The Nation of Islam’s (N.O.I.) Historical Exhibit has been a staple of the Saviours’ Day weekend since it was first established at the 2007 convention in Detroit, Michigan. For the Saviours’ Day 2023 convention, the exhibit will be off-site at the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s former 4847 South Woodlawn Avenue home in Chicago, which is being restored and renovated as “Sajdah House.”
Student Minister, Imam, and N.O.I. Archivist Abdul Salaam Muhammad, Nation of Islam Student National Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad, who established the Table Talks of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and Sajdah Wendy Muhammad, who has been working diligently to restore the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s home into the Elijah Muhammad House Museum (Sajdah House), are undergoing a joint effort in hosting the historical exhibit.
“We’ve already been doing work together and collaborations and working together on the house. So being that great progress has been made, we saw fit with the timing of Saviours’ Day and us coming back together for the first time in three years, that it would be good for us to take these aspects of our history that we have as archives, as well as Table Talks, and wrap them around the house in which the Honorable Elijah Muhammad directed the Nation of Islam from the 1950s up until the early part of 1973,” said Student Imam Abdul Salaam Muhammad to The Final Call.
The N.O.I. Historical Exhibit is just the beginning, to show the progress that has been made on the house and to share upcoming plans, noted Sajdah Wendy Muhammad.
“I don’t think that anybody’s ever seen a living museum. Because my sentiment and our sentiment is that you can’t represent a living man the same way you represent a dead man. And so this will be a living museum filled with the life-giving energy of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and His star student, who will be enshrined there with him, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, who said to me that it was in that house where he was born,” she said.
Those who visit the historical exhibit at Saviours’ Day can look forward to seeing rare photos of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and hearing rare audio of him narrating key aspects of the history of the Nation, particularly around the development of the homes for the believers, the National House, or The Palace, said Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad.
“And the homes that were built across the street from The Palace on Woodlawn for the family of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, which he said in the Table Talks is a picture of what is for all of the believers, as we’ve looked at continuing to establish ourselves as an independent Nation,” he added. “If we look at those homes, we will see that they are nothing like the architecture of the old world or the architecture of this world in which we are living here in the West. There’s influence from the Moroccan themes, Syrian themes, and villa-style that also show the necessity for our housing to be conducive to the development of family.”
He explained that in the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s model of “The Palace” and the “baby palaces,” the children of the Messenger built their homes on land surrounding the Woodlawn home.
“I was blessed to be born in the home of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And then we hear in the Table Talks the building of the National House, or Palace. And I was blessed to grow up in that context of being able to move from house to house, auntie, uncle, growing up in a compound with cousins and direct family,” said Student Imam Sultan Muhammad, a great-grandson of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
The Table Talks at the exhibit will showcase not only the building of homes adjacent to 4847 South Woodlawn, but it will also show how the Honorable Elijah Muhammad developed the Southside of Chicago with the Muhammad imports stores, the Salaam Restaurant, and the emergences of a bakery, a coffee shop and other ventures.
A film will be shown during the historical exhibit showing the Nation’s daily business operations and will include an interview with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“Through these businesses and institutions, the planning is happening at the table, but the impact is happening around the city, not just for your families, not just for your immediate families, but the city itself, and ultimately the Nation,” Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad said.
He explained that what was happening in Chicago was mimicked all over the Nation of Islam, as the same type of development occurred in each major city with a mosque, a restaurant, a grocery store, a school and farmland.
“From the farmland and the development of products, we had our own canned goods. But it all began with Mother Clara Muhammad canning goods that would be stored in the basement of 4847 South Woodlawn,” he said, referencing the wife of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who played a pivotal role in keeping the Nation of Islam running. “In that very home, a barber shop. Right in that very home, a cleaners and laundry.”
From the 4847 South Woodlawn home, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad launched the “Family Day Parade.”
“On July 27, 1969, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad gave Chicago but also the world our first and really only Muslim parade,” Student Imam Abdul Salaam Muhammad said.
It is also in that home that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught and trained many of his laborers, such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and his chief student and helper who has carried on his work today, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
In its humble beginnings, the N.O.I. Historical Exhibit was spearheaded by Mother Tynnetta Muhammad, wife of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, in 2007.
“Our first exhibit was actually off-site that year at the Charles H. Wright Museum. And so it was a very small but very powerful exhibit. And from that point on, the exhibit began to grow as to what it became, a staple at Saviours’ Day,” Imam Abdul Salaam Muhammad said. “Our Nation’s history is important to the development and the continuation of our Nation. As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said to me, he said, ‘Brother, it’s very important that the believers are constantly reminded where we’ve come from, so that we will always know where we’re going.’”
The team behind this year’s historical exhibit, Imam Abdul Salaam Muhammad, Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad and Sajdah Wendy Muhammad, initially planned to have it at the McCormick Place Convention Center Chicago, where the Saviours’ Day activities are occurring. But they ran into challenges.
“Allah knew best the timing of us not being able to maybe erect an exhibit like we had in the past, because right there in the wing waiting is the project, is the living testament of the man that raised Islam up in that great city, and as a result, his beloved Minister and those that are with him today are the bright light for our people,” Imam Abdul Salaam Muhammad said.
Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad noted the importance of the narrative of the Nation of Islam being told by those in the Nation and not by outsiders.
“For too long, we have turned over our narrative and the academic study of our Nation to those who are not born of the experience, who are not firsthand representations of the experience, and too often our voices are not heard when these academic studies are being done by those that attempt to interpret and establish a treatment of our Nation that projects not only who we are, but what we believe. None better than our own scholars, our own preservationists, are qualified to actually do the justice necessary to represent us to the broader world and public,” he expressed.
By day, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s table was a conference table, and by night, it fed the body, Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad described.
Sajdah House will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday during Saviours’ Day weekend, Feb. 23-25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for guided tours. However, registration is required. On Monday, Feb. 27 there will be a panel discussion and presentation. For more information and to register, visit Sajdah House Sponsorship and Coin Holders Tours on Eventbrite.
—Anisah Muhammad, Contributing Writer