The Nation of Islam (NOI) was founded in the 1930s by Wallace Fard Muhammad and many of its roots were influenced by the teachings of Noble Drew Ali.
Ali founded the Moorish Science Temple of America in 1913, based at his Canaanite Temple in Newark, New Jersey. Ali later relocated to Chicago. He had a following of thousands of converts.
When looking at Moorish Science Temple of America and the Nation of Islam (NOI) side by side, one can see the similarities. In fact, the leaders of the NOI often praise and give credit to Ali. Despite this, there have been tensions between the two groups throughout the years.
There are several similarities of the two movements, from the Fez hat worn by both Ali and NOI leader Elijah Muhammad (who took over the group after Wallace Fard Muhammad’s disappearance in 1934) to both groups naming their meeting places “temples.”
Ali had the male members of his Temple wear a Fez or turban as a head covering; the women wore turbans.
Elijah Muhammad spoke about the Fez hat worn by the Moorish Americans and Noble Drew Ali. “The hat was red. They wore black ones and red ones,” said Muhammad, who himself was wearing a red Fez hat. According to Muhammad, the Fez has been worn by the NOI since the days of the organization’s founder Wallace Fard Muhammad.
“The Fez that the Shriners wear is the Fez of the Moors. And the tassel on it was tied down. It [the tassel] didn’t swing 360 degrees,” explained Farrakhan.
The meaning of the tassel “means the same thing it means when you are graduating from school. That means knowledge,” Muhammad pointed out.
The Fez hat worn by Ali and his followers was a solid color and was not designed with the moon and star that the NOI members wore, according to Elijah Muhammad.
During a speech at the People’s Church Los Angeles in 1960, Muhammad said, “Brother Noble Drew Ali, as Master Fard Muhammad said, was a [devotee] of Islam; he didn’t have enough knowledge in Islam to keep going with it because of the name that he named his organization, which at the time we called it Moorish Americans.”
The use of the term “Asiatics” is common in both groups.
Following the Russo-Japanese war, which occurred in 1905, many Black Americans took pride in Japan’s victory because it symbolized more than a military achievement. W.E.B Dubois saw the outcome as a win for all oppressed people around the world. Activist and religious leader Reverend J.M. Boddy viewed Russia’s defeat as an achievement of the Black race. He declared that the Japanese race “must be akin to the Negro race” and because of their “large infusion of Negro blood in their veins.” Black nationalist groups adopted Reverend Boddy’s view of Afro-Asian relations and “merged the Black and Asiatic identities to serve their agenda,” “Navigating the Pacific: 20th Century Afro-Asian Relations“ blog published by Emory University reported.
When Ali founded the Moorish Science Temple of America one of the major tenets of the movement’s theology was that Black Americans were Moorish Americans and descendants of the Moabites.
Moabites are a West-Semitic people who lived in the highlands east of the Dead Sea (now in west-central Jordan). They flourished in the 9th-century BC, according to Britannica.
“The conception of the Asiatic Black man invalidated claims of inherent racial inferiority, distanced African Americans from the stigmatization of their race and proposed an alternative ancestry marked with prominence,” Emory University reported.
It has been reported that Ali traveled to Egypt where he met a high priest of Egyptian magic. The priest, it is said, trained Ali in mysticism and gave him a “lost section” of the Quran. Ali developed this “lost section” into what is now known as the Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America (not to be confused with the Islamic Quran).
Ali used this material to claim Jesus and his followers were Asiatic. Ali used the term “Asiatic” to describe all dark or olive-colored people.
But like the common use of the Fez, temples, the Nation also teaches that the first humans were the “original” or “Asiatic” race, whom it describes as members of the Tribe of Shabazz.
“Prophet Noble Drew Ali was the first one to enlighten our people,” Baltimore community leader Taharka Bey said during a 2020 interview on DoggieDiamondsTV. “The Moors come for the Northwest and South western shores of Africa and [they] migrated into the Americans before the Europeans even thought about coming out of the cave…we are all of Moorish bloodline.”
Bey, who is not part of the NOI, hosts the YouTube show “Moorish Science Temple of America.” Bey spoke of the off-and-on conflict between the Moorish Americans and the Nation of Islam over whether there was a connection between Ali and the start of the NOI.
Although there had been disputes between the NOI and Black American Moors, Farrakhan said the two groups were once close.
“The first time Elijah Muhammad came to New York after I had accepted Islam, it was Oct. 1955. Elijah Muhammad spoke on two men who were the forerunners to him, Noble Drew Ali was number one and Marcus Garvey was number two,” recalled Minister Farrakhan during an interview on Dec 19, 2016.
He continued, “On that day he lifted Noble Drew Ali and said that we should honor him respect him and study what he did as a forerunner…and we never clashed with our brothers from the Moorish Science Temple.”
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Even today, the Nation of Islam’s current leader Minister Louis Farrakhan often honors Noble Drew Ali and his teachings for his inspiring the NOI.
“[We] respect and honor Noble Drew Ali and Marcus Garvey as the forerunners to what we are doing right now,” said Farrakhan. “Marcus Garvey and Noble Drew Ali blazed a trail and were forerunners to Islam and to all the Moors.”
During a 2014 Nation of Islam Saviour’s Day event Farrakhan praised Ali. “Now let’s look at Noble Drew Ali…He’s the first man to bring Islam to us in the way he tried to bring it,” he said. “I thank him. I thank Allah for him.”