As the Nation of Islam celebrates the impactful life of one of its star pupils, Sister Minister Ava Muhammad, her peers in the ministry class of the Nation of Islam (NOI) gave pause and reflection. While the passing of such a luminary is painful, her comrades in the ministry learned much from their “sister in the ranks” over the years.
In a career that spanned over four decades, Sister Ava was a brilliant student, a determined advocate, an astute judge, and a courageous leader as the National Spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. She was a principled woman who always stood up for what she believed.
Throughout her life, she inspired others to be their best selves and to fight for justice. She was a powerful voice for justice and equality. She will be remembered for her tireless work on behalf of the Black community.
“She was a great friend, sister colleague, and she gave me the honor of being her daughter’s godfather. Her value to the Nation is immeasurable. Her work will go on long after we are all gone. The effects of her work today will impact generations yet unborn,” said Student Minister Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, Southwestern Regional Minister for the Nation of Islam and head of Mosque No. 45 Houston, Texas.
“So, her work is like unto a pebble that God dropped into the pond of life, the ripple effect of which will go out for generations. Her contribution to the work of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in his messianic role as the Christ and to the God that came to save us all can’t even be calculated at this time, but when the pieces of her life are recorded by the historians, we will know her value to not only us, but to all humanity,” Student Minister Haleem Muhammad observed.
“Minister Ava’s impact on me is extraordinary. I remember coming into the Nation as a teenager. In those early years, I could see stars in our Nation like Minister Ava on BET back when Bev Smith used to have her show ‘Our Voices,’ ” said Student Minister Demetric Muhammad of the Nation of Islam Research Group. “It was like a dream come true for me to have been someone who as a teenager, literally watching her on national television and then becoming a teammate of hers in the august task of assisting Minister Farrakhan on his research team; she was just extraordinary,” he added.
“She has been the best of the student ministers in defense of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” he said. “So, her defense of the Minister was always from a position of love. It was always using the best, the strongest argument. It was always done, and it was always done where it did not create collateral damage that the Minister subsequently had to come behind and clean up. She was the standard bearer in the student ministry class, as far as the defense of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan— showing us how to represent the Minister by taking ourselves out of the way,” added Student Min. Demetric Muhammad.
“Our Nation is mourning because of the great impact she had; a hero and a heroin to both males and females, but certainly a luminary within the MGT Class (Muslim women of the NOI), a standard bearer within the student ministry class, the main member of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s research team, a foundation member of the Executive Council of our Nation, the leader of the Project Separation movement. We are a Nation in mourning, but we thank Allah (God) so much for what he gave us through Minister Ava. Allah says in the Qur’an we should never speak of Minister Ava Muhammad as dead. The work that she did will continue and the good that she did,” he added.
A comrade in the struggle
“She was my sister, my friend and comrade in the struggle, and being a very seasoned and successful representative of the master messenger Minister Louis Farrakhan. I drew great strength from her and her counsel on how to successfully navigate with the word not just in the Mosque but in the broader community,” said Brother Nuri Muhammad, Student Minister of Mosque No. 74 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“She was an accomplished author who helped form the Nation’s Constitution, study guides, an administrative assistant, regional minister in the South, her ministry work at The Final Call building, as a National Spokesperson. What she did in helping with the development of the ministry guide, her works are interwoven into the very fabric of the Nation of Islam,” Student Minister Nuri Muhammad noted.
In commenting on life lessons from Minister Ava’s life, he pointed out faith and consistency. “She has over a 40-year track record of being steadfast on the front line with the sword of truth, fighting for Islam, our reputation, and fighting for freedom, the inequality of our people. I would say that she definitely was a great model of faith and consistency,” said Student Min. Nuri Muhammad.
“In the ranking of Muslims that we find in the Holy Qur’an, where you have the believer, the steadfast, and you have the foremost, in my humble opinion, she’s definitely of that foremost category.”
Brother Patrick Muhammad serves as Student Minister of Mosque No. 29 in Miami and is 7th Region representative of Min. Farrakhan and the NOI. In reflecting on Minister Ava’s indelible imprint, he pointed out her dedication to the study guides titled, “Self-Improvement: The Basis For Community Development.” Allah (God) used Sis. Ava as a vessel to put together the words of the Minister and she always kept the study guides of the Minister out front with the focus on self-examination, self-analysis, and self-correction and the quickening of the self-accusing spirit that the Minister speaks about,” he explained.
“So, as I’ve been reflecting over our dear beautiful sister, I thank Allah so much for her being a vessel and a tool to put that out front,” said Bro. Patrick Muhammad.
Student Minister Troy Muhammad shared that he was blessed to work with Student Minister Ava on several occasions, bringing her in and out of the city of Detroit where he serves as head of Mosque No. 1.
“I told her a story one time about when I was incarcerated and how when you’re in prison, they place value on cassette tapes at that time. So, it would be on the yard you can get the highest price for cassette tapes of the Minister, and no other cassette tapes got that highest price except for Minister Ava’s cassette tapes. She loved that story. I was pained to hear of her passing, but I didn’t stay in pain because I was able to reflect on a life that just aided the Messenger of God in so many ways,” said Student Min. Troy Muhammad.
“She lived a meaningful life. Her ability to communicate God’s work was clear. As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan does when he speaks to a group, you see an array of people as he speaks. Rappers, young people, and the elderly. I’m sitting there wondering, how is she affecting them all? I would then ask how you responded to the message? There is a message in the message that seems to have reached everyone. Because she did not have taint, she was able to be a spokesman for God,” he added.
Student Min. Ava Muhammad was from Columbus, Ohio, and would often share poignant stories about her home city.
“She attended high school here in Columbus, Ohio. And she came through Columbus on many speaking engagements, invited by us, the mosque and the Nation, and other people that knew her here in the city,” said Columbus-based Student Minister Donnell Muhammad. “Her impact was her spiritual ability, her gift for the representation of delivering, not just speaking, but actually delivering the word of God and representing the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan from the feminine perspective. She was a speaker, not just an orator in the sense of what you would call an orator. Her impact was that I learned to extract from her representation methods to improve my own speaking and public speaking abilities,” he explained.
“I extracted that from her many presentations, both in person here in the city and other videos and cassette tapes over the years,” added Student Min. Donnell Muhammad.
Student Minister Rodney Muhammad, NOI Delaware Valley Region Representative and head of Mosque No. 12 in Philadelphia, told The Final Call he met Sister Ava in 1983.
“She was sent from New York City, Brooklyn, New York, by Minister Linward, who the Minister named Karriem later,” he recalled.
“I remember her coming to Chicago as administrative assistant to Minister Farrakhan at that time. I didn’t know she was a minister also, so she began to come out and teach on Friday nights at The Final Call building, and I was just floored by the things I heard her teaching. We began working together when the Minister pulled me into the labor staff. I was also impacted because of her devotion to Minister Farrakhan. It was always good to be in conversation with her,” said Student Min. Rodney Muhammad.
“It was always good to be in her company because anyone that could hold her company would have to hold company with a spiritual warrior because that’s what she was. She was very fierce about the careful protection of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s name, person, character, and everything that makes him the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and what he is then and today. She always took great care in defense of him, and she was always ready to defend him on a moment’s notice,” he said.
“I will say that as the Minister said, Allah had blessed him with the word, but Allah had taught her how to take his word and fix it for the believer. And I always remembered that. And so, the documents that she shared at the approval of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to the Nation of Islam have just proven invaluable—the provisional constitution, the study guides, even the guide to the ministry. She was a strong advocate of the ministers on their cultivation and development.”
An inspiration and doing God’s Will
Minister Ava also served as an inspiration and role model for Muslim women who study in the ministry class of the Nation of Islam. Min. Farrakhan installed her as one of the first women in the ministry of the Nation. In 1998, Minister Farrakhan appointed Sister Ava as the Southern Regional Student Minister of the Nation of Islam and head of Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta, and finally, in the year 2000, his Student National Spokesperson.
Min. Farrakhan stated in the book “Closing The Gap,” by Minister Jabril Muhammad: “Sister Minister Ava Muhammad’s appointment as a minister over a mosque to head the mosque in teaching and administration is a sign now of new ruler-ship. This is a sign that it is becoming time now for the female to come out into Allah’s (God’s) new world, as well as to master the home to bring forth a brand-new civilization. It is also a sign of the irreversible will of Allah (God) that nothing Satan can do will alter the establishment of Allah’s (God’s) will.”
Sister Donna Muhammad was in the ministry class in Atlanta during Minister Ava’s historic appointment as the first woman regional minister.
“She handled our region really like a mother would handle her household,” she described. She paid attention to all the cities in the region, including the smaller ones who are often forgotten. She instructed the student laborers to go out to the different cities in the region at least once a month, and there would be quarterly regional meetings held in different host cities.
“It built up the spirit of the region, and that helped foster relationships, too. … It helped us see one another,” Sister Donna Muhammad said.
Nation of Islam Student National Secretary Sa’ad Alim Muhammad has been in the Nation for 28 years. He has looked up to Dr. Ava Muhammad since his early days and has admired her for her strength and conviction in representing Min. Farrakhan on the rostrum.
“I watched a lot of older lectures from the 80s of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and on a number of them, she’s right there opening up for him. And she had then what she still had now, but just to a higher degree of resolve and spirit and conviction for what she came to believe and to accept,” he told The Final Call.
Brother Sa’ad Muhammad, who like Sister Ava is also an attorney, served on the NOI Executive Council with his comrade and friend. The Council had a recent event where the members sat and shared words, he said.
“I was sitting right next to Sister Ava. And when it came time for me to say something, I said to the group, ‘I’m sitting here saying to myself, I can’t believe I’m sitting next to a legend,’” Bro. Sa’ad Muhammad recounted.
He described Sister Ava as being in a “category by herself” due to her public representation and always being out front on the rostrum. He also described her as a caring person. At a time when his wife was not in a good state due to the debilitating illness she has had for many years, Sister Ava Muhammad visited the hospital at least twice.
“One of my fondest memories is when she took time out of her schedule to come to the University of Chicago to sit by my wife’s bedside. And it’s moments like that, that really endeared her even more to me, and I just loved her for it,” he said.
He noted that “she is alive.”
“Because even on the day of her transition and returning to Allah, I was watching YouTube videos of her. And every time we pick up a study guide, she’s there. And so, she has made an indelible mark on the history of the Nation of Islam,” he said.
“We’re grateful that she was there for every study guide, and we’re grateful to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan for being such a defender, protector, and supporter of women that he would be man enough to select a woman to be his National Spokesperson,” said Brother Sa’ad Muhammad. “Even that, just to carry that kind of weight of being the National Spokesperson for the Messiah says a tremendous amount about her. And she carried that weight with distinction. She’s etched into the history of the Nation as one of the pillars in the rebuilding.”
Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad was the only nationally recognized female student minister for Min. Farrakhan as she was an elder stateswoman amidst a classroom of giants, concluded Student Minister Demetric Muhammad.
“There’s no minister or student minister that I know that did not look up to her. So, stars shined a light, right? And the Honorable Elijah Muhammad wore a fez that was adorned with stars. When you talk about Minister Ava, you’re not talking about just the star, but she was a star among stars. In other words, she was a star that other stars borrowed light from.”
(Anisah Muhammad contributed to this report.)