The Nation of Islam is remembering and honoring the life of Captain Shaheed Muhammad, who returned to Allah (God) on May 20, 2022, in Los Angeles.
From the moment news spread of his passing, many shared stories through joy and pain about the life of the man young and old honored as “Big Capt.”
Shaheed Muhammad was born the youngest of four siblings on September 23, 1947, in Chicago, Ill., to parents Alease and Myles Holmes Sr., very religious people who migrated from Mississippi. His father passed when he was just two. That, plus an age gap between he and his siblings shaped him into a very independent and ambitious child, according to family.
Shortly before Brother Shaheed’s mother moved her family to Los Angeles in 1955, his desire to change the condition of Black people was ignited by seeing the body of Emmett Till and witnessing his 15 year old cousin being shot down simply because he was Black.
He was born to serve his people.
In Los Angeles, Brother Shaheed attended 99th Street Elementary, Carver Jr. High, Jefferson High School and ultimately graduated from Washington High School in 1965. He was accepted to Winston-Salem State College where he played with NBA legend Earl “the Pearl” Monroe. Brother Shaheed was very proud that his basketball team won the NCAA College Division title. It was the first team from an historically Black college or university (HBCU) to win an NCAA championship in any sport.
Brother Shaheed went on to try out and briefly play in the NBA with the Portland Trailblazers. He never stopped playing basketball. He played basketball in both Compton, Calif., and Carson, Calif., at Gonzales Park, Rogers Park, Lueders Park and Victoria Park. Basketball was his obsession. His height was 6’4”. Some also referred to him as “a shooting coach” because of his meticulous shooting technique. He coached several players who went on to the NBA.
“When we heard that he had made his transition, people didn’t believe it, because he was such a symbol of immortality and strength. It lets you know that Allah is God and (Allah) called him. But at the same time, he represented so much spiritual strength; he gave people belief! He fasted, he prayed,” stated Dr. Amen Rahh, emeritus professor of Africana Studies at California State University—Long Beach, who attended 99th St. Elementary School with Brother Shaheed.
At 76-years-old, he still maintained a rigorous physical regimen on the basketball court, said Dr. Rahh.
He felt Brother Shaheed’s greatest gift was his authentic love for the Nation of Islam, and people saw that. “That he lived the Teachings of the Nation of Islam; that he recruited people in the Watts mosque and Compton mosque. He would go around and pick people up in his Rolls Royce. He was a fantastic businessman. He owned a car wash off of Ladera (in Baldwin Hills, Calif.) and a beeper service and started security (firms). He was the one who helped a lot of the brothers start their security programs,” said Dr. Rahh.
“He brought Minister Louis Farrakhan to the city of Compton. All the rappers knew him … (late great attorney) Johnny Cochran loved and respected Capt. Shaheed. My family respects him. They know how devastated I am about his transition, but his spirit lives in me forever.”
Dr. Rahh continued, “He will always be in my heart and mind because I learned so much about the Nation, about brotherhood and above all about being a family man. He loved his children, and being a man, he was a man among men, one of the most respected brothers. I’m a professor … was for about 34 years, but Big Capt. gave me a Ph.D. in brotherhood in the Nation, understanding the Nation, understanding Islam. He taught me so much.”
Spirit, loyalty and the love of Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam comes to mind when Ayatollah Muhammad, formerly Marvin Muhammad, of Mosque No. 54 thinks about Shaheed Muhammad, one of the most dynamic captains to ever labor on the West Coast in his view.
“When you talk about men, he’s a man builder,” he stated. “This brother built Mosque 54. He brought Mosque 54 back to fruition … the 5-4 came up in 1990. Shaheed pushed hard to bring Compton back on the map, and he did that with humility and dignity,” said Ayatollah Muhammad.
Due to Compton being a primary target of the CIA-Contra-crack cocaine epidemic, Mosque 54 was one of his proudest accomplishments, noted his wife, Tiffany. Under Minister Farrakhan’s guidance, he became an integral part in saving lives, cleaning the streets, protecting the community, executing gang truces, creating employment and helping to elect the mayor of Compton. He also helped to attract several local entertainers to Mosque No. 54, including MC Ren, Ice Cube, and West Coast Kam.
He worked his way up to become a captain under the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Then in 1982, he joined Minister Farrakhan’s efforts to rebuild the Nation of Islam and became a substantial part of the process on the West Coast by forming study groups.
Ayatollah Muhammad could have gone on about the other great works of Captain Shaheed Muhammad but focused on the morning the maker of men departed this life. “He had called me at five o’clock in the morning for prayer, and we talked for prayer until 5:15. So he was praying leaving out to meet Allah. This is how dynamic this soldier was. And Allah took him on Jummah Friday (the day for traditional Muslim congregational prayers.) Then they say any Believer that passes on Friday goes directly to paradise,” he said.
Brother Shaheed witnessed a miracle on October 16, 1995, at the Million Man March. He also worked to make the miracle happen: He established the first regional office to promote the Million Man March in Compton. He gave sponsorships to several Black men to attend the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. Compton’s City Council recognized Brother Shaheed’s efforts by giving Minister Farrakhan the key to the city, declaring the Million Man March a local holiday, and declaring February 26 as “Master Fard Muhammad Day.” Master Fard Muhammad, the Great Mahdi, is the teacher of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, eternal leader of the Nation of Islam.
Brother Shaheed was blessed to be one of the pioneers of the personal security team, or E-Team security, for Minister Farrakhan. He helped secure the Minister on all four major events on the National Mall, starting with the Million Man March in 1995, and toured the world with Minister Farrakhan on three separate occasions.
Brother Shaheed was one of the first Muslim men Sultan Muhammad, a member of the E-Team and NOI Research Group, met in the Nation of Islam in Los Angeles who was in the Nation prior to 1975.
“I found Brother Shaheed to be one of the proudest Muslims I’ve ever met. He loves Islam and was very proud to be a Muslim follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I found him to be a fearless man. And I found him to have the love of the brothers in the streets. They loved him. They respected him. They would listen to him. And they would come if he called,” said Sultan Muhammad.
“But when I heard (of his passing), at first, it was a shock. And then I immediately turned to thank Allah for what I had met of the attributes of Allah in our brother. And since I know all of what we love in each other is from the attributes of Allah, which He shares with us so we can know Him better through each other, how could I be sad? Who can think of Shaheed Muhammad and not laugh or not smile?” he asked.
“You can’t think of Shaheed Muhammad and be sad because that brother was alive! And he was a wonderful example of a good soldier who was loved by soldiers. And we cannot forget one of the sharpest dressers in the country, after the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. So I thank Allah for him and I thank Allah for allowing me to see God in him,” Sultan Muhammad concluded.
Western Region Student FOI Captain Halim Muhammad met his great trainer and brother in the early 1980s right before the first Saviours’ Day, during Minister Farrakhan’s early effort to rebuild the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“Just his demeanor, his non-compromising position. He had a saying that he would push the Nation of Islam with extreme prejudice. So, he was this in your face Muslim, 24/7. What I learned from him is to be proud to wear the bowtie, to be proud to be a Muslim, to be proud to be in a Nation to be proud to be a soldier. He taught me how to soldier, up close and personal, once I started traveling with him. We would go wherever the Minister would be, especially when I got the assignment of Student Regional FOI Captain,” added Halim Muhammad.
“There’s a lot of things in learning how to soldier in the Nation, how to travel as a Muslim man. How to room with other Muslim men and be clean; how to cook, how to clean house … Shaheed’s house was always immaculate. He was always immaculate, and he taught me that. … His influence on the FOI in the Nation will always be there. He made a lasting impact on my life of being an FOI. He taught how to secure the Minister and the Minister’s family. He taught me a lot. As far as manhood training, a very good trainer of men!”
Khallid Shah, founder of Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace Foundation in Los Angeles, was just 14 years old when he met Brother Shaheed. Mr. Shah’s brother was a Fruit of Islam lieutenant at the time and brought the teen to Mosque No. 27 in Los Angeles.
“And one of the first things that I saw, because we had just had a conflict with LAPD, was this tall brother standing on top of Mosque No. 27 on 56th and Broadway, and it was Captain Shaheed. And the brother, whew, trying to find words to say about this brother is very difficult because I loved him. I respected him,” said Mr. Shah.
Brother Shaheed was a part of his life continuously over the last 45 years.
“I’m going to miss him, but at the same time, I am honored to be able to say he left a legacy here on the West Coast and around the country of what an FOI is supposed to look like, and what we as Black men are supposed to do in our communities,” said Mr. Shaw.
Brother Shaheed greatly inspired his urban peacekeeping efforts. Many of the so-called gang members he deals with through his program were recruited by Brother Shaheed, he stated. “He was the first one that was out there in the community, dealing with the Bloods and the Crips, and giving them a sense of what a true FOI was. And today we have many who are now in the mosque because of that brother’s dedication and resolute ability to deal with our young people,” said Mr. Shah.
Western Region Student Minister Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad concurred. “He was well respected among the street organizational leaders. There weren’t too many ’hoods that we went into that Shaheed did not have respect in, and that’s not even counting the kind of respect that he was given in the entertainment community,” said the Los Angeles-based student minister. “He was one of those brothers that when people got in trouble, they know to call Shaheed,” he said with a smile.
He talked about the remarkable consistency shown by Brother Shaheed in going after Black people with The Final Call newspaper. His legacy as an elite FOI includes selling 1,000 Muhammad Speaks newspapers in a single edition, noted his family. Muhammad Speaks was the legendary publication of the Nation of Islam in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Every time he would come among us, or in the class, you could feel the respect and the energy and the guidance and the wisdom that he brought to the class,” continued Student Minister Sayyid Muhammad. Brother Shaheed and he met in the early 1980s within Student Minister Sayyid Muhammad’s first two years of entering the ranks of Islam.
“He gave me some jewels in ‘fishing’ (inviting and bringing guests to mosque services and programs) and going after our brothers and sisters in the street; always talking about prior to ‘75, how the soldiers soldiered then and how we need to soldier now.
The Holy Qur’an tells us that those who die or is slain in the way of Allah, we may never consider them as dead,” he said. The Holy Qur’an, the Muslim book of scripture, says they are alive but we perceive not. “And so now we have to ask Allah for a double portion of Brother Shaheed’s spirit and carry on in his name, in his spirit and his legacy,” said Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad.
The way a grateful Nation can carry on the legacy of Capt. Shaheed Muhammad is to take on his mission and the best of his character, he continued. The Los Angeles mosque of the Nation of Islam is dedicating the rest of this year in his honor.
It includes in June increasing Final Call newspaper sales and increasing the numbers of first time guests at the mosque, he explained. “That’s how you show Shaheed you love him. … And we press on in his name, and in the name of all of the brothers and sisters who’ve passed on. And so that’s my beautiful reflection on Brother Shaheed, who was committed to the resurrection of our people,” said Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad.
Capt. Shaheed had a big commanding presence about him and that was part of the role that he played in the Nation, said Danny Bakewell, Sr., Los Angeles community leader and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper.
“He exemplified the brotherhood. He exemplified the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Farrakhan. He was strong, but at the same time, he was very gentle,” said Mr. Bakewell.
“Yes, there was a very persuasive and dominant way about him that let you know that he was taking care of business. But at the same time, Capt. Shaheed was there to help Black people, and that’s an extraordinary quality to have,” he said. “So peace and blessings be upon him, and peace, and goodwill to his family, who will be remaining to carry on his legacy. And Shaheed’s legacy was just to do something positive for the community.”
Captain Shaheed Muhammad leaves to carry on his legacy: his wife of 17 years Tiffany Muhammad, his children Kelly, Kareem, Dawud, Quiyamma, Kenyatti, Malik, Ayesha, Ameer, Shareef, Daiyaana, Ziyadah and Ibn Shaheed, 27 Grandchildren, and 5 Great Grandchildren.