16 Of The Most Influential Leaders In Nation Of Islam History
Islam came to America with Muslim African slaves and by the beginning of the 20th century, it had started to gain attention in the Black community.
This was mainly as a result of efforts by the Aḥmadīyah movement, an unorthodox sect founded in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and of Shaikh Ahmed Faisal (1891–1980), the Moroccan-born leader of an independent Black Muslim movement, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Noble Drew Ali, originally Timothy Drew, founded the Moorish Science Temple of America in Newark, New Jersey, in 1913 and tied the movement’s Muslim teachings to Black nationalism.
Among those associated with the Moorish Science Temple was Wallace D. Fard (or Wali Fard Muhammad). In 1930, claiming that he was Noble Drew Ali reincarnated, Fard founded the Nation of Islam in Detroit, Michigan. He put his assistant, Elijah Muhammad, in charge of the Nation’s second center in Chicago.
Throughout the decades, there have been prominent leaders associated with the Nation of Islam. Here are 16 of the most influential leaders in the Nation of Islam’s history.
Elijah Muhammad is credited with building the Nation of Islam (NOI) from a small religious organization to one that became known worldwide. He led the NOI from 1934 until his death in 1975. Elijah Muhammad was able to attract dynamic followers whom he mentored, including Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and Muhammad Ali, as well as his own son, Warith Deen Mohammed.
Born Elijah Robert Poole on October 7, 1897, in Sandersville, Georgia, he was the seventh of 13 children of William Poole Sr., a Baptist lay preacher and sharecropper, and Mariah Hall, a homemaker and sharecropper.
His family needed him to go to work early in life so Elijah Muhammad’s formal education ended at the third grade. He did hard labor in sawmills, brickyards, and he worked with his parents as a sharecropper. By the time he was 16, he left home and began working in factories.
Elijah Muhammad married Clara Evans in 1917 and by 1923, they’d left the oppressive and economically troubled South and headed to Michigan. He also moved his parents and siblings with him. It was a struggle for all in the post-World War I and Great Depression era.
While in Detroit, Elijah Muhammad and Clara had eight children. He started to be attracted by the various Black Nationalist movements in the city.
In August 1931, at the urging of his wife, he attended a speech on Islam and Black empowerment given by Wallace Fard Muhammad, according to Black Facts.
Elijah Muhammad was attracted to Fard’s message of self empowerment and improvement. He soon became a follower, but excelled in the teachings and moved quickly up the ranks. He was given a Muslim surname, first “Karriem”, and later “Muhammad.” Elijah Muhammad became the leader of the Nation’s Temple No. 2 in Chicago. His younger brother, Kalot Muhammad, became the leader of the movement’s self-defense arm, the Fruit of Islam.
Not long after, Fard turned over leadership of the growing Detroit group to Elijah Muhammad and the Allah Temple of Islam changed its name to the Nation of Islam.
Then in 1934, Wallace Fard disappeared.
Elijah Muhammad succeeded Fard in Detroit and was named “Minister of Islam.”
Elijah Muhammad went to work building the Nation. He started its first newspaper, “Final Call to Islam,” in 1934 to educate and build membership. He opened the Muhammad University of Islam for children in Detroit and Chicago. School systems in both cities challenged the schooling of children at university. This led to the jailing of several University of Islam board members and Muhammad in 1934 and to violent confrontations with police. Muhammad was put on probation, and the university remained open.
Ultimately, the charges were dropped, according to the Nation of Islam.
Elijah Muhammad took control of Temple No. 1, but only after battles with other potential leaders including his brother. In 1935, as these battles heated up, Elijah Muhammad left Detroit and moved to Chicago. After that, he headed to Milwaukee where he founded Temple No. 3, and to D.C. where he founded Temple No. 4.
On May 8, 1942, Elijah Muhammad was arrested for failure to register for the draft during World War II, according to NOI. “When the call was made for all males between 18 and 44, I refused (NOT EVADED) on the grounds that, first, I was a Muslim and would not take part in war and especially not on the side with the infidels,” he wrote in “Message To The Blackman.” “Second, I was 45 years of age and was NOT, according to the law, required to register.”
After a seven-year absence, Muhammad returned to Chicago and was arrested there, charged with eight counts of sedition for instructing his followers not to register for the draft. He went to prison for four years, from 1942 to 1946, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Michigan.
Upon his release, Muhammad had to rebuild the Nation, which has declined during his imprisonment. There were fewer than 400 members remaining by the time of his release; though he did have some new recruits in prison. Muhammad increased his four temples to 15 by 1955. By 1959, there were 50 temples in 22 states, according to Wikipedia.
Also during the 1950s, Muhammad recruited Malcolm X, soon promoted him to the post of national spokesman and began to syndicate his weekly newspaper column, “Mr. Muhammad Speaks,” in Black newspapers nationwide. In 1955, Minister Louis Farrakhan, then Louis Walcott, an entertainer, enrolled in the Nation of Islam after hearing Muhammad deliver a speech in Chicago, according to the NOI website.
By 1964, Malcolm X separated from the Nation and formed his own religious and political organization. Malcolm X spoke publicly about his dissatisfaction with the domestic life of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, the NOI reported.
By the 1970s, Nation of Islam had grown economically. The NOI owned bakeries, barbershops, coffee shops, grocery stores, laundromats, night clubs, a printing plant, retail stores, numerous real estate holdings, and a fleet of tractor trailers plus farmland in Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia. The organization took controlling interest in the Guaranty Bank and Trust Co. in 1972. Even the Nation of Islam-owned schools had expanded to 47 cities throughout the U.S.
In 1972, Muhammad told followers that the Nation of Islam had a net worth of $75 million.
There are probably very few people who have not heard of Malcolm X. His story was told in his bestselling autobiography, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” published posthumously in 1965, and inspired the 1992 Spike Lee movie, “Malcolm X.” There have been numerous documentaries on his life but it was the man himself, his words, his character and charisma that told his story the best.
He was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother, Louise Norton Little, was a homemaker taking care of eight children. His father, Earl Little, was an outspoken Baptist minister and follower of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
Earl’s civil rights activism spurred death threats from a white supremacist militia group called Black Legion. The threats forced the family to relocate twice before Malcolm’s fourth birthday.
Trouble still followed the family. In 1929, their Lansing, Michigan, home was burned to the ground. Two years later, Earl’s body was found lying across the town’s trolley tracks.
Louise suffered an emotional breakdown several years after the death of her husband and was committed to a mental institution. The Little children were split up and sent to foster homes and orphanages.
When he was old enough, Malcolm moved back to Boston but he got into trouble and in 1946 he was arrested and convicted on burglary charges. Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was paroled after serving seven years, according to MalcolmX.com.
Malcolm’s brother Reginald would visit him in prison and talk to him about his conversion to the Muslim religion and his joining the NOI. At Reginald’s encouragement, Malcolm began to study the teachings of NOI leader Elijah Muhammad.
By the time he was paroled in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted NOI follower. He adopted the new surname “X” to represent his lost tribal name as he considered “Little” a slave name.
Elijah Muhammad seemed immediately impressed with Malcolm and appointed him as a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. He also charged him with establishing new mosques in Detroit, Michigan, and Harlem, New York. Malcolm was largely credited with boosting NOI membership from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.
Malcolm also used media nationwide, just NOI media. He appeared on national TV news shows and spoke about the NOI and its message. And, of course, he was also attacked in the media.
With the growth of the NOI, Malcolm not only became a target for the media but also the government. The FBI, as it has been documented, infiltrated the organization (one even acted as Malcolm’s bodyguard) and placed bugs, wiretaps, cameras, and other surveillance equipment to monitor the Malcolm’s as well as group’s activities, MalcolmX.com reported.
In 1963. Malcolm learned Elijah Muhammad was secretly having relations with women within the NOI and that some of these relationships had resulted in children.
“Shortly after his shocking discovery, Malcolm received criticism for a comment he made regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” MalcomX.com reported.
Malcolm X said, “[Kennedy] never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon.” After the statement, Muhammad “silenced” Malcolm for 90 days.
Malcolm left the NOI in 1964 and formed his own religious group, the Muslim Mosque, Inc.
During the period, Malcolm went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. And he said it changed his life, that he saw Islam as a unifying religion of all races and cultures. E took the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and embraced Sunni Islam, according to Biography.com.
Still, or maybe because of his more unifying message and push for civil rights, the FBI continued its campaign against him. He had to travel with bodyguards everywhere he went.
The home of Malcolm, Betty, and their four daughters in East Elmhurst, New York, was firebombed on February 14, 1965. Miraculously, the family escaped harm.
A few days later on February 21, 1965, while Malcolm was speaking at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom three gunmen rushed the stage. They shot him 15 times. Malcolm, then 39, was pronounced dead on arrival at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
Some 1500 people attended Malcolm’s funeral in Harlem on February 27, 1965.
Since 1977, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has led the Nation of Islam. His path to the religious organization had more than a few surprises.
Born Louis Eugene Walcott on May 11, 1933 in Bronx, N.Y. He and his brother, Alvan, were raised by his mother in Roxbury, Massachusetts. His mother was a native of St. Kitts.
His mother engaged her sons in conversations about the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality, the NOI website reported. He also emerged in the arts. In high school he played the violin since the age of 5 and was a member of the track team.
He went on to attend the Winston-Salem Teachers College on a track scholarship from 1951 to 1953 but dropped out to pursue a career in music. Known as “The Charmer,” he performed professionally on the Boston nightclub circuit as a singer of calypso and country songs, according to Britannica. Farrakhan is also a songwriter, playwright and film producer. He wrote two plays, “The Trial” and “Orgena.” (“A Negro” spelled backward), CNN reported.
In February 1955, while in Chicago for a musical engagement, he was invited to attend the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day convention. It so captured him, he joined the group. He adopted the name Louis X, later renamed Louis Farrakhan.
After Malcolm X left the NOI, Farrakhan condemned him in Muhammad Speaks, saying “the die is set and Malcolm shall not escape… such a man is worthy of death.”
Following the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975 and the assumption of leadership by Muhammad’s fith son, Imam W. Deen Mohammed, brought drastic changes to the Nation of Islam.
“Disappointed that he was not named Elijah’s successor, Farrakhan led a breakaway group in 1978, which he also called the Nation of Islam and which preserved the original teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan disagreed with Wallace Muhammad’s attempts to move the Nation to orthodox Sunni Islam and to rid it of Elijah Muhammad’s radical black nationalism and separatist teachings, which stressed the inherent wickedness of whites,” Britannica reported.
Farrakhan focused on growing his group and in 1979, he founded The Final Call, an internationally circulated newspaper. He also wrote the book “A Torchlight for America,” in 1993 which applied the guiding principles of justice and goodwill to the problems perplexing America.
The next year, in October 1994, Minister Farrakhan led 2,000 Blacks from America to Accra, Ghana, for the Nation of Islam’s first International Saviours’ Day, NOI reported.
The NOI grew internationally and in the U.S. as Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam repurchased farmland in Dawson, Georgia. In 1995 the NOI hosted the successful Million Man March on the Mall in Washington, D.C., which drew nearly two million men. The Million Man March established October 16 as a Holy Day of Atonement, Reconciliation, and Responsibility.
In 1991, Minister Farrakhan was diagnosed with prostate cancer and started a foundation in his name to educate people about the disease.
In 2000, Farrakhan and former NOI leader, Muhammad, who formed his own Islamic group, make peace and announce the unification of their groups during a Savior’s Day Rally, CNN reported.
Farrakhan’s tenure hasn’t been void of controversy. Some might consider him the most controversial leader of the NOI today. He outraged the Jewish community, for example, when he called Adolf Hitler a “very great man” on more than one occasion. He has been called “ anti-white,” “anti-Catholic,” and “anti-homosexual.” And some, including Mcalom X’s daughters, felt his writings about Malcolm’s departure from the NOI may have influenced others to assassinate Malcolm X.
Despite the controversies, Farrakhan, now 87, has been able to grow the NOI. “In the early 21st century, the core membership of Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam was estimated at between 10,000 and 50,000—though in the same period Farrakhan was delivering speeches in large cities across the United States that regularly attracted crowds of more than 30,000,” Britannica reported.
There are foreign branches of the Nation in Ghana, London, Paris, and the Caribbean islands.
When boxing legend Muhammad Ali found Islam in 1964, he seemed to find his voice. Let’s not be mistaken, Ali already had the confidence to match his talent, but it was in 1965 when he first uttered the words “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” to describe his boxing style. He had no problem not only telling people he was the greatest– but showing it as well.
He went on to become the first fighter to win the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions; he successfully defended this title 19 times, according to Britannica.
Ali was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, with the birth name Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. He grew up in segregated South where he faced racial prejudice and discrimination. And, as the story goes he discovered boxing at the age of 12 after his bike was stolen. The young Clay told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief, according to Biography.
“Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people,” Martin reportedly told him at the time. Besides being a police officer, Martin also trained young boxers at a local gym. Clay started working with Martin and soon began his boxing career. In his first amateur bout in 1954, he won the fight by split decision.
Clay’s wins continued. He won the 1956 Golden Gloves tournament for novices in the light heavyweight class, and then three years later, he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions.
In 1960, Clay won a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team. Traveling to Rome, Italy, to compete Clay took home the Olympic gold medal.
But although Clay was heralded as an American hero, back home he still faced racism and prejudice.
In 1964, he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964. Initially, he called himself Cassius X before choosing the name Muhammad Ali. His string of boxing successes continued. In his much-anticipated battle with champ Sonny Liston, Ali won the world title for the first time. It was also his last fight under the name Cassius Clay, The Guardian reported. In a rematch, Ali took Liston down in the first round. Ali came with another TKO for the legacy Flloyd Patterson in 1965. Ali went on to defend his title eight more times.
Then came the Vietnam War.
“Ali showed up for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967. Citing his religious beliefs, he refused to serve. Ali was arrested, and the New York State Athletic Commission immediately suspended his boxing license and revoked his heavyweight belt,” History reported.
Ali was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to the maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He was able to remain free while the conviction was appealed, but he could not box for three years. In 1970 the New York State Supreme Court reinstated his boxing license, and in 1971 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in a unanimous decision.
Ali returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, and knocked out Jerry Quarry in the third round. Then on March 8, 1971, Ali fought to regain his heavyweight crown against reigning champ Joe Frazier in what was called the “Fight of the Century.” Ali got up but lost in a unanimous decision — it was his first defeat as a pro, History reported.
It was also during the 1970s that he converted to orthodox Islam. In 1984 Ali spoke out publicly against the separatist doctrine of Louis Farrakhan, declaring, “What he teaches is not at all what we believe in. He represents the time of our struggle in the dark and a time of confusion in us, and we don’t want to be associated with that at all.”
Ali won his next 10 bouts before being defeated by Ken Norton. He won the rematch six months later and the victory gave the 32-year-old Ali a title shot against 25-year-old champion George Foreman.
The Foreman-Ali fight took place on October 30, 1974, fight in Kinshasa, Zaire. The star-studded event that included James Brown and Bill Withers was dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali used his famous “rope-a-dope” strategy and eventually won in an eighth-round knockout to regain the title stripped from him seven years prior.
Ali s went on to successfully defend his title in 10 fights, including the memorable “Thrilla in Manila” on October 1, 1975, in which battled his bitter rival Frazier.
Ali announced his retirement in 1979 but soon after returned to the ring for an unsuccessful comeback. In 1981, the 39-year-old Ali retired for good with a career record of 56 wins, five losses and 37 knockouts, History reported.
In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984. Despite the progression of Parkinson’s and the onset of spinal stenosis, he remained active in public life. Ali raised funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona, Biography reported. His philanthropy earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. His life story was also told in the documentary film “I Am Ali” 2014).
Ali died on June 3, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona, after being hospitalized for what was reportedly a respiratory issue. He was 74 years old. Close to 20,000 people attended his memorial in Louisville, Kentucky. Pallbearers included Will Smith and former heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
W. Deen Mohammed
Imam W. Deen Mohammed was a son of the Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. For most of his life, he was part of the Nation of Islam, which his father led from 1934 until his death in 1975. Mohammed went on to renounce the Black nationalism of his father’s movement to lead a more traditional and racially inclusive form of Islam for Black Muslims. He died in Chicago in 2008. He was 74.
But like his father, Mohammed refused the military draft in 1961 and was sentenced to three years in prison. While incarcerated, he began to notice contradictions in Nation of Islam theology.
Muhammad excommunicated Wallace from the NOI five different times for refusing to accept the divinity of Elijah Muhammad. During these times, he was forbidden to contact family members, including his mother. In 1974, Wallace was permanently reinstated into the Nation of Islam and allowed to teach in the temples, PBS reported.
When his father died in 1975, Wallace assumed control of the Nation of Islam. Within a year, he changed the name of the organization to the World Community of al-Islam in the West and then changed his own name to Warith Deen Mohammed. He got rid of the Fruit of Islam, the Nation’s security guard, and abolished the Nation’s dress codes for men and women, PBS reported.
Under his leadership he encouraged his followers to move toward a more orthodox faith, emphasizing study of the Qur’an and the five duties of a Moslem: faith, charity, prayer five times a day, fasting during Ramadan, and pilgrimage to Mecca, The New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, Louis Farrakhan launched his own Nation of Islam that continued the teachings of Elijah Muhammad.
Not that Mohammed didn’t have his followers. Over the years his group’s size ranged from 500,000 adherents to more than 2 million, The New York Times reported.
“In 1992, he became the first Muslim to deliver the invocation for the United States Senate. He led prayers at both inaugurals of President Bill Clinton. He addressed a conference of Muslims and Reform Jews in 1995 and participated in several major interfaith dialogues with Roman Catholic cardinals. He met with the pope in 1996 and 1999,” The New York Times reported.
Khalid Abdul Muhammad
Khalid Abdul Muhammad was a one-time member of the Nation of Islam who later became the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party. His fiery speeches connected with Black youth, particularly the hip-hop community.
Born Harold Moore Jr. on January 12, 1948, he was raised by an aunt in Houston. After high school, Moore enrolled in Dillard University in New Orleans to pursue a theological studies degree, however he didn’t graduate. But while at Dillard, Moore heard a speech by Louis Farrakhan who was at the time national representative of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Moore joined the Nation of Islam in 1970. He changed his name to Harold X then to Malik Rushaddin. Eventually, he became Farrakhan’s protégé, charged with bringing new recruits to the Nation, Black Past reported.
Muhammad went on to receive a BA degree from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. Farrakhan appointed him Western Regional Minister of the NOI and leader of Mosque #27 in Los Angeles in 1978.
In 1983, Farrakhan changed his name to Khalid, after the Islamic general, Khalid Ibn al-Walid.
Muhammad continued to rise in the NOI and at the age of 37 he was appointed National spokesman and Representative of Minister Farrakhan in 1985. He traveled to NOI mosques throughout the United States and even to Libya where he met its leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Black Past reported.
Muhammad ran into legal problems in 1987 when a federal court in Atlanta convicted him of mortgage fraud. He was sentenced to nine months in prison. After his release, he was named Minister Farrakhan’s national advisor in the NOI.
During his time with the NOI, Muhammad gained notice for his controversial speeches which “usually attacked whites and especially Jews and homosexuals while calling for Black self-empowerment and separation,” Black Past reported.
While speaking at Kean College in New Jersey in 1993, Muhammad called Jews “bloodsuckers” and used a racially derogatory word to describe Pope John Paul II. In response, the United States Senate took the unusual step of voting 97-0 to censure him for making the speech. Muhammad was also silenced by the Nation of Islam as a minister. He decided to leave the organization soon after.
Muhammad received backlash from the NOI and some of its associates. On May 29, 1994, an ex-Nation of Islam member named James Bess tried to assassinate Muhammad. Bess shot Muhammad after making a speech at the University of California, Riverside. Muhammad survived the attack.
In 1998, Muhammad became the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party, which modeled itself on the original Black Panther Party founded in Oakland in 1966.
While with the New Black Panther Party, Muhammad organized the Million Youth March in New York City and later led a march in Jasper, Texas, to protest the murder of James Byrd by three white supremacists who chained him back of a truck and dragged Byrd to his death.
Muhammad’s words resonated with Black youth and he often appeared in hip-hop songs by Public Enemy and Ice Cube, among others.
He was quoted and sampled as well as made guest appearances on a number of rappers’ albums, from 1988 with Public Enemy on the “Night of the Living Baseheads” to Ice Cube’s “Death Certificate” and “Lethal Injection” albums, to Tupac’s “Makaveli” album, The Source reported.
Scarface, deadprez, The Coup, N.W.A., K.R.S. One, and X Clan are other rappers who have also used his work. On MC Ren’s 1996 album “The Villain in Black,” Muhammad appeared in the track “Muhammad Speaks,” where he spoke about the history of the rights of African-Americans.
Muhammad remained the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party until his death from a brain aneurysm on February 17, 2001, in Atlanta at the age of 53. He was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester County, New York near the grave of Malcolm X.
Supreme Captain Raymond Sharrieff
Raymond Sharrieff was the son-in-law of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He was also the Supreme Captain of the Fruit of Islam, the security for the Nation of Islam leaders. He was married to Muhammad’s daughter Ethel Muhammad. She was the eldest daughter of Elijah and it was she who quietly advised her father to allow women in the organization more freedom of expression and equality.
Sharrieff married Ethel in 1948. He had become the head of the Fruit of Islam, the Nation’s bodyguard unit. It turned it into a highly disinclined group of men who were responsible for keeping the head of the NOI safe. There received, some reports say, paramilitary training. While her husband rose in the Nation, Ethel worked quietly to influence her father’s strict restrictions on women, The Chicago Tribune reported.
The Sharrieffs traveled the world and had toured the Middle East, Egypt, and Europe. For many years, they spent a good deal of time in the Bahamas.
John Ali was the National Secretary for the NOI in the 1960s. He was responsible for suspending Malcolm X over comments he made that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a case of the “chickens coming home to roost.” Ali has also been accused of being a high-level FBI agent who helped orchestrate the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965.
It was actually Malcolm who introduced Ali to Elijah Muhammad and it was Malcolm who sponsored Ali for the national secretary position, according to activist/author Ahjamu Umi’s “The Truth Challenge” blog. Then, things changed between Ali and Malcolm.
During a June 1964 appearance on Chicago’s WVON Radio show “Hotline” hosted by the late Wesley South, Ali declared that the Nation of Islam planned to murder Malcolm X, according to the blog Neromaximus. And on July 9, Ali referred to Malcolm X by saying, “Anyone who opposes the Honorable Elijah Muhammad puts their life in jeopardy.”
It has been reported that Ali met with Talmadge Hayer, one of the men convicted of killing Malcolm X, the night before the assassination.
Sister Clara Muhammad
As the wife of Elijah Muhammad, Sister Clara Muhammad was the First Lady of the Nation of Islam. She has been credited with helping build the Nation.
Born Clara Evans near Macon, Georgia, in 1899, she lived through the injustices of the Jim Crow South. She and her husband Elijah Poole went North to Detroit in 1923 with two infants. In Detroit they struggled to support their growing family without full-time employment. Sister Clara described in a 1967 Muhammad Speaks article, “With five children, there were times we didn’t have a piece of bread in the house, nor heat, water or even sufficient wearing apparel. My husband would walk the streets looking for a job daily, but would come home with no job,” according to the book “Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam,” co-authored by Dawn-Marie Gibson and Jamillah Karim.
Clara took work as a domestic. When she heard Fard Muhammad’s message of race and economic advancement attractive, she encourage her husband to check out the organization. Not only did he check it out, he joined the Nation of Islam.
According to Imam W. D. Mohammed, Clara and Elijah’s son, “When the meeting was over, as they were walking out, my father told my mother, ‘Clara, when you go back home, we gon’ have to throw all the pork out of the icebox.’ Now that’s what one lecture, one speech did.”
When Fard Muhammad disappeared, Elijah took over control of the NOI. And when they happened so did Clara Muhammad’s contribution. And when Elijah was sentenced to jail time for refusing to take part in the draft in the 1940s, Clara Muhammad, now the mother of eight, took on the enormous task of carrying the organization in her husband’s absence, TK reported.
Once Muhammad returned to his family and the movement began to thrive, Sister Clara the NOI’s primary and secondary independent schools that she pioneered in 1931 was now on a national scale by the 1950s.
In 1980, Imam W.D. Mohammed renamed the University of Islam after his mother, the Sister Clara Muhammad School.
It was the midst of the Great Depression when Jeremiah Shabazz was born in Philadelphia. And like most Blacks of that era, was born into extreme poverty. After graduating high school with honors, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Shabazz served 18 months in Japan and Korea. Upon return home, he enrolled in Temple University College majoring in Mechanical Design Technology.
He began a career in government with jobs in the Post Office, Navy Dept., Railway Mail Service, and finally the army signal Corps where in 1955 he was summarily dismissed for belonging to the “Muslim Cult of Islam” the name the government gave to the Nation of Islam under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, Authors Den reported.
Jeremiah had actually been a Muslim since the age of 14. After discharge from the Army he served as a Lieutenant in the Fruit of Islam (FOI) for six years. He met the Malcolm X who had been summoned from Boston to Philadelphia by Elijah Muhammad to help mediate a dispute in 1934. Malcolm X moved into Jeremiah’s apartment where he stayed for about one year before Muhammad sent him to New York City to take over the ministry there.
Shabazz went on to own several bakeries and food stores through the first Philadelphia NOI mosque or masjid, “which would later be publicly criticized by NOI leadership in Chicago for drawing too much attention to itself as a ‘gangster’ mosque,” according to Wikipedia. The FBI started to investigate Shabazz to look into the alleged association of Shabazz to the growth of organized Black crime in Philadelphia. This is when the term “Black Mafia” started to be bandied about.
In the fall of 1957, Jeremiah was chosen to go to Los Angeles to become the West Coast Representative for Muhammad but he wound up being sent instead to Atlanta to troubleshoot a problem. Jeremiah remained in Georgia for nearly 7 years, according to Authors Den. And while there, seeing the plight of Blacks in the South he was inspired to launch an Islamic Crusade from Macon and Savannah, Ga. to Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Pensacola, Fl.
He also took the Crusade to Birmingham, Anniston, and Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Meridian and Jackson, Miss.; Monroe, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, La.
While still in the South, Shabazz became the first Black man in the history of America to attend a Klu Klux Klan rally in Georgia in the summer of 1962. And he lives to tell about it.
Also during the summer of 1962, a young fighter named Cassius Clay visited our Miami Temple of Islam which led to his conversion to Islamy. It was Shabazz who had introduced him to the faith and helped to nurture him into becoming Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight Champion.
According to authorities, Shabazz’s West Philadelphia mosque included prominent members of organized Black crime in Philadelphia. A drug probe ensued and it centered around Shamsud-din Ali aka Clarence Fowler, the imam who had replaced Shabazz at the mosque. The probe led all the way to then-mayor John F. Street. In September 2005, Ali was sentenced to more than seven years in prison on racketeering and other charges. According to prosecutors, Ali who was once a member of Street’s transition team used his political connections to “obtain dubious loans, donations, and city contracts,” according to Wikipedia.
Clarence 13X is a former Nation of Islam member who went on to found the 5 Percenter Nation of Gods and Earths in 1964. There have been different reports as to why Clarence 13X left the NOI, during which time he worshipped at the same Temple Number Seven where Malcolm X preached. Some say Clarence 13X left because he was caught gambling. Others say he did not agree with the NOI’s ban on gambling, drugs, and alcohol.
Clarence Edward Smith was born February 22, 1928, in Danville, Virginia. In 1952, Smith was inducted into the United States Army. He served in the Korean War and Japan and was awarded honors and medals, including the Bronze Service Star, according to declassified FBI records.. In 1960 he was honorably discharged from the military.
He went on to join the NOI.
Under the laws of the Five Percenters, mankind is divided into categories. “10 percent of the world knows the truth about life and they keep 85 percent of people in ignorance, so it’s up to the remaining Five Percenters to enlighten others. Clarence 13X believed that Black men were God and could tap into their inner godliness with intense meditation as well as acquiring knowledge through systems like ‘Supreme Mathematics’ and ‘Supreme Alphabet,’ which attach a deeper meaning to the English letter and number system in order to bring enlightenment,” Bustle reported.
The Five Percenters believe there is a divine order of the world. “According to the Five Percenters it all started like this: 6,600 years ago, a ‘bigheaded scientist’ named Yakub wickedly created the white race through selective breeding on the Greek island of Patmos, which is now a lovely place to vacation. Unleashing this plague upon humanity, Yakub initiated the decline and eventual enslavement of the Original Man. Up until this point, everything is in agreement with the instructions of Fard Mohammed, the sketchily known teacher of Elijah Mohammed, the founder and prophet of the Nation of Islam,” The Daily Beast reported.
The Five Percenters, or the Nation of Gods and Earths, believes that Black people are the original people of Earth, so they are the fathers (“Gods”) and mothers (“Earths”) of civilization.
The Five Percenter philosophy has been adopted by many incarcerated men as well as countless rappers. The documentary “Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men” explored how the Five Percent Nation influenced the Wu Tang Clan and their peers.
Rappers like Rakim, Busta Rhymes, Public Enemy, Mos Def, Nas, Jay-Z, Jay Electronica, and Brand Nubians often used the nation’s teaching in their rhymes and even donned the Five Percent Nation’s 7 and a crescent symbol on clothing, Bustle reported.
Clarence 13X was murdered in 1969 in a Harlem gambling den called The Hole.
Yusuf Shah (Captain Joseph)
Imam Yusuf Shah helped to lead the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque for 23 years. He also directed its Fruit of Islam security force in 20 Eastern states.
Born in Joseph Gravitt Detroit, his father, also named Yusuf, was involved in the Islamic movement of the Moorish Science Temple of Noble Drew Ali. Shah later joined the Nation of Islam in Detroit. In 1952 the organization’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, sent Shah and Malcolm X to New York to organize a fledgling mosque, the Malcolm Shabazz Masjid, The New York Times reported. Shah was designated a captain and became known as Captain Joseph.
Shah remained a leader of the mosque through Malcolm X’s dissent and assassination in 1965, a police shootout at the mosque in 1972, and then Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975. Shah stayed with Warith Deen Muhammad’s new religious group. Muhammad named Shah an imam in 1975 and appointed him a senior adviser. Shah later became minister of the Southwest region for the American Muslim Mission.
He died at the age of 65 in 1993.
Jabir Herbert Muhammad
Jabir Herbert Muhammad ran a bakery, a dry cleaner, and other small businesses for the Nation of Islam. He was also the ex-business manager of boxing legend Muhammad Ali and the third son of Nation of Islam founder, Elijah Muhammad.
He became Ali’s business manager in 1966, a couple of years after the boxer converted to Islam. For the next 25 years, he arranged fights for Ali, managed his post-fight ventures, and coordinated his role as a fundraiser and public face for the Nation of Islam, The Los Angeles Times reported.
“He let Ali be Ali,” said Thomas Hauser, author of 1991’s “Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times.” “He never tried to curb Ali’s inclinations, which was largely good.”
While managing Ali, Muhammad secured multimillion-dollar purses for the champion, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Ali’s wife, Lonnie, gradually took over her husband’s business affairs, and Muhammad and Ali cut ties in the early 1990s. Things got acrimonious when Ali sued Muhammad in 1993, alleging that a foundation Muhammad had set up used the boxer’s name improperly and also used Ali’s signature in fundraising letters and other work intended to promote Islamic causes. The lawsuit was settled a year later and the foundation changed its name.
Muhammad established the Nation of Islam newspaper, Muhammad Speaks.
One of Muhammad’s close associates was Tony Rezko, the politically connected fixer and early political patron of Barack Obama who was convicted of mail and wire fraud, aiding and abetting bribery, and money laundering. Muhammad and Rezko broke off their friendship and the two were involved in a lawsuit alleging that Rezko looted trusts set up by Muhammad.
James Shabazz was the leader of Mosque No. 25 in Newark. In 1973 he was shot to death in the driveway of the home he shared with his wife and 13 children. Two men were believed to have run up to Shabazz and fired at him as he was getting out of his car, The New York Times reported. Police reports revealed that there was a power struggle among the Black Muslims and discontent due to several Muslims being having been disbarred from the Nation.
He was 52 years old. He has been a member of the Nation for more than 30 years.
He was also known as James Russell McGregor, James 3X, and Son of Thunder. He was originally from Southern Pines, North Carolina.
There is still mystery around his murder.
Shabazz’s murder was one of three related incidents within a year that involved Black Muslims. And, after his murder, “three reportedly Black Muslims, abducted an off‐duty policeman from the street near Shabazz’s home. He was driven around in a car, questioned him about Shabazz, and released. They were arrested later that day and were charged with kidnapping,” according to Wikipedia. The next day, a Black man was abducted nearby, driven around in a car for 24 hours, questioned about the Shabazz murder, and released.
Then, on October 18, 1973, the decapitated bodies of Warren Marcell and Michael A. Huff were discovered in a park four miles away from the home of Shabazz.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 72: Jamarlin Martin Part 2. J Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, may not be around but his energy is present in new Black politics.
Honorable Supreme Minister John Muhammad
The youngest brother of NOI leader Elijah Muhammad, the Honorable John Muhammad was born Herbert Poole on April 17, 1910. He became a member of the Nation of Islam under the leadership of W.D. Fard Muhammad and his brother Elijah.
“He was the first assistant principal of the University of Islam where he taught the beginners class. He was the Temple Secretary and Treasurer. He was also an employee of Chrysler Motor Company,” Find A Grave reported.
When he and other members refused to shut down the school and enroll his own children into Detroit City schools he was arrested in 1955. His kids were also taken from his home and put into foster homes for a little more than 30 days, Find A Grave reported.
In the later ’70s, the Honorable John Muhammad began to open his own temples and schools throughout the Detroit area, where he continued to spread the teachings of the Nation of Islam.
John Muhammad married Burnsteen Sharrieff Muhammad in 1935. They had 14 children.
Silis Muhammad is the CEO of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam and publisher of Muhammad Speaks. He played a major role in the Nation of Islam before Lost-Found.
Silis had differences with the son of Elijah Muhammad, W.D. Fard, when he took over NOI. Then a break with Minister Louis Farrakhan occurred.
When Elijah Muhammad died, Silis resurrected the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in 1978.
“As CEO of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam and All for Reparations & Emancipation (AFRE), Muhammad works day and night to give Afrodescendants the knowledge and resources required to gain 100 percent freedom, justice, and equality, recognition, and restoration of their human rights…and to bring about self-determination,” Muhammad Speaks News reported. “Muhammad has spent more than 30+ years teaching Afrodescendants (so-called African-Americans) the basis of their problem, civil death, and its solution.”
And among his continued efforts is the push for reparations for the descendants of the American slavery system.
According to Silis, the reason many politicians, even Black politics such as former President Obama, fail to back reparations is all about politics.
“African Americans are too caught up in ‘mainstream politics’ that reparations aren’t an issue, despite that the UN Working Group says: The history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans. The group included leading human rights lawyers from around the world that say: ‘Effects of slavery continues unabated’ in America. Institutional racism is in your face on a daily basis in America, yet Blacks fail to make reparations a part of the political discourse,” Silis wrote in Muhammad Speaks.
He wrote: “The legacy of slavery remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for African Americans…Blacks have allowed party priorities to supersede their own political interests and issues willingly accepting ‘the status quo.’”
.Silis played a major role in creating the “Report On Peru Conference For Slave Descendants by All For Reparations And Emancipation (AFRE).”
Silis and ten others under the banner of AFRE and traveled to a UN meeting of Afrodescendant leaders in Peru. The group included Silis and his wife, First Lady Misshaki Muhammad, Attorney General of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam and Legal Counsel for AFRE, and Queen Mother Dorothy Lewis, of N’COBRA, as well as sevral Islamic ministers from around the U.S.