The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is the star student of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Listen to any of the countless messages he has given, and his introduction is consistent: “I am a student of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.” The Minister’s rise in the Nation of Islam came with trials, dedication, and a commitment to being the best Muslim, being a good follower, and ultimately a good leader.
“He always wanted to be a helper to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” Abdul Akbar Muhammad, Nation of Islam International Representative, told The Final Call.
“After the death of Malcolm X (in 1965), the Honorable Elijah Muhammad sent the then Louis X to New York to rebuild Mosque No. 7. He continued the ministry class, started by Malcolm and large numbers of brothers came out. This helped him create ministries in all the boroughs in New York.”
Student Minister Akbar Muhammad explained that many of the brothers in that class left to make significant impacts in the world. “Imam Siraj Wahaj was in that class. He came as a community college student. He was very helpful in fishing (dawah). Abdul Aleem Muhammad who wrote a concordance of the Holy Qur’an was in the class. The Minister gave me an opportunity to help as well which led to me being involved in international affairs.”
The Minister’s dedication to study and achievement can also be seen in other areas of his life. He was a star student in Dr. Aminah Al Deen’s Islamic Studies classes. Dr. Al Deen is the Chair Emeritus of DePaul University’s Islamic Studies Department. “He began with Qur’anic studies and then went to Arabic.
I couldn’t tell you what year, but it’s been years. He was a fantastic student. He did his homework. I don’t think people know the side of him when he is drilling down on what he wants to know, but also what he needs to know,” she told The Final Call.
“His hospitality when I visited him for lessons was overwhelming. I’m thinking of him with that smile that draws you in. He was humble and an exemplary student. He was excellent. The Minister is a model for others. He found time to study. He doesn’t make excuses like many students do. He’s a leader extraordinaire. He’s going to be 90, acting like a 60-year-old. He’s impressive leading a diverse community.”
She added, “He continues to pull in the young people and be aware of what it is they’re saying, what it is they’re doing, and not losing touch as many leaders do. He’s acutely aware of everything that’s going on around him as much as he can be. On top of that, he is—for the most part, given his stature—he’s accessible.”
The Minister also shined bright in his musical talent with the violin, as a star student. He began the violin at the wee age of five years and 11 months at the insistence of his mother. When he was nine, he attended a live Boston Symphony Orchestra performance, where famed Russian-Jewish violinist Jascha Heifetz performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major. The young Louis was entranced with Heifetz’s performance and treasured an autographed program the master violinist signed backstage. From that day, he devoted significant time to his violin study, regularly practicing six to eight hours per day.
As a young violinist, Minister Farrakhan’s outstanding musical career included playing the violin on TV’s “Ted Mack Amateur Hour” in 1946. At 19, while a sophomore at Winston-Salem Teachers College, he was selected to play his violin on the famed band leader Horace Heidt’s show. According to the media, Mr. Heidt called the young Louis “a great artist.”
While passionate about the violin, he was also passionate about being a Muslim and helping Black people. His musical career paused for decades. Minister Farrakhan stated, “Sylvia Olden Lee was the greatest influence in my return to the study of the violin after 42 years of no formal training. As a youngster, I hoped to become a great violinist, but my life took another course, and I gave up the violin for my Ministry.
“I met Sylvia Olden Lee in the late 1980s and invited her and Elvira Green (a soprano in the Metropolitan Opera company who was coached by Sylvia Olden Lee) to have dinner with me. Later that evening, I got my violin and began to play part of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and Ms. Lee went to the piano to accompany me!
“She later arranged an invitation from the National Association of Negro Musicians, of which she was a member, for me to play my violin with her accompanying me at their National Convention. Ms. Lee encouraged me to ‘seriously’ play my violin again, so I hired a teacher and renewed my musical journey… . My love, respect, and deep appreciation for her is limitless. In the twilight years of my life, I will carry her in my heart to my last breath.”
Minister Farrakhan again became a star student of the violin, studying and performing around the country to sold-out audiences. In 1991, violinist Elaine Skorodin Forman, also a student of Jascha Heifetz, became his teacher. She reluctantly coached the Minister’s technique and mastery of the extremely difficult Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. However, she was doubtful he could accomplish the task.
She was quoted by the media telling him, “You know Minister, even I cannot be ready in 10 years much less in six months’ time, to work and perform this piece by Beethoven. Such a daunting undertaking, to prepare musically, mentally and physically, even for professionals, is one huge challenge.”
The star student rose to the challenge and exceeded all predictions and expectations. At the amazing age of 60, the Minister performed in concert on April 17, 1993, in North Carolina at the Reynolds Auditorium. This performance is the subject of a documentary entitled, “Minister Louis Farrakhan Performs Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.”
“Mr. Farrakhan’s sound is that of the authentic player. It is wide, deep and full of the energy that makes the violin gleam. His thrusting sense of phrase has musical power to it,” wrote Bernard Holland, New York Times Music Critic in 1993.
Minister Farrakhan’s next teacher was acclaimed concert pianist and violinist Dr. Ayke Angus. Her career is distinguished by being the final accompanist during the last 15 years of Jascha Heifetz’s life. After his death, she wrote “Heifetz As I Knew Him,” which was read by music lovers, violinists and Minister Farrakhan.
After he read her book, the Minister contacted her. She invited the Minister to attend a Chicago Master Class. That led to him giving her and her husband a private performance of his self-taught “Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major.”
“I was blown away by the fact that he learned it by himself. There were a few little mistakes, here and there. But his sound, the type of sound quality, tone quality of his playing was so passionate. And so truthful—you know, it was like the truth. People say the kind of sound you make out of an instrument, string instrument, is the mirror of your soul. So you can’t hide… I just heard the truth. I heard love and the truth … I didn’t even know what the Minister was about (otherwise), (but what) I just heard (from) the Minister was the truth,” Dr. Ayke Angus said.
For the next five- to-six-months she coached him. The star student had a strenuous practice routine, resulting in his 2002 concert performance at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, California, before a crowd of 1,700. The concert was dedicated as “A Musical Tribute to Humanity.”
In his remarks after his performance, Minister Farrakhan encouraged his audience to seek challenges seemingly beyond one’s ability, as a mechanism “to allow Allah (God) a chance to assist you,” he said. “So, I reflect on the words of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who said that when Allah created the universe from nothing, He destroyed the impossible,” the Minister said.
“The violin has allowed me to express what is within. It is a tool that God is using to expand my breast so that I might fulfill the mission of my teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. That violin, you can’t play it and be narrow in focus. My music made me hurt when any human being was hurt. My music made me sensitive to pain and suffering, not only of Black people but anybody that suffered.”
The star student’s light has continued birthing a long list of other star students who benefit from the Minister’s tutelage and example. The list includes the late Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad, Imam Sultan R. Muhammad, Imam Abdul Salaam Muhammad, Student Minister Dr. Wesley Muhammad, Student Minister Nuri Muhammad and many more men and women.
They have represented their leader and teacher on national television and radio programs, podcasts, and community events, authored books and much more. The Minister has served as an inspiration for his followers to continue sharing the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Media personality and comedian Steve Harvey recently said that Student Min. Nuri Muhammad of Mosque No. 74 in Indianapolis changed his whole perspective on life and relationships. The electric student minister has authored books on relationships based on the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as taught and exemplified by Minister Farrakhan.
Mr. Harvey quoted Student Minister Nuri Muhammad on his morning radio show and recently on former NFL star Shannon Sharpe’s podcast. “He (Nuri Muhammad) said, ‘Other than your relationship with God, who you choose to spend the rest of your life with is the single most important decision you will ever make because your other half will either be your better half or make you half of what you could be,’” said Mr. Harvey.