The Nation of Islam is an African-American Muslim pride and religious movement established during the Great Depression.
5. Overview of Ideology
The main teaching of the Nation of Islam (NOI) is that Allah is the one and only God. The Nation of Islam holds that their founder Wallace Fard Mohammad was Allah’s incarnation on earth. They also believe that blacks are the original race and that all other races, brown, yellow, red and white evolved from them. According to Fard Mohammad, white people were created by a scientist called Yakub (the Biblical and Quranic Jacob), by a selective breeding process, to rule earth for 6,000 years. The Nation of Islam also teaches that blacks are a distinct nation, and that the Atlantic slave trade ensured that they lost their history, language, culture and control over their lives. Black slavery was itself prophesied in the Genesis and that blacks are the seed of Abraham. The Nation of Islam also supports the creation of a physical and political nation of Black Muslims, which would be carved out of the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
4. Organizational History
Islam came to the United States through African Muslim slaves and retained a minuscule presence through the Nineteenth Century. In the early 1900s, the religion grew in strength with the Ahmadiyah Movement, a sect founded in India. Timothy Drew, later Noble Drew Ali founded the Moorish Science Temple of America in Newark, New Jersey and mixed the tenets of Islam with Black Nationalism. A year after Drew’s death, an affiliate and ex-convict, Wallace Fard Mohammad, founded the Nation of Islam in 1930 in Detroit, Michigan. He established the temple of the University of Islam and a body of male guards called the Fruit of Islam. Fard called on his assistant Elijah Muhammad (once Elijah Poole), to establish the Nation of Islam's second base in Chicago.
3. Contributions and Achievements
Due to problems in Detroit, Fard Mohammad retired and Elijah gained control of the organization. He espoused that the white people’s time was up and the 20th Century belonged to the original inhabitants, the black people. This resonated with the African Americans and enabled Nation of Islam followers to re-assert themselves and initiate a program of economic self-sufficiency and the establishment and growth of black businesses. In the 1950’s, Malcolm X (pictured above) rose to prominence but soon alienated followers with his political and racist views and was assassinated in 1965. It was Malcolm X who introduced Cassius Clay to Islam. After his conversion in 1964, Elijah christened him Mohammad Ali. After the death of Elijah in 1975, Louis Farrakhan, originally Louis Eugene Wolcott, took the reins of the Nation in 1978. A gifted orator, Farrakhan powered a national movement. He published the works of Elijah Mohammad and began a periodical called the Final Call. He also purchased Elijah’s former mosque in Chicago and made it the national headquarters. He established an international presence with centers in England and Ghana. He came to the notice of white Americans when he supported the presidential bid of Jesse Jackson in 1984. Today, the Nation of Islam is one of the best-managed and wealthiest organizations of black Americans. It offers its members numerous programs and incentives for their uplifting. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, Farrakhan has shifted more towards orthodox Islam.
2. Challenges and Controversies
Due to the anti-white rhetoric of the Nation of Islam, it has always been a prime target of law enforcement agencies. The Nation of Islam was suppressed during World War II because it stopped African Americans from enlisting in the armed forces. Its theology of black supremacy and the anti-Semitic and anti-gay positions has put the Nation of Islam in the category of organized hate. According to the website of the Anti Defamation League, Farrakhan is the leading anti-Semite of America. He has repeatedly claimed that Jewish people were responsible for the Atlantic slave trade and that their mission is to control the government, media, and even Hollywood film.
1. Modern Significance and Legacy
Louis Farrakhan is said to have built a legacy of hate and divisiveness more than any other Nation of Islam leader. Despite this record, the Nation of Islam enjoys legitimacy by non-Nation of Islam African-American leaders, including public representatives and celebrities. They emphasize the organization’s success in achieving a degree of self-sufficiency among the black community, often playing down the racism. The Nation of Islam has maintained a significant following under Farrakhan. It operates mosques all over the United States and has attracts thousands of supporters to its annual events from across the country.