One of the Nation of Islam’s beloved voices, Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad died on Dec. 15 in Atlanta after battling longtime health challenges. He was 89 years old.
NOI leader Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke at Muhammad’s funeral, which was webcast from Murray Brothers Funeral Home in Atlanta on Dec. 21, 2020. Muhammad, formerly known as Minister John Shabazz, was a friend and helper to Farrakhan in the rebuilding of the Nation of Islam.
Muhammad’s life was remembered by people from around the globe with messages like this tweet, “My teacher, teach us all the way from Johannesburg South Africa” and “Much love and respect sir from a Proud Scottish black man”.
Here are five things to know about the life of Abdul Allah Muhammad.
At the funeral, Farrakhan spoke of his special relationship with Muhammad. “Ever since I met my brother, we have never had one word of misunderstanding. He was deep, he was penetrating; he was comical, he had a lot of wit.”
Farrakhan said he and his wife knew Muhammad for 60 years. “When you had him as a friend, you could not walk around not knowing the God, the Messenger of God, and Islam—not only ‘101,’ but you knew it pretty well if you were around Abdul Allah Muhammad,” Farrakhan said, according to The Final Call.
When Farrakhan set about to rebuild the NOI during the organization’s turmoil after the death of NOI leader Elijah Muhammad, he turned to Abdul Allah Muhammad.
“When we decided to rebuild the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Brother John Shabazz was a brother that I counted on,” Farrakhan said. “He was a brother that came to my side, he was a brother that gave good counsel and good advice. So, I wanted to find a name for him that tells us what we think of him, and who we believe he is.”
Abdul Allah Muhammad was born during the Great Depression on Jan. 6, 1931, in Pine Bluff, Ark. He grew up in St. Louis, Mo. After graduating from high school at age 15, Shabazz attended Howard University on a full academic scholarship at age 16. He later studied journalism at the University of California Los Angeles and wrote for the Los Angeles Times.
In the 1950s, after hearing a speech by Malcolm X, who was then a prominent spokesman for the NOI organization, Abdul Allah Muhammad was drawn to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. When he joined the NOI in 1957, he moved up the ranks easily. He served as a minister in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Chicago. He also served as a Nation of Islam regional minister and educator. His students called him “Islam John.”
Elijah Muhammad appointed Abdul Allah Muhammad West Coast Regional Minister in 1960.
During his tenure at the NOI mosque in Los Angeles, the temple was attacked by the Los Angeles Police Department on April 27, 1962.
LAPD had mistaken NOI member Ronald Stokes and a group of Muslims removing clothes from a car outside a Los Angeles mosque for criminals. Things escalated and the police raided the mosque, Literary Hub reported.
“In the unprovoked assault, temple secretary Ronald T. X Stokes was brutally killed while his hands were raised, other Muslims were shot and some permanently injured. All of the men were unarmed as is Nation of Islam teaching,” The Final Call reported. Seven Muslims were shot, one killed, and one paralyzed from a bullet wound to the back.
Abdul Allah Muhammad — known at the time as Shabazz — was the temple minister. Malcolm X and Stokes led a fight in Los Angeles against police brutality.
When the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had to make changes in 1965 to the Atlanta mosque and Southern regional headquarters, he moved Abdul Allah Muhammad to Atlanta and appointed him regional minister. Abdul Allah Muhammad served until 1969. He was also editor-in-chief and then chairman of the editorial board of The Final Call newspaper.