Basic Knowledge of the Nation of Islam

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Nation of Islam


A religious and cultural organization founded in 1931 in the United States, espousing Islamic principles and favoring political, social, and economic independence for African Americans.

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Nation of Islam
African American religious movement that mingles elements of Islam and black nationalism. It was founded in 1931 by Wallace D. Fard, who established its first mosque in Detroit, Mich. Fard retired into obscurity and his assistant Elijah Muhammad, who founded a second temple in Chicago, took over in 1934. He asserted the moral and cultural superiority of Africans over whites and urged African Americans to renounce Christianity as a tool of the oppressors. His teachings also included the traditional Islamic tenets of monotheism, submission to God, and strong family life. The Nation of Islam grew quickly after World War II, and in the early 1960s it achieved national prominence through the work of Malcolm X. Leadership disputes led Malcolm to form a separate organization and finally to his assassination in 1965. In the 1970s Elijah Muhammad was succeeded by his son, Wallace D. Muhammad (b. 1933), who renamed the organization the American Muslim Mission. In 1985 he dissolved the Mission, urging its members to become orthodox Muslims. A splinter group headed by Louis Farrakhan retains the movement's original name and principles. In the early 21st century there were approximately 10,000 members of the Nation of Islam.

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Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam (NOI), whose members are widely referred to as Black Muslims, was founded in Detroit in 1930 by Wallace D. Fard. An enigmatic figure with mysterious origins, Fard surfaced in the city in 1929 and attracted the attention of poor blacks as he walked the streets selling fabrics and expounding novel religious and political messages. Fard skillfully blended tenets of traditional Islam with anti-white preachments that resonated with the psychological and social needs of economically strapped blacks. This group, frustrated by the inability of traditional religions to generate change in their lives and keenly aware of the impact of racism on their opportunities, was drawn to Fard's message.

The cosmology of the NOI was exotic but carefully crafted to offer a millenarian vision to African Americans, promising a future apocalypse for the evil (whites) and salvation to the true believers (blacks or "Original People"). According to Fard's theology, an insane scientist, Yakub, who lived 6,000 years ago, grafted a new human species from the Original People. Over time, the grafted species mutated and became white. An angry God looked with disfavor on the manipulations of Yakub and decreed that the white race of people he created would rule for 6,000 years and then be vanquished. At that point, the Original People would inherit a world where true nirvana would reign.

Early Leadership

Researchers in the 1990s who examined state and federal records concluded that Fard was born Wallace Dodd Ford on 25 February 1891. Despite the uneven quality of record keeping in the period, most researchers conclude that he was white. Public records reveal that he grew up in southern California and became involved in petty crime at an early age. In 1926 he was sentenced to serve time in San Quentin prison for selling narcotics to an undercover policeman. FBI records show that after his release from San Quentin in 1929 he headed east, spent a brief period in Chicago, then settled in Detroit.

As Fard began constructing his religious and political message, one of his most ardent followers was Elijah Poole. After repeated clashes with white officials in his hometown of Sandersville, Georgia, Poole joined the thousands of blacks who fled the South to search for greater freedom and economic opportunity. Elijah was a tireless and loyal lieutenant to Fard and slowly gained authority within the mosque. He established the South-side Mosque in Chicago in 1932, and in 1933, Fard granted Elijah the surname "Muhammad."

The Muslims, with their antiwhite rhetoric, soon became prime targets for law enforcement. In 1933, Fard abruptly told his followers that God had preordained that he leave Detroit, and that he was passing on the mantle of leadership to his faithful student, Elijah. Despite Fard's claim of divine direction, evidence since disclosed suggests that the worsening relationship with Detroit police officers was the primary impetus for Fard's departure. Under Elijah Muhammad's direction, the NOI survived, but grew slowly in northern cities. Bitter contests over leadership and finances plagued the NOI's viability through the depression years.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Muhammad was drafted into the army but refused to serve, citing his Islamic religious beliefs and expressing sympathy for the nonwhite Japanese. He was convicted of draft evasion and served three years in the federal prison at Milan, Michigan. His bold antigovernment stand earned him martyr status among the faithful and helped solidify his position in the Muslim community, where competition for standing was constant. While in prison, Muhammad noted that through inmate labor and cooperation, the facility was able to produce food to meet the needs of the prison population. Elijah expanded this insight into an economic strategy for the Nation of Islam. When released in 1946, Elijah returned to Chicago, and with enhanced personal authority he began rebuilding the NOI, which had languished during his detention. Consistent with the goal of racial self-reliance, Elijah established farms, dairies, retail food outlets, and a number of small Muslim-owned businesses.


In 1948, Malcolm Little, serving time in a Michigan prison for petty larceny, became attracted to the Muslim ideology and from prison began a correspondence with Muhammad. Shortly after his release in 1952, he visited the leader in Chicago; soon afterward he converted and was designated "Malcolm X." The frail and diminutive Muhammad was not a formidable presence on public podiums; however, he recognized Malcolm's talent as a spokesperson and organizer. Malcolm X's skill and unwavering dedication to Muhammad led to a swift ascent within the Muslim organization. In succession, he revitalized and headed mosques in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Malcolm was responsible for a slow but steady upsurge in membership. However, in July 1959, the television documentary The Hate that Hate Produced propelled the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X into America's consciousness.

The CBS network and the show's producers, Mike Wallace and Louis Lomax, calculated that sensational publicity about the antiwhite ideology of the Black Muslims would prompt hostile reactions in the black communities and arrest the development of the NOI. Instead, the show sparked a sharp upsurge of black interest in the Muslims and their eloquent spokesman, Malcolm X. Soon, Malcolm was a sought-after commentator on America's racial morass. The media cast him as counterpoint to the moderation of civil rights leaders. Essentially self-taught, Malcolm became skilled in public debate and held his own against political and intellectual adversaries on campuses and in broadcast studios. He consistently expressed views ridiculing civil rights leaders and their integrationist assumptions. Malcolm was contemptuous of nonviolence and distrustful of a constitutional system that had coexisted for centuries with bigotry and black oppression.

Malcolm X's effectiveness as a national spokesperson was key in the growth of the NOI to approximately 20,000 members by the early 1960s, though estimates vary. Importantly, the NOI founded a nationally distributed newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, that offered news and opinion consistent with the Muslim program. With a circulation of 600,000 (largely through street corner sales by members) by 1966, it was the most widely read black newspaper in the United States.

The most notable Muslim convert was the heavyweight boxing champion (1964–1967) Cassius Clay. Recruited by Malcolm X, Clay converted to the NOI in 1964, and Elijah gave him the name Muhammad Ali. The charismatic and loquacious celebrity gained fame internationally when, in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War, he refused to be inducted into the army, claiming conscientious objector status. His lawyers argued unsuccessfully that as a Muslim minister he had the same rights as other religious leaders. In explaining his decision, Ali further politicized the dispute by remarking, "no Vietcong ever called me Nigger." Under pressure from congressional powers, U.S. boxing officials stripped Ali of his championship title. Thus, at the height of his pugilistic prowess he was effectively banned from the sport. The actions of officials generated broad sympathy for Ali among African Americans as well as among critics of the war. Ali's position was vindicated when in 1971 the Supreme Court overturned his 1967 conviction for draft evasion.

Tensions grew within the NOI between Malcolm X and the venerable Elijah Muhammad. In 1963, Muhammad disciplined Malcolm when he characterized the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as a case of "chickens coming home to roost." Malcolm accepted Muhammad's sanctions but bridled under what he thought were unnecessary niceties in the face of federal government inaction in the civil rights arena.

The conflicts exploded into violence when Malcolm X was assassinated in Harlem's Audubon Ballroom on 21 February 1965. Three men with ties to Elijah Muhammad's faction were arrested, tried, and sentenced to long prison terms. Speculations about the motives behind Malcolm X's murder centered on his increasingly public statements about his longtime mentor's morality. Elijah had fathered at least ten out-of-wedlock children with Muslim women.

The public perception of the NOI as a radical and aggressive group finds little support in its social and cultural practices. The group was fundamentally conservative in organizational structure, economic outlook, and political matters. Muhammad functioned as an autocratic leader, issuing direction from the top of a rigid hierarchy. Women's roles in the NOI were restricted and subordinated to those of men. The NOI was thoroughly capitalistic in economic matters, holding out hope that its small business initiatives could provide jobs and subsistence needed by poor African Americans. The failure of an all-black group to actively participate in the black liberation struggles that were taking place in the United States helped reinforce the suspicions of many that the Muslims' antiwhite rhetoric was never coupled with action. Muhammad deferred to what he believed to be God's divine scheme and discouraged his followers from voting and taking any direct action on behalf of other blacks. Malcolm X cited the NOI's political passivity as a factor in his separation from the organization.

More Transformations

When Elijah died of heart failure on 25 February 1975, the group did not undergo the disruptive factionalism that NOI had experienced in the 1930s and 1960s. Muhammad had named his son Wallace Muhammad as his successor, and the Muslim faithful coalesced around his leadership. Wallace soon announced a new direction for the Nation of Islam, one more closely aligned with orthodox Islam. The organization downplayed the antiwhite theme that for years had been an important drawing card for NOI recruiters. Voting and political participation was endorsed. In 1976, Wallace changed the name of the group to the World Community of Islam in the West (WCIW).

In 1979, the minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the New York Mosque, announced his departure from Wallace's WCIW and his plans to establish a group under his leadership, reclaiming the name "Nation of Islam." Farrakhan had become skeptical about the reforms instituted by Wallace and vowed that the new NOI would resuscitate the ideology of Wallace's father. Farrakhan's fiery public preachments reflected the style of Malcolm X and attracted the attention of many non-Muslims (especially young people) who admired his bold critiques. During the 1980s and 1990s, few African American leaders stepped forward to express the anger shared by millions of blacks suffering from racial oppression.

Farrakhan's comments about Jews led some critics to accuse him of anti-Semitism, but the charges had little impact on his core constituency. In 1995, Farrakhan spearheaded the drive for a "Million Man March" in Washington, D.C., to encourage black males to acknowledge and atone for past failings and rededicate themselves to social and family responsibilities. Contrary to the predictions of black and white officials, approximately one million black men participated in the demonstration and heard Farrakhan deliver the keynote address.

From the brief tenure of W. D. Fard though the Farrakhan period, the Nation of Islam rhetorically highlighted the drama of black racial identity in the United States. However, Black Muslims held that the tension could only be resolved by racial separatism and group self help—not civil rights and integration. Although the encompassing demands of formal membership in the NOI assured that the organization would remain small, the fusillades against white supremacy launched by figures like Malcolm X and the philosophy of group self-help earned Black Muslims the respect, if not allegiance, of millions of black Americans.


Clegg, Claude Andrew. An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

Evanzz, Karl. The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad. New York: Pantheon, 1999.

Gardell, Mattias. In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996.

Lee, Martha F. The Nation of Islam: An American Millenarian Movement. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1996.

This entry contains information applicable to United States law only.
Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam (NOI) is a religious and political organization whose origins are somewhat mysterious. Wallace D. Fard, later known as Master Wallace Fard Muhammad, established the NOI in Detroit during the 1930s. Fard Muhammad, a traveling salesman who sold African silks and advocated self-sufficiency and independence for African Americans, taught Elijah Poole the history of what Fard Muhammad called the Lost-Found Nation of Islam — descendants of the tribe of Shabazz from the Lost Nation in Asia. Fard Muhammad taught Poole in part that Mr. Yacub, a black mad scientist, created what was called the devil race — the white race — approximately six thousand years ago, and that the devil race would rule the world for the next six thousand years.

Elijah Poole was born in Sandersville, Georgia in 1897. His father, who was a Baptist preacher, had been a slave. At the age of twenty-six, Poole moved to Detroit with his family. In 1930 in Detroit, he met W. D. Fard, the founder of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam. When Fard disappeared in 1934, Poole — then known as Elijah Muhammad — moved to Chicago, where he organized his own following and established the headquarters of the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad remained the spiritual and organizational leader of the NOI from 1934 until his death in 1975. During that time, the NOI became recognized as a black nationalist religious organization that advocated racial separatism and self-sufficiency for African Americans. Often called Black Muslims, the NOI's members are required to adhere to a strict moral and disciplinary code. Men members typically wear suits and ties, and women members are required to wear modest clothing, typically white gowns or saris. The NOI's teachings forbid the eating of pork and the consumption of alcohol or tobacco.

In the early 1950s and 1960s, the NOI called for racial separatism in the United States, and at times protested against police brutality and filed suit against various police departments in response to alleged police brutality. It also frequently recruited members in large cities and prisons. In 1947, Malcolm Little — who later became Malcolm X — converted to Islam and joined the NOI while incarcerated in a Massachusetts prison. As a national minister and spokesman for the NOI, Malcolm X was a fiery speaker and proponent of the organization's concerns. However, during the early 1960s, ideological differences developed between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, and in 1964, Malcolm X formally left the NOI.

Shortly after Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975, his son Warith Deen Muhammad renounced black separatism and the origins of Black Muslims and established the World Community of Al-Islam in the West, later called the American Muslim Mission. NOI minister Louis X, who later became Louis Farrakhan, initially supported Warith Muhammad but soon reestablished the NOI. Other organizations and factions also split off from the original NOI, including the more militant Lost-Found Nation of Islam, which publishes the weekly newspaper Muhammad Speaks. In the mid-1990s, Farrakhan's organization was generally known as the NOI.

Like Malcolm X, Farrakhan is a fiery orator and skilled leader. Yet, he and the NOI have been criticized for anti-Semitic and antiwhite statements as well as conspiracy theories concerning Jewish American business leaders. Khalid Muhammad, a former NOI spokesman, was especially known for the excoriating statements and speeches he gave at many U.S. colleges in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although the NOI later expelled Khalid Muhammad, his speeches contributed to a continuing debate as to whether so-called hate speech should be punished or regulated by U.S. universities.

During the early and mid-1990s, Farrakhan and the NOI appeared to be shifting their political focus away from black separatism and toward a more universalist or mainstream approach. The NOI also has begun to develop various major business ventures, including the operation of a restaurant in a poor neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Its security arm — the Fruit of Islam — has been involved in providing security for housing projects in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., under contracts with public agencies such as the Chicago Housing Authority. In October 1995, the NOI and Farrakhan were instrumental in organizing the Million Man March, bringing together hundreds of thousands of African American men in Washington, D.C.

See: hate crime; civil rights movement.

Nation of Islam


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The Nation of Islam (NOI) is a religious and social/political organization founded in the United States by Wallace Fard Muhammad in 1930 with the self-proclaimed goal of resurrecting the spiritual, mental, social, economic condition of the black man and woman of America and belief that God will bring about a universal government of peace.[1]

Louis Farrakhan is currently the leader of a reconstituted Nation of Islam, the original organization having been renamed and eventually dissolved by Warith Deen Muhammad. The Nation of Islam's National Center and headquarters is located in Chicago, Illinois and houses its flagship Mosque No. 2, Mosque Maryam in dedication to Mary, mother of Jesus.


The original Nation of Islam was founded in the U.S. in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad also known as Master W. D. Fard Muhammad (1877, 1891 or 1893–1934 or later), whom the Nation of Islam believes to be the long-awaited "Messiah" of both the Christians and Sunni Muslims and the Mahdi of the Shia Muslims. One of Fard's first disciples was Elijah Poole, whose name Fard later changed to Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975). Elijah Muhammad began preaching that W.F. Muhammad was literally God in person. This was emphasied 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 (1933), 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 America in the late 1950s and early 1960s, due to many factors, including nationally televised reports such as The Hate That Hate Produced by then-CBS reporter Mike Wallace; grassroots organizing efforts by dozens of NOI Ministers throughout the country; the notoriety of speeches by Elijah Muhammad's then-national spokesman, Malcolm X; and the controversy around its most famous member at the time, Muhammad Ali. One day after Elijah Muhammad's death in February 1975, the succession of his son Wallace was approved unanimously during the annual Saviors' Day celebrations on February 26. Wallace Muhammad had been suspended from the Nation of Islam for "dissident views" and ideological rifts with his father over religious doctrine, but had been restored to the organization by 1974. When W.D. (Wallace) Muhammad was installed as Supreme Minister of the Nation of Islam in 1975, he immediately began to reformulate his father's beliefs and practices to bring the Nation of Islam closer to mainstream Sunni Islam.

In 1978, after wrestling with the changes and consequent dismantling of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan and his supporters decided to rebuild the original Nation of Islam upon the foundation established by W. Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad. In 1981, Farrakhan publicly announced the restoration of the Nation of Islam and went forward with Elijah Muhammad's teachings. In 1995 Farrakhan convened what his followers say was the largest march in U.S. history, the Million Man March.

Marking 70 years since the Nation of Islam was founded in America, in 2000 Imam Warith Deen Muhammad (formerly Wallace Muhammad) and Minister Louis Farrakhan publicly embraced and declared unity and reconciliation at the annual Saviors' Day convention.

Beliefs and theology

The main belief 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." Fard founded the Nation of Islam that was then adopted by Elijah Muhammad. Their teachings are heretical by traditional Islamic standards which abhor the deification of any person, or the anthropomorphization of God.

The official beliefs of the Nation of Islam have been outlined in books, documents, and articles published by the organization as well as speeches by Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and other ministers. These include inflammatory statements as well as the pejorative use of the term “white devils” to refer to white people. Many of Elijah Muhammad'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 [2]. Many of Malcolm X's teachings of NOI theology are in his The End of White World Supremacy, while a later more critical discussion of those beliefs can be found in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-written with Alex Haley.

Passed down via written lessons from 1930-1934 from W. Fard Muhammad to his student, Elijah Muhammad, referred to and titled, The Supreme Wisdom 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% 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% of the masses are said to be manipulated by 10% of the people who are referred to as the rich slave-makers of the masses of the people. Those 10% rich slave-makers are said to manipulate the 85% masses of the people through ignorance, the skillful use of religious doctrine and the mass media.

The third group referred to as the 5% poor righteous teachers of the people of the world who know the truth of the manipulation of the 85% masses of the people by the 10% and that 5% righteous teachers are at constant struggle and war with 10% to reach and free the minds of the masses of the people. [3]

The official platform of beliefs as stated by Elijah Muhammad in Message to the Blackman in America published in 1965 are as follows verbatim[4]:

1. We want freedom. We want a full and complete freedom.

2. We want justice. Equal justice under the law. We want justice applied equally to all regardless of creed, class or color.

3. We want equality of opportunity. We want equal membership in society with the best in civilized society.

4. We want our 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. We believe that our former slave-masters are obligated to provide such land and that the area must be fertile and minerally rich. We believe that our former slave-masters are obligated to maintain and supply our needs in this separate territory for the next 20 or 25 years until we are able to produce and supply our own needs. Since we cannot get along with them in peace and equality after giving them 400 years of our sweat and blood and receiving in return some of the worst treatment human beings have ever experienced, we believe our contributions to this land and the suffering forced upon us by white America justifies our demand for complete separation in a state or territory of our own.

5. We want freedom for all Believers of Islam now held in federal prisons. We want freedom for all black men and women now under death sentence in innumerable prisons in the North as well as the south.

We want every black man and woman to have the freedom to accept or reject being separated from the slave-masters' children and establish a land of their own.

We know that the above plan for the solution of the black and white conflict is the best and only answer to the problem between two people.

6. We want an immediate end to the police brutality and mob attacks against the so- called Negro throughout the United States.

We believe that the Federal government should intercede to see that black men and women tried in white courts receive justice in accordance with the laws of the land, or allow us to build a new nation for ourselves, dedicated to justice, freedom and liberty.

7. As long as we are not allowed to establish a state or territory of our own, we demand not only equal justice under the laws of the United States but equal employment opportunities -- NOW!

We do not believe that after 400 years of free or nearly free labor, sweat and blood, which has helped America become rich and powerful, so many thousands of black people should have to subsist on relief or charity or live in poor houses.

8. We want the government of the United States to exempt our people from ALL taxation as long as we are deprived of equal justice under the laws of the land.

9. We want equal education -- but separate schools up to 16 for boys and 18 for girls on the conditions that the girls be sent to womens' colleges and universities. We want all black children educated, taught and trained by their own teacher.

Under such school system we believe we will make a better nation of people. The United States government should provide free all necessary text books and equipment, schools and college buildings. The Muslim teachers shall be left free to teach and train their people in the way of righteousness, decency and self respect.

10. We believe that intermarriage or race mixing should be prohibited. We want the religion Islam taught without hindrance or suppression.

These are some of the things that we, the Muslims, want for our people in North America.

1. We believe in the One God Whose proper name is Allah.

2. We believe in the Holy Qur-an and the Scriptures of all the Prophets of God.

3. We believe in the truth of the Bible, but we believe that it has been tampered with and must be reinterpreted so that mankind will not be snared by the falsehoods that have been added to it.

4. We believe in Allah's Prophets and the Scriptures they brought to the people.

5. We believe in the resurrection of the dead -- not in physical resurrection but mental resurrection. We believe that the so-called Negroes are most in need of mental resurrection; therefore, they will be resurrected first.

Furthermore, we believe we are the people of God's choice as it has been written that God would choose the rejected and the despised. We can find no other persons fitting this description in these last days more than the so-called Negroes in America. We believe in the resurrection of the righteous.

6. We further believe in the judgement. We believe this first judgment will take place, as God revealed, in America.

7. We believe this is the time in history for the separation of the so-called Negroes and the so-called white Americans. We believe the black man should be freed in name as well as in fact. By this we mean that he should be freed from names imposed upon him by his former slave-masters. Names which identified him as being the slave of the slave-master. We believe that if we are free indeed, we should go in our own people's names -- the black peoples of the earth.

8. We believe in justice for all whether in God or not. We believe as others that we are due equal justice as human beings. We believe in equality - as a nation -of equals. We do not believe that we are equal with our slave-masters in the status of Freed slaves.

We recognize and respect American citizens as independent peoples, and we respect their laws which govern this nation.

9. We believe that the offer of integration is hypocritical and is made by those who are trying to deceive the black peoples into believing that their 400-year-old open enemies of freedom, justice and equality are, all of a sudden, their friends. Furthermore, we believe that such deception is intended to prevent black people from realizing that the time in history has arrived for the separation from the whites of this nation.

If the white people are truthful about their professed friendship toward the so-called Negro, they can prove it by dividing up America with their slaves.

We do not believe that America will ever be able to furnish enough jobs for her own millions of unemployed in addition to jobs for the 20,000,000 black people.

10. We believe that we who declared ourselves to be righteous Muslims should not participate in wars which take the lives of humans. We do not believe this nation should force us to take part in such wars, for we have nothing to gain from it unless America agrees to give us the necessary territory wherein we may have something to fight for.

11. We believe our women should be respected and protected as the women of other nationalities are respected and protected.

12. We believe that Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July, 1930 -- the long awaited Messiah of the Christians and the Mahdi of the Muslims. We believe further and lastly that Allah is God and besides HIM there is no God and He will bring about a universal government of peace wherein we can live in peace together.

Black experience of slavery was Bible prophecy

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 past history, language, culture, and religion and, in effect, lost control of their lives. Central to this doctrine, NOI theology asserts that Black people’s experience of slavery was the fulfillment of Bible prophecy and therefore, black people are the seed of Abraham referred to in the Bible, in Genesis 15:13–14:

And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

King James Version

And Acts 7:6–7:

And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.

King James Version

Separatism & Segregation

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:

"Tim Russert: Once a week, on the back page [of your newspaper] is The Muslim Program, "What the Muslims Want," [written in 1965]. The first is in terms of territory, "Since we cannot get along with them in peace and equality, we believe our contributions to this land and the suffering forced upon us by white America justifies our demand for complete separation in a state or territory of our own." Is that your view in 1997, a separate state for Black Americans?"

"Minister Louis Farrakhan: 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." [5]

Teachings on race

The Nation of Islam teaches that African (Black) people were the original humans. Louis Farrakhan has stated that "White people are potential humans…they haven’t evolved yet." [6]

Louis Farrakhan further expounded by saying, "If you look at the human family -- now, I'm talking about black, brown, red, yellow and white -- we all seem to be frozen on a subhuman level of existence. In Islam and, I believe, in Christian theology and Jewish theology as well, there are three stages of human development. The first stage is called the animalistic stage of development. But when we submit to animal passions, then we can do evil things to one another in that animalistic stage of development. But when moral consciousness comes and we have a self-accusing spirit, it is then that we become human beings. Right now, we have the potential for humanity, but we have not reached that potential, because we are functioning on the animalistic plane of existence." [7]

"The Blackman is the original man. From him came all brown, yellow, red, and white people. By using a special method of birth control law, the Blackman 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. Yakub promised his followers that he would graft a nation from his own people, and he would teach them how to rule his people, through a system of tricks and lies whereby they use deceit to divide and conquer, and break the unity of the darker people, put one brother against another, and then act as mediators and rule both sides." [8]

In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Louis Farrakhan said the following in response to host Tim Russert's question on the Nation of Islam's teachings on race:

"You know, it’s not unreal to believe that white people—who genetically cannot produce yellow, brown or black—had a Black origin. The scholars and scientists of this world agree that the origin of man and humankind started in Africa and that the first parent of the world was black. 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."[9]

Pressed by Russert on whether he agreed with Elijah Muhammad's preaching that whites are blue-eyed devils, 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 Revelation, it talks about the fall of Babylon. It says Babylon is fallen because she has become the habitation of devils. We believe that that ancient Babylon is a symbol of a modern Babylon, which is America."

While Malcolm X was a member of the Nation of Islam, he also preached that black people were genetically superior to white people.

"Thoughtful white people know they are inferior to Black people. Even Eastland knows it. Anyone who has studied the genetic phase of biology knows that white is considered recessive and black is considered dominant."[10]

He later repudiated this belief, as a result of embracing orthodox Islam.

The Mother Plane

Elijah Muhammad 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.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around.

Book of Ezekiel Chapter 1:15-18, Bible, English Standard Version

Louis Farrakhan, commenting on 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 (UFOs). Ezekiel, in the Old Testament, saw a wheel that looked like a cloud by day but a pillar of fire by night. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that that wheel was built on the island of Nippon, which is now called Japan, by some of the Original scientists. It took $15 billion in gold at that time to build it. It is made of the toughest steel. America does not yet know the composition of the steel used to make an instrument like it. It is a circular plane, and the Bible says that it never makes turns. Because of its circular nature it can stop and travel in all directions at speeds of thousands of miles per hour. He said there are 1,500 small wheels in this Mother Wheel, which is a half mile by a half mile (800 m by 800 m). This Mother Wheel is like a small human-built planet. Each one of these small planes carry three bombs.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said these planes were used to set up mountains on the earth. The Qur'an says it like this: We have raised mountains on the earth lest it convulse with you. How do you raise a mountain, and what is the purpose of a mountain? Have you ever tried to balance a tire? You use weights to keep the tire balanced. That's how the earth is balanced, with mountain ranges. 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. If you wish to take the mountain up a mile (1.6 km), you time the drill to go a mile (1.6 km) in and then explode. The bombs these planes have are timed to go one mile (1.6 km) down and bring up a mountain one mile (1.6 km) high, but it will destroy everything within a 50-square-mile (130 km²) radius. The white man writes in his above top secret memos of the UFOs. He sees them around his military installations like they are spying.

That Mother Wheel is a dreadful-looking thing. White folks are making movies now to make these planes look like fiction, but it is based on something real. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that Mother Plane is so powerful that with sound reverberating in the atmosphere, just with a sound, she can crumble buildings.

Minister Louis Farrakhan, The Divine Destruction of America: Can She Avert It?[11]


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 (1961) by C. Eric Lincoln. Lincoln describes how 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.

As of 2005, the Nation of Islam was included in the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of active hate groups in the United States.[12]

Legend of the 1975 death of Elijah Muhammad

Members of The Nation of Islam have long held that Elijah Muhammad 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 Muhammad's passengers on the Mother Wheel is the mysterious figure named W.D. Fard.[13]


A number of Jewish organizations, Christian organizations, Muslim organizations, and academics consider the Nation of Islam to be antisemitic. Specifically, they claim that the Nation Of Islam has engaged in revisionist and antisemitic interpretations of the Holocaust and exaggerates the role of Jews in the African slave trade.[14] The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) alleges that NOI Health Minister, Abdul Alim Muhammad, has accused Jewish doctors of injecting Blacks with the AIDS virus,[15] an allegation that Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad has denied.

The Nation of Islam has repeatedly denied charges of anti-Semitism,[16] and NOI leader Minister Louis Farrakhan has 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."[17]

Jude Wanniski, a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, has defended the Nation of Islam, 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."[18]

The Nation of Islam 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 NOI leader, "Minister Louis 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."[19]

In a letter responding to ADL Director Abraham Foxman's insistence that black leaders distance themselves from the Nation of Islam, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons wrote, "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.'" [20]

Comparison to traditional Islam

The Nation of Islam 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, charity to the poor; fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; and that every Muslim who is physically and financially able must make Hajj, 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, stress a healthy diet and physical fitness, and the consumption of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco is frowned upon. 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 Muhammad used unique methods for introducing Islam to his people.

A little mosque of Nation of Islam in Louisiana, 2005.
A little mosque of Nation of Islam in Louisiana, 2005.

Other doctrines of the Nation of Islam are disputed, specifically:

  • God's incarnation
    • NOI teaches that "Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July 1930; the long-awaited Messiah of the Christians and the Mahdi of the Muslims.
    • Traditional Sunni and Shi'a Muslim doctrine is that Islam teaches that it is heretical and blasphemous to believe that God would manifest Himself in human form (or any material form).
  • Relations with whites
    • NOI teaches that the Black man is the original man, and from him came all brown, yellow, red, and white people. By using a special method of birth control law, the Blackman was able to produce the white race. Liking any individual(s) to God is a form of shirk—a major sin in Islam.[21] Islam recognizes the Biblical and Qur’anic figure, the patriarch Jacob, but this Jacob is viewed by Muslims as a prophet, and is not connected to the Yakub of the NOI. Traditional Islam does not teach of the Yakub featured in Nation of Islam theology.
  • Perspectives on the Quran.
    • The vast majority of Muslims, worldwide, believe that it was Allah's final revelation to mankind and that it was given to the Islamic prophet Muhammed between the years of 610 and 632. The NOI states that they believe in the Qur'an and the writings of all the prophets of God.[22]
  • Status of the Islamic prophet Muhammed vs. other prophets.
    • Mainstream Islam teaches that Muhammad was the last of the messengers that Allah has sent to us--there would be no more, and the one for all to follow. The Nation of Islam believes that Elijah Muhammad was also a messenger and was taught by God Himself (W. D. Fard).[23]

Actions and programs

NOI preacher in 1999, in England.
NOI preacher in 1999, in England.
A Nation of Islam member sells copies of the Final Call newspaper and what looks to be assorted oils and perfumes.
A Nation of Islam member sells copies of the Final Call newspaper and what looks to be assorted oils and perfumes.

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, USA. It owns and operates hair-care shops. Some of these business ventures have been success stories. Others have been criticized as Amway-style marketing schemes that have not benefited most of their employees.

The NOI has worked to clean up 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.

In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin wrote:


Elijah Muhammad has been able to do what generations of welfare workers and committees and resolutions and reports and housing projects and playgrounds have failed to do: to heal and redeem drunkards and junkies, to convert people who have come out of prison and to keep them out, to make men chaste and women virtuous, and to invest both the male and the female with pride and a serenity that hang about them like an unfailing light. He has done all these things, which our Christian church has spectacularly failed to do. (James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time, New York: Vintage International/Random House, 1963)

During the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic, the United States 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 black neighborhoods. The Anti-Defamation League was successful in lobbying congress to sever the HUD contracts.[24]

Noted current and former members of Nation of Islam

See also

Audio/video webcasts


  1. ^ The Muslim Program
  2. ^ Chicago: Coalition for the Remembrance of Elijah Muhammad, 1992
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Message to the Black Man, Ch. 74, What Do Muslims Want?
  5. ^ FCN/NBC, 1997
  6. ^ Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/18/00
  7. ^ Million Family March Transcript, 10/16/00
  8. ^ Elijah Muhammad|Message to the Blackman in America, Muhammad's Temple No. 2, 1965 & Dorothy Blake Fardan, Yakub and the Origins of White Supremacy, Lushena Books, 2001
  9. ^ FCN/NBC, 1997
  10. ^ Malcolm X The Playboy Interview: Malcolm X, interviewed by Alex Haley, Playboy Magazine, May 1963
  11. ^ FCN, 1996
  12. ^ Active U.S. Hate Groups in 2006. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved on 2007-09-15.
  13. ^ Mattias Gardell. 1996. In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam. Duke University Press.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ The Final Call, February 16, 1994
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ Hip Hop Summit Action Network Press Release, May 9, 2005
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^

External links

Nation of Islam Links

Criticism from Non-NOI Muslims

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