The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is indeed a true friend of the Black man and woman because his message is as relevant today as it was when he was physically among us. He worked, suffered, studied and constantly prayed for our rise. He sacrificed his own personal life to devote 44 years to the rise of our people.
—The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,
“A True Friend: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad”
The impact and influence of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad is not solely limited to the registered members of the Nation of Islam. His declaration that he met face-to-face with and was taught by Allah (God) in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad, the long-awaited “Messiah” of the Christians and the “Mahdi” of the Muslims, and the Supreme Wisdom he taught, is still being felt today, despite deliberate efforts to write him out of history.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad turns 125-years-old on October 7, and community leaders, activists, and historians, spoke with The Final Call about his impact and influence on Black America and the world.
“He was an important leader for people of African descent, especially in North America. He was also an important influence on the religion known as Islam, which suggests global impact. And I would say further that the forces that he helped to marshal and galvanize, organizationally, likewise, have had important impact on the policies of the United States of America,” stated Dr. Gerald Horne, historian, author and professor of History at the University of Houston.
The accomplishments of the Muslims, under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s direction, were major in the areas of religion, politics, social interaction, economic development, education and international affairs for Black people. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad remains a pivotal and key global figure whose program and position will shape the destiny of the future, observers noted.
“His focus on creating newspapers and grocery stores set forth a model of collective economic self-determination that remains a guide for Black economic policy today. Elijah Muhammad was one of the influential Black men in the 20th century,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO, National Urban League.
“I think that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad played a major role in the historical background and the historicity of African Americans, in the impact that he made throughout the world. What really gives me the impressionable moment of his success and his legacy is economic development,” stated Dr. Charles Steele Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in the late 1950s.
“He always said that the root of the problem in America—and America is an unjust system, it’s not a justice system—it is a legal system with no justice. But what he always emphasized was that the Black man and Black people, inclusive of the wholistic approach of Black men and women is that economics is the base, and he used that through exemplifying entrepreneurship,” said Mr. Steele.
Under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s leadership, the Nation of Islam established farms, livestock and vegetable cultivation, rental housing units, private home construction and acquisitions, additional real estate purchases, food processing centers, restaurants, bakeries, lamb packing and cold storage facilities, clothing factories, banking, business league formations, import and export businesses, aviation, health care, administrative offices, shipping on land, sea and air, and more. His program of “do for self” is still being implemented today by Black entrepreneurs and businesspeople.
“That’s what we’re still lacking today, the entrepreneurship of America. And we applaud that fact, because America is a racist country. And until we are healed with the principles, not only of Elijah Muhammad, but Dr. (Martin Luther) King, and Minister Louis Farrakhan, Malcolm X, all of those great leaders, until we come together under one banner to heal America, Dr. King said America just might go to hell,” said Mr. Steele.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad made such an indelible impact, one of the most profound impacts in the 20th century on Black America, said Danny Bakewell Sr., executive publisher and chairman of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper.
“First of all, I would say to you that most people who converted to Islam or the broad spread of Islam in America, in the African American community, came through and from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I think that’s how most families converted. And they were drawn to the message of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, which was not only a message of spiritual awakening, but also an awakening of the economic and social benefits of unity in our lives. I can’t stress that enough,” stated Mr. Bakewell.
While there was a spiritual connection, the kinds of lessons that people learn when they join the Nation of Islam, or even became closely associated with the Nation of Islam, it gave them models for things that they use, in developing other organizations, their community, owning businesses and supporting each other in businesses, he explained.
“Not that people have not done that before the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but I think he made through his message and through his commitment, an indelible imprint on Black people’s minds,” said Mr. Bakewell.
The message of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is far reaching in the broader sense, economically and educationally, Mr. Bakewell continued. “He talked about educating children, respecting women, being uncompromising about those things, and putting the interests of our people and our families ahead of everything and not letting people just give us a lot of jive … in terms of persuading us that their message—even though the message wasn’t directly to us—was good for us. He had a message that was directly to us and directly for us, and for that, we will forever be grateful, for all that he taught us,” Mr. Bakewell continued.
“We are forever grateful to him, and all that he gave us, and all that he left us with for our families and our community. We thank him and are forever grateful to him and his family for all that they sacrificed to bring a message of true purity of self, an understanding of self. … ”
Mr. Bakewell also thanked the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s top student and National Representative, Minister Louis Farrakhan. “We are appreciative of the way the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan took the Messenger’s message and continued to spread it when he took the reins of the Nation of Islam.”
As a leader in the Black Press himself, Mr. Bakewell noted that The Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s must-have newspaper, “Muhammad Speaks” was another element of life that he breathed into Black America. “The Messenger came up with his paper, his message, his 10 Point Program (The Muslim Program), and it lives to even today through The Final Call. … There’s no element of life that we live that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad didn’t touch and influence to make Black people recognize how great we were and are and showing us a blueprint for how to get there if we did not know ourselves,” concluded Mr. Bakewell.
For Efia Ngwangaza, director of the Malcolm Center for Self-Determination and WMXP 95.5 Community Radio in Greenville, South Carolina, “discipline” is the word that comes to her mind when speaking on the impact of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“How to wake up, get up, clean up, stand up, and stay up. Even when we stepped away, we knew there was a standard to be upheld and were called back to it in one way or another. His life-saving lessons on nutrition and health helped improve the quantum and quality of our individual and collective lives,” Ms. Ngwangaza told The Final Call.
Specifically, she is referring to “How To Eat To Live,” Books 1 and 2, by which the Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches on the proper foods to eat to improve the physical, spiritual and mental health of Black people to prevent illnesses and prolong life.
“The male and female leaders he fielded contributed to the clarity, drive, and direction that is our struggle for self-determined nationhood and global icons who restored our reputation and place in world affairs,” added Ms. Ngwangaza.
Fred Hampton Jr., son of Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton Sr., agreed that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was so effective and impactful in various areas of Black life.
“I was born in 1969, but the images and the impact of discipline of the Nation of Islam, the impact of not just the speaking of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but just the certain images of discipline, of seeing those formations and how we can transcend generational lives and how certain things impact you, they stick in your mind,” explained Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad created a movement that was effective in lifting Black men from the clutches of the criminal justice system and transforming them into productive members of the community, he added.
The impact of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is reflected well today, said Pam Africa, of the MOVE Organization. “I’ve found out when I go across the country, I’m greeted by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s followers, under Minister Louis Farrakhan. It has always been for me, a pleasure and honor to enjoy the fruits of his labor and all through the Nation itself,” she stated.
“The examples of young men coming out the prison, the work that is being done in the prison, the work that’s being done in the streets, and this is the work, this is the love, and all that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad has gifted to all of us. People that are non-Muslims and people that are Muslims benefit from the great wisdom, the great humanity of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” said Ms. Africa.
She witnessed the global reach of Mr. Muhammad at a restaurant, during a recent visit to France, she told The Final Call. “There was a brother there. I did not know that the Nation was there. You recognize them by the bow ties, their suits and the way they dress, the way they talk. And I asked him, are you a member of the Nation of Islam, Minister Louis Farrakhan? The first thing they did was tell me the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and then they went into Minister Farrakhan,” elaborated Ms. Africa.
“For me, this is what I find, and this is why I have the utmost respect, because I see the work that he has done. And I do also understand that a lot of people that will come in, everybody’s not strong, they waver. But I have seen a whole lot of people come back to the Nation because of the work that they’ve done. That’s my first-hand account of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” she said.
For Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad helped open up prayer in prison in a way that it wasn’t previously available.
“I think the Nation of Islam helped fight for people’s right to pray. That ultimately included Native Americans being able to have sweat lodges and everything else. I think that he was the tip of the spear,” said Mr. Nunn. “I think that his impact on the Black male has made a lot of them stand up and be stronger than they would have been without him,” he added.
The impact and influence of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad also reached other members of the Original Black Nation, including “so-called Latinos” and Native Americans/Indigenous.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of Hip Hop Caucus, noted that the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad have had a deep impact on Black, Brown and Indigenous communities across America, and his influence on poetry and many musical genres, especially Hip Hop, have and will shape Black consciousness and humanity for generations.
Hector Perez Pacheco, a Quechua from the Confederations of Tawantisuyu, tasked with protecting the ceremonies of his ancestors and Native People, has been interacting with the Nation of Islam for over 30 years. Wherever he has traveled to protect sacred traditions and fight for sovereignty of Indigenous people, the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, under the guidance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, always support his efforts, he stated.
“At times, elders would approach me and say, those brothers (Muslims) were there, way, way, way back, 20-30 years ago, prior to me coming. … And so, to remember the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad is to understand and connect to The Teachings,” said Mr. Pacheco.
He said he sees the parallel between the teachings of Indigenous People and the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the actions of the people, all connected based on philosophies, principles, and values, he said. He also pointed out the important theme of unity among the Original Family.
“The manifestation of the Teaching is making that Teaching into reality. And we could just learn something, but if you don’t implement, it has no value. What I witnessed, and I can testify that I’ve seen that Teaching manifest among the Believers. I have many stories of going from the East to the West and North and the South, and I have called upon brothers and sisters of the Nation, and they have stood side-by-side with the Indigenous people to do the work that we need to do for our communities.”
The Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad “are translated to all aspects of life,” added Mr. Pacheco. “You know how to be a good father, a good mother, a good friend, a good co-worker, a good citizen, a good student, a good teacher. … It’s making the person a whole person, a productive person in this universe,” said Mr. Pacheco.