement. Warith Deen Mohammed dismantled the elite groups in the Nation—the Fruit of Islam and the Muslim Girls Training—and he lifted the dress code so that men would no longer have to wear suits and bow ties, and women did not have to wear long gowns and cover their heads.

He also dispensed with the mythology of Yacub and opened the movement to white and immigrant Muslims. The group's name and the name of its newspaper were changed several times: from the Community of al-Islam in the West and the Bilalian News to the American Muslim Mission and the American Muslim Journal and finally to individual mosques and masjid s with no single name or central organization and the Muslim Journal.

Khalid Yasin - About the Nation of Islam & Farakhan

Although there is no longer a central organization, the followers of Warith Deen Mohammed still form an identifiable movement, studying his teachings and attending his nationwide lectures. It is Warith Deen Mohammed's view that an American school of thought will eventually be developed in the United States, encompassing the contributions of both indigenous African Americans and immigrant Muslims. It is estimated that there are several hundred thousand followers of Warith Deen Mohammed, the largest group of orthodox African American Muslims.

The changes introduced by Warith Deen Mohammed in led to a splintering of the movement, especially among th e hardcore black nationalist followers. Silas Muhammad set up another Nation of Islam in Atlanta. However, the largest and most successful group was led by Minister Louis Farrakhan, a serious contender for the leadership post after Elijah Muhammad's death.

Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, based in Chicago, retains the black nationalist and separatist beliefs and doctrines that were central to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad gave Louis the Muslim name Abdul Farrakhan upon successful completion of his trial period. Then, after serving a nine-month apprenticeship with Malcolm X at Temple No. Farrakhan displays much of the charisma and candor of Malcolm X, and they have had similar career paths in the Nation.

Both men also founded newspapers for their movements. In building his movement since , Farrakhan has placed his imprimatur on the resurrected Nation of Islam by introducing changes, such as allowing his members to vote and to run for elected office. Under Elijah Muhammad, the Black Muslims did not vote or participate in politics, since they felt that they did not owe any allegiance to the United States.

Farrakhan and the Nation gained national notoriety by their participation in Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign and by Farrakhan's sharp and controversial criticisms of the role of Jews and whites in the oppression of black people. Under Farrakhan's leadership, the Nation of Islam has provided security patrols for drug-infested areas, and it has set up its own AIDS awareness program.

Who Was Elijah Muhammad?

He has encouraged his followers to reestablish the economic base of the Nation through small businesses, such as the Nation's Power Pac cosmetics. He also repurchased the building of the former Temple No.

Poetry Corner

With the growth of urban poverty, Minister Farrakhan's message of black unity, self-knowledge, and independence and his critique of American society have struck a responsive chord among African Americans. His message of black nationalism is directed to those mired in the underclass, as well as to disillusioned intellectuals, through his lectures, the Final Call newspaper, and popular musical recordings by such rap groups as Public Enemy and Prince Akeem.

For more than sixty years, the Nation of Islam in its various forms has become the most enduring of the militant and separatist movements that have arisen among black people in the United States. In addition to its crucial role in the development of the black-consciousness movement, the Nation of Islam is important for helping to build Islam into a fourth major religious alternative in American society, alongside Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism. All Rights Reserved. About What's New Logout.

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Middle East Quarterly December With the publication of these two books, all three outstanding figures of the Nation of Islam Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan are the subjects of top-notch, if overly sympathetically, full-length biographies. Elijah Muhammad has hitherto been the most obscure of the trio, a quiet, even shadowy figure far less conspicuous to the outside world than either of his spokesmen.

Clegg establishes, however, that contrary to the almost universal opinion of outsiders, Muhammad had much more importance and power within the movement than either of the younger men-or anyone else, for that matter. His biography, the best volume ever written on the Nation of Islam, relies on a broad and impressive array of original documents, such as the will bequeathing Muhammad's slave grandfather from a father to his daughter and the extensive FBI records pertaining to the Nation of Islam.

Perhaps most fascinating and original is Clegg's argument that no matter how radical Muhammad's rhetoric seemed, he had by become the captive of his own avarice, and that this imposed an operational conservatism, even a timidity, quite at odds with his fire-breathing talk. Interestingly, Clegg attributes this change in part at least to Muhammad's trip to the Muslim world, where he was appalled by the poverty and filth; henceforth, he stopped portraying the "Holy Land of Islam" as a place infinitely superior to the United States that would save American blacks.