Nation of Islam
Background and Summary
The Nation of Islam is a religious, social and political organization founded in Detroit by Wallace Fard Muhammad in July of 1930. The self-proclaimed goal of resurrecting the spiritual, mental, social and economic conditions of the Black men and women in America became the mantra of the NOI. NOI identifies itself as Islamic in religion, though parts of Christianity are also preached, and the organization promotes the belief that God will bring about a universal government of peace.
Since1978, a man named Louis Farrakhan has been the leader of a reconstituted NOI, the original organization having been renamed and dissolved by Warith Deen Muhammad. The NOI’s National Center and headquarters is located in Chicago, and is also home to its flagship mosque No. 2 known as “Mosque Maryam,” in dedication to the Virgin Mary.
The original NOI was founded by the aforementioned Master W. D. Fard Muhammad, whom the organization believes to be both the long-awaited "Messiah" of Christianity, and the Mahdi of some sections of Islam. One of Wallace Fard's first disciples was Elijah Muhammad who was born in 1897. Elijah began preaching that Wallace Fard was literally God in person, as was emphasized in his book, Message to the Blackman in America: "Allah [God] came to us from the Holy City Mecca, Arabia, in 1930. He used the name Wallace D. Fard, often signing it W.D. Fard. In the third year, He signed His name W.F. Muhammad, which stands for Wallace Fard Muhammad. He came alone. He began teaching us the knowledge of ourselves, of God and the devil, of the measurement of the earth, of other planets, and of the civilizations of some of the planets other than earth."
The organization came to national prominence in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. Nationally televised reports, such as The Hate That Hate Produced by CBS brought the group publicity. Grassroots efforts were organized by dozens of NOI Ministers throughout the country thereby increasing membership. The notoriety of speeches given by Elijah’s national spokesman of the time, Malcolm X, were piquing interest. And then there was the controversy surrounding its most famous member at the time, Muhammad Ali, and that also shifted eyes to the NOI.
Following Elijah’s death in February of 1975, the succession of his son, Wallace Muhammad, was unanimously approved during their annual Saviors' Day celebrations on February 26 of that year. But Wallace was later suspended from the NOI for "dissident views" and ideological rifts with his father. He was restored to the organization by 1974. When Wallace was installed as supreme minister of the Nation of Islam in 1975, he immediately began to reformulate his father's doctrines and practices to bring the NOI closer to mainstream, Sunni Islam.
In 1978, after wrestling with the changes and consequent dismantling of the NOI, Farrakhan and his supporters decided to rebuild the original NOI upon the foundation established by Wallace Fard and Elijah. In 1981, Farrakhan publicly announced the restoration of the Nation of Islam, and he went forward with Elijah’s teachings. In 1995, Farrakhan convened, what his followers say, was the largest march in U.S. history: the Million Man March. In 2000, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad (formerly Wallace) and Minister Farrakhan publicly embraced and declared unity and reconciliation at their annual Saviors' Day convention. This marked 70 years since the NOI was founded in America.
The fundamental principle of the Nation of Islam and its followers is that there is no God but Allah. However, they redefine "Allah" by saying, "who came in the person of W. D. Fard." The teachings of Wallace Fard and Elijah are seen as heretical by traditional Islamic standards, which abhor the deification of any person, or the anthropomorphization of God.
The official tenets of the NOI are outlined in books, documents and articles published by the organization, as well as speeches by Elijah, Malcolm X, Farrakhan and other ministers. Many of Elijah's teachings may be found in Message to the Blackman in America and The True History of Jesus as Taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X's teachings of NOI theology are in his book, The End of White World Supremacy, while a later more critical discussion of those beliefs can be found in The Autobiography of Malcolm X that was co-written with Alex Haley.
A collection of written lessons produced from 1930-1934 by Wallace Fard to his student and passed on to Elijah, have been titled, The Supreme Wisdom. In this text, the Nation of Islam continues to teach its followers that the present world society is segmented into three distinct categories. They teach that from a general perspective, 85 percent of the world's people of all races and faiths are the “deaf, dumb and blind” masses of the people who “are easily led in the wrong direction and hard to lead in the right direction.” These 85 percent of the masses are said to be manipulated by 10 percent of the people who are referred to as “the rich slave-makers” of the masses of the people. Those 10 percent rich citizens are said to manipulate the 85 percent masses of the people through ignorance, the skillful use of certain religious doctrine different from Islam and through the mass media. The third group, referred to as the 5 percent “poor righteous teachers of the people of the world,” know the truth of the manipulation happening the 85 percent masses by the elite 10 percent. The 5 percent “righteous teachers” are at constant struggle and war with the elite 10 percent to reach and “free the minds” of the masses.
The NOI teaches that the earth and moon were once the same, and that the earth is at least 66 trillion years old. Therefore, this planet was called "moon." This was, Elijah claims, long before Adam of the Bible. They believe, in their origin story, that a Black scientist wished to enforce his linguistic preferences over the existing population, as well as homogenize human languages, but this proved to be harder than he expected and grew frustrated in his efforts. In anger, he drilled a mine shaft into the earth about 5,000 miles deep, and then detonated explosives in it. His intention was to end humankind.
Further, it is claimed that: “Part of the planet which we call ‘moon’ today was blasted 12,000 miles from its original pocket that it had been rotating in at the time of the explosion, and this part that we call ‘earth’ today dropped 36,000 miles from that pocket and found another pocket and started rotating again. … and the part that was the moon that was blasted away dropped all of its water upon this part (the earth), and this is why three-fourths of the earth's surface today is covered by water, and also why there is no life on the moon.”
Prophesies from Slavery
The NOI teaches that Black people constitute a nation, and that through the institution of the Atlantic Slave Trade, they were systematically denied knowledge of their history, language, culture and religion, and, in effect, had no more control over their lives in total. Central to this doctrine, NOI theology asserts that Black people’s experience of slavery was the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and therefore, Black people are the seed of Abraham, as referred to in the
In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Louis Farrakhan was asked by Tim Russert to explain the Nation of Islam's view on separation. Russert asks about the NOI’s mention of a separate state for Black Americans. Farrakhan answers, "First, the program starts with number one. That is number four. The first part of that program is that we want freedom, a full and complete freedom. The second is, we want justice. We want equal justice under the law, and we want justice applied equally to all, regardless of race or class or color. And the third is that we want equality. We want equal membership in society with the best in civilized society. If we can get that within the political, economic, social system of America, there's no need for point number four. But if we cannot get along in peace, after giving America 400 years of our service and sweat and labor, then of course separation would be the solution to our race problem."
The Nation of Islam teaches that people of African descent were the original humans. Farrakhan has stated that "White people are potential humans…they haven’t evolved yet."
Farrakhan further expounded by saying, "the Black man is the original man. From him came all brown, yellow, red and white people. By using a special method of birth control law, the Black man was able to produce the White race. This method of birth control was developed by a Black scientist known as Yakub, who envisioned making and teaching a nation of people who would be diametrically opposed to the original people. A race of people who would one day rule the original people and the earth for a period of 6,000 years…”
In the same interview with Russert for NBC, Farrakhan said the following in response to the host’s question on the NOI’s teachings on race: "The Qur'an says that God created Adam out of black mud and fashioned him into shape. So if White people came from the original people, the Black people, what is the process by which you came to life? That is not a silly question. That is a scientific question with a scientific answer. It doesn't suggest that we are superior or that you are inferior. It suggests, however, that your birth, or your origin, is from the Black people of this earth: superiority and inferiority is determined by our righteousness and not by our color."
Pressed by Russert on whether he agreed with Elijah's preaching that Whites are “blue-eyed devils,” as he was infamously quoted as saying, Farrakhan responded: "Well, you have not been saints in the way you have acted toward the darker peoples of the world and toward even your own people. But, in truth, Mr. Russert, any human being who gives themself over to the doing of evil could be considered a devil. In the Bible, in the Book of Revelations, it talks about the fall of Babylon. It says Babylon is fallen because she has become the habitation of devils. We believe that ancient Babylon is a symbol of a modern Babylon, which is America."
Malcolm X was a member of the NOI, and he also preached that Black people were genetically superior to White people. "Thoughtful white people know they are inferior to Black people,” Malcom has said. “Even [Senator James] Eastland knows it. Anyone who has studied the genetic phase of biology knows that White is considered recessive and Black is considered dominant." Conversely, there have been a number of public figures and scientists in the history of America who believed or still believe that White people are the genetically superior ones. Malcom later repudiated this statement, as a result of embracing orthodox Islam.
The Mother Ship Will Come
Elijah taught his followers about a “mother plane” or “wheel,” a UFO that was seen and described in the visions of the prophet Ezekiel in the Book of Ezekiel, in the Hebrew Bible. He believed it would come to collect the NOI members in the future and take them to their sacred place.
Farrakhan, backing-up his teacher's description, said the following: “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad told us of a giant Mother Plane that is made like the universe, spheres within spheres. White people call them unidentified flying objects…The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said these planes were used to set up mountains on the earth…The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that we have a type of bomb that, when it strikes the earth a drill on it is timed to go into the earth and explode at the height that you wish the mountain to be…White folks are making movies now to make these planes look like fiction, but it is based on something real.”
Confrontation and Controversy
The NOI has been seen by some as attempting to be its own religion, separate from Islam. The first book analyzing the Nation of Islam was The Black Muslims in America published in 1961 by C. Eric Lincoln. In it, Lincoln describes how their religious services use fictions and over-generalizations to indoctrinate NOI adherents. “Often the minister reads passages from well-known historical, sociological, or anthropological works, and finds in them inconspicuous references to the Blackman’s true history in the world.... Occasionally the minister chides the audience for its skepticism: “I know you don't believe me because I happen to be a Black man. Well, you can look it up in a book I’m going to tell you about that was written by a white man.” He then reads off references that his hearers are challenged to check,” it says in the book.
As of 2005, the NOI was included in the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of active hate groups in the United States. Members of the NOI have long held that Elijah did not die, but instead escaped a death plot, was restored to health, and is aboard “that huge wheel-like plane that is even now flying over our heads.” Among Elijah's passengers on the Mother Wheel is the mysterious Wallace Fard.
The NOI preaches adherence to the Five Pillars of the Islamic Faith: shahada, or Profession of Faith; salat, or prayer, five times daily facing toward Mecca, zakat, which is charity to the poor, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and that every Muslim who is physically and financially able must make Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in his or her lifetime. The NOI also teaches morality and personal decorum, emphasizing modesty, mutual respect, and discipline in dress and comportment. NOI adherents do not consume pork, emphasize a healthy diet and physical fitness instead of the consumption of alcohol, drugs and tobacco. In these respects, the NOI is in general agreement with traditional Islamic practices. However, the Nation of Islam argues that because of the unique experience of the oppression and degradation of slavery, Elijah used unique methods for introducing Islam to his people.
A number of Jewish and Christian organizations and academia consider the NOI to be anti-Semitic. Specifically, they claim that the NOI has engaged in revisionist and anti-Semitic interpretations of the Holocaust and exaggerates the role of Jews in the African Slave Trade. The Anti-Defamation League alleges that NOI Health Minister, Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, has accused Jewish doctors of injecting Blacks with the AIDS virus, an allegation that Abdul Alim has since denied saying. The NOI has repeatedly denied charges of anti-Semitism, and Farrakhan stated, "The ADL .. uses the term 'anti-Semitism' to stifle all criticism of Zionism and the Zionist policies of the State of Israel and also to stifle all legitimate criticism of the errant behavior of some Jewish people toward the non-Jewish population of the earth."
Jude Wanniski, a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, has defended the NOI, writing, "I've met dozens of men and women who belong to the Nation of Islam, attended many of their conferences, and prayed with them in their Chicago mosque to the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. I've concluded beyond any reasonable doubt that there is not an ounce of anti-Semitism or bigotry in Farrakhan." And, the NOI has had friendly relations with the Neturei Karta, a small, controversial Jewish group that is well-known for its association with and support for anti-Zionists. Neturei Karta stressed that Farrakhan "is an extraordinary force for good in the Black community. His followers are responsible, industrious, modest and moral. And for this he and they have our respect."
In a letter responding to ADL Director Abraham Foxman's insistence that Black leaders distance themselves from the NOI, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons disdained, "Simply put, you are misguided, arrogant, and very disrespectful of African Americans and most importantly your statements will unintentionally or intentionally lead to a negative impression of Jews in the minds of millions of African Americans", he continued, "For over 50 years, Minister Farrakhan has labored to resurrect the downtrodden masses of African Americans up out of poverty and self-destruction" and indicated that he had personally witnessed Farrakhan affirm, 'A Muslim can not [sic] hate a Jew. We are all members of the family of Abraham and all of us should maintain dialogue and mutual respect.'"
The NOI has a do-for-self philosophy that resulted in the NOI owning and operating hundreds of businesses nationwide, employing thousands of people. The NOI has purchased and now operates food-industry services, bakeries and restaurants. It owns a large amount of farmland in Georgia. Additionally, it owns and operates hair-care shops. Some of these business ventures have been success stories, while others have been criticized as Amway-style marketing schemes that have not benefited most of their employees.
The NOI has worked to rehabilitate drug addicts, reform prostitutes, and keep Black youth out of gangs. It has helped some newly released ex-convicts make a new start and stay out of jail. During the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development employed several private firms run by members of the Nation of Islam to provide security in housing projects in predominantly Black neighborhoods. The ADLwas successful in lobbying congress to sever the HUD contracts.
The official doctrines, as stated by Elijah in Message to the Blackman in America published in 1965, are as follows:
- Full and complete freedom.
- Equal justice under the law.
- Equality of opportunity.
- The right for people in America whose parents or grandparents were descendants from slaves to be allowed, to establish separate state or territory of their own -- "either on this continent or elsewhere."
- Freedom for all believers of Islam now held in federal prisons, as well as freedom for all Black men and women now under death sentence in innumerable prisons in the North as well as the South.
- Freedom to accept or reject the establishment of a land of their own.
- An immediate end to the police brutality and mob attacks against Blacks throughout the United States.
- Equal employment opportunities, if a separate territory cannot be established.
- For the government of the United States to exempt our people from all taxation as long as long as Blacks are deprived of equal justice under the laws of the land.
- Equal education, but separate schools up to 16 for boys and 18 for girls on the conditions that the girls be sent to women's colleges and universities. The platform also stated that the teachers for these schools would be Black as well.
- A prohibition on interracial mixing and intermarriage. (The intention was to maintain the purity of Islam.)
The official credo as published by the NOI states:
- Belief in the one God, Whose proper name is Allah.
- Belief in the Holy Qur-an and the scriptures of all the prophets of God.
- Belief in the truth of the Bible, though tampered by human history.
- Belief in Allah's prophets and the scriptures they brought to the people.
- Belief in the "mental" resurrection of the dead -- not in physical resurrection but mental resurrection.
- Belief in the Judgement Day. The first such judgment would take place, as God revealed, in America.
- Belief in the need to separate White and Black people into separate territories.
- Belief in justice and equality for all peoples.
- Respect for American laws and citizenry.
- Belief in the hypocrisy of racial integration.
- Belief that the American economy would not be able to furnish enough jobs for unemployed Black-Americans.
- Belief that Black-Americans should not be forced to fight in wars "which take the lives of humans".
- Belief in the respect of Black women.
- Belief that Allah appeared in the Person of Master Wallace Fard Muhammad, July, 1930 -- the long awaited messiah of the Christians and the Mahdi of the Muslims. Further, that God would bring about a universal government of peace.
Sources: Wikipedia.org; http://www.noi.org/muslim_program.htm; Assignment of Mr. Elijah Muhammad, The Supreme Wisdom, February 20, 1934; Power at Last Forever, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Madison Square Garden, New York, October, 1985; Elijah Muhammad's 1961 "Atlanta Speech;" Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America, Muhammad's Temple No. 2, 1965; Dorothy Blake and Fardan, Yakub and the Origins of White Supremacy, Lushena Books, 2001; Malcolm X and Alex Haley, The Playboy Interview: Malcolm X, Playboy Magazine, May 1963; http://www.finalcall.com/; http://www.adl.org/focus_sheets/focus_islam.asp;
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