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Conversion of African Americans to Islam : a sociological analysis of the Nation of Islam and associated groups ; Nuri Tinaz

A proletarian critique of the Nation of Islam - Melancholic Troglodytes


Re-imagining race and representation: The black body in the Nation of Islam Finley, Stephen Carl

Aspects of Black Muslim Theology by Zafar Ishaq Ansari Studia Islamica, (1981), pp. 137-176

Nation of Islam
    The Million Dollar Man March

            OCTOBER 13, 1995

            African American men from around the United States are to take part in the Million Man March, in Washington, D.C.. Two views of the march are surveyed by Charlayne Hunter-Gault in Chicago.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: When it comes to black men in trouble, Chicago has seen it all: Gang violence, soaring homicide rates, one in four black men die violently reach year, and a microcosm of a recent national report showing that one in three black males is either in jail, on probation, or parole. Unemployment here tops 22 percent among black males over 16. Over the weekend, a "Chicago Sun-Times" editorial called for the declaration of a national state of emergency for young black men. These are the kinds of grim realities fueling interest in pockets of activity all over Chicago, as blacks here prepare to, in their words, answer the call by Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan for a million man march on Washington, D.C..

            MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN, Nation of Islam: It is time that we as black men stand up for the hurt of our families and the hurt of our ancestors!

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: It was two years ago that the controversial Muslim leader first called for a march that would bring black men from all over the country to the nation's capital. The purpose of the march was to have black men atone for their transgressions, especially against their women and children, to stand up to their responsibilities, and to call on America to stand up to hers as well.

            MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN: I say, on to Washington! (applause and cheers) And let us go to demand justice! (applause and cheers) Justice for our people!

            DARRIN BANKS: I'm sure we all know what this march is about--

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Darrin Banks is a 30-year-old Chicagoan who answered the call. Since then, Banks has been working to generate enthusiasm about the march and participation in it, especially among the homeless men he works with as a counselor on a daily basis.

            MAN: Like I really want to participate in the million man march, but financially, I'm not able to.

            DARRIN BANKS: For the past months, I've been laboring very hard, as everyone in this room knows, to get sponsorship.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: This shelter, Matthew House, supported by public and private funds, provides counseling and meals five days a week. Banks believes that the march will help make the plight of men here more visible.

            DARRIN BANKS: By them being there, it's saying to the powers that be that we've been stepped on, we've been ignored, we've been walked across and treated as if we're, you know, treated as if we're less than people. It's--it's, I think, it's paramount that they are there because of that reason, to say like, hey, we have some needs and some desires that need to be addressed as well. That's what we're bring to the forum. That's our agenda. And I'm trying to help push that.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Banks, a graduate of Northwestern University, who holds a Master's Degree in Business Administration from the University of Chicago, is also helping push the atonement part of the agenda out of his own personal experience.

            DARRIN BANKS: Being from a single-parent family, not having a dominant male role figure--role model in my life, umm, I kind of felt as though I lost out on some things, and I, myself, wouldn't want, you know, future generations that come behind me to lose out on some of those things. If we stand up as a community now, our men, and say, hey, it's time for us to regain control of our households, not just father our children's children, but be dads to 'em as well, umm, I think the time has come for that.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Indeed, it was a message that was getting a lot of air time. National shows featuring Minister Farrakhan last Sunday were buttressed here on cable programs with call-ins to key aides like Shahid Muslim, the Nation of Islam's international representative.

            SHAHID MUSLIM, Nation of Islam: I just want to say this for the listening audience; that this is a part of history that you do not want to miss out on.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Word is also going out about details of the march in the Muslim newspaper, "The Final Call." The national headquarters of the Nation of Islam is here in Chicago, but a lot of the local activity this past weekend was taking places in churches like the Fernwood United Methodist. Its pastor is the Reverend Al Sampson, a former civil rights activist with Dr. Martin Luther King, and unlike some march supporters, he's also a longtime Farrakhan supporter.

            REV. AL SAMPSON, Fernwood United Methodist Church: It seems to me that the spiritual genius of Minister Louis Farrakhan is that he now has issued a call for black men to continue what Dr. King did in the streets of Memphis, Tennessee.

            (congregation singing)

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: This is the Park Manor Christian Church. Its pastor, the Reverend James Demus, is another march supporter. In services like this, collections were taken up to charter buses and to buy food for the trip to Washington, although Minister Farrakhan, who preaches self-reliance, has stressed that men pay their own way, even if they have to sacrifice. Later, Demus cautioned against equating the opposition of some church leaders with the positions of their followers. He said impetus for his involvement came from his members.

            REV. JAMES DEMUS, Park Manor Christian Church: I got involved with the Million Man March at the insistence, the inquiry and the insistence of one of my members. One of the members of my church and just raised the question, "Rev. Demus, are we going to do anything with this Million Man March?" And I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "Well, umm, you know, this march is being called, and I basically think that I need to go."

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Rev. Demus meets regularly with representatives from the Nation of Islam, and like other march supporters defers to the Muslims on the leadership of the march. One of the several march events last weekend was held at the predominantly black Kennedy King College on Chicago's South side. Here, Muslims and non-Muslims passed out free information and hawked buttons, hats, T-shirts, and other march paraphernalia. The meeting revealed some of the simmering tensions over the march. There were especially harsh words for Jesse Jackson, who had earlier met with some Jewish leaders in New York who were concerned about Minister Farrakhan's leadership because of his alleged anti-semitism. Former Chicago Congressman Gus Savage.

            GUS SAVAGE, Former Congressman: I have praised Jesse Jackson. I marched with, as you know, campaigned for him in '84, '88, at my own expense around this country. But if he were brother, when he is wrong, he is wrong.

            MAN IN CROWD: Right!

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Earlier, at the headquarters of Operation PUSH, the economic and social justice organization founded by Rev. Jackson, he defended his meeting with Jewish groups and addressed some of the criticisms aimed at Minister Farrakhan.

            REV. JESSE JACKSON, PUSH Founder: I met with Minister Farrakhan about it, and discussed it head up. He is sensitive to how he is viewed by many beyond the black community. His focus on atonement and reconciliation is the right direction.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Rev. Jackson once said he would not attend the march but changed his mind.

            REV. JESSE JACKSON: I determined that the march would have a moral tone, i.e., a real tone of reconciliation, of bridge building, real strong in its positions against racism, against sexism, against anti-semitism, against homophobia.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Polls show that there is overwhelming support for the Million Man March in the black community, but there is still some reservation, although most of those voices have been muted in the last few days here in Chicago. Some 14 African-American Christian ministers from the Chicago area endorsed the march last week, but nationally, only one of the top six black church organizations, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, has officially endorsed it. Black religious critics, including two of the major black Baptist organizations, said they were concerned about very strong theological differences with Minister Farrakhan's Muslims and about the participation of women. But critics here in Chicago refused to go on camera. Tamara Kerrill, a reporter for the "Sun-Times," has been reporting on the march and measuring support.

            TAMARA KERRILL, Chicago sun Times: It seems that somehow publicity about this march or information that has, you know, come across on the television via Farrakhan or whatever, has kind of, umm, pacified a lot of people and convinced them that this march is worthwhile.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Kerrill said that the biggest complaint she had heard was about the call by the organizers for women to remain at home.

            TAMARA KERRILL: The black women in the newsroom are pretty, pretty diverse and pretty divided on how they feel. Some of them are--don't understand opposition at all, and, you know, these are all, you know, independent but reasonably liberal women. The other components that are there also are the religion of Islam, which is, is a religion that does not, you know, permit women a lot of civil freedoms, and so you put that in the mix, plus the history of the Civil Rights Movement, in which a lot of black women felt that they were asked to take a back seat on gender issues that were important to them as black women--you can't really separate the two--so there's a feeling that maybe this is kind of a continuation of a trend.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Echoing this sentiment, the Reverend Sanja Stinson, one of the few Chicago women who agreed to speak on the record about this aspect of the march. She is the director of Matthew House, the homeless center.

            REV. SANJA STINSON, Matthew House: I really feel that gender should not play a factor, because I understand the concept and I support the concept; however, I do have a concern when you separate gender, when you say African-American man, and unity to me means family, family means to be together.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But many prominent Chicago women are endorsing all aspects of the march, including the call for women to stay at home. Former civil rights activist and alderman Dorothy Tillman serves on the national organizing committee of the march.

            DOROTHY TILLMAN, Chicago Alderman: Well, I don't think black women are being asked to stay at home. They're being told not to come to Washington. They didn't go to Vietnam. They didn't go to Korea. What they're being told is that we need to stay home, back where we live, and work, making sure that there's an atonement in terms of prayer. Now I raised my children in church. We pray all the time. Take it--don't let 'em go to school, don't you shop. You got a responsibility too. Don't go to Washington, just make sure black women don't shop that day. You take 'em, you pray, and as you're praying and you are teaching your children, you talk to them about the problems that's going on in the African-American community.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Amin Muhammad, an aide to Minister Farrakhan, said he was pleased with the response. And what would constitute success?

            MINISTER AMIN MUHAMMAD, Nation of Islam: The pooling of our resources to make a demand on ourselves and then by doing that make a demand on government to be more responsible, to see us rebuild the wasted cities. That--that is success. But us coming together just in the process, this has never happened in history. And the movement towards October 16th in and of itself is a success. Every day is a success, and every day, it makes you feel blessed to be alive in this moment in history, to see our people coming in to unity.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You guys going to the Million Man March?

            MAN: Million Man March?

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Uh huh.

            MAN: Probably so, if we can get off working. (laughing)

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But you want to go?

            MAN: I want to go, yes, I do.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Late this week, organizers said they had filled 200 buses so far and that they expected area men to use other forms of transportation also. They're predicting that some 47,000 men from Chicago will make the trip to the Million Man March.
            OCTOBER 16, 1995

            Hundreds of thousands of African American men joined together today on the Mall, in Washington, D.C. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam which organized the assembly, asked those gathered to reflect on their responsibility to themselves, their families, and their community. Charlayne Hunter-Gault files this report.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: As dawn broke in the capital, the images of black men on the Mall began to take shape. Many of them had come in the night and slept here so they wouldn't miss a moment of the Million Man March that brought them here. An Arabic prayer pierced the air. The day of atonement and reconciliation had officially begun. (Muezzin Call) As the sun grew warmer against a bracing morning chill, so did the mood as the growing crowd of black men of all ages and walks of life, friends and strangers, acknowledged each other and seemed to celebrate this call for black men to stand up.

            DICK GREGORY, Civil Rights Activist: I love you. God bless you. Go back home and take care of the family, your family, our family, God's family. Thank you.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In the early part of the day, both Christian and Muslim ministers helped establish the tone and themes of the day. Chicago Minister Al Sampson, longtime supporter of Minister Louis Farrakhan, hailed his leadership.

            REV. AL SAMPSON, Fernwood United Methodist Church, Chicago: I stand here today to ask your permission to make a motion. I make a motion that we accept Minister Louis Farrakhan as our leader all over the world for black men, for generations yet unborn, that he be our leader today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: No matter what was going to be said by the leaders here today, the people who have gathered for this Million Man March have come from all over America with some ideas of their own. On Minister Farrakhan, many said, as far as they were concerned, the march was bigger than any one person.

            DeLANE GARNER, Atlanta, Georgia: We don't need to play into the nonsense about Louis Farrakhan. It's bigger than Louis Farrakhan. This million men, who else in America could have called for a march and got this many people? Name me somebody!

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But few echoed the kinds of criticism of Minister Farrakhan's alleged anti-semitism and racial hate mongering that caused some black leaders not to endorse the march and to stay at home.

            CHARLES OGLETREE, Harvard Law Professor: And I'm particularly disturbed that so many of our black leaders, so-called leaders, told people to stay away. This is--it really is a day of atonement and redemption. Men are here. They're sober. They're articulate. People are praying. People are happy. I've probably stepped on a hundred black men's feet today and, and not a single incident. I've made--you know, created relationships with other people. My son came up from college, and for both of us, who couldn't be in the march in 1963, this is our opportunity to come forward and give thanks for being alive in America in 1995, and also our time to, to have a sense of responsibility for the next generation.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: It was a diverse crowd, geographically and professionally: Doctors, lawyers, academics, and educators, students, hospital workers, and the unemployed. All came with ideas and hopes about this day, their words and the words of the speakers almost interchangeable at times.

            JESSE BOYKIN, Brooklyn, New York: This day is a day of atonement. This day we come together, and I believe when we leave here, and go back to our various homes, we will have something to build upon. If nothing else, we have come together as a people.

            UMAR KASHIFF, Houston, Texas: What I hope to be accomplished today is that, uh, unity amongst African-American males who have felt as though for many years that their voices have not been heard, have not been seen, and have really, has been taken the wrong way, so much negative in the media about our roles and the way we are perceived: We're lazy; we don't want to work. So today this is why I came, and my brothers, you know, from all over the world, from all over the world have come to say that that's not the image that we want the world to see us here.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: There were even some who said they saw this as a turning point for black leadership.

            MEL PERRY, New York City: What's starting to occur right now is the beginning of a paradigm shift. You have people from different economic backgrounds, social backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, who are meeting together to sit down and have a dialogue. I think it's very important that men have come together to sort of reason. I think the women who are really serious about it should have been here, and I'm glad those who were concerned showed up, and it's about unity. It's not a black thing; it's a people thing.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Where are you from?

            CARMEN ANDERSON, Burlington, North Carolina: Burlington, North Carolina.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Oh. What are you doing here today?

            CARMEN ANDERSON: I just came out to support my black men, to let them know we're standing behind them all the way.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What do you think is going to be accomplished here today?

            CARMEN ANDERSON: I hope that unity will be accomplished, that we show that we can get together for something that's good and not something that's always bad.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: A scattering of women attended the march and some were also featured on today's program. Although some women's groups took exception to the call for women to stay at home, one of the women featured was civil rights leader Dorothy Height.

            DOROTHY HEIGHT, National Council of Negro Women: I am here because you are here. I am glad that you are here, because so much is said negative about the black family and about our black men. We know that one out of every four may be in the correctional system or may be in some kind of destructive pattern, but what is seldom said is that three out of four are not. Three out of four are responsible parents, are good citizens, are carrying their responsibility, and I salute you, because you are the demonstration that there are strong African-American men who are not only our leaders but who are working in all of our communities. African-American women are women who seldom do what they want to do but always do what they have to do. And I feel that we are part of a partnership that is strong, but each of us honors the other.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Some of the most prominent black leaders spoke in the afternoon, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who broke ranks with other blacks to support the march.

            REV. JESSE JACKSON, National Rainbow Coalition: We can change our self-destructive behavior and use our vote to bring about change. What can a million men do when you go home? If I could get a million men to do five things, take your child to school, meet your child's teacher, exchange home numbers, turn off the TV three hours a night, pick up report card every nine weeks, and sign your child's report card, we can send our children from jail to church to home. What can a million men do? What can a million men do? Meet with judges. Let them--let us nurture our children and let them come home and not jail. What can a million men do? Eight million unregistered black voters on this Hill. Gingrich--they keep asking on television, who organized the march? Who gets credit for the march? Who organized the march? Did Minister Farrakhan organize the march? No. Clarence Thomas and Gingrich organized the march just like Bull Connor organized the march in 1963. (applause) Clarence Thomas, who betrayed our trust, organized the march. Gingrich organized the march. We will not bow. Here's the good news. The Gingrich forces won--this is what they don't want to hear--the Gingrich forces won by 19,000 votes. They're cutting Medicaid. They're cutting Medicare. They're cutting scholarships. They're cutting legal assistance for women who are battered, victims of domestic violence. Well, my friends, we've got the power. Victims. We've got the power. Kennedy beat Nixon by 112,000 votes. What does 8 million votes mean? Nixon beat Humphrey by 500,000. What does 8 million votes mean? We have the power by 1996 to send Gingrich and Gramm and Dole back in private life. Use your vote! We have the power to change the course! (applause) When you go back home today, somebody is going to ask you, you didn't come to work today, you went to Washington, what did you do, say I turned pain into power and promise. What did you see? Well, I didn't see your face. Tell them, I was one of a million. I was one in two million. I didn't see you. Tell 'em they were in the trees, in the cars, in the hospitals, in office buildings, in parks. Tell them for a moment the world stood still. They'll ask you, who are you, I didn't see you in Washington. Well, I was one in a million. Tell them, I have a light and I'm going to let my light shine. Tell them I'm dreaming now, my dream is bigger than my ghetto. Tell them, I'm dreaming again, it's bigger than my jail cell. Tell them, I saw a number like John that no man can number. Tell them, I'm on Patmus Island and yet I see something now, I see power in unity and coalition.

            CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The last word of the day was reserved for Louis Farrakhan. He responded to President Clinton's remarks on race earlier today.

            MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN, Nation of Islam: Now, the President spoke today, and he wanted to heal the great divide. But I respectfully suggest to the President, you did not dig deep enough at the malady that divides black and white in order to effect a solution to the problem. And so today, we have to deal with the root, so that perhaps a healing can take place. I heard the President say today "E pluribus unum"--out of many one. But in the past, out of many comes one meant out of many Europeans come one people. The question today is: Out of the many Asians, the many Arabs, the many native Americans, the many blacks, the many people of color, who populate this country, do you mean for them to be made into the one? If so, truth has to be spoken to justice. We can't cover things up, cover them over, give it a pretty sound to make people feel good. We have to go to the root of the problem. Now, why have you come today? You came not at the call of Louis Farrakhan, but you have gathered here at the call of God, for it is only the call of Almighty God, no matter whom, through whom that call came that could generate this kind of outpouring. God called us here to this place, at this time, for a very specific reason. And now, I want to say my brothers, this is a very pregnant moment, pregnant with the possibility of tremendous change in our status in America and in the world. And although the call was made through me, many have tried to distance the beauty of this idea from the person through whom the idea and the call was made. Some have done it mistakenly, and others have done it in a malicious and vicious manner. Brothers and sisters, there is no human being through whom God brings an idea that history doesn't marry the idea with that human being, no matter what defect was in that human being's character. You can't separate Newton from the law that Newton discovered. It would be silly to try to separate Moses from the Torah, or Jesus from the Gospel, or Mohammed from the Koran. Well, you say, Farrakhan, you ain't no Moses, you ain't no Jesus, and you're not no Mohammed, you have a defect in your character. Well, that certainly may be so; however, according to the way the Bible reads, there is no prophet of God written of in the Bible that did not have a defect in its character. So today, whether you like it or not, God brought the idea through me, and he didn't bring it through me because my heart was dark with hatred and anti-semitism. He didn't bring it through me because my heart was dark and I'm filled with hatred for white people and for the human family of the planet. If my heart were that dark, how is the message so bright, the message so clear, the response so magnificent? (applause) And now, in spite of all that division, in spite of all that divisiveness, we responded to a call, and look at what is present here today. We have here those brothers with means and those who have no means, those who are light and those who are dark, those who are educated, those who are uneducated, those who are business people, those who don't know anything about business, those who are young, those who are old, those who are scientific, those who know nothing of science, those who are religious, and those who are irreligious, those who are Christian, those who are Muslim, those who are Baptists, those who are Methodists, those who are Episcopalian, those who of traditional African religion. We've got 'em all here today! And why did we come? We came because we want to move toward a more perfect union, and if you notice the press triggered every one of those divisions. You shouldn't come, you're a Christian, that's a Muslim thing. You shouldn't come, you're too intelligent to follow hate. You shouldn't come. Look at what they did! They excluded women. You see, they played all the cards; they pulled all the strings, all but you better look again, Willie, there's a new black man in America today, a new black woman in America today, but I stand here today knowing, knowing that you are angry that my people have validated me. I don't need you to validate me. (applause and cheers) I don't need to be in any mainstream. I want to wash in the River of Jordan and the river that you see and the sea that is before us and behind us and around us is validation. That's the mainstream.

            MR. MAC NEIL: Minister Farrakhan spoke for nearly two and a half hours standing behind a shield of bulletproof glass.


            A.P. Staff

            Ever since entering the spotlight of public attention (about 1984), Louis Farrakhan has been a controversial figure. He thrills the hearts of some, scares the daylights out of others, and offends many more. When he called the African-American community to participate in a "Million Man March" on Washington, D.C., 400,000 responded—twice the number who walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. Unlike Dr. King, everything Farrakhan said was dedicated to Allah.

            Few people have reminded Americans of Islam’s presence on this continent more pointedly than Farrakhan. But what many people do not know is that Farrakhan does not represent Islam. He is the leader of the Nation of Islam, a distinctly American invention that has its roots in the opening years of the twentieth century (see Bijlefeld, 1993; Gudel and Duckworth, 1993; Ahlstrom, 1972; Morey, 1992).

            In 1930, a Detroit clothing merchant named Wallace D. Fard (a.k.a. Wali Farad Muhammad) began preaching an Islamic-flavored message among blacks. Fard had been a follower of the “Noble Prophet Ali Drew,” founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America. Drew’s message was a mixture of Christian principles, Islamic ideals, and black nationalism that offered hope to an oppressed community of people. After Drew’s assassination in 1929, Fard, claiming connections with Mecca, began calling black Americans to renounce Christianity (a “white man’s religion”), and to embrace Islamic ideals. He founded the Temple of Islam in Detroit, and by 1934 had a following of 8,000. After Fard mysteriously disappeared in 1934, his most famous disciple, Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole), carried the movement forward.

            Elijah Muhammad claimed that Allah had appeared in the person of Fard, and that he himself was a prophet of Allah. He saw white people as devils and preached against integration. In his view, the black man would win ultimate victory over the white man in the battle of Armageddon. He offered the impoverished and persecuted black community a sense of dignity. Blacks were not simply the white man’s equal, but someday would rule the Earth.

            In 1947, Elijah Muhammad’s message was heard and believed by the imprisoned Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) who, upon his release in 1952, joined the Black Muslims. He was an outspoken minister of the group until 1963, when he became disillusioned with Muhammad. After a trip to Mecca a year later, Malcolm X converted to orthodox Islam and no longer endorsed racial antagonism. Eleven months later he was assassinated.

            When Muhammad died in 1975, he was succeeded by his son, Wallace Deen, who sought unification between the Black Muslims and orthodox Islam. This trend was unacceptable to Louis Farrakhan, who preferred the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. So, in 1977 Farrakhan broke from the Black Muslims, returned to his mentor’s teaching, and started the faction that bears the name “Nation of Islam” (a name also used by Elijah Muhammad).

            Without Farrakhan, Wallace Deen Muhammad led Black Muslims to full unification with orthodox Islam. This group is not to be confused with the Nation of Islam, which still is considered heretical by Islam worldwide.

            Some of the more troubling views of Elijah Muhammad that are evident in current Nation of Islam rhetoric are well summarized by Sidney Ahlstrohm:

                [Their] eschatology teaches that God has come; there is no life after this life; heaven and hell are only two contrasting earthly conditions; the hereafter (which will begin to appear about A.D. 2000) is but the end of the present "spook" civilization of the Caucasian usurpers, including the Christian religion. It will be followed by the redemption of the Black Nation and their glorious rule over all the earth (1972, p. 1068).

            Ostensibly, the message of the Nation of Islam (as presented by Farrakhan at the Million Man March) is one of social atonement and reconciliation; it is a call for the black community to strive for moral and ethical superiority. Farrakhan called the audience to give up drugs, prostitution, and violence, and to commit to improving themselves “spiritually, morally, mentally, socially, politically, and economically” (1995). These are laudable concerns that should transcend race. If lower crime rates, higher economic productivity, and an over-all improvement in the quality of life for African-Americans result from the efforts of Farrakhan, then all people will have reason to rejoice.

            The problem with the Nation of Islam, however, is at least two-fold: (1) it is not the religion of Jesus Christ; and (2) it is preoccupied with “white supremacy.” In his Million Man March speech, Farrakhan argued that the United States is rotten at its very foundation because it has been characterized from the beginning by white supremacy. For example, He said:

                The Seal and the Constitution [of the United States—BB] reflect the thinking of the founding fathers, that this was to be a nation by White people and for White people. Native Americans, Blacks, and all other non-White people were to be the burden bearers for the real citizens of this nation (1995).

            Clearly, anyone with a cursory understanding of American history can respect (even if only to a limited degree) the sense of anger and frustration that minorities feel about their position in this society. Prejudice is a dangerous and painful thing. Its effects have not disappeared, and the wounds it has inflicted still are very fresh in many places (and in many lives). But the answer is not found in the Qur’an or the doctrines of Elijah Muhammad. Cornel West succinctly stated:

      ’s eyes should be on the prize, not on the perpetuator of one’s oppression. In short, Elijah Muhammad’s project remained captive to the supremacy game—a game mastered by the white racists he opposed and imitated with his black supremacy doctrine (1993, p. 100).

            The only hope for a world torn by racial hatred is Jesus Christ—not a black Jesus or a white Jesus, but the Jesus of Scripture—Who like all of us is the Son of Adam, but unlike us, is also the Son of God. By His self-sacrifice for all humanity, He offers to break down the walls of enmity that sin erects between us (Acts 10:34; Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:28).


            Ahlstrom, Sidney E. (1972), A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).

            Bijlefeld, Willem A. (1993), “Black Muslims” The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia [CD-ROM].

            Farrakhan, Louis, (1995), Transcript from Minister Louis Farrakhan’s remarks at the Million Man March [Online], URL

            Gudel, Joseph P. and Larry Duckworth (1993), “Hate Begotten of Hate,” The Christian Research Institute [Online], URL

            Morey, Robert A. (1992) The Islamic Invasion (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).

            West, Cornel (1993), Race Matters (Boston, MA: Beacon).

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            For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

            Apologetics Press
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            Phone (334) 272-8558

                        Louis Farrakhan and the
                        Nation of Islam, Part I
                        By Eric Pement
                        Part One of a Two-Part Article

                        In Part One, we will examine the history of the Nation of Islam, the lives of its leaders, and some of the things which make it attractive to African-Americans. In Part Two, we will investigate its belief system, comparing it with traditional Islam and with Christianity.

                        The growth of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and the increasing influence of Louis Farrakhan demand our special attention to this movement. Louis Farrakhan, now sixty-three, has been promoting the teachings of the late Elijah Muhammad (founder of the Nation of Islam in the 1930s) for over forty years. “Minister Farrakhan,” the preferred term to designate the leader of the revived Nation of Islam, has twice been on the cover of Time magazine and been the featured subject for hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles worldwide.

                        Chief organizer of the Million Man March on Washington, D.C. (October 16, 1995), Farrakhan found begrudging recognition and admiration even among his longtime critics. While many thousands said they attended the March for black people, not for Farrakhan, still Minister Farrakhan’s ability to organize the March, gathering close to one million peaceful black men, gave him a unique position in the eyes of black America.

                        Long before the March, Louis Farrakhan had become established as a role model for tens of thousands of blacks. His dynamic preaching and his stance for a drug-free society, moral fidelity, black potential, and for blacks to share their material and moral gains with their fellow blacks—all positive and commendable individually—served to give him credibility and moral leverage.

                        Yet the growth of the Nation of Islam is cause for concern because its doctrines challenge the Christian truth claim on every major front: on the nature of God, the validity of the Bible, the person and work of Christ, and the idea of life after death. Many people believe Farrakhan’s teaching is basically theistic or Islamic. As we shall see in the next installment, this is not the case.

                        Another development stands to make the Nation of Islam an impending challenge to the Christian church: money. On February 25, 1996, at the annual “Savior’s Day” conference in Chicago, Louis Farrakhan described his recent visit to Libya and various nations of Africa. Farrakhan told thousands of listeners that Libyian leader Mu’ammar Gadhafi promised to give the Nation of Islam a grant of one billion dollars to build schools, industries, mosques, and other facilities to advance the cause of Islam under Louis Farrakhan.[1] Given the size of this gift, plus the fact that Libya is considered a “terrorist nation” by the United States State Department, in March 1996 the federal government suggested that Farrakhan register as an agent of a foreign government.[2] This never materialized. However, if the offer is legitimate, that amount of money would have a serious effect on the political and religious landscape of America by anyone’s reckoning.

                            The fundamental philosophies of Western civilization are rooted in white supremacy. You can’t bring a black child into that kind of educational environment and produce a child who loves and respects itself. You produce a child who bows down to white people and looks at white people as being God. . . . This is why Malcolm X left school and went into criminal life.
                            —Louis Farrakhan,
                            A Torchlight for America

                        Origins of the Nation of Islam

                        The Nation of Islam began in 1930 with the arrival of Wallace Dodd Fard to the black ghetto of Detroit. To the black underclass, Fard presented himself as a merchant allegedly from “the holy city of Mecca.” He sold silks, hats, and other artifacts allegedly imported from his homeland, though Elijah Muhammad once stated that Fard was not a silk peddler but a tailor of custom-made clothes.[3] Poor black families would invite Fard to their homes, where he who assumed the role of a Muslim teacher, reading to them directly from an Arabic edition of the Qur’an.[4] At the dinner table Fard warned his hosts against pork, polished rice, and other foods: “Now don’t eat this food, it is poison for you. The people in your own country do not eat it. Since they eat the right kind of food they have the best health all the time.”[5]

                        In various ways Fard undermined his hearers’ faith in Christianity and the Bible, which for generations had sustained downtrodden black families. He encouraged his followers to listen to radio broadcasts of Jehovah’s Witness president Joseph Rutherford, whose rallying cry at that time was “Religion is a snare and a racket.” Fard also used Jehovah’s Witness literature to teach his followers that the time of “Gentile” (i.e., Caucasian) domination had come to an end in 1914; that the resurrection of the “so-called Negro” had already occurred as a mental and invisible fact, and that the coming New World was just around the corner. In just a few years, he claimed, the oppressed black man would receive the kingdom and the New World would arrive by 1936 at the very latest.[6]

                        When Fard arrived, Elijah Poole was an unemployed migrant laborer from rural Georgia, suffering, together with his wife and eight children, the consequences of the Great Depression. Though interested in Negro improvement, Elijah testified that before meeting “Master Fard,” he often took refuge in drunkenness. Within a year of Fard’s arrival, Elijah Poole and two of his brothers joined the new movement. Very quickly, Poole became Fard’s most trusted and ardent follower; Fard renamed him Elijah Muhammed, now the “chief minister” of Islam.[7]

                        Fard told his eager listeners that black America had been craftily deceived by the dominant Caucasian society, a perverse race of “blue-eyed devils” who used the Bible to enslave black people. The white man’s heaven, he often said, was the black man’s hell.[8] Elijah Poole had witnessed a vicious lynching when he was a small child, and this saying rang true. For many years, a painting of a Negro hung at a lynching adorned the front podium at NOI temples and meeting places.

                        The true religion of black people, Fard said, was Islam; their God was Allah, and their book the Holy Qur’an. His audience was keenly aware that the white culture which professed Christianity was the same culture that (in spite of its positive accomplishments) sired the Ku Klux Klan, the Jim Crow laws, racism, murder, castration, and unrestricted exploitation of Negro workers. His logic was simple. If Christianity was the religion of the white society, then its god must be Satan. The alternative offered by “Master Fard” was a complete rejection of Christianity and conversion to Islam.

                        In fact, Fard’s religion was not Islam, but a contradictory blend of Islam, Jehovah’s Witness doctrine, gnosticism and heretical Christian teachings. Fard’s doctrines were transmitted orally in The Secret Ritual of the Nation of Islam, which had to be memorized verbatim, and also in book form in The Teaching for the Lost Found Nation of Islam in a Mathematical Way, distributed only to registered, loyal followers. His followers were required to give up their surname, or slave name, and he would give them a new name—not an African name, but an Arabic name, such as Sharrieff, Muhammad, or Karriem.

                        Fard taught that the black man was not African, not even Arabic, but “Asiatic” in origin (on Malcolm X’s draft card, under the category of race, he wrote “Asiatic”).[9] According to Elijah Muhammad, Fard taught that black people, both individually and as a race, were God. Furthermore, there were a series of special Gods who would live for hundreds of years at a time. Besides Fard’s claims about the origins of the white race, one of his more exotic stories was about the “Mother Plane” or “Mother Ship,” an aircraft built by black scientists in Japan many thousands of years ago. This aircraft, undectable by radar, still circled the earth and carried powerful weapons which would be used on white America if she dared to harm the members of the Nation of Islam.[10]

                        Both Fard’s origins and disappearance are topics of debate. Ethnically, Fard was probably biracial; surviving photos show a man with very straight hair and dark, Caucasian features. Elijah Muhammad said Fard “taught me that His Father was a real Black Man. His Father went up into the mountains (governments of the Caucasians) picking out a white woman to marry so that she would give birth to a son looking white but yet the Father is Black.”[11] Though some NOI critics have confidently asserted that Fard was white, he “passed” as black and was probably of mixed parentage.

                        There is also no unanimity regarding Fard’s real name or true identity. Certain authors spell his name as if he were an Arab, Wali Farad. Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X spelled his name Wallace D. Fard, born in Mecca in 1877.[12] FBI files from the 1950s say that Fard’s fingerprints identify him as Wallie D. Ford, a white ex-convict from San Quentin, born in Portland, Oregon, in 1891. Ford’s former common-law wife claimed his real name was either Fred or Wallace Dodd, born in New Zealand in 1891 of Polynesian and English parents. Not to be outdone by alleged FBI disinformation, a recent author maintains that he was really Arnold Josiah Ford, a black rabbi from a kabbalistic Black Hebrew group in New York.[13]

                        After a bizarre human sacrifice in November 1932 involving two NOI members in Detroit (one of them a willing victim), three NOI members were arrested: Robert Karriem (the confessed sacrificer), Wallace D. Fard, and Ugan Ali, an NOI teacher. The following day over five hundred NOI members marched on the police headquarters in protest. Karriem (whose real name was Robert Harris) thought he was carrying out NOI teachings, and the police were suspicious of a black voodoo cult. Fard told them, “I am the Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” though his followers were dismayed that he told the police so much more than he told NOI adherents.[14] Fard and Ali were finally released, and Harris was committed to an insane asylum.

                        Further investigation by police led to the discovery that “Lesson 1” of The Secret Ritual included statements such as, “All Moslem [sic] will murder the devil because they know he is a snake and also if he be allowed to live, he would sting someone else.”[15] Fard was ordered out of Michigan in May 1933. He moved to the newly-built Chicago Temple no. 2, and was arrested again in Chicago. However, in June 1934 W. D. Fard mysteriously disappeared, leaving no explanation for his followers. At the time, people speculated that Fard fell victim to foul play, but nobody had hard information until 1963, when a sensational article appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner claiming that Fard was really Wallace Ford/Dodd, the ex-convict from San Quentin. The reporter asserted that after leaving Chicago, Ford returned to Portland, visited an ex-wife and child briefly, and then moved back to New Zealand.[16]

                        Elijah Muhammad countered by publicly offering the newspapers $100,000 if they could conclusively prove their claim; this challenge was not accepted by the media. After all the interest devoted to Fard’s origins over the past sixty years, it is unlikely that any single explanation will prove unassailable.

                        Shortly after Fard’s disappearance, Elijah Muhammad expanded the movement, strengthening its radical emphasis on race and openly professing that Master Fard (whom he pronounced “Far-ad”) was Allah in human form. After 1935, Elijah Muhammad and his family moved to Washington, D.C., then traveled from city to city spreading the message which he had been taught by “Allah” (i.e., Master Fard). In September 1942, Elijah Muhammad and his son, Emmanuel Karriem, were arrested along with many other leaders of black nationalist groups. Elijah was charged with sedition and failing to register for the draft. It is true that Elijah had urged his followers to avoid the white man’s war; World War II was seen as the first stage of the Battle of Armageddon, and the (“Asiatic”) Japanese were seen as the heroes of the battle against whites.

                        When the FBI interrogated Elijah Muhammad in 1942, he replied, “Allah has taught that blueprints of a plane which carries bombs was given to the Japanese from the Holy City of Mecca, and that these blueprints had been there for thousands of years. These bombs would go into the earth for at least a mile and would throw up the earth to a distance of one mile, so that it would make a mountain. I have reminded registered Moslems of this [sic] teachings.”[17]

                        Elijah Muhammad and his son were released from prison in 1946. The following year Malcolm X would join the Nation of Islam, and his efforts would catapult it into a national phenomenon.

                        Malcolm X

                        Malcolm was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925. Malcolm was the son of Earl Little, an occasional Baptist minister who was killed by a streetcar (or, Malcolm believed, was murdered) when Malcolm was six. Malcolm’s mother, Louise, was a light-skinned woman from the West Indies; she never saw or met her father, a white man.

                        Malcolm’s Autobiography tells the story of his upbringing in poverty, the breakup of his family after his mother was institutionalized in Michigan, his move to Boston and his descent into crime, and his conversion to NOI-style Islam in 1948 while in prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts.[18] Malcolm was introduced to their teachings by two of his brothers, then members of the Detroit Temple. Like other Black Muslims, when Malcolm joined the movement he gave up his slave surname, Little, and took on the name X, signifying the unknown tribal name of his ancestors. Malcolm’s formal education never went beyond the eighth grade, but his studies while in prison more than compensated for this lack. He went on to achieve an influence with both the man on the streets and the media that few men have possessed.

                        Very quickly, Malcolm became the leading spokesman for (by now) “the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Messenger of Allah.” In 1959 a documentary, “The Hate That Hate Produced,” was aired on national television, presented by Mike Wallace and Louis Lomax, an in-depth look at the racist movement led by Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. This documentary created a firestorm of controversy, exposing how white racism had created a black reaction of resentment. A portrayal of the ugly side of Malcolm X appears in the chapter on Black Muslims in the first edition of The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin (1965). However, in the mid-1960s Malcolm X experienced another conversion.

                        Malcolm, the national spokesman for the Nation of Islam, who told newspaper interviewers to use a stock photo of “Mr. Elijah Muhammad” instead of an on-site photo of Malcolm, found himself slowly becoming disillusioned with Elijah Muhammad. Certain contradictions gnawed at Malcolm: the incredible teachings about the Mother Plane and “Mr. Yakub” (founder of the white race), the doctrine that white people are irredeemably evil and there is nothing they can do to change. These didn’t square well with what Malcolm learned of human history and human nature.[19]

                        Malcolm discovered that Elijah Muhammad had fathered several children through his secretaries, who were then expelled from the mosque when they became pregnant. Malcolm interviewed three of these women and later questioned Elijah Muhammad privately about these changes. Elijah Muhammad replied, “I’m David. . . . When you read about how David took another man’s wife, I’m that David. You read about Noah, who got drunk—that’s me. You read about Lot, who went and laid up with his own daughters. I have to fulfill all of those things.”[20]

                        Malcolm had thought that Elijah Muhammad would explain or face up to his moral failures, which were already whispered scandals in Chicago where Elijah lived, as the sins of a prophet like David. Instead, Elijah privately tried to discredit Malcolm as a false accuser. “What began to break my faith was that, try as I might, I couldn’t hide, I couldn’t evade, that Mr. Muhammad, instead of facing what he had done before his followers, as a human weakness or as fulfillment of prophecy—which I sincerely believe that Muslims would have understood, or at least they would have accepted—Mr. Muhammad had, instead, been willing to hide, to cover up what he had done.”[21]

                        Malcolm did not openly disavow Elijah Muhammad. A few months later, in November 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. Interviewed by the press for his reaction to the assassination, Malcolm made a careless remark about the assassination being as a case of “the chickens coming home to roost,” implying that Kennedy had brought his death upon his own head. Then Malcolm added, “Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming to roost never did make me sad, they’ve always made me glad.”[22]

                        The next day Elijah Muhammad, who was no fool about the negative impact this statement would have, suspended Malcolm for ninety days from all speaking and official duties. He could not even teach in his own mosque. Elijah Muhammad suggested that Malcolm would not be reinstated, and one of Malcolm’s personal assistants told Malcolm he had been ordered to kill him.[23] But Malcolm was too well known and respected to be disposed of easily. In 1964, Malcolm founded two new organizations, the Muslim Mosque, Inc. (religious), and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (secular). He also extensively toured Africa and the Middle East. While overseas he took the classic Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, which changed his life.

                        From Mecca, Malcolm (now El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) wrote a letter to his loyal assistants in Harlem.

                            Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and the 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, 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. . . .

                            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.

                            You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to re-arrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. . . .

                            All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds.

                            El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz [24]

                        In January 1964, Elijah Muhammad expelled his own son Wallace Muhammad, who had also been one of Malcolm’s closest friends. Wallace and Malcolm had both concluded that W.D. Fard could not have been Allah and that Elijah Muhammad had misrepresented Islam and Fard’s own doctrines. Wallace had also been the one of the people to confirm his father’s sexual infidelity to Malcolm. Malcolm eventually helped one of Elijah’s former secretaries, a woman whom he had recommended to work for Elijah, to file a paternity suit against him. Elijah Muhammad told his followers Malcolm’s days were numbered. The NOI newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, even carried a cartoon of Malcolm’s severed head bouncing down a street.

                        Both threats and attacks were made against Malcolm and his followers. He had bodyguards accompany him everywhere and spoke often of his impending death. On Sunday, February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated by at least three members of the Nation of Islam while he was at the podium of the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York.[25] That night Malcolm’s followers bombed Temple no. 7, Malcolm’s former temple, in retaliation.

                        The Coming of Louis Farrakhan and
                        the Breakup of the Former Nation of Islam

                        The modern “Louis Farrakhan” was born in the Bronx, New York, on May 11, 1933, as Louis Eugene Walcott. His real father was a light-skinned Jamaican cab driver, Percival Clark, whose infidelity split up the marriage before Louis was born.[26] His mother would move herself and her two sons to Boston by the time Louis was four, and there Louis was raised. Four years later, Malcolm Little would also move to Boston, and there he would begin the road which led to his transformation from nominal Christian to Muslim.

                        In 1955, Malcolm X introduced Louis Walcott to the Nation of Islam. Louis was then twenty-two years old, eight years younger than Malcolm. Louis Walcott changed his name to Louis X, as Malcolm had done, and he (Louis X) is the talented, articulate, and angry playwright seen in the opening pages of C. Eric Lincoln’s The Black Muslims in America.

                        Louis X went on to become one of the leaders of the Boston Temple, a playwright for the Nation of Islam, and a contributor to the NOI’s national newspaper, Muhammad Speaks. After Malcolm X left the movement and made public the infidelities of Elijah Muhammad, Louis X wrote in the December 1964 issue of Muhammad Speaks that “only those who wish to be led to hell, or to their doom, will follow Malcolm. . . . Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death . . .”[27] When Elijah Muhammad expelled Malcolm X as leader of Temple no. 7 in Harlem, Louis X was chosen as his replacement.

                        The next decade would see the current Nation of Islam draw to a close, focusing largely on Elijah Muhammad’s seventh child, Wallace Muhammad. Wallace ping-ponged between acceptance and rejection in the Nation of Islam. Expelled in 1964, a fully repentant Wallace appeared on the platform at the annual Savior’s Day convention in 1965, just five days after Malcolm X’s assassination.[28] Later that year, Wallace would be expelled again, this time for four years. According to C. Eric Lincoln, “he was exiled from all contact with friends and family inside the Nation of Islam” until his readmittance in 1969.[29] However, even after his readmittance, he cold not resume his full clerical privileges until 1974. Despite these problems, Elijah Muhammad, relying partly on the numerological mystique of the “seventh child,” designated Wallace Muhammad to be the supreme minister of the Nation of Islam and his authorized successor after his death.[30]

                        On February 25, 1975 (ten years and four days after Malcolm X’s death), Elijah Muhammad died of congestive heart failure. After his death, Wallace Muhammad immediately began making changes in the focus and beliefs of the Nation of Islam, moving it closer to those of traditional Islam.

                        First, he changed the organization’s name from the Nation of Islam to the Bilalian Community (1975), then to the World Community of Al-Islam in the West (1977), then to the American Muslim Mission. Wallace changed his own name to Warith. The newspaper was changed from Muhammad Speaks to the Bilalian News, as Warith Muhammad rejected the terms colored, Negro, black, or Afro-American in favor of “Bilalian,” and appealed to blacks to use this new term instead. Bilal was the name of an Ethiopian Muslim martyr, allegedly killed by Trinitarian Christians. In the early 1980s, the Bilalian News changed its name four times and is currently called Muslim Journal. In 1985 the movement became fully incorporated into traditional Islam.

                        Louis Farrakhan remained with the Bilalian Community for two years under Wallace’s leadership, but left in 1977 when it became apparent that Wallace was no longer following the footsteps of his father, Elijah Muhammad. Since Wallace/Warith had discarded “the Nation of Islam” as it had been, Louis Farrakhan took up the abandoned identity. Since Minister Farrakhan had been a long-term and popular leader, many members who preferred to keep the teachings of Elijah Muhammad left with him.

                        Over the past twenty years, Louis Farrakhan has generally remained true to older teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan’s newspaper, The Final Call, still reprints “What the Muslims Want” and “What the Muslims Believe” on the back pages of each issue, textually identical to what Elijah Muhammad printed in the 1960s. Reading these statements evokes memories of newspapers printed by the Black Panther Party or by other “Black Power” groups.

                        According to these statements, the Muslims (i.e., members of the Nation of Islam) want freedom, justice, and equal opportunity for people of all color (“Want,” items 1-3). They want reparations, preferably a large tract of land set apart from the United States and given to black people, plus “our former slave masters are obligated to maintain and supply our needs in this separate territory for the next 20 to 25 years” (“Want,” item 4). They want the release of all black Muslims convicted of any federal crimes, and the release of all black people convicted of any capital crime requiring the death sentence (“Want,” item 5). The Muslims are against racial integration (“Believe,” item 9) and against interracial marriage or race mixing (“Want,” item 10).

                            We want freedom for all Believers of Islam now held in federal prisons. We want freedom for all Black men and women now under death sentence in innumerable prisons in the North as well as the South.

                            We want every Black man and woman to have the freedom to accept or reject being separated from the slave master’s children and establish a land of their own.
                            —Elijah Muhammad
                            “What the Muslims Want,” item 5

                        The Final Call newspaper carries an ever-present emphasis on black supremacy, on white conspiracies, on white people as devils, and on the Jews as a special enemy. In this context, there is a certain irony to learn that in September 1985 Louis Farrakhan invited the infamous Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Resistance (a neo-Nazi white power group), to attend an NOI gathering. The Washington Times reports Metzger’s words of praise: “They speak out against the Jews and the oppressors in Washington. . . . They are the black counterpart to us.”[31] Yet when one realizes that both groups would like to see black people leave the United States and move to another country, it becomes clearer how well their beliefs mesh together. Metzger, agreeing with this general principle, donated one hundred dollars to the Nation of Islam.

                        What Attracts Blacks to the Nation of Islam?

                        According to Dr. Jerry Buckner, a black Christian pastor and an authority on the Nation of Islam, several factors attract young black men to this movement. To begin with, the Nation offers positive social programs to the community. Its members are active in jails and prisons, recruiting men behind bars and dissuading them from a life of crime.

                        They have a strong emphasis against drugs, against prostitution and pimping, and against violence and gang involvement. They urge blacks to set up black-owned and black-operated businesses, thus working to raise the standard of living in poor neighborhoods. They also look with disfavor on black reliance on the government welfare system, which they perceive as often perpetuating the cycle of poverty.[32]

                        The Nation of Islam look to restaurants and food service industry as one focus for economic growth. The Nation of Islam owns thousands of acres of Georgia farmland, and has operated countless restaurants, bakeries, clothing stores, bookstores, hair care shops, and other enterprises. In 1995, the NOI opened the Salaam Restaurant and Bakery on the south side of Chicago, at a cost of five million dollars. Their fundamental ideology is to avoid reliance on government subsidies or white business partnerships and to “Do For Self.”

                        Perhaps their most successful venture has been in providing building security at apartments and housing projects across the nation. Since 1991, the federal government has paid over twenty million dollars to NOI security teams in cities such as Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The U.S. News & World Report acknowledges that in some places, such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C., hiring of the NOI Security Agency by the Department of Housing and Urban Development was an unqualified success for the tenants. However, there were drawbacks: when paychecks were late one week, some NOI leaders blamed “the Jews” for putting a virus into the computer. NOI security guards will also hawk newspapers or proselytize for Farrakhan while on duty. Still, NOI security teams, which do not carry guns, are looked on with favor and have been generally effective at reducing crime and increasing tenant safety. In order to maintain a sharp appearance, a fine of ten dollars is levied against NOI security guards whose hair is too long.

                        Dr. Buckner notes that the Nation of Islam also emphasizes mentoring, taking a younger person under one’s wing to model moral principles. Its members do not (or are not supposed to) use drugs, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or eat pork. Their use of profanity is supposed to be limited, but this guideline is bent fairly often. They emphasize fidelity to one’s spouse, and have built self-esteem and self-confidence among people badly in need both.

                        Furthermore, as C. Eric Lincoln observed in 1961, black men are attracted to the Nation of Islam over against the black church because of the preponderance of black men in the movement. In the average black church, over 60 percent of the congregation is female. Those percentages are fine if one is looking for a wife or a girlfriend, but for young black men looking for strong male leadership, the Nation of Islam is more attractive, with about 80 percent of its constituency being male.

                        Two other things make the Nation of Islam attractive: the discipline, and the power they have to externally “clean up” a neighborhood. In an NOI mosque, members are told very strongly that they have to abide by the rules of the mosque. Infractions could be dealt with by public tongue-lashing before the Muslim congregation, or even by physical violence or beating of the offenders. A Muslim who has sex out of wedlock may find himself and his girlfriend hauled before the congregation and publicly rebuked for disgracing Islam before the world. In a white, Christian setting, much lighter “church discipline” has been instant grounds for a lawsuit against the church and its pastor; whereas in a black Muslim setting, severe public corrections are looked on with favor as positive discipline.

                        Along similar lines, a Detroit pastor told this reporter how the NOI “cleaned up” a neighborhood: they physically beat up the pimps and drug pushers in a two-block region, forcing gang activity and prostitution to entirely leave. Area residents were thrilled with the results, which the Christian churches had not able to accomplish in years of prayer and low-key “witness.” The Nation of Islam had a much more aggressive approach, and was under no obligation to turn the other cheek if attacked for their deeds. They got credit for the results.

                        This illustrates the vast difference between Christian and Muslim ethics. From the New Testament framework, Christians are morally forbidden from using violence or force to accomplish such goals. We are told to “turn the other cheek” when smitten (Matt. 5:39). Externally, our society expects that Christians ought to behave in such a manner. If the elders of a Christian church forcibly beat up drug sellers from a street gang, they could expect a stack of lawsuits from the victims of the beating, not to mention public castigation by the print and broadcast media. Yet a Muslim group can commit the same action with relative impunity, since a pacifistic response is not part of their internal system of ethics and thus the surrounding society does not expect it of them.

                        Finally, many blacks can relate to the Nation of Islam for some of the reasons mentioned by Malcolm X (see sidebar). Many blacks feel targeted by white society or by law enforcement. Current U.S. statistics say that by the age of twenty-nine, 30 percent of American black men will either have been under court supervision or been sentenced in a criminal case: drugs, theft, rape, violent crime.[33] This percentage is far higher than that of white men under twenty-nine, so many blacks are more receptive to Farrakhan’s rhetoric of a white conspiracy against them.

                        Why the Nation of Islam Grows So Quickly in Prisons

                        According to Malcolm X, writing in 1963,

                            The Muslim teachings, circulated among all Negroes in the country, are converting new Muslims among black men in prison, and black men are in prison in far greater numbers than their proportion in the population.

                            The reason is that among all Negroes the black convict is the most perfectly preconditioned to hear the words, “the white man is the devil.” . . .

                            . . . You let this caged-up black man start realizing, as I did, how from the first landing of the first slave ship, the millions of black men in America have been like sheep in a den of wolves. That’s why black prisoners become Muslims so fast when Elijah Muhammad’s teachings filter into their cages by way of other Muslim convicts. “The white man is the devil” is a perfect echo of that black convict’s lifelong experience.
                            —Malcolm X, Autobiography, page 183

                        Today as well as thirty years ago, blacks in prison are more likely to convert to the Nation of Islam, and fully one-third of all federal prisoners today are Muslim of one variety or another. Thus, the Nation of Islam seems geared to reach the underclass, and its message emphasizes and capitalizes on the racial inequities and disparities between black and white people in America.

                        The Language of Anger

                        While the NOI undoubtedly draws a higher percentage of people on the margins of society, an underclass who has felt anger toward the legal system, it is also true that its rhetoric tends to inflame that anger. Farrakhan’s speeches often paint American society in terms of oppressed and oppressor, of slaves and slavemasters. While it is understandable that blacks can relate to a movement which “addresses” racial problems, sometimes leaders of that same movement call for bloodshed.

                        For example, Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, who is head of the NOI mosque in Washington, D.C., and also the NOI Minister of Health and Human Services, told a black audience in 1992 that they could find “healing” in killing white people: “When you let [your anger and anxiety] out, there’s healing in that. And if in the process, some of your oppressors and slavemasters die, so what? Everybody has to die some time, don’t they? So why shouldn’t your slavemaster die now? They got to die anyhow!”

                        At this point, the congregation responded with their agreement. “If you’re white today, it ain’t worth living anyhow,” Alim said. “Would you shoot a dog and put it out of its misery? Or a horse? Well, certainly white people is equal to dogs and horses.”[34]

                        On November 29, 1993, Khallid Abdul Muhammad, then the second-in-command in the Nation of Islam, gave a lecture to one hundred forty students at Kean College in Union, New Jersey. Entitled “The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews,” his talk suggested that the Jews had brought the Holocaust upon themselves. Turning to South Africa, he said that when blacks gain political power there, they should give the whites exactly twenty-four hours to leave the country. And if they can’t leave fast enough? “We kill the women, we kill the children. We kill the babies. We kill the blind, we kill the cripples, we kill ’em all. We kill the faggot, we kill the lesbian, we’ll kill them all. . . . And when you get through killing ’em all, go to the [expletive] graveyard and dig up the grave and kill them a-[expletive]-gain. ’Cause they didn’t die hard enough.”[35]

                        Khallid was not initially ashamed of that talk. The Muslims duplicated the tape and sold copies for ten dollars apiece when Khallid spoke at other colleges. Complaints came from many quarters to condemn Khallid’s speech; when Farrakhan finally responded, he said his minister had spoken “truth” but in a “repugnant” fashion. Farrakhan eventually did relieve Khallid of his post, and Farrakhan himself never uses language which calls for bloodshed (except in self-defense). However, his ministers do not always follow this same path, and sometimes take his rhetoric about resisting the “oppressors” and “slavemasters” to their next logical conclusion, in summoning oppressed blacks to “kill ’em all.”

                        While national NOI leaders do properly raise the problems of racism to many blacks who have been outraged by the system, they will also use the language of blame and revenge. For those of us who are Christians, revenge, even for unjust crimes brought upon innocent people, is not an option for Jesus’ disciples. This teaching is emphasized in Romans 12:17-21 (“Recompense no man evil for evil”) and throughout the first epistle of Peter. “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing than for evildoing” (1 Pet. 3:17, KJV).

                        What separates Minister Farrakhan from black Christian pastors is not primarily his plain manner of speaking or addressing a problem. Rather, it is that the Islamic sense of how problems should be “addressed” is very different from the Christian principle. Minister Farrakhan and other NOI speakers frequently miscast the New Testament teaching as a trick of the “slavemasters” to lull the black community into blind submission and further bondage.

                        Also see Part Two of this article.


                        1. Louis Farrakhan’s Savior’s Day Speech, Cable News Network (CNN) broadcast, 25 Feb. 1996. [return]

                        2. Basil Talbott, “Farrakhan Unfazed,” Chicago Sun-Times, 15 Mar. 1996, p. 1. [return]

                        3. Elijah Muhammad, Master Fard Not a Peddler, audiotape of a radio broadcast (n.p., n.d., distributed by Secretarius MEPS, Atlanta), quoted in Magida, 217 n.49. [return]

                        4. Benyon, 900, quoted in Lincoln, 119 n. 31. [return]

                        5. Benyon, 895, quoted in Lincoln, 11. [return]

                        6. Wallace Deen Muhammad, 19. [return]

                        7. Technically, at first Fard named him Elijah Karriem, but soon changed his name again to Elijah Muhammad. See Lincoln, 15, 181. [return]

                        8. “White Man’s Heaven is Black Man’s Hell!” is also the title of a song recorded by Louis Farrakhan in the 1950s. See Lincoln, 108; Malcolm X, 250. [return]

                        9. Goldman, 42. [return]

                        10. Elijah Muhammad, Fall of America, 236-42; Gardell, 158-160; Magida, 54, 221 n. 28. [return]

                        11. Elijah Muhammad, Our Saviour, 183. [return]

                        12. Authors who sometimes spell the name “Farad” include Lincoln and Gardell; Goldman spells it “Farrad.” The spelling “Wallace D. Fard” and his birth year of 1877 comes from Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, 16-17 and 237, respectively. [return]

                        13. Additional details about Fard as W. D. Ford, Wallace Dodd, or Arnold Ford can be found in Gardell, 50-58, and Magida, chap. 3. [return]

                        14. E. D. Beynon, Master Fard Muhammad: “Detroit History” (Newport News, Va.: United Brothers and Sisters Communications Systems, 1990), 6, 9, 15, quoted in Magida, 46, 49. [return]

                        15. Gardell, 56. [return]

                        16. “Black Muslims’ Founder a Fake; Posed as Negro,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 28 July 1963, p. 4, quoted in Magida, 51, 220 n. 20. [return]

                        17. Gardell, 71. [return]

                        18. Malcolm X, 157-60. Lincoln, 190, cites a different date for the conversion. [return]

                        19. “Yakub” in Elijah Muhammad’s books is spelled “Yacub” by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. In Malcolm’s Autobiography, 164-168, he describes Elijah Muhammad’s teachings and alludes to him as a “faker”; on the impossibility of white change, see the story of the blonde co-ed on p. 286. [return]

                        20. Malcolm X, 299. [return]

                        21. Ibid., 306. [return]

                        22. New York Times, 2 Dec. 1963, quoted in Lincoln, 191. [return]

                        23. Malcolm X, 308. [return]

                        24. Ibid., 339-42. [return]

                        25. For the best summary of the men behind Malcolm’s assassination, see Gardell, 76-85; for a full-length treatment, see Goldman’s The Death and Life of Malcolm X. [return]

                        26. Magida, 9-10. [return]

                        27. Louis X, “Boston Minister Tells of Malcolm—Muhammad’s Biggest Hypocrite,” Muhammad Speaks, Dec. 4, 1964, pp. 11-15, quoted in Magida, 83, and Goldman, 269-70. [return]

                        28. Magida, 89. [return]

                        29. Lincoln, 264. [return]

                        30. Gardell, 101-2. [return]

                        31. Washington Times, quoted in Free Inquiry, Feb. 1995, 11. [return]

                        32. Dr. Jerry Buckner, interview by author, 13 Dec. 1995. [return]

                        33. Ted Gest, “A Shocking Look at Blacks and Crime,” U.S. News & World Report, 16 Oct. 1995, 53-54. [return]

                        34. William Gaines and David Jackson, “AIDS Hope or Hoax in a Bottle?” Chicago Tribune, 14 Mar. 1995. [return]

                        35. Magida, 176. See also Fred Bruning, “Nothing Produces Hate Like Hatred,” Maclean’s, 28 Feb. 1994, 13. [return]


                        Benyon, Erdmann D. “The Voodoo Cult among Negro Migrants in Detroit,” American Journal of Sociology 43 (July 1937-May 1938): 894-907.

                        Brackman, Harold. Ministry of Lies: The Truth Behind the Nation of Islam’s “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews.” New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994.

                        Farrakhan, Louis. A Torchlight for America. Chicago: FCN Publishing Co., 1993.

                        Gardell, Mattias. In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996.

                        Goldman, Peter. The Death and Life of Malcolm X. New York: Harper & Row, Perennial Library, 1974.

                        Lincoln, C. Eric. The Black Muslims in America. 3d ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994.

                        Magida, Arthur J. Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and his Nation. New York: Basic Books, 1996.

                        Muhammad, Elijah. Message to the Blackman in America. Chicago: Muhammad’s Temple no. 2, 1965.

                        ------. Our Saviour Has Arrived. Newport News, Va.: United Brothers Communications Systems, [1969?].

                        ------. The Fall of America. Newport News, Va.: The National Newport News and Commentator, 1973.

                        Muhammad, Wallace Deen. As the Light Shineth From the East. Chicago: WDM Publishing Co, 1980.

                        X, Malcolm, with Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove Press, 1966.

                        First published in Cornerstone (ISSN 0275-2743), Vol. 26, Issue 111 (1997), p. 10-16, 20
                        © 1997 Cornerstone Communications, Inc.
                        Electronic version may contain minor changes and corrections from printed version.

                        Book Summary

                              The following is a brief summary that outlines some of the main points made by Elijah Muhammad in his 300 page book called Message to the Blackman in America. It was first printed in 1965 and then again in 1992 by United Brothers Communications Systems of Newport News, Virginia.

                              Elijah Muhammad makes many outlandish proclamations in his book, but it is important to keep in mind that the proclamations are mixed in with claims about discrimination that are true to varying degrees, and that even when true to some degree, readers' opinions would differ about the significance of such claims.

                              In his book he says that he is a divine messenger who is warning blacks that they had better pledge to Nation of Islam's version of Islam before Allah eliminates whites and non-believers in racial Armageddon. To understand the reasoning behind the belief in the eventual annihilation of whites, it is necessary to explore Elijah Muhammad's interpretations of creation, of history, and of events from the 1960's.

                              He says in his book that Allah created originally the blacks, next the brown, red, and yellow races, and lastly the whites. A renegade black scientist named Yakub created the white race 6,000 years ago, and ever since then, the whites have ruled the other colors.

                              There are hints in the text that blacks are considered supreme over whites. After explaining that Yakub extracted the "brown germ" from the "black germ" and in turn grafted whites from the "brown germ," the author says Yakub discovered that the "white . . . was the weaker of the black germ." In discussing "Black Supremacy" versus "White Supremacy" the author says that "some must rule over the other. It is the law of nature."

                              Whites are viewed as inherently evil for "the whole Caucasian race is a race of devils." While they are usually referred to as "devils," other titles are applied to whites such as "the great archdeceivers" and "man of sin." The white race, we find out, "are the people described as 'beast' in the Revelation of the Bible." We read that blacks have been tortured and murdered by whites principally, and as a result, whites are the "evil and murderous race."

                              It is said that blue eyes are ugly while black eyes are beautiful.

                              Christianity, we are told, was organized in order to make slaves out of all blacks. Christianity's purpose "was to deceive other races, namely, the black, brown, yellow and red" in order "to make an easy prey for the white race." Playing into the hands of whites, black Christian preachers prevent blacks from learning Nation of Islam's teachings.

                              Although most denigrations are pointed at white Christians, white Jews are included at times. Elijah Muhammad gives us his interpretation of Biblical history as follows: "Jesus . . . gave up His work of trying to convert the Jews or white race to the religion of Islam."

                              Nation of Islam changes the names of new members by replacing with "X's" their last names having European origins. For example, Malcolm Little became Malcolm X. Eventually members get new last names. For example, Louis Eugene Walcott first changed to Louis X and then became Louis Farrakhan. Also, Elijah Poole became Elijah Muhammad. In Message to the Blackman in America, a name of European origin is called an "illegal" name while a name of Islamic origin is called "a legal and Holy name of God." (The words Allah and God are used interchangeably in the book.) Blacks who keep their names that descended from "slave-masters" will not see the "hereafter."

                              Strong demands for racial separation are issued. Elijah Muhammad commands that God calls for racial separation, and that "IT IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT TO TEACH SEPARATION OF THE BLACKS AND WHITES IN AMERICA THAN PRAYER." Integration and intermarriage between blacks and whites are an attempt by whites to confuse blacks, keep them enslaved, and prevent them from learning Nation of Islam's teachings. Demands are made to whites for a separate territory.

                              Blacks who assimilate into mainstream culture are called "disgraceful Uncle Toms" and "Stool Pigeons." Such blacks seek to please the "slave-masters' children" and they prevent blacks from learning Nation of Islam's teachings.

                              Elijah Muhammad wrote several passages giving his opinion of Martin Luther King and about King's involvement in the civil rights movement. On one page, Elijah Muhammad offered Martin Luther King a sharing of power on the condition that Martin Luther King would pledge to Nation of Islam's religious teachings including the demand for a separate territory. Most passages describe Martin Luther King as ignorant and foolish for working toward cooperation with whites and for saying, according to Elijah Muhammad, that blacks "must not seek to rise from a position of disadvantage to one of advantage substituting injustice of one type for that of another."

                              We are told by Elijah Muhammad that police forces beat blacks and that thousands of blacks are held in prison "unjustly."

                              Blacks cannot accomplish power through voting because whites will fight against blacks at the polling places, and even if many blacks were able to vote, any black candidates allowed to run would be in the pockets of the whites.

                              It is said that whites eventually will stop employing blacks and so blacks must learn to provide for themselves and each other. Blacks should buy land, build their own homes, and produce their own food. There are "enough educated black men and women in this government to start a government big enough to take care of the world." Thus, blacks are ready to run the world after whites are annihilated. In the meantime, the author assures blacks that whites will sell them cloth making machines.

                              Elijah Muhammad asks blacks to send donations to Nation of Islam's "National Three-Year Economics Savings Plan" that will allow for a bank to be started and that will turn their millions of dollars into billions. It is interesting that in a passage that asks blacks to donate money, Elijah Muhammad tells his readers that whites will have more respect for blacks if blacks save more money.

                              He also asks whites for monetary help, 20 to 25 years of it. He seems to make a distinction between two types of efforts. Blacks who ask whites for help are labeled shameful beggars when they also want to assimilate, but Elijah Muhammad does not call himself such when he asks whites for money and land because he wants it for black independence and separation.

                              The author warns that the white "devils," the orthodox Muslims, and the black Christians all oppose the "new Islam" that will be brought about by Allah.

                              He says that accusations about the black Muslims plotting to overthrow the government are untrue because Nation of Islam teaches its members to be non-violent and not to possess guns. The white government will be ended by Allah alone during destructive Armageddon so that violent efforts by blacks are not needed.

                              However, in other passages Elijah Muhammad reserves violent actions as a possibility. The blacks who marched during the 1960's in Birmingham, Alabama, would have been justified to kill every police dog that they confronted, and if the police had fired upon them "they would have been justified by God and Divine law of self-defense to fight and defend themselves. . . . Surely the American so-called Negroes would have God and world sympathy on their side if they would take the right steps or actions." Concerning the questioning of black Muslims by the Federal Bureau of Investigation he says: "We want the FBI to know what we are teaching. We are not teaching what we do not want you to know, FBI. We want the government to know we have no secrets. The thing you should do is to keep it a secret yourself, when you can." After explaining that whites plot to keep blacks fighting amongst themselves, he says the following about blacks killing whites: "We don't bother about killing them, as I am not teaching that which I want to be kept as a secret, but that which the world has not known and should know."

                              Elijah Muhammad wrote in his book that the years 1965 and 1966 were to bring in the "Fall of America." He wrote that it was "the touch of the finger of God" that made the world go off the gold standard, and the result would be the "crumbling and fall of America."

                              We are told that among all whites in the world the whites in America and Germany have been the most vicious to the blacks and so they would be eliminated first in Armageddon. There would be a delay before other European whites would be eliminated.

                              Throughout the entire book it is proclaimed that there is nothing whites can do to avoid Armageddon because whites were created inherently evil and because Allah doomed whites in the scriptures. It is worth noting the use the word "win" in a sentence near the end of the book because, at first glance, the use of the word seems to give a glimmer of hope to the "man of sin." First Elijah Muhammad says America's technology cannot defeat the divine weaponry that Allah would bring down upon it, and then he says the following: "what America needs to win is to give freedom and equal justice to her slaves" who are "the so-called Negroes" and to give a separate territory to them. The use of the word "win" most likely means, not that American whites can avoid their annihilation, but that they can buy some time like that already granted to other whites who are not German. In another quote he allows for American whites to delay their doom but not to avoid it: "War is due. War is inevitable. . . . It would be wise for you if you want to get an extension of time to treat us right." He says that "the whole Caucasian race" can be reformed but by an action no less than grafting them back into blacks.

                              Throughout the book we learn that Elijah Muhammad learned the Nation of Islam doctrines from Master Fard Muhammad in the 1930's in Detroit, Michigan.

                              After the text ends, there is an appendix having documents in which Elijah Muhammad explains about himself and Nation of Islam. Some documents are transcriptions of interviews and others are letters written by him. One letter included is written not by him but by an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, namely J. B. Stoner of Georgia, and a follow-up letter is Elijah Muhammad's racist response to Stoner's racist letter.

                              The book has an index, and just after it are several pages that serve as guides for interpreting "the Bible" and "the Holy Qur'an." There is a list of titles that summarize passages from the scriptures, and many of the titles give summaries in a modern day racial context. For examples, Revelation 14:4 is summarized as "Worship white man as God;" Revelation 18:4 is summarized as "God pleads with you to get out of America;" and a section of the Qur'an is summarized as "Black mud fashioned into shape."

                        CULTS AND SECTS: NATION OF ISLAM

                        Official Name

                        The Nation of Islam (NOI)
                        Current Leader(s)

                        Louis Farrakhan

                        Chicago, Ill.
                        Date Of Beginning

                        1978. The Nation of Islam follows the teachings of W. D. Fard.

                        The Nation of Islam does not release statistics, but there are an estimated 25,000 to 100,000 members. Many more people admire Louis Farrakhan as a national leader. In 1995 he called for a Million Man March and several hundred thousand men answered his call.
                        Historical Background

                        The NOI was created by Wallace D. Fard, also known as Wallace Fard Muhammad. Fard claimed to come from the Islamic city of Mecca. He began a mosque in Detroit in 1930. He taught that Christianity should be rejected since it was the "slave-master's religion." In 1934 Fard disappeared and was neither seen nor heard from again. Fard was succeeded by Elijah Muhammad (Elijah Poole).

                        Elijah Poole was born in Sandersville, Ga. on October 7, 1898. He changed his name to Elijah Muhammad after joining the NOI. After Fard disappeared, Elijah took over the leadership of NOI.

                        Malcolm Little was born in 1925. He joined the NOI and changed his name to Malcolm X. He achieved fame in the early 1960s as the spokesperson for Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm was removed as spokesperson because of an inappropriate remark about the assassination of President Kennedy and was severed from the NOI because of his accusations of sexual misconduct between Elijah and female staff members (C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslim in America, 3d. ed. [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994], 258). After he left the NOI, Malcolm began the Muslim Mosque, Inc. in 1964. Less than one year later, on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was killed by assassins.

                        Warith Deen Muhammad became the new leader of the NOI after his father, Elijah Muhammad, died on February 25, 1975. Warith eliminated from NOI teaching that Fard was Allah. Warith led the NOI to adopt beliefs compatible with traditional Islam. He changed the name from the NOI to the World Community of Islam. Later, he altered the name to the American Muslim Mission but eventually disbanded the organization and his followers became part of traditional Islam. The NOI was resurrected by Louis Farrakhan.

                        Farrakhan was born Louis Eugene Walcott in New York City on May 11, 1933. He attended college for two years in North Carolina, but left to begin a career as an entertainer. He sang in nightclubs until he joined the NOI. Louis Farrakhan separated from Warith Deen Muhammad in 1978 because of doctrinal disagreements. Farrakhan formed a splinter group using the original name--the Nation of Islam. He reestablished the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and also reinstated the movement's security force known as the Fruit of Islam (FOI).

                        Several teachings of the NOI are incompatible with Christianity. Many of their beliefs are also incompatible with traditional Islam.

                        The Nation of Islam claims that God is a man. "God is a man and we just cannot make Him other than man" (Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America, [Chicago: Muhammad's Temple No. 2], 6). The NOI teaches that Fard was Allah in physical form (Elijah Muhammad, The Fall of America, 236, as reprinted in "The Mother Plane," The Final Call 15, no. 25, [July 16, 1996]: 19). According to Elijah Muhammad, Fard told him, "My name is Mahdi; I am God" (Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, 17). The NOI continues to teach that Fard is Allah. The current NOI statement is published in every issue of their weekly newspaper, The Final Call, in an article titled "What the Muslims Believe." It states, "12. WE BELIEVE that Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July, 1930; the long-awaited "Messiah" of the Christians and the "Mahdi" of the Muslims." The NOI denies that God is Spirit. The NOI claims that Christians worship an "invisible spook somewhere in space"(Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, 5). According the Elijah Muhammad, "God is in person, and stop looking for a dead Jesus for help, but pray to Him whom Jesus prophesied would come after Him. He who is alive and not a spook" (Ibid., 3).
                        Biblical Response

                        The Bible teaches that God is Spirit (see John 4:24) and denies that He is a man (see Num. 23:19). The NOI worships a false god. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God (see John 3:16). Jesus is unique; there are no other incarnations of God. Jesus, not Fard, is the true Savior of the world (see Acts 4:12; John 1:1-14).

                        The NOI teaches that blacks are gods and whites are demons. The NOI claims that blacks are of the same race as God. According to Elijah Muhammad, "To accept your own means yourself and your kind, your God Who is of you and you are of Him. It was your fathers who created the heavens and the earth, while there is nothing that the white man has created independently. He did not even create himself. The Black Nation is self-created, while the white race is made by one of the gods and scientists of the Black Nation" (Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, 42). The NOI claims that one of these black scientists created the moon.

                        They teach that 66 trillion years ago, he decided to destroy the earth. He drilled a shaft into the earth, filled it with high explosives, and then set it off. He failed to totally destroy the earth but he did blow it into two parts. The smaller part became what we now call the moon (Tape of Louis Farrakhan, Dec. 9, 1990, Compton, Calif.). According to the NOI, a black scientist named Yakub created the white race about 6,000 years ago. They claim that whites are a race of devils (Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, 51). According to Elijah Muhammad, "If you understand it [the Bible] right, you will agree with me that the whole Caucasian race is a race of devils (Ibid., 23). The NOI claims that Christianity is the devil's religion and was created to mislead black (Ibid., 11).
                        Biblical Response

                        Blacks are not gods and whites are not demons. Both races are descended from Adam and made in the image of God. "And God said, Let us make man in our image after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl or the air, and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth" (Gen. 1:26). "God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). The moon was created by the God of the Bible, not by a scientist 66 trillion years ago (see Gen. 1:16). The Bible warns Christians not to believe cunningly devised fables (see 2 Pet. 1:16).

                        While the NOI often refers to the Bible, they claim it has been corrupted. "The original scripture called ÔThe Torah'--revealed to Musa (Moses)--was Holy until the Jews and the Christian scholars started tampering with it" (Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, 87). Elijah Muhammad taught, "The Bible is not all holy, nor it is all the word of God" (Ibid., 89)! Contrary to traditional Islam, the NOI also teaches that the Qur'an has been tampered with. "The enemy has tampered with the truth of both books: for he has been permitted to handle both books" (Ibid., 90).
                        Biblical Response

                        There is no evidence that the Bible has been corrupted as the NOI claims. Jesus promised, "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matt. 5:18, NIV). There are thousands of biblical manuscripts that support the Bible as being incorrupt.
                        The Resurrection

                        The NOI denies the physical resurrection of the dead. Their doctrinal statement proclaims, "WE BELIEVE in the resurrection of the dead--not in physical resurrection but in mental resurrection; therefore, they will be resurrected first" (Final Call, July 16, 1996, 39). Despite their denial of a physical resurrection, the NOI apparently believes that Elijah Muhammad is still alive. Every issue of their newspaper carries a statement of The Muslim Program. Included with this statement is Elijah Muhammad's picture and the declaration, "He Lives."
                        Biblical Response

                        The Bible declares the physical resurrection of the dead (see Pss. 49:15, 71:20; Hos. 13:14; John 5:25, 6:40, 11:25; 2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Tim. 4:16). The dead will rise from the grave. The saved will live forever with the Lord in heaven. The lost will go to hell, a place of everlasting punishment (see Matt. 7:13; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:6,12-13).
                        The Last Judgement

                        The NOI teaches that a giant spaceship--the Mother Plane--will carry out Allah's judgment. Black scientists will use the same bombs that brought up the "mountains out of the earth" to destroy the white race (Elijah Muhammad, The Fall of America, 236, as reprinted in The Final Call, July 16, 1996, 19). They claim this judgment will not only destroy the white race but also Christianity. Elijah Muhammad asserted, "Armageddon has started, and after it there will be no Christian religion or churches. Jesus was a Muslim, not a Christian" (Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, 22). Louis Farrakhan claims that he was taken aboard the Mother Plane in a vision. While in the giant UFO, he spoke to Elijah Muhammad who had been dead for several years (see Washington Post, September 18, 1995, D3). Farrakhan also asserts that this giant spaceship follows him when he travels (Tape of Farrakhan, July 13, 1986, Chicago, Ill.).
                        Biblical Response

                        God, not a giant spaceship, will deliver the last judgment upon the world (see Matt. 25:31-32; 2 Cor. 5:10). God's judgment will not be restricted to one race, but will fall upon all who have not trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (see John 3:18).
                        Witnessing To People In The NOI
                      o Learn the primary Christian truths about God, Christ, the Scripture, and salvation. Know what you believe and why you believe it.
                      o Acquaint yourself with the teachings and arguments of the NOI and be ready to give a Christian response (see 1 Pet. 3:15).
                      o Listen to those in the NOI and discover why they joined.
                      o Explain why you believe the Bible. If they claim that the Bible has been changed, ask them, "When did this happen?" and "What evidence causes you to believe the Bible has been corrupted?"
                      o Define your words. Remember that the NOI redefines many terms. For example, when the NOI talks about God, they mean something very different from the God of the Bible.
                      o Tell how to become a Christian. Share your testimony about how Jesus has saved you, and the difference He makes in your life. Center your witness on Christ and how to have a personal relationship with Him. Many NOI followers know about Christianity, but they do not know Christ.
                      o Witnessing to those in the NOI may be frustrating. They often need to hear the gospel several times before trusting in Christ.
                      o Trust God's Spirit to guide you and to convict the lost.

            ISBN 0840089341

            All rights reserved. Churches may reproduce this publication in limited quantities for congregational use.

            Scripture quotation marked NIV is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.

            Bill Gordon, Associate Director, World Religions, Interfaith Witness Department

            © 1997 Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Alpharetta, Georgia

                      o Farrakhanism - Exposes the deceptions of the Nation of Islam.

                        ************R&B OMNIBUS************

                        The ROOT & BRANCH INFORMATION SERVICE distributes news, features and commentary on Jews, Judaism and Israel. Views expressed are those of the authors alone.



                        by the Board of Ulema [Clergymen] of the Italian Muslim Association

                        (On March 7, 1998 the Board of Ulema [Clergymen] of the Italian Muslim Association (AMI) issued the following fatwa [ruling] against the "Nation of Islam." The official text of the fatwa [ruling] was issued in Arabic and Italian; the English translation was rendered by Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Secretary-General of the Italian Muslim Association and Muslim Co-Chairman of the Root & Branch Assocation's Islam-Israel Fellowship).

                            In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

                            Praise to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and blessings and peace upon His servant and Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad ibn 'Abdillah, upon his family, his companions and those who follow his way till the Day of the Resurrection. Allah, the Most High, says in the Holy Qur'an:

                                "Of the people there are some who say: 'We believe in Allah and the Last Day,' notwithstanding their unbelief. Fain would they deceive Allah and the believers, but they only deceive themselves, and realize it not. In their hearts there is a disease, and Allah permitted this decease to increase. Grievous is the penalty they incur, because they are false." (Qur'an 2:8-10)

                        During the past few months a group active in the United States that calls itself the "Nation of Islam" has received world wide press coverage. Its leader, Louis Farrakhan, met Islamic scholars and heads of state, introducing himself as a representative of American Muslims. Some brothers of ours asked this Board: "Can Mr. Farrakhan and his followers be accepted as 'Muslim' in the sense that this word is defined by the Shari'a (Islamic Law)?" With the permission and the help of Allah, after due investigation of the matter, this Board answers as follows:

                        Praise to Allah, the One Who created good and evil, and who revealed the difference between the true and the false. Generally speaking, the 'hukm' (Shari'a rule) is that each one who claims to be a Muslim must be accepted as such by other Muslims, except in the case they have a clear evidence of the contrary. The most common 'hukm' is that "unbelief is not proved by actions," but "is proved by the principles that are believed." The most common way to prove what a man actually believes is by analyzing his speeches and writings.

                        That means that the fact that someone does not usually observe the 'hukm' of the Shari'a is not enough to proof his unbelief. This view is held by the Hanafi, Maliki and Shaf'i schools, but the school of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal says that "unbelief is not proven by actions, expect for the compulsory ritual prayers (salawat)." According to this school, a Muslim who refuses to pray a compulsory prayer must be regarded as a renegade, but the other three schools says he is a Muslim, although a sinner (fasiq).

                        Notwithstanding this divergence, the four schools are unanimous in considering non-Muslim someone who - without being under pressure - says "I do not regard prayer as compulsory," or "There is no need to fast on Ramadan," or "There is no harm in drinking wine," etc. That kind of declaration proves that a person has rejected one of the clear 'hukms,' about which there is no doubt or possibility of misunderstanding. The consensus of Islamic jurists is that rejecting a single 'hukm' is like rejecting them all, and that missing an element of faith is like missing them all.

                        There is no difference between a 'hukm' concerning things that must be believed by the heart or things that must be done by the body.

                        As a general rule, it is forbidden to investigate whether Muslims observe the Shari'a, and even if their belief is correct from all points of view. Notwithstanding this, as soon as a Muslim hears from his brother something that can be identified as a wrong belief, he has the duty to correct him and to teach him the correct doctrine according to the Qur'an and the Sunna.

                        In cases when some wrong doctrine can imply unbelief, it is necessary, for the involved person, to repent and to pronounce again the two testimonies. The case is different when a person or a group is openly preaching and teaching doctrines that look unusual. In that case, the Ulema [Clergy] are bound to investigate the matter, and judge whether these doctrines imply heresy (bid'a) or apostasy (ridda).

                        Regarding the "Nation of Islam", their official doctrine is that Allah appeared in the form of a human being named Fareed Muhammad, and that this "incarnation of God" chose another man, called Elijah Muhammad, as his Prophet. This is a clear contradiction of the Monotheistic faith (Tawhid), and of the Qur'anic teaching according to which Muhammad (blessings and peace upon him) is the Seal of the Prophets. That is enough to say that everyone who belongs to the "Nation of Islam" is not, ipso facto, a Muslim, but an unbeliever.

                        Muslims must declare this truth, and each one of them who keeps silent while listening to Mr. Farrakhan being called "a Muslim leader" is sinning. Since the matter concerns "faith and unbelief," it is not permitted to avoid a judgement due to political or diplomatic considerations. Every marriage between a Muslim and a member of the "Nation of Islam" is null and void, and whoever, after becoming a member of this organization, wants to return to Islam, must repent and be re-converted. In case he was married, he must re-celebrate his wedding; in case he performed the Pilgrimage, he must perform it again.

                        We pray to Allah to make all this clear to our brothers in Islam, and to help them never to deviate from the doctrine that was revealed in the Holy Qur'an and that is presently accepted by the Islamic Community. And we call upon Allah as a Witness of what we say.

                        Shaykh 'Ali Moallim Hussen, President

                        Board of Ulema [Clergymen]

                        Italian Muslim Association


                        ABOUT SHAYKH PROF. ABDUL HADI PALAZZI:

                        Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi is a Member of the International Council of the Root & Branch Association. Prof. Palazzi is Secretary General of the Italian Muslim Association (AMI), an Imam of the Italian Islamic Community (ICCII) and Director of the Community's Cultural Institute. Prof. Palazzi holds a Ph.D in Islamic Sciences by decree of the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

                        Islam-Israel Fellowship

                        The Islam-Israel Fellowship of the Root & Branch Association promotes cooperation between Jews and Muslims both within the State of Israel and abroad, and between the State of Israel and Muslim nations, based upon a correct Jewish understanding of the Bible and Jewish tradition, and a correct Muslim understanding of the Qur'an and Islamic Tradition.

                        Dr. Asher Eder of Jerusalem, Israel, is the Jewish Co-Chairman of the Islam-Israel Fellowship.

                        Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi is Muslim Co-Chairman of the Islam-Israel Fellowship.

                        Myth: Islam is a racist, afro-centric cult because:
                      o Nation of Islam espouses the superiority of the black man
                      o The Nation of Islam recognizes God as a black man

One of the great misconceptions of the twentieth century is that the so-called `Nation of Islam' is a Muslim community, or more precisely: a community which submits to Allah by following the Qur'an and Sunnah. The `Nation of Islam' is a man-made way of life which borrowed some elements of Islam and then mixed them with a large number of inventions and lies to reach their present doctrines.

It suffices to point out the `Nation of Islam's deviation in two areas. First, they reject the essence of Islam by concocting a story wherein the Creator takes the form of a black man. From their on-line publications, we find that the `Nation of Islam' believes in God (Allah) and that Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July, 1930; the long awaited `Messiah' of the Christians and the `Mahdi' of the Muslims...

However, the Creator states in the Qur'an (translation),

    [6:103] No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.

The `Nation of Islam' also claims that white men are `devils', and that black people are in general superior to all other races. However, from the Sunnah, specifically in the Messenger of Allah's farewell sermon, we find the Messenger (pbuh) saying:

    All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action.

There are many other beliefs which the `Nation of Islam' holds which take it outside of Islam. It is interesting to note that in the mid-1970's, the overwhelming majority of the group realized its errors and converted to true Islam. There is, however, a splinter group which remains active today.

            The "Nation of Islam" or Nation of Kufr?
            By Nida'ul Islam Magazine
            Quotes of Apostasy by Louis Farrakhan

            "The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said it would be 400 years before the real ship Jesus would come and deliver us from this oppressor and from the ignorance that this oppression had put us under. That real ship Jesus, he said, is God Himself. As it is written, Elijah must first come because Elijah is the trumpet that lets you know that the Messiah is on His way."(1)

            "We call Him Master Fard Muhammad. What has He mastered? He has studied to become master of what He did not create. Allah created the heavens and the earth. We don't know when, we just say in the beginning... But this man was born in 1877, born into a creation that is trillions of years old, yet, He has become its master, a master who has studied to master self and then to master the universe and to master all circumstances where when He come He's called Maliki Yaumi-d-din--Master of the Day of Judgment. He is a human being, but He is a master of that time period. He masters it by the power and permission of Allah.

            ...When he left, He was a friend. His name was Wali Fard Muhammad. Wali means a friend, but a protecting friend. One that is your friend but can protect you from your enemies because he is your friend. And you sing that song, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."... Fard means one we are obligated to obey... He used the name Fard because He was telling us that He is one we are obligated to obey. And sooner or later every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that a Master came to North America, and with the master grip He pulled Hiram up out of the grave."(2)

            A columnist in NOI's "Final Call" magazine says: "...The kind of study this involves is related to my witness of Min. Farrakhan. The more you know about him and the more you know about prophecy, the easier it is to see those prophecies that refer to him, which he is fulfilling. This makes it easier to understand his words and acts.

            It's surpassed only by that Qur'an which Master Fard Muhammad has written and given to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, according to the fifth chapter of Revelation, and otherwise. A portion of that book, by the power of Allah, will be granted to Min. Farrakhan. I am among those who pray that he is so blessed."(3)

            1) Jesus Saves, a talk by Louis Farrakhan on the Saviours' Day, delivered at the International Amphitheater in Chicago on Feb. 26, 1995.)
            2) After The Million Man March, Now What? (Part I), (From Farrakhan's Saviours' Day speech delivered February 25, 1996 in Chicago, Il.)
            3) Farrakhan The Traveller, by Jabril Muhammad, The Final Call magazine, Online Edition - 24-3-98.

            Although the 'Nation of Islam' still retains its original deviant beliefs, their popularity has remained dangerously high among many of the Muslim communities. This has only served to confuse the message of the real Islaam, and the following should clarify the position of the Nation in light of the Qur'an and Sunnah.

            The religious doctrines of the NOI contradicts the essential teachings of Islaam, which includes the worship and recognition of One God, who shares His Dominion with no one and of Whom which there is non like Him. The Nation however believes that Allaah is a person in the name of Fard Muhammad who descended on Earth in July 1930. Elijah Poole Muhammad is recognised as their prophet, the Last Messenger mentioned in the Qur'an. In Point number 12 of their Testimonials of Faith, the Elijah Muhammad said: 'We believe Allah (God) appeared in the person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July 1930, the long-awaited Messiah of the Christians and the Mahdi of the Muslims...'"

            They also negate the reality of the Day of resurrection, claiming it to be mental rather than physical, and that the "so-called Negroes are most in need of mental resurrection; therefore they will be resurrected first."

            Prayer is not accepted without the mentioning of Elijah's Muhammad name: "I am the Door. By no means can you get by except you come by me. Your prayers will not be heard unless my name is mentioned in them ... I have the key to your salvation, and I have the key to your hell. I can, if you will let me, pull you out of hell and set you into heaven. Then I can keep you in heaven; or I can keep pushing you and push you into the punishment of hell until you acknowledge that there is no God but Allah Who came in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad, to whom praises are due forever and that Elijah Muhammad is His Servant.."1

            We need only refer to Louis Farrakhan's words spoken at his ne plus ultra "Million Man March", where he opened with the following invocation, "I am so grateful to Allah for his intervention in our affairs in the person of Master Fard Muhammad the Great Mahdi, who came among us and raised from among us a divine leader, teacher and guide, his messenger to us the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad."

            Final Call columnist Bernard Cushmeer, (Jibril Muhammad) states in his book, Is It Possible That The Honorable Elijah Muhammad Is Still Physically Alive? that Louis Farrakhan today publicly rejects the belief that Elijah Muhammad is dead, even though Farrakhan saw his teacher's corpse in a coffin in February, 1975. According to Cushmeer, this belief is so well established, that Farrakhan has said that if it is "determined that the body in the ground reported to be that of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, was in fact his, he would stop teaching."2 It is for this reason that every issue of Farrakhan's The Final Call newspaper, prints the words, "He Lives" on the inside back page under The Muslim Program. Cushmeer also makes the following claim:

            "If you will take the time and read the Qur'an, and look at the arguments of Messenger Elijah Muhammad on the subject of the identity of the person addressed by its Author (Allah), it will become clear that Muhammad of Arabia could not be the man for whom it was ultimately meant...The main thing to know is that the Qur'an was originally written with The Honorable Elijah Muhammad in Allah's mind as the ultimate recipient."3

            On Sept. 1, 1985, Farrakhan's wife, Betty, speaking in Chicago after her return from Mecca where she accompanied her husband on Hajj, began her speech with the statement "In the Name of Allah, in the name of His True Servant and His Last Apostle, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, I greet you..." Thereafter, Farrakhan stated that while making Tawaf around the Ka'abah in Mecca, he had loving thoughts about the glorious Prophets Muhammad, Abraham, Isma'eel, and "my father the Honorable Elijah Muhammad."

            On Oct. 24, 1989 and February 28, 1990, Farrakhan declared that he traveled to the "top of a sacred mountain in Mexico where he was taken in a UFO to a "mother wheel" containing the late Elijah Muhammad"4

            Furthermore, in an interview held on December 24, 1989 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, he still maintained that he accepted Islam in 1955 under the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, and that Fard Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad's teacher was:

            "...a means through which Allah presented himself to Elijah Muhammad in the same manner as the Angel Gabriel was a means through which Allah presented Himself to Muhammad (s.a.w) in the form of a man..."

            This should leave no doubt in the minds of the Muslims as regards the true nature of the NOI.

            See The Fall of America, p. 205.

            p. iii.

            See Is It Possible That The Honorable Elijah Muhammad Is Still Physically Alive? pp. 26-27

            See The Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1989; p. B4; and March 1, 1990, page A1, see also ABC's Nightline, October 15, 1996.
          o The Nation of Islam: Relentless Record of Hate - Asserts that the leader of the Nation of Islam refuses to depart from a bitter, divisive message of racist and anti-Semitic scapegoating.

            What's in a name? - The Problem with the "Nation of Islam"
            A court ruling overturning a fifteen year British ban on its leader, Louis Farrakhan, has propelled the so-called Nation of Islam into the headlines.  Michael Young examines the Islamic credentials of these self-styled "Muslims".
            August 1, 2001

            "Nation of Islam" members in their trademark bow ties and suits

            The Fundamentals of Islamic Belief
            One could be forgiven for assuming that any group with the word Islam in its title would be Muslim.  But when it comes to the group calling itself the "Nation of Islam", one must be very wary indeed.  To be Muslim means to hold certain fundamental theological beliefs.  The Muslim profession of faith is:

            "I bear witness that there is no god but God, and I bear witness that Mohammed is a prophet of God."

            To elaborate on these statements, to be a Muslim means to believe that God is One, unique.  He has no partners, no associates, no Son, nor did He ever become incarnate.  As chapter 112 of the Quran makes clear:

                "He is God, the only One,
                God the Everlasting.
                He did not beget and is not begotten,
                And none is His equal."

            In Islam the ascribing of partners to God, referred to as shirk, is the greatest of all sins.  The Quran states explicitly in chapter 4, verse 36:

                "Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him."

            Secondly, Muslims believe Mohammed to have been the "Seal" or last of the prophets.  To recognize anyone after Mohammed claiming to be a prophet, negates one's Islam.  As is stated in the Quran:

                "O people! Mohammed has no sons among ye men, but verily, he is the Messenger of Allah and the last in the line of Prophets. And Allah is aware of everything." (33:40)

            This is reinforced by various sayings of Prophet Mohammed :

                "The tribe of Israel was guided by prophets. When a prophet passed away, another succeeded him. But no prophet will come after me; only caliphs will succeed me." (Bukhari)

                "In My Ummah, there shall be born Thirty Grand Liars (Dajjals), each of whom will claim to be a prophet, But I am the Last Prophet; there is No Prophet after Me."  (Abu Dawood, at-Tirmidhi)

            The Errant Theology of the "Nation of Islam"
            The "Nation of Islam" does not adhere to these core tenets of Islamic theology.  They believe that God appeared on earth in the person of their founder, a "great man from the East", Master W. Fard Muhammad, a preacher who first came to public attention in the USA on July 4, 1930 then mysteriously "departed the scene" on February 26, 1934.  As the NOI website unambiguously declares:

            "WE BELIEVE that Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July, 1930; the long-awaited "Messiah" of the Christians and the "Mahdi" of the Muslims."

            In 1934 following the unexplained departure of the "Master", the organization he founded came to be headed by one Elijah Poole, who became known as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.  Until very recently, the "Nation of Islam" accorded the status of prophet to Elijah Muhammad.

            Therefore it is clear that despite their name and calling themselves Muslims, "Nation of Islam" beliefs about God and prophethood are glaringly incompatible with Islam.

            Louis Farrakhan, current leader of the Nation of Islam, finally allowed to enter the UK after a court orders the lifting of a 15-year government ban.

            "Honorable" Elijah Muhammad, the "prophet" of the Nation of Islam.

            "Master" W. Fard Muhammad in whose person God appeared in early 1930's America, according to Nation of Islam beliefs.

            Racist ideology also at odds with universal Islam
            A third area of non-compliance with Islam, and the one which receives by far the greatest attention in the secular media, is the issue of race.  The present "Nation of Islam" leader, Louis Farrakhan, is on record as having made objectionable anti-Jewish (as distinct from anti-Zionist) remarks.  Among other unfortunate utterances, he is alleged to have referred to Judaism as a "gutter religion".

            Moreover, the NOI is a segregationalist organization exclusively for black people descended from slaves.  Proper Islam is a universal religion open to people of every race.  Muslims are supposed to differentiate between people on the basis not of ethnic origin but of piety and upright behavior.  As the Quran makes clear:

                "And mankind is naught but a single nation." Holy Quran 2:213

                "O Mankind! Most certainly, it is We (God almighty) who have Created you all from a single (pair) of a male and a female, And it is We who have made you into nations and tribes, that ye may recognize each other.  Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you." Holy Quran 49:13

            And in his final sermon, Prophet Mohammed made clear that racism has no place in Islam:

                "O people! Verily your Lord is one and your father is one. All of you belong to one ancestry of Adam and Adam was created out of clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab; nor for white over the black nor for the black over the white except in piety. Verily the noblest among you is he who is the most pious."

            In contrast, the NOI has a pronounced anti-white bias.  They refer to blacks as God's chosen people and Caucasians as white devils.  They call for a separate homeland for American blacks, for racially segregated education and for a ban on interracial marriage.  To quote again from their website:

            We believe we are the people of God's choice.

            WE BELIEVE this is the time in history for the separation of the so-called Negroes and the so-called white Americans.

            We want our people in America whose parents or grandparents were descendants from slaves, to be allowed to establish a separate state or territory of their own--either on this continent or elsewhere.

            We want all black children educated, taught and trained by their own teachers.

            We believe that intermarriage or race mixing should be prohibited.

Fellow Muslims with eyes the bluest of blue and skin the whitest of white...
Former NOI members who recognized anti-white racism as folly and converted to proper Islam include Malcolm X and the world champion heavyweight boxer, Muhammad Ali.  Both spoke out on the subject:

"[The Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca] was an exhilarating experience to see people belonging to different colors, races and nationalities, kings, heads of states and ordinary men from very poor countries all clad in two simple white sheets praying to God without any sense of either pride or inferiority. It was a practical manifestation of the concept of equality in Islam." Muhammed Ali

"During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or 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 actions 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."

"We were truly all the same -- because their belief in the one God had removed the 'white' from their minds, the 'white' from their behavior, and the 'white' from their attitude."

"This religion recognizes all men as brothers. It accepts all human beings as equals before God, and as equal members in the Human Family of Mankind. I totally reject Elijah Muhammad's racist philosophy, which he has labeled 'Islam' only to fool and misuse gullible people as he fooled and misused me. But I blame only myself, and no one else for the fool that I was, and the harm that my evangelical foolishness on his behalf has done to others."  Malcolm X

Any areas of common ground between Islam and the "Nation of Islam"?
Despite the major negatives, there are some elements of NOI beliefs with which Muslims can more or less agree:  For example:


      WE BELIEVE In the One God whose proper Name is Allah.

      WE BELIEVE in the Holy Qur'an and in the Scriptures of all the Prophets of God.

      WE BELIEVE in Allah's Prophets and the Scriptures they brought to the people.

      WE BELIEVE our women should be respected and protected as the women of other nationalities are respected and protected.

And there is much on the practical side of the NOI which we can admire.  The NOI prohibits among its members drinking, smoking and gambling.  They are also known for their social work among the black community and their often successful efforts to raise levels of self-discipline and self-confidence in a community which has suffered from historical injustice and its debilitating long-term social and psychological effects often manifested in nihilistic, violent, drug-ridden American inner city and housing project ghettos and characterized by family breakdown including a high illegitimate birth rate.

Whither the "Nation of Islam"?
Laudable as the lifestyle espoused by the NOI may be, one cannot escape the fact that despite some of the trappings of Islam, the theology and ideology they currently espouse are not only non-Islamic but actually anathema to Islam.  There are, however, some signs that things may be changing for the better.

On the death of Elijah Mohammed in 1976 his son Wallace D. Muhammad (now known as Imam Warrithuddin Mohammed) assumed NOI leadership, renamed the organization the Muslim American Society and steered it toward Islamic orthodoxy.  After three years a disgruntled Louis Farrakhan broke away and re-founded the NOI in line with the teachings of Elijah Mohammed.  But in February this year, Farrakhan, recovering from a serious battle with prostate cancer which may have given him cause to reflect, shared a platform with Wallace and made an important move toward mainstream Islam by declaring:

"Allah sent Mohammed with the final revelation to the world. ... There is no prophet after the Prophet Mohammed , and no book after the Koran."

Let us hope that similarly orthodox statements on the nature of God and on race will also soon be forthcoming.  Let us look forward to the day when Louis Farrakhan and his NOI follow the example of their former colleague, Malcolm X, who eventually found his way from the so-called "Nation of Islam" to genuine Islam and stated:

"I declare emphatically that I am no longer in Elijah Muhammad's 'strait jacket', and I don't intend to replace his with one woven by someone else. I am a Muslim in the most orthodox sense; my religion is Islam as it is believed in and practiced by the Muslims in the Holy City of Mecca."  Alhamdulillah.

Allahu a`lam. God knows best.

© 2001

Michael Young is Features Editor of

The Nation of Islam

Founder: Wallace Dodd Fard. Also known as "Master Fard Muhammad"

Key leaders: Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan

Founding Date: July 4, 1930

Official Publications: Message To The Black Man In America, The Supreme Wisdom, Our Savior Has Arrived, The Final Call Magazine.

The Nation of Islam was founded during the Great Depression of 1930 in the ghettos of Detroit Michigan. Having migrated to the industrial north in search of economic opportunity and to escape the racial oppression in the South, thousands of Blacks now found themselves in a crisis situation. As it turned out "the North was no Promised Land [but, in many ways,] was the South all over again…"1 The main difference being the racial prejudice in the South was overt whereas in the North it was covert.

"The starving, overcrowded blacks living in the slums of Detroit (as in other Northern cities) became increasingly bitter towards the whites who seemed to control their lives. Police officers, who are the ever present reminder of white power; white workers, who displaced blacks as jobs became more scarce or who retained their jobs as thousands of blacks were being laid off; even the welfare workers, who insulted the blacks and made them wait long hours before passing out the pitiful supplies of flour and lard — all these became the symbolic targets of a virulent hatred of whites..."2

Unable to resurrect the institutions and social systems that provided them security and support (i.e. mutual aid societies) in the South, blacks in the North cried out for deliverance. As Colin Akridge wrote, "Instead of looking for a spiritual Savior who would save them from their sins, they wanted a carnal savior who would save them from their poverty. They wanted their 'pie' now and were no longer interested in the Gospel."3

These desires were met in the summer of 1930 when a mysterious peddler of silks and artifacts by the name Wallace Fard Muhammad appeared in Detroit. Very little is known about him except that he is reported to have come from the East. "His mission was to teach freedom, justice, and equality to the members of the 'lost tribe of Shabazz in the wilderness of North America.'"4 He also taught poor blacks that "they were somebody. That they were Black people.… [who had] a past…[and] a future.… a history and a destiny."5

Because of the social climate and his teachings, Fard quickly gained a following. Within about three years he had recruited nearly 8,000 followers. One of these was an unemployed auto worker named Elijah Poole. Poole, who later changed his last name to Muhammad, was born the son of a Baptist minister in Sandersville, Georgia. He eventually migrated to Detroit with his wife, Clara, and their two children, and became a devoted follower of Fard. Due to his efforts on Fard's behalf Fard soon chose him to be his Chief Minister.

In the summer of 1934, Fard suddenly disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived. Elijah Muhammad was named the new leader and assumed the title of "Messenger of Allah."

Perhaps the single most important event in the development of the Nation of Islam took place in 1947 with the "conversion" of a convict in prison at Concord, Massachusetts. His name was Malcolm Little but he would become best known by the name he later took, Malcolm X.

Like Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm was the son of a Baptist minister. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but spent his formative years in Lansing, Michigan, where life proved to be a struggle for Malcolm and his family. At age six, their home was burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan, and a short time later his father was found dead under a streetcar.

Though his mother tried to keep the family together, they were eventually separated with Malcolm being sent to a boy's institution. While in the eighth grade he was asked what vocation he wanted to pursue. When he responded that he wanted to be a lawyer, he was informed that such a profession was not suitable for a Negro.6 This ugly retort proved to be psychologically devastating. Malcolm would eventually leave the school and rather than pursuing the law, he would embark upon a life of delinquency and crime that would send him to prison for 10 years.

The turning point came in 1948 when his brothers, Philbert and Reginald, introduced him to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and he converted to the Nation of Islam. "Upon his release from prison in the spring of 1952, Malcolm went to Detroit, Michigan, where he became Malcolm X, a minister of Temple No. 1. From then until 1964 Malcolm X was the main exponent of Elijah Muhammad's doctrine."7

After years of dedicated service to Elijah Muhammad, a rift developed between the two. Malcolm's worst suspicions were confirmed when a news report disclosed that two of Elijah Muhammad's former secretaries had filed paternity suites against him charging that he had fathered their four children. Devastated, Malcolm left the Nation of Islam and formed two organizations, The Muslim Mosque, Inc., and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).

Malcolm moved more toward orthodox Islam, traveling extensively in Africa and the Middle East and participating in the Islamic holy pilgrimage to Mecca. After returning to the United States he was assassinated — gunned down at the Audoban Ballroom in Harlem, New York, on February 21, 1965.

With the death of Elijah Muhammad of congestive heart failure on February 25, 1975, his son, Wallace Deen Muhammad became the new leader of the Nation of Islam.8 Because of his knowledge of orthodox Islam, Wallace immediately began to make changes. Perhaps the most dramatic, some ten years later, was when he merged his followers into traditional, international Islam. This merging "'had been his goal for the mission from "day one." I have been trying to bring what used to be called the Nation of Islam to what I call a natural and normal Islamic community,' he said. 'The idea we have had of a community is not Islamic and came from the days of black nationalism. Our religion does not require the degree of organization and centralized control we have been used to. … Muslims are just Muslims, and they go to the mosque, and that is it.'"9 Another significant change was the group's commitment to racial harmony. "The same blacks who once believed whites were devils and who advocated the overthrow of the government now profess racial harmony, brotherly love and American patriotism."10

Not all of Elijah Muhammad's former followers were pleased with this new direction; many did not agree with the reforms made by Wallace. "One of the most hurting blows came when a disenchanted faction split from the fold. That faction, which adheres to the original tenets, is led by Louis Farrakhan…"11 Farrakhan essentially reorganized the old Nation of Islam.

Born Louis Eugene Walcott on May 11, 1933, in the Bronx, New York, Farrakhan was a recruit of Malcolm X whom he had met in 1955. Shortly thereafter he became a member of the Nation of Islam and quickly progressed through the ranks. He served under Malcolm for nine months and became the minister of the mosque in Boston, where he had spent his formative years. After the death of Malcolm X, this highly educated young man who had been raised a devout Episcopalian, graduated from Boston Latin School with honors and who had spent two years at Winston-Salem Teachers College in North Carolina,12 became Elijah Muhammad's National Spokesman.

Although Farrakhan's organization claims to be the authentic Nation of Islam, there are three other organizations making this same claim. John Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad's blood brother, heads one, based in Detroit. A second organization is based in Atlanta and headed by Silas Muhammad. Emanuel Abdulla Muhammad established a third organization in Baltimore.

The most recognized of the four organizations is that founded by Louis Farrakhan.


I. The Nature of God

A. God is not Spirit, but a man.

"God is a man and we just cannot make Him other than man, least we make Him an inferior one... A spirit is subjected to us and not we to the spirit."13

"Allah came to us from the Holy City of Mecca, Arabia, in 1930. He used the name Wallace D. Fard, often signing it W. D. Fard.... He came alone."14

B. God is not eternal (He lives and dies)

"Well, we all know that there was a God in the beginning that created all these things and do know that He does not exist today. But we know again that from that God the person of God continued until today in His people, and today a Supreme One (God) has appeared among us with the same infinite wisdom to bring about a complete change."15

"There is no God Living Who was here in the Creation of the Universe, but They produce Gods from Them and Their Wisdom lives in us."16

C. God is one of many gods (Polytheism).

"The Black Man's Gods, according to the history He [Allah] taught me, have All been the Wisest."17

"Six thousand years ago, or to be more exact 6,600 years ago, as Allah taught me, our nation gave birth to another God whose name was Yacub."18

II. The Person of Christ

A. Christ was only a mortal man and a prophet, not God.

"He [Jesus] was nothing more than a prophet…"19

"Making the Son and the Holy Ghost the equal with the Father is absolutely sinful."20

B. He did not rise from the dead.

"He [Jesus] was nothing more than a prophet, and he has gone back to the earth, never to return alive."21

"We know what happened to him 2,000 years ago. He cannot come back from the grave. He is not in heaven."22

III. The Bible

A. It is incomplete.

"The Bible in not all holy, nor is it all the Word of God!"23

B. It is a poison book.

"The Bible is now being called the Poison Book by God Himself, and who can deny that it is not poison? It has poisoned the very hearts and minds of the so-called Negroes so much that they can't agree with each other."24

"The Bible is the graveyard of my poor people (the so-called Negroes)... The Bible charges all of its Great Prophets with evil, it makes God guilty of an act of an act of adultery by charging Him with being the father of Mary's baby (Jesus), again it charges Noah and Lot with drunkenness, and Lot with getting children by his daughter. What a Poison Book"25

Biblical Response

1. God the Father is a Spirit Being. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God.26

2. God is eternal. He has no beginning and no ending.27

3. There is only one God.28

4. Jesus has been raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God.29

5. The Word of God is pure, perfect, sure, and inspired.30

1  Lincoln, Eric C., The Black Muslims in America, (Lawrenceville, NJ: Red Sea Press, Inc., 1994) p. 13.
2  Ibid.
3  Akridge, Colin P., Why I Cannot Be A Black Muslim, (Newport, PA: Research and Education Foundation, 1995) p. 2.
4  Gnosis Magazine, p. 59.
5  Lincoln, The Black Church Since Frazier, (New York: Schocken Books, 1989) p. 163.
6  Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America, p. 189.
7  Ellis, Carl F. Jr., Free At Last? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996) p. 100.
8  Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America, p. 263.
9  The Atlanta Journal Constitution, May 4, 1985, p. 3C.
10  San Francisco Chronicle, March 28, 1985.
11  Ibid.
12  Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America, p. 268.
13  Muhammad, Elijah, Message to the Blackman in America, (Chicago: The Final Call, Inc., 1965) p. 6.
14  Ibid., p. 16).
15  Ibid., p. 9).
16  Muhammad, Elijah, Our Savior Has Arrived, (Newport News, VA: United Brothers Communications Systems, n.d.) p. 97).
17  Ibid.
18  Muhammad, Message, p. 10.
19  Muhammad, Our Savior, p. 195.
20  Ibid., p. 152.
21  Ibid., p. 195.
22  Ibid., p. 210.
23  Muhammad, Message, p. 89.
24  Ibid., p. 94.
25  Ibid., p. 95.
26  John 4:23; Matthew 1:22.
27  Psalms 90:2; 102:26; Isaiah 43:10–11; 48:12; Revelation 1:8.
28  Deuteronomy 6:3; Isaiah 43:10–11; 44:6–8; 45:5–6, 14, 21.
29  1 Corinthians 15:1–6; Ephesians 1:20; 2:6.
30  Palms 19:7–8; 111:7–8; 2 Peter 1:21.