by Nisa Islam Muhammad and J.A. Salaam
On September 22, 1931, a very special event happened that changed the course of history. It was the day when Elijah Poole met his teacher W.F. Muhammad for the first time in Detroit, Mich.
Their meeting was a match made in heaven. Master Fard Muhammad taught Elijah day and night for three years and four months before he mysteriously disappeared in 1934.
He left his student with a mission to teach and guide the children of former slaves in America out of their mentally dead condition. After Master Fard Muhammad left, Elijah Muhammad began to teach that his teacher was in fact God in Person, and he had been made his Messenger and representative.
Elijah Muhammad later moved his family to Chicago where he worked tirelessly for 40 years to establish the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in the West.
Elijah Muhammad was born the seventh child of 13 children on October 7, 1897, in the small Southern town of Sandersville, Ga. He was raised in a Christian family of sharecroppers and his father was a Baptist preacher. The teachings he received from his father as a child would become a spiritual catalyst that prepared him for his eventual mission impacting the world.
He would fulfill what is written in the book of Malachi in the Bible, that Elijah would come to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
During his dedicated service, Messenger Muhammad impacted millions and raised a legion of followers that would raise others from their graves of ignorance. His economic program, independent schools, network of temples, Muhammad Speaks newspaper, thousands of acres of farmland and international trade and commerce have not been duplicated to the degree of his success.
He raised powerful students—Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Imam W.D. Mohammed, his son—and his top student, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan restored his name, his program, his wisdom and made a once-deliberately-miscast-forgotten man and his program a force to be reckoned with. Powerful forces, including the U.S. government, and others conspired to destroy the Nation of Islam during the 1970s but Min. Farrakhan’s faith, fierce determination and Allah’s (God’s) blessings have brought the Nation and its eternal leader back on the scene.
Recent documentaries and movies have focused on the students, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, while trying to place a veil or shed negative light on the powerful one who brought light, life and power by Allah’s (God’s) permission.
The world will have to come to grips with a man whose work is nearly 100 years old in America, remains invaluable—and keeps moving forward.
Brother Ben X is a 27-year-old social media influencer, helper and follower of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad through Min. Farrakhan. With modern technology he reaches hundreds of thousands sharing wisdom, words and a way of life.
“The Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad aligned with my nature; with me having the entrepreneurship spirit, and me already running my business. Also understanding that we as Black people needed a solution and to hear all the things that he talked about,” said Ben X. “Like separation, growing our own food, building our own schools and teaching our own children. It just seemed like the answer we needed, especially since we have been oppressed and not receiving the best treatment from others. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad brought us a solution to overcome those things.”
“In 1974 The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said we cannot sit down, we cannot lay down, we must get up and go to work. When he said, ‘ye are all gods and every time I look at a Black man I am looking at God.’ What is that?”
“God is a being with force and power. We cannot just talk about God and sit around. We have to start exercising some power. So if we see a problem it is on us to provide a solution. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, our unity is more powerful than an atomic bomb. So although I am a god, I am not the Supreme Being, so I have to find and unite with my brothers and sisters who have more superior knowledge than me in other fields,” he continued. “So, when we unite and find a solution, we can solve the problem that we have in our world today. That’s doing something for self in every aspect.”
“We know heaven and hell is two conditions of the mind. Just like our young people follow athletics and drug dealers. They look at what the entertainers are doing because they are looking for something,” he pointed out. “They are looking for that heaven that is in our nature, if they see something whether it is the luxury life, money, and good friendships in all walks of life as we were taught, they will follow it.”
“However, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad also said you should never have to condemn a dirty glass, just put a clean one next to it. Meaning, when examples are in front of them our people will rise up to be better examples too. So, I think we will see our youth following that clean glass versus that dirty glass.”
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s mantra of “Do for Self or Suffer the Consequences” was translated into every aspect of life, spiritual, educational, social and economic.
This focus fostered factories, grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, import export exchanges, barber shops, beauty salons, farms, banks, dry cleaners, a newspaper printing plant, dress shops, and delivery trucks that fueled the Nation of Islam with meaningful jobs and empowered families.
Grammy Award winning rapper, activist, and Atlanta entrepreneur Killer Mike told The Final Call, “I just recently found out that Frederick Douglass was actually a real estate developer. He owned real estate, but beyond learning that fact, the only two leaders that have been effective and progressive with an economic cornerstone are the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Marcus Garvey.”
“The people who went beyond philosophy and actually did that in the real world were the Honorable Marcus Garvy and the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Many of the businesses that have been in my community as I was a child growing up were owned by the Nation of Islam members,” he pointed out.
He has continued in that vein, meeting with Min. Farrakhan and pushing his efforts to support and build economic ventures and build Black financial empowerment and wealth. One of his major ventures is Greenwood Bank, which was created to build wealth and the generational transfer of wealth in the Black and Latino community. The mobile banking platform also supports feeding people, HBCU’s and other activity that strengthens communities.
It was “inspired by the early 1900’s Greenwood District, where recirculation of Black wealth occurred all day, every day, and where Black businesses thrived. Today’s Greenwood is a Black owned banking system developed by us, for us. This is our time.” The banking services are provided by Coastal Community Bank.
A life giving teaching
The executive director of the Black Reality Think Tank in Milwaukee, Wisc., Dr. William G. Rogers, shared his thoughts about the value of the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation. He recalled the first time he heard the Teachings and how it changed his life. “My introduction to the Nation of Islam and the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad took place the spring of 1963.
When Minister Malcolm X debated Attorney Floyd McKissick at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. I attended that debate with a high school classmate who was a member of the Durham, N.C., mosque. Being an 18-year old Black boy from the South raised in a devout Christian home, I had never heard a Black man talk with such fire and power in the midst of White folks. My soul shook and my heart was beating fast,” he said.
“The Whites in the audience were getting upset and I admit fear did come upon me too. Minister Malcolm kept talking about his teacher and guide. Even though this was over 50 years ago I remember it like it was yesterday.”
“After that day it activated a thirst to learn more about Minister Malcolm’s teacher and guide. Who was he, what was a Nation of Islam and why had I not heard of it before? My sojourn to New York City June of 1963 was the beginning of my quest to know more about the Nation,” he added.
“Then I met brother Leonard 16X, the owner of a gift shop who was the catalyst that drove me deeper into the Teachings. He loaned me a book called the ‘Supreme Wisdom’. After reading that book and my Jesus teachings by my parents confused me. It was not until I heard a sermon by Minister Farrakhan called ‘Why I Preach Jesus’ that things became a little clearer.”
He also came to “realize and understand this organization and its teachings was the foundational philosophy and practice that would resurrect and rescue the lost Black nation.” He uses that knowledge in his leadership development work and ministry.
In 2021, the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad still have a great influence in the way of young Black men and their callings. John C. Muhammad is alderman of the 21st Ward in the city of St. Louis. He is an up and coming progressive political leader. He started with grassroots activism after the 2014 police killing of Mike Brown, a Black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., and unrest that followed.
“The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad is the most important figure in the fight for liberation for the Black man and woman in America because it was his voice and his words that transcended the term Black liberation and evolved it into Black excellence,” John Muhammad said.
“Black excellence as taught and exemplified by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad is the true ideology of what makes Black people so magnificent in our purest nature. Black excellence is more than a catchy hashtag or words written across the front of a hooded sweatshirt. Black excellence is in fact, our ancestor’s and forefather’s wildest dreams. It is our divinity. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad represents that Black excellence which represents God. He is of God, sent by God, to guide the people of God, back to God.”
“People are just coming to grips with the genius of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” Dr. Aminah Al Deen, Islamic Studies professor emeritus of DePaul University in Chicago, told The Final Call. “How do you bring people who had been for generations in slavery, into humanness?”
“People are just figuring out how much was needed to accomplish all he did. They are still trying to understand the discipline that’s required, from teaching personal hygiene, to being able to work in your own best interest, to learning what you didn’t know, so that you can open your heads to learn more and learning the necessity of community.”
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad gave his people Islam in a manner and way that best suited for their condition. No one has been more successful in spreading Islam among Black people and affecting America.
“His impact is really immeasurable,” said Imam Abdul Jalil Muhammad, president of the Deen Intensive Academy.
“He was a man of destiny and it really needs to be studied because Islam was so important for the development of Black people in America. He was the person in the vanguard position for that. Just like you can’t measure someone’s faith and measure the truth of Islam. You really can’t measure the work that he put in to bring Islam to North America and in America. We thank him for all of his work,” he said. “The Muslims in America really need to echo my sentiments with respect to that.”
Muslims in America and millions of people around the world have been touched by the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad or his star students, such Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Imam Warith Deen, his son, and Minister Farrakhan.
Most often the mainstream media, naysayers and slanderers laud the students but disregard the teacher. Not everyone, however, is fooled. “His impact is undeniable for me in two big things at this moment,” commented Vicki Dillard, an online radio host and activist told The Final Call. “He identified for us who the devil is, who Satan is, and who the opposer is. Secondly, this notion of separation. I think that everything that we’re seeing happening now hinges on those two very powerful revelations that he gave to us. From the tricknology of our enemy related to this covid scandal, police reform, economic disparity, and it just doesn’t stop.”
“I think that the manifestation of this plague, as the Minister says it so eloquently, is forcing us to do exactly what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, separate. Unfortunately, too many of our people are hardheaded and love Babylon.”
“The times are forcing us to do what we should do on our own. Whether it’s teaching our own babies, homeschooling, to having ideas to start home businesses to have more income. Folks are under this mandate where they literally are going to be fired if they don’t take the shots. In every area of our lives we’re forced to look at what’s going on. I think the more that this happens, the more it’s going to force us to separate.”
The Honorable Elijah Muhamad was strategic in spreading his message across America. In the late 1950s and early 1960s what was the best way to tell his people about Islam and this way of life? He started a column in the Black Press.
The Amsterdam News, the Pittsburgh Courier, and The Westchester Observer featured hundreds of weekly columns from 1956 to 1962. The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Mr. Muhammad Speaks” column, started in the summer of 1956 and ran nonstop until 1959. The column increased the paper’s circulation.
Later, the Nation’s own newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, would be a major weekly publication and largest Black weekly newspaper in the United States.
“The Pittsburgh Courier was distributed by the FOI (Fruit of Islam),” former Muhammad Speaks Editor Askia Muhammad explained. “The brothers told me they would get the newspaper and fold it just so that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s column would appear. That’s how they sold it.”
Their distribution network rivaled the distribution of the Chicago Defender distributed by the Pullman Porters at the same time.
In the summer of 1957, the New York Amsterdam News started a column variously called “The Islam World” and “The Islamic World,” written by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and printed until August 1958.
The Westchester Observer, in Westchester, N.Y., ran an unnamed column by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad from 1960 to 1962.
Those columns developed into to the Muhammad Speaks newspaper in 1960. It’s first headline: Some of this Earth to Call Our Own or Else. “The Muhammad Speaks was the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s number one minister,” said Askia Muhammad, who was the first Muslim editor. “It was not only carrying his word, but his representatives. The FOI were in essence ministering to the people, representing him and the newspaper to the public.”
The Muhammad Speaks included talented journalists: Daniel Burley wrote for Johnson Publications, the Pittsburgh Courier and wrote the forward for “Message to the Blackman,” the visionary book by Elijah Muhammad. Richard Durham was the next editor. The paper was reaching more than 150,000 readers a month in mid-1962, and Mr. Durham became editor after Mr. Burley’s unexpected death.
Within a year the paper reached almost 300,000 readers a week.
Next came John Woodford as editor, then Leon Forrest, and Askia Muhammad, who has had a long career in journalism and is a senior editor for The Final Call.
“These were topflight journalists, brave enough to work for Mr. Muhammad,” Askia Muhammad explained. “They were not just somebody from a garage who took a class. These were topflight journalists.”
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad accomplished all he did with only a fourth grade education but was guided and taught by the prophesized Messiah of the Christians and Madhi, or Self-Guided One, of the Muslims. Learning and obtaining knowledge was a critical element of what he preached to his followers.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that becoming literate is a way of mastering the universe,” author Rabiah Muhammad, who holds a PhD. in English and who helped write and edit a book about his educational paradigm, told The Final Call. “He teaches, first and foremost, that what we need is a knowledge of self and a knowledge of God … . Why is knowledge of self and knowledge of God important? It allows us to survey the universe for the realities of things that exist. Take astronomy, for example. We tell our students to say to themselves, ‘I am astronomy,’ as we absorb the tenets of the science of astronomy.”
“Looking at literacy through the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s lens shows us how to apply the knowledge and wisdom that we’ve acquired through the survey of our surroundings and beyond to apply them in a practical sense.”
From education to institution building and farming, the Rev. Dr. Al Sampson is deeply connected to Elijah Muhammad. Rev. Sampson is pastor of Fernwood United Methodist Church in Chicago and one of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s disciples. He has enjoyed a long relationship with Min. Farrakhan and accompanied the Minister on a World Friendship Tour after the 1995 Million Man March.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad took the power of religion and developed an economic liberation program for our people,” Rev. Sampson said. “There was a meeting, as you know, between Dr. King and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He had an economic strategy for our people.”
“That’s part of the reason why I’m working with Black farmers down South. Because we not only have How to Eat to Live, but we have to continue to work growing our own food. I call it the soul food vegetables. I’m the only preacher in Black America that has a Department of Agriculture in my church. My program is in memory of George Washington Carver at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. It grows out of the church, the mosque, the temple with Prince Asiel and the Hebrew Israelites.”
He continued, “Frantz Fanon wrote ‘Black Skins, White Masks.’ He said that we adopt the values and attitudes of the master. What the Honorable Elijah Muhammad did for us was to bring us into a deep seated understanding that we are the sons and daughters of God that ought to be treated as queens and kings.”
In “The Promise of Patriarchy,” author Ula Yvette Taylor explains how Elijah Muhammad offered Black women something at the time that no other organization could, “the prospect of finding a provider and a protector among the organization’s men, who were fiercely committed to these masculine roles.”
Her book tells the story of how Nation of Islam women were given the opportunity to stay home and care for their children instead of caring for White people’s children or cleaning their homes. It freed them from the degrading experiences of working class Black women and allowed them to rear their families in racially affirming environments.
“Telling the stories of women like Clara Poole (wife of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad) and Sis. Ruby, Dr. Taylor offers a compelling narrative that explains how their decision to join a homegrown, male-controlled Islamic movement was a complicated act of self-preservation and self-love in Jim Crow America,” the book reads.
But these Muslim women were also educators, laying the groundwork for the Nation’s heralded Muhammad University of Islam independent school system and staffing the schools. They were also administrators, clerks, cooks, seamstresses, writers, office workers, ministers, nurses, business owners and were able to play other critical roles. When the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and the men of the Nation were arrested and jailed during WWII, it was courageous women who kept the Nation together.
That tradition continues today with Muslim women like Dr. Ava Muhammad, who is a sought after Muslim minister, speaker and National Spokesperson for Min. Farrakhan; National MGT-GCC Capt. Naeemah Muhammad, who leads the NOI women, as well as doctors, entrepreneurs, artists, journalists and welcomed to go as high as their gifts can take them.