Growing excitement as the Nation of Islam to fully reopen with in-person services
‘Those of you who are present today at Mosque Maryam, all of you who are watching via webcast on your various electronic devices, we want to invite all of you who have been listening to us for the last 18 months, that by Nov. 14, you can come to your local mosque and study group in the cities where you live, that we may embrace you, welcome you, receive you and continue this great work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the transformation of our lives. So, extend the invitation to the public.’
by Michael Z. Muhammad and Anisah Muhammad
Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, National Assistant to Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, speaking during a lecture at Mosque Maryam in Chicago, was excited about the physical reopening of NOI mosques and study groups nationwide.
During the coronavirus pandemic, mosques and study groups had suspended public meetings as a precaution against spreading the virus.
But the work of the resurrection of Black people never stopped, driven by inspiring weekly lectures and study sessions broadcast over the internet, the unrelenting work of the men of the Fruit of Islam in the streets through the distribution of The Final Call newspaper, food giveaways, thousands of masks sewn by the women of the Nation along with an informative book on how to clean and sanitize homes during the pandemic, social media posts, online forums and conferences and individual to individual acts of service alongside peacemaking and other activity.
The Muslims have been committed and busy, but they had not been able to gather together and bring others to their beloved houses of spiritual worship, fellowship and upliftment.
“Those of you who are present today at Mosque Maryam, all of you who are watching via webcast on your various electronic devices, we want to invite all of you who have been listening to us for the last 18 months, that by Nov. 14, you can come to your local mosque and study group in the cities where you live, that we may embrace you, welcome you, receive you and continue this great work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the transformation of our lives. So, extend the invitation to the public,” Student Minister Ishmael joyfully announced Oct. 31.
The pandemic-driven, physical closure of mosques had been unprecedented in the NOI’s 91-year history, noted Student Minister Demetric Muhammad, who is also a member of the Nation of Islam Research Team. The only possible exception was the government incarceration of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Eternal Leader of the Nation of Islam, and many of his male followers in the 1940s during World War II, he said.
One of the most significant consequences of the reopening of the Mosque will be the social interaction in a spiritual place, Demetric Muhammad said.
“It’s good that the mosques are opening because from the perspective of the Believer, you know, Allah (God) says in the Holy Qur’an that the Believers are friends of one another, and humanity is referred to as social beings,” he continued. “So ultimately among spiritual communities, when the building is no longer open, there is a longing and a yearning for community life, where co-religionists can assemble in a place of shared values, a shared culture, shared belief system, which strengthens each other to go through difficult periods.”
Muhammad Mosque No. 12 Student Minister Rodney Muhammad, who also heads the Delaware Valley Region and is based in Philadelphia, said, “You know the country as a whole is at one of its most critical flashpoints in history with this judgment on the land. This guidance could save so many lives. Though we could reach people electronically through social media, it has been proven there is no real substitute for human contact.
So, we find that the community is at its strongest when the righteous community can convene,” he said. Rodney Muhammad opened the Philadelphia mosque on Oct. 31 as some mosques and study groups came back with real world meetings. All NOI mosques and study groups, by and large, will reopen the second Sunday in November.
“We appreciate the phone conferences. We certainly appreciate the Zoom calls, the virtual conventions, and such. We cannot minimize what we have been able to do during the past 18 months,” stressed Student Minister Rodney Muhammad. “The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan sees the overall value for us to be continually sheltered in place and shut down is not serving the community in the best possible way that we can. So, I feel the timing is right.”
Delaware Valley Student Fruit of Islam Regional Captain Anthony Muhammad pointed out there were tight protocols in place during the reopening.
Student National Secretary Sa’ad Alim Muhammad also mentioned these safety protocols during a recent Nation of Islam business meeting.
“When you first come into the mosque (or study group), there is a temperature check,” Capt. Anthony Muhammad said. “On the table are hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves. It is mandatory that everyone wears a mask and not just any kind of face covering. The mosque is disinfected before service starts, and the chairs are spaced for social distancing purposes.”
Rap artist and social activist Bigga Dre in Philadelphia told The Final Call he was excited to hear about the reopening. “I think the information given by the Nation of Islam is invaluable to the community again; the important thing is how we deliver it and how it’s being received,” he commented.
Student Minister Nuri Muhammad of Mosque No. 74 in Indianapolis, and a popular NOI speaker across the country, said, “In my humble opinion, we are taught from Prophet Muhammad that a Muslim is not a Muslim until they want or love for their brothers and sisters, what they want and love for themselves.
So those of us who have benefited from the lifegiving teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and have benefited from Islam want to share the teachings that saved our lives. So, in that spirit, we want to be able to go out to get our people.”
“And that is one of the key ingredients that separate the Nation from most religious groups in the sense that our devotion is not just prayer, fasting, and personal righteousness. Still, our way of devotion is inviting our people to the good and then joining them in right, and the (spiritual) resurrection of the dead. So, saving our people is the standard principle of action inside of our way of devotion in the Nation of Islam,” Minister Nuri Muhammad said.
“Without access to being able to bring our people not just the word, but to an environment where they can be around people that are striving to live that word, it makes it harder to transform human life, just from a digital world in the ear,” he continued. “And they’re not plugged into an environment and a brotherhood and sisterhood that can give them strength to live that word.”
National Student Assistant Ishmael Muhammad provided The Final Call with insight into the timing of the move during a Nov. 4 telephone interview. “It has been 18 months since we closed our mosque because of the severity of this pandemic, this pestilence from heaven. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Executive Council saw fit at that time to close the mosques. There is much more science now today than there was at the beginning of this pandemic,” he said.
“The Covid-19 mitigation measures that are being practiced have proven to help deter the spread of this virus in terms of social distancing measures, the masks, and of course good sanitation.”
“We have our work to do so. We felt that with a greater understanding of the science and putting the proper mitigation protocols in place since so many cities and the country and the world have opened up, we could reopen our mosque and study groups following particular protocol measures that we have put in place as a policy.
“It would allow us to meet and greet and to welcome thousands of people who had been interested in coming to the local mosques after seeing our webcasts over the last year and a half and who have expressed interest to become a part of the Nation of Islam.”
“We believe that there is a great interest among our people to learn more of the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammed and to become a part of the Nation of Islam. So, the reopening of the mosques affords us this opportunity to do our work that the virtual world has aided us in this effort. Still, there’s nothing like having the human contact.”
“On a personal note, I’m excited,” Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad admitted, “that I will see people because people have been seeing me. I have not had the great privilege as yet to see the faces of those that I have been teaching all of these months. Man, to see some people in front of me. We are very excited to see each other again, after so many months where we have only seen each other on Facebook or Zoom and these other platforms. So, there’s great anticipation for the reopening that would allow us to get back to some form of normalcy.”
“Nothing beats that human touch,” he continued. “I’m telling you, the enemy’s world makes technology and what it does is it separates us more, and it takes away from who we are as human beings because as human beings, we’re social creatures and, the internet, Instagram and Facebook and all of that. It has its value in terms of communication mediums, but it’s cold as well. But the human touch, to hear the human voice and to look into the face of a human being, that’s what’s up.”
Student Minister Rodney Muhammad pointed out that part of his strategy included limiting lectures to one hour from 11 a.m. to 12 noon EDT in Philadelphia. “We thank the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan for his unequaled guidance and timing to begin to push us and thrust the Nation back out into the public.
I pray to Allah (God) that we have rooted deeper into our hearts this lifegiving message from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad through the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and that we can be God’s vessels to draw on his good nature and our people as we reapproached our public and invite them to join us here in the city of Philadelphia,” he concluded.
Excitement of reopening in the South
“I’m on cloud 19. That’s how I’m feeling. I am super, super, super excited. Like one of my brothers used to say, ‘It’s like a horse that is biting at the bit, ready to take off,’ ” said 7th Regional Student Minister Patrick Muhammad based in Miami.
His last mosque meeting before Covid-19 shut down the world occurred in mid-March 2020.
Patrick Muhammad has received phone calls inquiring about the mosque being open. During one particular phone call, a young Black man expressed his desire to “fall in.”
Before the Covid-19 shutdown, Abdul Perez used to frequently visit the mosque in Miami, and he has cultivated relationships with the Muslims. He used to visit primarily for the betterment of himself and feels the mosque plays a big role in the community.
“We all need to better ourselves. The community needs to come together and do better for ourselves. The condition that we’re in is not a good condition. I think anybody would agree with that, whether they visit the mosque or not,” said Mr. Perez. “They know that the things in society and the way things are going are not the way they’re supposed to be. So we need something that can come in and help us change the way things are, and the mosque is one of them.”
Muhammad Mosque No. 29 in Miami lost two registered Believers of the Nation due to Covid-19: a pioneering sister and her daughter. Patrick Muhammad shared that even though they are no longer alive, their spirit lives in the Muslims of Miami.
Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in New York City is still reeling from the loss of Eastern Regional Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, who transitioned April 11, 2020 due to the coronavirus. Arthur Muhammad, the region’s point of contact, said the mosque’s reopening takes on a different significance because of the passing of Min. Hafeez Muhammad.
“For me, being in the Nation of Islam for 34 years, all we knew was mosque life: Bringing people to the mosque and orientation at the mosque and study group at the mosque,” Arthur Muhammad said. “And in about 20 months, we shifted to that new normal. So I’m very excited to go back to the way it was so that we can pluck out any remaining brothers and sisters from the sea of sin and bring them into the fold or to the ark of Allah (God).”
He expects a packed house and that the mosque is large enough to house 100 people sitting in every other seat.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, in Tampa, Fla., and Monroe, La., the NOI had study groups. In the Nation of Islam, study groups become mosques after reaching a certain number of regular attendees. The student ministers over these two mosques expressed their joy at reopening with mosque status.
“With the mosque being able to reopen and going back there as Mosque 47, it’s like a renewed spirit,” said Student Minister Chad Muhammad of Tampa. He described the reopening as a chance to work out salvation and hopes it causes the mosque to outgrow its building.
Verbon Muhammad of Monroe, La., said it’s a great honor for Monroe to be a part of history. The moment is very special to him as the Believers laid to rest Shawn Muhammad, who worked with him for nine years. The city’s former captain passed away due to cancer.
“I literally cried tears of joy for the city, the Believers and brother Shawn,” said the student minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 99.
Southern Regional Student Minister Abdul Sharrieff Muhammad of Atlanta described how people would drive by the mosque wondering when it would be open, and that people were used to attending the Friday Jumuah Prayer service. He expects joy upon the reopening.
“I would just like to say all praise is due to Allah (God),” he said. “I’m so glad that we’re opening up again so we can be able to not only bring the Muslim family back together, but to go after our Lost-Found brothers and sisters. I really miss going after our brothers and sisters to save them.”
Southwest Regional Student Minister Abdul Haleem Muhammad of Houston anticipates people arriving to the mosques and study groups in droves.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is the last man standing. The Nation of Islam represents Noah’s Ark constructed of crude planks and nails. Yet it is the one that will preserve the people from the flood and the wrath of Allah (God),” he said.
The Muslims should welcome the guests and Believers home, show love and compassion and be slow to judge, added Min. Haleem Muhammad.
In terms of Covid-19 protocols, both he and Western Regional Student Minister Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, based in Los Angeles, said cleanliness is godliness.
Kofi Taharka, the national chairperson of the National Black United Front, has been a longtime ally of Houston’s Muhammad Mosque No. 45. He said the mosque isn’t just a building and described the Nation as a valuable asset to the Black community. The Houston mosque has had a particularly large impact on the hip hop community in the city and is happy that the mosque is reopening, said Mr. Taharka.
Despite the mosques being closed, Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, like other students ministers and Believers, maintained his relationships within the Black community. He said now, it is the desire of Minister Farrakhan that the mosques open back up.
“His will is connected to the two sources that govern the universe,” said Min. Malik Sayyid Muhammad, referring to Master Fard Muhammad, the Great Mahdi, and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the prophesized Christ figure. “So I’m excited that the God we serve has used him to open the doors. I am excited about that, that now we ought to come out of our chambers.”
The reopening reminded him of a time when the Muslims under Prophet Muhammad had to go in the mosque, lock themselves in and work out their differences.
“And my God, when they came out of the mosque, that’s when Islam took off in the Arabian Peninsula. I feel that that’s what’s about to happen,” he said.
Min. Malik Sayyid Muhammad described the Nation of Islam as the light in the darkness. “When the mosques open, the blind get a chance to see our light and our teachings again, because they’ve suffered as a result of our absence,” he said. “And Allah has created the condition, now, where the people are in a spirit to listen. They are looking for God more in this hour than they ever have before.”
For more information on some of the NOI regional mosques, visit the websites noiatlanta.org, noinewyork.org, noihouston.org and muhammadmosque27.com, and Instagram @miaminoi.