Wednesday, September 17, 2008



America on September 8, 2008 this past week perhaps lost one of its most moderate and tolerant, as well prominent Islamic voices and personalities in America; in the untimely death of Imam Wallace D. Muhammad (aka Imam Warith Mohammed) , who was the next to the youngest son of the late Honorable Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975). Imam Mohammed made his transition at the age of 74 of heart disease and complications of diabetes at his Chicago home. Muhammad (Imam Warith Mohammed) was born on October 30, 1933 in Hamtramck, Michigan to Elijah and Clara Muhammad. W.D. Muhammad rejected the religious nationalism and the emphasis his Father, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad placed on Islamic Black Nationalism; referring to his father’s teaching as being un-Islamic. Some Nation of Islam historians maintain that the Nation of Islam's founder and Savior Master Wali Fard Muhammad (1877-?) instructed the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to name this son, Wallace D. Muhammad after himself. It was taught early on that Wallace D. Muhammad was prepared from birth in a somewhat special and mystical way—in which certain esoteric and Gnostic teachings and knowledge was bestowed to this so-called chosen son. He was raised in the Nation of Islam and early on began to question his father, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's theology. The younger Muhammad was expelled and excommunicated numerous times for theological insubordination. (Reference: Wallace Deen Muhammad; “As the Light Shineth From the East”). Also, more information on the Nation of Islam refer to Fahim A. Knight-EL at

Clifton E. Marsh in his book titled, "From Black Muslims to Muslims: Transition From Separatism to Islam, 1930-1980" stated, "Wallace D. Muhammad, who was accepted back into the organization during Savior's Day Convention of 1965. Wallace returned to his father and asked for forgiveness. The reinstatement didn't last very long. Wallace said, 'I was right back out. I was excommunicated three or four times and always for the same charge. I was not accepting the god image given to Fard Muhammad. After Wallace was suspended again in 1965, he remained inactive until he was readmitted in 1969. While he was suspended, the right to interact and communicate with members of his family was denied. During his suspension, he owned a book store and formed a study group called the Upliftment Society. Wallace also a welder and operated a carpet and furniture cleaning business. He was accepted back into the organization in 1969 but did not regain his Minister's status until 1974." (Reference: Clifton E. Marsh; "From Black Muslims to Muslims: Transition From Separatism to Islam, 1930-1980" pg. 113).

This writer first met Imam Mohammed (Imam Warith Mohammed) in 1975, he had just been elected by the Muhammad Royal Family and by the high Islamic officials in the Nation of Islam to succeed his father Elijah Muhammad as the new leader of Nation of Islam on February 26, 1975. C. Eric Lincoln who authored book titled, "Race, Religion and the Continuing American Dilemma" Stated, "The transition of power was neither complete nor fully successful, and while the movement did not shatter upon his (W.D. Muhammad) succession , as it was widely predicted, there was dissatisfaction, disillusion-ment, and also inevitable erosion of membership. An underdetermined segment of the Nation of Islam either drifted free from involvement or elected to follow the independent movement of Minister Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan, who succeeded Malcolm X as Elijah's chief spokesmen, become the most prominent exponent of the original teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Whatever the fortunes of Islamic Orthodoxy, Farrakhan's movement (which retained the name of the Nation of Islam) will be scarcely be affected, because for the millions of Blacks whose lot has not been measurably improved by the cosmetics of racial change. The vision of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam still represents a self determined identity and tangible effort at reversal." (Reference: C. Eric Lincoln; "Race, Religion and the Continuing American Dilemma" pg. 164).

He was eventually bestowed with the title Supreme Minister and the entire Nation of Islam's hierarchy pledged their support to Wallace D. Muhammad (Imam Warith Mohammed) on that day. Reflecting back to 1975, the first time I went to hear the younger Muhammad deliver a public address (Imam Warith Mohammed) but I can not recall whether or not it was at Masjid Malcolm Shabazz in Harlem, New York or at some venue in New Jersey. This writer prior to hearing Muhammad (Imam Warith Mohammed) had heard a few Nation of Islam speakers in the past such as Minister Louis Farrakhan (minister of Temple Number 7—New York), Minister James Shabazz (minister of Temple Number 25—Newark), Minister Isaiah Kareem (minister of Temple Number 6—Baltimore), Minister Lonnie Shabazz (minister of Temple Number 4--Washington, D.C), etc., and all of them were fiery and electrifying orators possessing huge amounts of stage presence.

But when this writer heard Minister Wallace D. Muhammad, (Imam Warith Mohammed) he was sort of soft spoken and a lot less charismatic than some of the other speakers and ministers in the Nation of Islam that I was privileged to hear. This writer was accustom to seeing the Nation of Islam leaders flamboyant style and flanked by their body guards called the Fruit of Islam (FOI), but Minister Wallace D. Muhammad (Imam Warith Mohammed) did not have the flair and pomp of other high ranking profile Nation of Islam officials. He appeared to be a deeply spiritual man who was grounded in the the Holy Qur'an and the Sunna (the way of Prophet Muhammad). Muhammad's (Imam Warith Mohammed) presentation on that day could have been equated to a highly intellectual university level professor, but the monotone talk he delivered wasn't necessarily captivating, it lacked luster and delivery; however, it did appeal more to your rational and analytical faculties, as opposed to your emotional—lower self. This remained his preaching and/or teaching style his entire tenure as a Muslim leader in America. But Muhammad (Imam Warith Mohammed) also had a knack for uncovering word origins, and getting to the root of a word or concept and was a serious student of etymology. He didn't mind referring to a dictionary in order to ascertain a definition, as well as break down a word. In addition, he loved the science of epistemology. He definitely was a highly intelligent man. This writer in that area had learned a lot from Wallace D. Muhammad (Imam Warith Mohammed). (Reference: Wallace Deen Muhammad; “As the Light Shineth From the East”).

Let me inject, I did not necessarily agree with Muhammad's (Imam Warith Mohammed) social and political positions—he was for the most part apolitical and during the 1980s he openly supported the Republicans Reagan/Bush ticket and many non-Muslim African Americans viewed him as contradiction. He never seemed willing or able to attract a non-Muslim following base or sympathizers in the black community at-large beyond those who had converted to Islam and became loyal followers. Yet, he led perhaps one of the largest Ummah (Muslim Community) of non-immigrant Muslims in America of anywhere from five hundred thousand to one million Muslims, but most Americans—black and white know very little about the man and his mission.

This writer had always felt that W.D. Muhammad was entrapped in what the Dr. W.E.B Dubois referred to as "twosome"; Dr. W.E.B Dubois who authored the book "The Souls of Black Folk" describes our American predicament in a most eloquent and definitive way, he stated, "After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two un-reconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder." (Reference: W.E.B Dubois; "The Souls of Black Folk").

It was this stigma that haunted Muhammad and it was a direct result of the teachings and philosophy given by his father Elijah Muhammad that he tried so desperately to escape and wanted to create an ideological, philosophical and programmatic distinction between his worldview and his father's worldview and nation of his birth. Muhammad in late 1975 began to make organizational changes in the Nation of Islam, an organization that had wore the distinction for over forty-four years as being an "unorthodox" Islamic movement in America and taught separation as one of its most essential religious planks. The young Muhammad renamed the Nation of Islam that he inherited to the World Community of Al-Islam in the West and renamed and ethnically reclassified his black followers racial and nationality identity to Bilalians, which was derived from the history of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and more specifically from the Ethiopian slave Bilal Ibn Rabah who had risen to become the first Muezzin (caller to prayer) in Islam during Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) time. (Reference: C. Eric Lincoln: “The Black Muslims in America” pg. 265).

Muhammad decentralized the organization giving each Mosque complete sovereignty to function independent of his Chicago Headquarters and appointed a Council of Imams that served as the executive board of governors over the World Community of Al- Islam in the West (today known as American Society of Muslims). Imam Mohammed at the American Muslim Mission in 1985 Tenth Anniversary celebration stated: "If you'll follow my advice, you would put down term 'American Muslim Mission (today known as American Society of Muslims).' You would put it down and never pick up any term that lumps you all together in one community. You will be members of a Muslim community international. . .you will hold your Imam accountable. You will encourage your Imam to form good relations with other Imams, not just 'black ones, but 'white ones, red ones, all colors'. . When you meet together, you won't meet together under some corporate name, but you will meet together, each Imam on equal footing." (Reference: Mustafa El-Amin: "The Religion of Islam and the Nation of Islam: What is the Difference" pg. 63.)

He tried to redefine the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's role as a mere social reformer, as opposed to being the last Messenger of Allah and denigrated the Nation of Islam's founder Wali Fard Muhammad to a mystic or magician who was using reverse psychology in the name of Islam to convert superstitious believing Christians to this new religion called Islam in the early 1930s. He sold and mortgaged off a lot of the businesses enterprises and property that Elijah Muhammad had acquired to resolve and satisfy what he described as huge outstanding and insurmountable debt, which were incurred by poor business management under his father's administration. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad from this writer's vanish point had built an estimate seventy (70) million dollar business empire and was considered a savvy businessman. (Reference: Wallace Deen Muhammad; “As the Light Shineth From the East”).

W.D. Muhammad raised the United States flag in the Mosque and openly declared his loyalty to America something his father would have never done. Muhammad established good relations with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations and leaders. He advocated that his followers practice the Five Pillars of Islam, which included taking Shahada (confession of faith), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity—almsgiving), Ramadan (fasting during the holy month) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) in order to synchronize his organization with mainstream Islam. (Reference: Warith Deen Mohammed; “Focus on Al-Islam).

If this writer could give a summarizing of what was Imam Mohammed's core teachings and belief this perhaps would represent a fair representation. Mohammed consistently advocated. "The fundamental principals of Al-Islam are the most important things in a Muslim's life. We are not look for ways to modify the principals of Al-Islam to justify unlawful and unnatural practices. We are alter our attitudes and practices to conform to Islamic principals. . .Faith in Allah means that we believe in him and trust Him over everything else. Belief in Allah's prophets means that we accept all of His Prophets, as well as the fact that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) , the most noble and honorable of all creatures, is Allah's Last Prophet, and our leader and example, who we obey and follow. Belief in the Books that the Prophets means that we are question all books under the light of what is revealed in the Holy Qur'an. Belief in Allah's Angels means that we must seek to understand the phenomena operating between our vision of reality and the truth that Allah has revealed. Belief in the Divine Ordinance means we believe that Allah has law operating throughout creation, and in every phase of our lives, to give us the benefits of our good deeds and the consequences of our bad ones. It means we believe that we can not escape the Justice of Allah. Belief in the Day of Resurrection (Judgment Day) means we believe that this scheme of creation is on time and for a purpose. It is a training ground, a testing place where we prove ourselves worthy of reaching a higher stage in the fulfillment of our aspirations. We believe that Allah will provide a new creation where we will have an opportunity to realize the fullness of our good aspirations. Because of this, we should always have hope and we should never despair." (Reference: Mustafa El-Amin; "Al-Islam, Christianity and Freemasonry' pg.35-36.)

But he was always viewed as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's son and many Orthodox Sunni Muslims were suspicious of his organization’s transformation and many quietly questioned his own conversion to mainstream Islam. This suspicion was part blame on his followers who accepted the man and his mission unconditionally and in some eyes, they honored him no different and/or similar to how the Muslims in the old Nation of Islam revered the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Many of his loyalist would vehemently disagree with this contention because they would like to believe that their community had evolved beyond the focus of a charismatic leadership head—to focusing only on Allah (God) and his Messenger Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (PBUH) of 1400 years ago. This writer believes this perception unjustly stigmatized Imam Mohammed and the Muslim American Movement (today known as American Society of Muslims). They were still viewed by some international Muslims and United States immigrant Muslims as the "Black Muslims" and this came about partially due to how Islam in America developed and evolved around black charismatic figureheads such as Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Clarence 13X, Khallid Abdul Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, etc. (Reference: Adib Rashad; “Elijah Muhammad and the Ideological foundation of the Nation of Islam).

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1959 made Hajj—pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (he was received as a Muslim) and he also took two of his sons, Herbert Muhammad (Jabir Muhammad) and Wallace D. Muhammad along with him to the Holy City. So, the younger Muhammad was exposed to Orthodox Sunni Islam at a very young age. Also, his youngest brother Dr. Akbar Muhammad was sent to study Islam abroad at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt and is presently a professor of Islamic studies in the Boston area. Imam Mohammed desired to bring the Nation of Islam's theology in-line with mainstream Islam, as it's taught in the East. Thus, unlike his father, he openly embraced his "Americanism" and held the United States in high regards and encouraged his followers to be part of his perceived enculturation and integrate in the whole of American life because essentially they were American Muslims not Black Muslims. This was part of his efforts to deconstruct the Nation of Islam's teachings of race and more so than that, he was subtlety conforming to mainstream Islam teachings of universalism and inclusiveness of all humanity in which the teachings of nationalism was not inline with the Holy Qur'an and teachings of Prophet Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him). (Reference: Nasir Makr Hakim; editor; “The True History of Elijah Muhammad).

Dr. C. Eric Lincoln in his book titled, “The Black Muslims in America” Third Edition; Stated, “By 1985 the transition from a cosmocentric, race-based community of believers in search of Armageddon to the anonymity of unchallenged inclusion in one of the world’s great spiritual communions had be substantially completed. The tracks had been laid , the signals had been identified, the test runs had been made. Only time and experience could do more. Having set the parameters and served as exemplar for the spiritual metamorphosis of his once Lost-Found Nation, Warith Deen Muhammad was ready for recognition and reassignment. He got both, but the vote was not unanimous. International Islam rewarded him with significant responsibility for the oversight and direction of Muslim interests in the United States. Heads of state throughout the Muslim world knew of him and welcomed his presences.” (Reference: C. Eric Lincoln: “The Black Muslims in America” pg. 265).

Lincoln continues “he became a popular lecturer at schools and colleges, churches and synagogues, and before a variety organizations committed to addressing the terrors of the human predicament through interracial, interfaith, and international dialogue. In the old Nation of Islam, both Wallace and his father went to prison for refusal of military service, but on February 5, 1992, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad was invited to the Pentagon to address the elite of the American military. The very next day on the floor of the United States Senate, Imam Muhammad invoked Allah, ‘the merciful Benefactor, the Merciful Redeemer’ on behalf of ‘the President of the United States. . .every member of the Senate. . .every member of the House of Representative,’ The wheel had turned. Nation of Islam had almost come full circle.” (Reference: C. Eric Lincoln: “The Black Muslims in America” pg. 265).”

Perhaps one of the greatest ideological contributions that Imam Mohammed made was that he worked tirelessly to create dialog with the religious inter-faith community, in particular after September 11, 2001, and dialogued with Jews and Christians of different races and ethnic group trying to bring better understanding between the various faith communities. He presented himself as a voice of reason and was deeply concern about humanity and the need for moral excellence. Imam Mohammed was a true ambassador for Islam and 9/11 he had an even bigger job of ridding the false image that Islam was a radical and terrorist inspired religion that was bent on destroying the West. He worked to promote better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. He led a movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s called Committee to Remove All Images of Divine (C.R.A.I.D); Mohammed felt that by man giving the Divine human characteristics that all religions were sought of guilty of feeding into racial superiority and racial inferiority complexes; thus, it was essential to remove these images of the Divine in order that humanity could truly come to know one another as equal human beings.

Imam Muhammad was the glue that has held this vulnerable Muslim American Movement(today known as American Society of Muslims) together for over thirty-three (33) years and his leadership was respected for the most part within his organization and outside his organization. No, one likes to talk about a successor but this is an aging organization and the mistake of not grooming a successor always lead to infighting and eventually sectarian division. Minister Farrakhan, Minister Silis Muhammad, Jesse Jackson, etc., our so-called black leaders are aging, but are still holding on to power, as opposed to appointing their successor while they are alive to minimized organizational confusion at their death. There was a young Imam out of Newark, New Jersey named Imam Mustafa El-Amin (authored two well respected works titled, "Al-Islam, Christianity and Freemasonry" and second book titled, "Freemasonry: Ancient Egypt and the Islamic Destiny") who sought to replace Imam Mohammed as the national leader of the Muslim American Movement (today known as American Society of Muslims) due his untimely resignation from his organization a few years ago, but opposition arose from the old guard and this writer is quite sure there are those jockeying for leadership over the organization at the death of Imam Mohammed.

One must understand that not all Black American Muslims were on the same page with Imam Mohammed. Some Muslims disagreed with Wallace Muhammad's organizational transition and viewed them as an act of betrayal against his Father Elijah Muhammad and his teachings and classified him as a traitor and hypocrite. Imam Mohammed’s succession and transition into mainstream Islam eventually led to Elijah Muhammad’s House being divided into perhaps over twenty independent and sovereign groups called the Nation of Islam. The first group who broke rank was headed by Minister Silis Muhammad in 1977 called the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in the West and he heads the next to the largest group, which is led by Minster Farrakhan. Minister Louis Farrakhan who would initially become one of the most vocal and visible leaders that dissented in 1978 and abandoned W.D. Muhammad's organization and re-established the Nation of Islam's teachings as they were taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan began to attract a lot of those dissatisfied followers of Muhammad who felt betrayed by W.D. Muhammad's teachings. (Reference: Adib Rashad; (Islam, Black Nationalism and Slavery: A Detailed”).

At Saviour’s Day 2000 Imam Mohammed and Minister Louis Farrakhan publicly embraced each other as Muslim brothers and at least in a public way, had eased and resolved a twenty-five (25) year rift between the two Muslim leaders. This writer believes that the “cease fire” came about because the Nation of Islam since 1986 had began making baby steps toward what is deemed mainstream Islam. This writer can recall that Minister Farrakhan telephoning back to the Final Call Administration Building from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and requested that the Nation of Islam observe the month of Ramadan with the Islamic world; this was the first step the Nation of Islam made toward mainstream Islam. This writer is more partial toward the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and think it is a mistake for the Nation of Islam to embrace Orthodox Sunni Islam and not to continue to take in account the geo-political and social dynamics of a society that has refused to even having an honest conversation relative to race that is one hundred fifty (150) years overdue. (Reference: Louis Farrakhan audio tape 1986; United Arab Emirates).

Minister Farrakhan stated at Savior's Day 1982 in speech titled, "God's Judgment on America" stated, "I didn't consult you when I stood-up. I didn't ask you for your favor. I didn't ask one of you to come, and stand with me. And if you stand with me, I will standup. No. I didn't ask none; of you nothing! I asked myself, can you continue to live and be untrue to the man (The Honorable Elijah Muhammad) who taught you and made you what you are. Can you continue to live, knowing that your brothers and sisters are going deeper into the darkness of the abyss of a decadent world; and you have the knowledge to bring them out and you refuse to stand-up. I questioned myself, and when I satisfied myself, I stood whether you were with me or not; because a man of God doesn't look for where the people are going. I know where you are headed. You are headed into hell. And I be damn, if I am going with you; I will spend my life leading you out of it." (Reference: Louis Farrakhan: Savior's Day 1982 in speech titled, "God's Judgment on America").

Many of these dissenting Nation of Islam leaders and groups had been shaped by Jim Crowism and were not ready to overlook the racial dynamic in America. Yet, our nation had definitely evolved in certain social, political and economic areas, but racism and institutionalize racism appear almost be a permanent fixture in American life. This writer did not agree with a lot of Imam Mohammed’s religious philosophy and/or his political outlook because in one way he was this great idealist and had rejected the notion that human beings could not live in peace and harmony with one another regardless of nationality, race, color, ethnicity, etc., and had a deep seated conviction for humanity that forced even me, a critic to admire and respect his level of humanity. He in many ways had freed himself from the cancerous behavior of hate and was a perfect human example of love, these qualities were admirable and worthy of emulation; his work and Islamic contribution was worthy of him being a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, but since we do live a racist, intolerable and bias society against Muslims this accolade perhaps was never a consideration.

Fahim A. Knight Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight can be reached at

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