(FinalCall.com) – When the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad was born in Sandersville, Georgia, 106 years ago this month, Black people in America were barely one generation up from slavery, but their former slavemasters were making more progress turning the clock backward than the slaves were making toward obtaining true Freedom, Justice, and Equality.
Just one year before Mr. Muhammad’s birth, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized Jim Crow segregation and turned its back to the legal plight of the Negro for the next half-century when it decided Plessy v. Ferguson.
In 1908, just about the time Mr. Muhammad–who attended school only to about the third grade–was completing his “formal” education in Georgia, a riot erupted in Springfield, Illinois, the birthplace of President Abraham Lincoln–”The Great Emancipator.”
That event was called at the time a “Race War in the North.” It shocked the entire country, and it plunged Blacks into even deeper national despair. Appalled at the violence that was committed against Blacks, that riot eclipsed the full-throated response to the earlier injustices organized by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, when he called a conference of leaders to meet in Niagara Falls, Canada in 1905.
The tormentors of Black progress had a “roadmap,” and soon, the Ku Klux Klan was being romanticized in popular novels and films. The forces of greed, hatred and retrenchment continued to gain ground on the world stage. By the time Mr. Muhammad had migrated to Detroit, met his Teacher Master W.D. Fard, and converted to Islam in 1931, German industrialists had financed the birth of the Nazi Party, and famine was devastating Russia. It was in this climate of darkness that Mr. Muhammad revealed the light of Islam he had received.
At that time, Blacks in the United States had no friends in the international community, few friends in this country, and were hardly friends to one another.
Despite persecution and imprisonment, Mr. Muhammad preached and organized among the downtrodden Black men and women from Detroit to Chicago, Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., Cincinnati to Baltimore, New York and San Diego, spreading the message of love for God and for self, self-help, dignity, and respect for Black women. His followers defied the raunchy conventions of the time: the “Jitterbug” lifestyle, indecent clothes, whiskey, drugs, cigarettes, and eating the filthy swine.
When Mr. Muhammad was jailed in 1942, instead of smothering the movement, it grew inside the prisons where it became an unrivaled force of rehabilitation and redemption. Outside, the women and the youth held up the banner of the Nation of Islam.
Not since the Hon. Marcus Garvey’s heroic efforts in building the half-million-member Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the early 1920s, had a Black man stood up without the aid of Whites to defy the legal and extra-legal oppression of Blacks in this country the way Mr. Muhammad was successfully and quietly doing throughout the country. Not since the Noble Drew Ali had anyone preached that the Proper Name of Almighty God is “Allah” and that He had perfected Islam as a religion for His people.
To even imagine that a Georgia sharecropper who dropped out of the third grade would ever be remembered as a teacher of an entire Nation of people is remarkable. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is that and much more.
We learned from him, first of all, that we did not even know who we are. He replaced the names that we wore, which we inherited from our slavemaster’s children, with a mathematical challenge, an “X,” as in “unknown quantity,” as in “ex-Negro,” as in “ex-slave,” as in “ex-tool and fool” for our enemies. And Black people rose (as we might say in mathematical terms) to “prove” the scientific validity of his teaching.
Even to get an “X,” and to therefore be enrolled in the “advanced course” of study of Mr. Muhammad’s lessons, was educational. Every follower had to write a letter professing belief in the Islamic faith. Many who were illiterate actually learned to read and write by writing and re-writing that letter, because it had to be perfectly handwritten, every “i” had to be dotted, every “t” had to be crossed. It had to be written in blue or black ink, with no errors, no smudges, no erasures.
After that process, adherents were given a list of 20 “Actual Facts” to memorize, concerning the speed of light and sound, the size and weight of the planet Earth and the Sun, the total area of land and water on Earth, and other natural phenomena. And then 10 questions and answers had to be learned, beginning with “Who is the Original Man?”
That first question is encyclopedic, and remains the basis of Mr. Muhammad’s message. Ironically, since Mr. Muhammad left from among us in 1975, his answer, that the first man was a Black man, has been confirmed by every manner of scientific authority and has been reported widely by major magazine cover stories again and again. Those magazines identify, in their words, the “Biological Eve” (the first woman, the mother of all living human beings), as a Black woman from the African continent.
So today, when modern analysts, writers and intellectuals marvel over Mr. Muhammad’s students like Malcolm X, or Muhammad Ali, we insist that equal recognition be given to the small stature man who was born one of 13 children to the Poole family in Sandersville, Georgia, around October 7, in the year 1897, and who was named “Elijah.” For without Elijah Muhammad, there certainly would have been no “X” in popular American culture.
Mr. Muhammad came and worked, as a living example among Blacks in America, and empowered his people with an immeasurable gift: a reason for living and a purpose in life–to glorify Almighty God.
When Mr. Muhammad stood, virtually alone in Detroit’s “Heavenly Valley” neighborhood in the 1930s to continue the work of his Teacher, we, the descendants of slaves and Native People in America, did not have a single friend on Earth. But when we, as a people, began accepting Islam, we began finding friends. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad–and his Disciple, the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan, have made friends for Blacks in America, in the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
There’s more to this story. Practically every vegetarian in every family which is Black in America, is a vegetarian because the Honorable Elijah Muhammad raised our consciousness, telling us not to eat pork, not to smoke cigarettes and not to drink alcohol, teaching us “How to Eat to Live.”
Everybody who has a so-called “Free Name” now in America, whether it is Jamal or Kojo, Salim or Bilal, Kwame or Assata, that person took that name or named their offspring because of the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who exposed the slavemasters’ names we had been wearing. We needed the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to wake us up and to set us on the right path!
Now, you could say that our liberation belongs to him because he found us in a terrible condition, and with a Word, and a Word alone, he lifted us up out of it.
His followers are grateful that he came to us during the hour of our greatest need. We are thankful, when we say: All Praise is Due to Allah for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.