The Nation of Islam and the world of freedom loving people continue to honor the life and legacy of Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad, National Spokesperson of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and one of the strongest and most powerful voices for Islam, Black people and humanity.
Although Sister Ava’s passing was major and painful, reflections on her many contributions to Black excellence continue to be shared.
Nation of Islam Student Supreme Captain Mustapha Farrakhan, son of Min. Farrakhan, remembered Sister Ava as someone who gave it all and used her God-given talents to advance the cause of Islam and Black progress.
“I want to thank Almighty God Allah for Sister Ava and her mother who produced her, because this was a very highly skilled and trained sister in the art of law, and I see her as a watchman on the wall for our people for freedom, justice and equality,” said Bro. Mustapha.
He said her strength as a strong defender of truth and the plight of Black people came from her profound love. She used the skills she acquired as a former prosecuting attorney in Queens, New York. She brought the same proficiency against our open enemy, said Bro. Mustapha.
“When you look at her stellar defense of the Minister, she’s fearless,” he said. “People think that that stems out of other attributes but really it comes out of love” he added.
He likened the depth of Sister Ava’s love to a mother who would run into a burning building to get her child, not taking account of what the fire would do to her. “Perfect love casts out fear,” said Bro. Mustapha Farrakhan. “She loved Allah, His Christ and my father … she is fearless because of the deep love that she has,” he added. “She used all of her God-given talent to fight on behalf of the God that came to save us.”
Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad departed this life on August 25, 2022. A wife, mother, grandmother, and servant of God, she was 71 years old.
Minister Ava was a staunch defender of Minister Farrakhan and the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. As an attorney by profession, after joining the Nation of Islam, she was instrumental in representing the Nation and giving valued advice and guidance on legal issues to Minister Farrakhan and NOI officials.
A life of service and progress
Minister Ava Muhammad was the first Muslim woman in modern history to occupy a position of authority over a mosque anywhere in the world. She served as the Nation of Islam’s Southern Regional Minister, as well as the Minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta from 1998 until 2000. Later, she was appointed as Minister Farrakhan’s National Spokesperson.
Minister Farrakhan’s appointing Minister Ava over a mosque was “inspired” and demonstrated the answer to a fundamental problem plaguing the world.
In her illuminating book, “A New Unit of Measurement,” Minister Ava once wrote: “The time has come when women must be represented through leadership roles in every aspect of life, especially religion,” she said. “I am often asked about the role of the woman in Islam. What about the role of the woman in Christianity, in Judaism, in government, business, finance, education, politics?”
She further wrote, “It is the absence of the female from the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and from shepherding the flock that has crippled this planet. Until the female is free to exercise her creative ability, the human family will remain in this condition.”
Of Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad’s many accomplishments in service to the Nation of Islam was her invaluable input in the development, compilation, and presentation of the “Muhammad Mosque Provisional Constitution” of the Nation of Islam that was ratified in March, 1986. She was also a proponent of separation as “a must,” for Blacks as taught by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. She brought thinkers together in townhall meetings and established the “Project Separation” initiative.
Perhaps her most celebrated contribution was transcribing Minister Farrakhan’s words, which became study guides and a cornerstone for the spiritual development of the Nation of Islam and the wider public titled, “Self-Improvement: The Basis For Community Development.”
Her body of work also includes authoring several self-empowerment books designed to help people to access and develop the divine within under titles like: “Real Love,” “A New Way of Life,” “Naturally Beautiful,” “The Force and Power of Being” and “Weapons of Self-Destruction.” Along with her books, Minister Ava conducted the “Master Class” course infusing her years of study and application of the restorative teachings of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan.
She was a national speaker in high demand for conferences and represented the message of Minister Farrakhan in print and broadcast media. Minister Ava graced the microphones of many talk shows, including her own popular program, “Ask Dr. Ava” on her Elevated Places Network on Blogtalk Radio. She also hosted a talk show, “Elevated Places,” that ran several years on Black-owned WVON 1690AM, in Chicago.
She was featured several times in Essence Magazine, providing guidance and counsel on such topics as “The Love You Deserve” and the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States. In 2000 she was recognized by Essence as one of the 30 most influential Black women in America in its 30th Anniversary edition.
Beyond America, accompanied by her husband, Darius Muhammad, she traveled the globe to Africa, and captivated and inspired audiences in London, Paris, and the Caribbean. In 1991, she and Brother Darius made their pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
A star of piercing brightness
Minister Ava personified the oft-recited prayer of Muslims: “My prayer, my sacrifice, my life, and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” This year, 2022 marked over 40 years of her faithful service in the Nation of Islam and aiding Minister Farrakhan.
“She was my sister, a friend and a real colleague in this work who inspired me and countless others to become sharper, better, stronger in our defense,” said Student Minister Jamil Muhammad.
“Her Islam is not halted by the period at the end of her physical life,” he said. “Her Islam continues because she connected to something that was eternal and connected in such a way as to advance the cause with great honor,” he added. “Her contribution is enduring, and it will last.”
Condolences poured in from various people who remembered her as a person and a stalwart for truth and justice.
“If righteousness was personified it would be Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad. She was as beautiful, as she was powerful, as she was committed to the community,” said Nayaba Arinde, editor of The New York Amsterdam News, in an emailed statement. Ms. Arinde described Minister Ava as possessing the “power of empathetic communication” with the ability to “analyze and assess our condition” then articulate the solution with enough “convincing energy” to encourage action.
“She was a soldier,” said Pam Africa, of the Philadelphia-based MOVE Organization.
“She was warm, caring, loving, and dealing with the issue of myself, my family and Mumia (Abu Jamal). She was always right there … a phone call away,” said Ms. Africa.
She said Minister Ava’s attentiveness will be missed, but the example she set “is in many sisters,” and “her job on this level was a job well done.”
Similar sentiments were expressed in condolences to Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam by Viola Plummer on behalf of the New York-based December 12th Movement: “Her love, dedication and tireless work for our people is a shining example,” she said.
Renowned poet and writer Nikki Giovanni, a first cousin of Minister Ava expressed condolences. Susan Taylor, founder, and CEO of the “National Cares Mentoring Movement” and editor emerita of Essence Magazine also expressed her “heart-felt condolences” on the passing of Sister Ava.
“On behalf of my daughter, Amina and the Women in Support of the Million Man March, we mourn the passing of Sister Ava Muhammad,” said Fredricka Bey of WISOMMM. “She was just pure woman … brilliant,” she said.
“It’s critically important that we immortalize her ideas and make sure that they live another 1,000 years after her death,” said Dr. Boyce Watkins, author, and financial scholar.
There is no reason Dr. Ava Muhammad should not be in all the history books for our children everywhere, but we must be the ones to create those books and materials that would assure her legacy survives the way that it should, said Mr. Watkins.
“We join the many around the country mourning the loss of our great sister,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump. “Her work and tenacious spirit for freedom, justice and equality will forever be within us.”
Advocate for women and the oppressed
As spokesperson for Minister Farrakhan, she gained the respect and endearment of people as one of his most proficient defenders and profound representatives. From human rights to advocating for Black women, Sister Ava is lauded as a giant in the liberation of the soul of Black and oppressed people.
“Sister Ava is revered, admired and has been an inspiration for women and men all over the world,” noted East Coast Student Regional MGT and GCC Captain Johnna Muhammad in an email statement. The MGT and GCC (Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization Class) are the women and girls of the Nation of Islam.
“She was on the front line for Black and oppressed people, and fearless in her defense of women’s rights,” said Johnna Muhammad. “Sister Ava represented every woman as a wife, a mother, gifted spiritual teacher, author, editor, radio personality, attorney, and a sister friend,” said Johnna Muhammad, who admired Minister Ava since a young girl in the early rebuilding years of the Nation of Islam in the 1980s
“In my judgment she was the epitome of what is popularly referred to as strong Black womanhood,” journalist Doshon Farad told The Final Call.
Black women, regardless of their religious background have shared via social media how Minister Ava impacted them. Others bore witness to the potency of Minister Ava’s mind and sharp intellect, yet her quality of humility.
“She was such a charming, gracious spirit as accomplished as she was,” said Bob Law, veteran broadcaster, and radio personality. “She made you feel that she appreciated you, gave you a sense of value,” he said.
An important quality about her teaching was how insightful she was and her level of discernment, which was of immense value to anyone who would be, in a real sense, students of hers, explained Mr. Law.
“It made all the difference in the world in fact, that she was a woman,” said Mark Thompson, host of “Make it Plain” radio show and podcast. “Kwame Nkrumah once said, we can judge the revolutionary awareness of any nation by the political maturity of that nation’s women, not by the political maturity of that nation’s men. And that is because women are the first life givers, the first teachers,” he added. Sister Ava set such an example for our struggle.
The early years and finding purpose
Born Ava Atkinson on November 9, in Columbus, Ohio, she grew up in 1950s and ‘60s in America at a time of segregation, when Black economics was alive and Black culture and community thrived. Her parents, William and Gladys Atkinson, both educators, assured that Ava and her sisters, Carole and Lori, were conscious of the emerging civil rights struggle in the country. They instilled a love of history and literature in their daughters. She went to East High School—a premier institution—where she graduated with honors. People remembered young Ava as a highly gifted and popular student who stood out among her classmates.
“Sister Ava stood out, like a neon sign because, first of all, you never seen her without books … a stack of books,” recalled Callie Muhammad, who attended East High School at the same time.
In high school Sister Ava was immensely popular and grew up in an upper-middle class neighborhood in a close-knit family. Her parents were prominent community people in Black Columbus.
When asked if she observed signs in Minister Ava’s early life of who she would become, Callie Muhammad said: “She was so smart, that you knew that she was going to be great,” she reflected.
Minister Ava’s star continued rising, graduating early with honors from Central State University, earning a degree in history in 1972. She went on to graduate from Georgetown University Law School in 1975 and was admitted to the New York Bar and eventually became an assistant district attorney in Queens. By 1980, Minister Ava joined forces with other young Black attorneys and started a successful criminal defense practice.
Finding Allah (God) and her purpose
Trial entered her life that would become her “triumph over tragedy” testament that propelled Minister Ava on a course to her ultimate destiny. Both she and her mother were diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time. They both underwent chemotherapy for nearly two years. Having lost her father to lung cancer, Sister Ava found herself searching for spiritual answers to these life circumstances.
Her longtime friend, and law partner, Barbara Muhammad remembered how she managed, overcame, and was subsequently cured of the cancer. Witnessing Minister Ava’s experience inspired her own triumphant battle with breast cancer years later.
“She’s like a blood family member,” said Sister Barbara Muhammad. “When she had breast cancer, she came to live with me,” she said.
“I told her, you were my example. Allah (God) put you to live with us, so I can see how to handle breast cancer when I got it,” Sister Barbara recalled. Sister Ava was “a perfect example” and did not let cancer stop her from doing the things she had to do.
After attending a lecture by Minister Farrakhan called “Truth Crushed to the Earth Must Rise Again,” in late 1981, Sister Ava and her law partners Barbara Emanuel and Larry Pershay joined the Nation of Islam together at Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in New York.
“That was it,” said Sister Ava, recounting the experience on a radio show. “I knew I have found the answer, because he (Minister Farrakhan) said to me, among the several thousand people that he was talking to … Allah empowers you to heal yourself,” she said. The encounter changed her perspective on God, healing, wellness and diet, which she attributed to her victory over cancer.
New York City to Chicago
“The mention of her name brings a smile to my face and it brings absolute peace to my heart knowing of the work she has done to help my brother, our brother, our friend, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” said Brother Abdul Karriem Muhammad, East Coast Regional Minister Emeritus of the Nation of Islam.
Brother Abdul Karriem Muhammad—in Nation of Islam vernacular—“fished” Sister Ava into the Nation of Islam and she credited him with nurturing her. He spoke about the day they met.
“We first encountered one another as I had walked from the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in New York City, with Brother Haqq Muhammad,” he said. “I saw this woman with a legal pad in her hand. I asked her, ‘pardon me ma’am, are you a lawyer?’ She said, ‘yes, I am,’” he recalled.
They told her they were followers of the Nation of Islam under Minister Farrakhan, and that they needed a lawyer for the State Office Building, which was trying to put the Muslims out. “We had outgrown the space and they wanted us to move,” he said.
Brother Abdul Karriem Muhammad said that Sister Ava, Sister Barbara and Brother Larry were the legal team. “Let’s just say, we remained at the State Office Building. All three eventually joined the Nation of Islam.”
Seeing her many skills Brother Abdul Karriem Muhammad stated, “I put her to work immediately, and she was a great help in this mission.”
Minister Ava’s example in New York left impressions and life changing impacts on people.
Sister Sharima Johnson met Minister Ava as a 15 year old in 1981 at Mosque No. 7. For her, Minister Ava was the example of Muslim womanhood she needed as a teenager. “I saw myself in Minister Ava because she was still feminine. She’s beautiful. But she doesn’t take anybody’s mess,” said Sister Sharima, who also entered the ministry class as a teen, at a time when it was uncommon for sisters.
Sister Ava was well studied, a quality Sister Sharima Johnson admired. “I admired that because I don’t believe that we should be believers forever. We should become knowers and she was an embodiment of becoming a knower,” she added.
“Although she knew a lot, she was always studying. Whether it was the Qur’an … Bible or chemistry books for fun … just very studious.”
In 1983, Minister Farrakhan relocated Sister Ava to be at the Nation of Islam headquarters in Chicago.
“Minister Farrakhan had confidence in her analytical mind to deal with problems, not only problems we faced internally in the Nation but in the community,” said Abdul Akbar Muhammad, International Representative of the Nation of Islam.
When she came to Chicago, the laboring staff were impressed by her dedication and whatever Minister Farrakhan talked about, she would pick up on it, write it down and analyze it, he explained. The Minister brought Sister Ava to Chicago in his efforts to harness the best minds and bring to headquarters the kind of help he needed to rebuild the Nation of Islam.
Akbar Muhammad also gave credit to Sister Ava’s husband, Brother Darius Muhammad for sacrificing and being her protection, which allowed the family to be together despite tremendous external demands and busy public schedule. Sister Ava and Brother Darius were married 33 years and have two daughters, Sasha, and Cherelle, and two grandchildren, Amir, and Amirah.