The world and the Nation of Islam lost a great and significant one with the passing of Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad, formerly known as John Shabazz, who departed this life in mid-December in Atlanta, Georgia, after battling longtime health challenges. He was 89-years-old.
Born during the Great Depression years on January 6, 1931, in Pine Bluff, Ark., he grew up in St. Louis, Mo. There is no doubt that he was a multi-talented individual considering his accomplishments and achievements.
He graduated high school at age 15, attending Howard University on full academic scholarship at age 16. In his years of service to the Nation of Islam, he served as a minister in major cities, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, and Chicago. He also served as a Nation of Islam regional minister and educator.
In 1957 he accepted the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in Los Angeles, coming into the Nation after hearing Minister Malcom X. By 1959, he was the minister of Muhammad Temple No. 27 in Los Angeles. Proving himself as an effective and trusted laborer, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad appointed him West Coast Regional Minister in 1960. A proficient teacher, he became popularly known as “Islam John” with one of the fastest growing temples in the Nation. During his tenure in Los Angeles, the temple and the Nation underwent one of its major tests on April 27, 1962, when attacked by the Los Angeles police department. In the unprovoked assault, temple secretary Ronald T. X Stokes was brutally killed while his hands were raised, other Muslims were shot and some permanently injured. All of the men were unarmed as is Nation of Islam teaching, when nearly 100 police officers swooped on to the Muslims in the dark of the night with the intent on killing Believers and curtailing the rise of Islam. After shooting down six and killing one, the officer who pulled the trigger boasted he was trying to kill them all.
Abdul Allah Muhammad was the minister at the time and with the guidance of Elijah Muhammad led the mosque to weather that storm. The men were eventually exonerated.
While he was minister in Los Angeles his teacher also gave him responsibility as national editor of Muhammad Speaks in 1960, the newspaper of the Nation of Islam. He was chosen because of his background and experience in journalism.
Before joining the Nation of Islam, he studied journalism at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and wrote for the Los Angeles Times. He later became editor in chief and then chairman of the Editorial Board of The Final Call newspaper.
When the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had to make changes in the Atlanta mosque and Southern regional headquarters in 1965, he relocated his trusted servant and appointed him regional minister where he served until 1969.
By the mid-1970s the Nation of Islam had undergone a period of great change and transitions that affected many Muslims including him. The period was described as the fall of the Nation of Islam. With directional and philosophical changes in the Nation, like many Muslims he went to the “masjid” for a while, said Steven Muhammad. “But his life was not fulfilled” there, he said. Steven Muhammad knew him during that time of transition and change and became a close confidante.
In the latter part of ‘70s, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan started to rebuild the movement, determined to lift the name and mission of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
After attending a Saviours’ Day event in 1983, the longtime Muslim minister and follower of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad decided to stand with Minister Farrakhan and rebuild. It was controversial and opposed by many at the time.
“He came alive after ’83 when he came back and got with the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” said Steven Muhammad.
When the man who would later be renamed Abdul Allah Muhammad saw Minister Farrakhan was lifting up the Nation, name, and teachings of their leader, he was happy and felt he had life again. It was the Minister who would give him his name.
“Brother Allah was a good natured brother. Always in good spirit,” said Steven Muhammad. He loved Islam and was a Muslim. Whatever subject the two men talked about, it always led back to Islam and what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught.
“That was his perspective on the whole world,” said Steven Muhammad.
“I look at him as a Muslim at all times and all ways. He loved the Honorable Elijah Muhammad … the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan … he loved Islam,” said Steven Muhammad. “Islam was his world; Islam was his life.”
That same year 1983, Minister Farrakhan asked him to be the Southern Regional Minister and head of Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta once again. In the politically tumultuous time of 1984, he was transferred to Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in New York City where he served as East Coast Regional Minister, which led to Minister Farrakhan bringing him to Chicago four years later to head Mosque No. 2, and he served as a member of the National Board of Laborers.
From Chicago he also wrote his weekly column for the Final Call newspaper called “11:55,” which became a popular feature in the paper. His articles from the column are now compiled in a book of the same name. He also served as editor of The Final Call, which was established in 1979.
Prophet Muhammad of 14 centuries ago said that one learned Believer is harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant worshipers. Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad, a Nation of Islam stalwart and legendary figure, was such a Believer. He was well known for his proficient commitment to facts, thorough research and as an incredible teacher of Islam. He is remembered as a “giant among giants” who the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad fashioned.
Some affectionately called him a “walking encyclopedia” because of his vast knowledge.
He was a husband, a father, and a mentor.
With his sacrifices and contributions spanning over six decades and still circulating, he will be forever tied to his work as a student, brilliant journalist, minister, representative of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and aide, friend, and companion to the Minister Louis Farrakhan in the rebuilding of the Nation of Islam.
“I feel a profound sense of personal loss,” said Dr. Ava Muhammad, the National Spokesperson for Minister Farrakhan.
She expressed a special love and admiration for the pioneers who were with the Hon. Elijah Muhammad before 1975, especially the ministers who came to stand with Minister Farrakhan when he stood back up to rebuild the Nation of Islam in the midst of mixed feelings and controversy.
Abdul Allah Muhammad was among those who was one of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad’s major representatives, laid a foundation for the Muslim movement and came back to rebuild the movement after it had been destroyed.
Dr. Ava Muhammad met and began working with Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad when she was moved to Chicago to work from Nation of Islam headquarters in the early 1980s. She stated he was one of her early sources for “on the job training” in the ministry.
“I considered him a mentor and a friend, as well as a brother,” she said, calling him “insightful.” “He also had this quick wit that made his company very pleasurable,” Min. Ava Muhammad said. She recalled how the Believers would love sitting around the Final Call Administration Building in Chicago drinking coffee and listening to Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad share stories about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan.
“He will never be forgotten, ever. He’s definitely earned a place in immortality as a soldier and follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his National Representative, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” said Dr. Ava Muhammad.
People who worked with and encountered Abdul Allah Muhammad over his lifetime expressed the highest esteem for him—often calling him one of the most knowledgeable men and prolific teachers of Islam they ever knew. He made it “easier” for them to “just strive” and be “better Believers and Muslims,” they said.
“Whatever the teachings were that he received from both men of God, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, he did it to his upmost (and) obeyed,” said Abdul Khadir Muhammad, the Nation of Islam student Mid-Atlantic regional minister based in Washington, D.C.
Student Minister Khadir Muhammad said Abdul Allah Muhammad—true to the meaning of his name—exemplified what God gave to the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan because he was so involved with how to help raise Black people.
Student Minister Khadir Muhammad, who was once minister at Muhammad Mosque No. 25 in Newark, New Jersey, credits Abdul Allah Muhammad with being a major influence in his learning how to help Minister Farrakhan better. “His challenges with us were making sure as ministers … we understood what the teachings were about under Minister Farrakhan,” he said.
“He seemed to have something,” added Rodney Muhammad, student Regional Minister for the Delaware Valley and minister of Philadelphia’s Muhammad Mosque No. 12. He recalled Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad’s famous use of one liners. “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad had a knack for just giving you just a sort of one liner, and with that one line when you think on it, it’s a world of information,” he said, adding that Abdul Allah Muhammad was the same.
Rodney Muhammad also described his unflinching dedication to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. “Every nation … has their hardliners and they have their moderates, I would call Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad a hardliner for the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” he said. “He didn’t want to look like he was breaking—in any kind of way—from the way the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught them.”
As a Minister he admired Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad’s “courage to quote other authors” and outside sources in his teaching. He recalled Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad recounting being reported to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the leader encouraging his practice, saying it was good reading books the White man wrote because he’s done the research for us—and we need to read books and gain the value of the leg work that went into the research.
“I couldn’t really put in words, the esteem that I held for our dear brother,” shared Sahih Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta in the early part of the 1980s.
“It was nothing that you can bring up in conversation that he could not give you a quote from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad addressing that issue,” added Sahih Muhammad.
To be associated, counseled, and befriended by Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad in life was to be a beneficiary because one could not be around him and not learn something.
“He was a soldier as long as I’ve known him,” Nation of Islam pioneer Minster Thomas Jehad of Miami told The Final Call.
Brother Jehad described Abdul Allah Muhammad as a “friend” and “beautiful teacher” uniquely known for not teaching long lectures. He met him in the late 1950s as a young minister of Islam. “I pray that we will take his example and live the life of a Muslim,” said Mr. Jehad.
Abdul Wahid Muhammad, a longtime helper in the Nation of Islam who knew Abdul Allah Muhammad since the 1960s on the West Coast, was reflective about losing the caliber of such a man.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think we don’t realize the value people like Abdul Allah and what they contributed to the Nation and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan,” said Abdul Wahid Muhammad. “I don’t think we realize the value of each other.”
Abdul Wahid Muhammad said those who serve like Abdul Allah Muhammad served cannot die because of the many people who still benefit from their contributions.
Men like Abdul Allah Muhammad, like the great worthies of old who lived for a cause bigger than themselves will live. As the Holy Quran states: Speak not of those who die or are slain in the way of Allah as dead. They live but you perceive not.
Min. Abdul Allah Muhammad departed this life on Dec. 15, 2020 and his funeral was Dec. 21, 2020.