by Anisah Muhammad | Contributing Writer | @MuhammadAnisah
Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad was a woman of many hats. She was the National Spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, one of the 13 members of the Shura Executive Council of the Nation of Islam, an attorney, an author, a radio host and a researcher. She was also a devoted wife to her husband of 33-years Brother Darius Muhammad, a loving mother to daughters Cherelle and Sasha, doting grandmother to Amir and Amirah, a true sister and a dedicated friend. In the echoing voices of women across the Nation of Islam of the Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization Class (MGT and GCC) who were impacted by her life: Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad was every woman and all women.
The 40-year journey of two sisters
Though Sister A’ishah Muhammad, the Student National Auditing Coordinator for the Nation and a former National MGT Captain, served on the Executive Council with Dr. Ava, she also experienced the powerhouse sister during her early days in Islam. Sister A’ishah was Sister Ava’s orientation instructor when she first walked through the doors of the Nation of Islam in the early 80s in New York.
“I remember that Sister Ava came in. She was to the left of me, and she had on a very flowery dress. She explained to me later about this dress, but I remember her smile, I remember her energy and I remember her brightness,” Sister A’ishah said.
When Sister Ava registered to become a Muslim follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, she became an integral part of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in New York. Sister A’ishah Muhammad also witnessed the lawyer side of Dr. Ava live and in person.
“I remember because she wore her green uniform, headpiece and all, and she handled Muhammad’s business. I cannot recall what the actual case was, but she represented with such a pull and such power that her energy and her presence could not be denied,” Sister A’ishah Muhammad.
Before Sister A’ishah knew it, she was moving to Chicago, and Sister Ava moved to Chicago, where the two met up again. Sister A’ishah Muhammad served as the National MGT Captain over the women and girls’ class of the Nation of Islam, Sister Ava helped in the development of Min. Farrakhan’s “Self-Improvement Study Guides.”
She was also present when Sister Ava was appointed as Southern Regional Minister by Minister Farrakhan. She described it as a momentous occasion that set a precedent for the Nation, but she also knew it would be an uphill road for Dr. Ava.
“Most of the men, obviously, were not accustomed to listening to a woman at the helm, if you will, giving directives and guidance. But she did so with a lot of grace,” Sister A’ishah Muhammad stated. “She never made excuses, and she always kept the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the program of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad out front. She drove her region.”
Sister A’ishah Muhammad experienced an unforgettable moment with her sister and friend when they were at the National House, called The Palace, on Aug. 11 in Chicago just a few days before her passing. Sister A’ishah recalled how she unclasped a necklace given to her in 1996 by the Vanguard when she became the National MGT Captain. It was a pendant of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. She asked Sister Ava if she could help fasten it. After fumbling around with it, Sister Ava was finally able to clasp it.
“I looked at it yesterday (Aug. 27), and I realized I was wearing it. And I told my husband how that happened. And I said, I’ve never asked Sister Ava in 40 years to help me put on any garment, any jewelry or anything like that,” Sister A’ishah recounted. “And I said, and now I can never undo it, because she is the one who tied this together for me in this fashion. So, every time I hold it, every time I see it, it is a remembrance of her.”
Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad relied on a team of four sisters—Sister Rona Muhammad, Sister Donna Muhammad, Sister Aneesa Muhammad and Sister Deanna Muhammad—to work on her social media presence and marketing, among other duties and responsibilities. As a much sought-after speaker, popular author and National Spokesperson for Min. Farrakhan, there was a demand for her presence at events and functions around the country and world. For those who assisted her, the most used description of Sister Ava Muhammad was “humble.”
Sister Rona Muhammad described Sister Ava as the humblest person she knew. In her last text message to Sister Rona Muhammad, Sister Ava expressed her love and gratitude to the team for their dedication. Sister Rona Muhammad started working with Sister Ava and her Blog Talk Radio Show, “Elevated Places,” 13 years ago. Her duties expanded to managing her speaking engagement requests, managing her newly launched website, executive producing “Elevated Places” and executive producing “Project Separation.”
“When you work that close with someone on a day to day, week to week, month to month, you become close to them. She became very much like a mother figure to me, a grandmother to my sons and my becoming a big sister to Cherelle (Dr. Ava’s daughter),” she said.
Sister Aneesa Muhammad in Charlotte, N.C., joined Dr. Ava’s team as her social media manager, Instagram and Twitter in particular. She described part of her job as “making Dr. Ava feel like a human.”
Sister Aneesa Muhammad married in fall 2021. She told Sister Ava last year, “I literally would not have qualified to be someone’s wife had it not been for your impact on my life and for the women’s circle.” Sister Aneesa Muhammad started the women’s circle in September 2020, where she and other sisters gather to read Sister Ava’s many books. Sister Ava also started doing master classes, where she would break down aspects of her books and share further guidance.
Sister Donna Muhammad from Memphis, Tenn., helped Sister Ava with her eBooks, among other things. She noted that the basis for all her books was the Self-Improvement Study Guides.
Sister Deanna Muhammad, Student MGT Captain in Plainfield, N.J., described Sister Ava as “the Minister in female form,” referring to Minister Farrakhan.
She expressed that the team would keep Sister Ava alive by carrying out everything she wanted and was planning. The team was preparing a promotion on the same day of her passing. Dr. Ava planned to do a live, in-person master class in September to address the conflict between Black men and women.
Texas-based attorney Pamela Muhammad was an avid listener of “Elevated Places” and served as the show’s legal contributor. “She wanted Black people to improve their daily lives so we can see beyond the limited options that are given by the slave masters’ children,” Sister Pamela Muhammad stated.
One of the biggest impacts for her was Sister Ava’s teaching of separation as taught by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. With instructions from Minister Farrakhan, Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad moved out on “Project Separation,” where she held town hall meetings across the country. May 2021, she launched a series titled “Project Separation: Building Our Promised Land,” where she would showcase Black landowners and community builders via her Elevated Places Network.
Sister Deborah L. Muhammad of Jackson, Miss., joined the Nation in 1997. She was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the time and had heard Minister Farrakhan speak several years prior to joining. She started attending mosque meetings in 1995 and started processing in 1996. But even though she was hearing the messages, she could not make the connection with Islam.
“Something was just not clicking in my mind. My husband at the time purchased the book for me, ‘The Force and Power of Being’ by Minister Ava Muhammad. I read that book in one day. One day! And everything concretized at that point,” she expressed. “That’s when I understood what the Nation was, what these teachings were about. It is the way that Minister Ava expressed herself and expressed Islam. It resonated with me to the degree that everything I had been hearing for seven years finally started making sense.”
Sister Deborah Muhammad is now a former Student MGT Captain of Muhammad Mosque No. 65 in Baton Rouge. She served in the position for 19 years. She also runs The Supreme Wisdom Educational Center, an online school for educators. Before COVID-19, Sister Deborah Muhammad facilitated the Saviours’ Day Ministry of Education workshops for five years. She noted how Sister Ava was not a micromanager, but that she was someone who had enough confidence to assign a job and step back to let the person do it.
A kind-hearted gem
Caring, personable, naturally beautiful in her femininity and someone who didn’t understand her own impact are just a few of the descriptions women who loved and labored with Sister Ava used to talk about her impact.
She was a modern-day Mary, they said. But Sister Ava also enjoyed sports, attending Janet Jackson concerts, listening to The Temptations, traveling, going to Six Flags Great America and expressing what many described as her wonderful sense of humor.
Sister Yaasmeen Muhammad’s first experience with Sister Ava in an everyday setting was on November 10, 2019, in San Diego, California. The 25-year-old Vanguard from Compton was securing Sister Ava and her daughter back to the hotel. There was an itinerary of things to do while they were in the city, but Sister Ava “declined politely and to my surprise said she just wants to stay in and watch the football game,” Sister Yaasmeen Muhammad said.
“I wouldn’t have ever guessed or even let the thought entertain my mind that Minister Ava was a fan of football. Seeing believers or even entertainers that hold such a high position, we tend to forget that they’re human just like us with likes and interests, so we look at them as though they’re different from us,” she expressed. “It may seem small to some, but to see her in her simplicity brought joy to me and the reminder that there is more than meets the eye to this inspirational, kind-hearted, powerful gem Allah has blessed us with. May Allah be pleased with our beautiful sister.”
Sister Kenetta Muhammad, a Vanguard from Atlanta, would be asked to be on Sister Ava’s security team when she was in the city. “Security, usually we don’t get talked to. But Dr. Ava, she talked to us, and it was just an honor and a blessing. So we went to dinner that night. Usually security, we would go sit in the corner, stay in the car. And she turned and looked at us, she was like, ‘What are y’all doing?’ ” Sister Kenetta Muhammad recounted. “She was like, ‘You all young sisters come and sit at the table with me where you all belong.’ ”
Sister Ava asked the young sisters about themselves, allowed them to ask questions and shared testimonies from the Minister. “I was just so in amazement to be with her on that level. She walked with Jesus. She talked with Jesus. And for us to be at her table, it was an honor,” Sister Kenetta Muhamad said.
While Sister Ava was on the post as Southern Regional Minister, she faced a lot of sexism, “but she’s a strong woman,” Sister Donna Muhammad noted.
Fighting against sexism “was something that was important for her,” Sister Rona Muhammad said. “Not only did she fight for the women, but she fought for us to come into an understanding of how important it is truly for us to stand up and to exemplify Allah within us, because she truly exemplified that the Nation can rise no higher than its woman,” she added.
“She wanted us to free ourselves from ourselves, whatever inhibited us as women,” Sister Donna Muhammad said. “She really wanted us to realize who and what we are and where we are in this time in our history, and that we have to rise up, each of us, into our greatness, as she was saying, not in an arrogant way, but having confidence in that which Allah has given you. And she was saying, don’t be afraid to shine in it.”
We are Dr. Ava!
Sister Kenya Muhammad, 25, from Chicago, saw Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad as a star and someone she patterned herself after. “As a woman in the ministry, there was no one that I looked up to more than her. In the ministry, she was my example,” said Sister Kenya Muhammad.
“Everything that I do in ministry, I know she paved the way for me to be able to do that. As a woman in the Nation of Islam with a leader like the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, her freedom showed me that there are no limits on a Muslim woman besides that which degrades us.”
From her point of view, Dr. Ava showed how submission to Allah and to the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad brings true freedom, happiness and success.
“Immediately coupled with intense heartache came the immediate desire to do better, to be better and to work tremendously harder to uphold what she lived and gave her life for,” Sister Kenya expressed. “I’m just immediately inspired and just asking Allah to give me the strength to be able to do more for Islam.”
Sister Sabbath Muhammad, a 23-year-old student in the ministry, from Atlanta, described Dr. Ava as a beacon of light for all people—men and women. When she took a picture with her in 2014, Sister Ava turned around and whispered in her ear, “I’m so proud of you,” shared Sister Sabbath.
“I never knew why. All I knew was she was my hero,” she expressed.
Sister Aneesa Muhammad noted that Sister Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad “came in the Nation a soldier, and she died a soldier. She gave her life and her death 100 percent to Allah.”
“Now in her absence, in her passing, we get to be the beneficiaries. And by we, I mean the Nation. We get to be the beneficiaries of her award, but that’s only if we work in her name,” she said.