Pioneers and Muslims who stood up in Phoenix to help the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan rebuild the Nation of Islam reflected on the life’s work, impact, and influence of Brother Minister Jabril Muhammad, formally Brother Bernard Cushmeer, whose departure from this life was announced July 16.
Brother Jabril taught the believers in the “Valley of the Sun” and helped them understand how to love, represent, and defend the then-modern-day Aaron of the Bible now the Messiah, Minister Farrakhan, through scripture. Some of those interviewed by The Final Call laughed, cried and sighed, during personal reflections on the unique ways in which Brother Jabril left an indelible mark on them personally, on Mosque No. 32, and the Nation of Islam.
Many expressed that they were particularly thankful to
Allah (God) for Brother Jabril for his great service in assisting, working, striving and laboring for the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Brother Jabril was no stranger to Phoenix having been appointed the new minister of then Temple No. 32 in 1965. He also lived in the Phoenix residence of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad for six years (1965-1971).
During the early rebuilding years of the Nation of Islam, he was appointed the minister of Mosque No. 32 by Minister Farrakhan.
“On several occasions, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated how the Phoenix mosque under Brother Jabril, was number one in love, study and productivity,” said Brother Joel Muhammad, a longtime Nation of Islam pioneer who served as secretary and minister of Mosque No. 32. Brother Joel said Minister Farrakhan made that statement again recently during the mosque’s grand reopening, which was on June 12, 2022.
Believers of Phoenix expressed how Brother Jabril labored diligently when he was sent there by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in June 1965. He inspired the brothers and sisters and at one point Allah blessed them to get up to 5,000 issues of Muhammad Speaks a week, according to Brother Joel. In addition to Phoenix, they labored in surrounding areas such as Tucson; El Paso, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico, and northern Arizona.
“He really did his best to prepare us for the departure of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. That was his spirit,” stated Brother Joel. His wife, Sister Joyce Muhammad, who worked in the home of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, bore witness, that Brother Jabril was tested by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in many ways, but he stood firm, was faithful and ever-present, doing the labor for the resurrection of the dead and pressing upon the believers at Mosque No. 32 to do the same.
“I thank Allah for his spirit devoted to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad at that time in this city,” stated Brother Joel. He and Sister Joyce were blessed to meet Brother Jabril in Phoenix.
“We have been friends with Brother Jabril for 58 years. He was more like a brother to us. And to my children, a second father,” said Sister Joyce. “The one thing I would like to stress about Brother Jabril, he always wanted the Believer to see the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan more clearly! I mean, he wanted us to see those two men for who they are!” said Sister Joyce, adding, “And he was here when the Nation fell, helping the Believers!”
After the February 1975 departure of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Nation fell.
But during that time, in Phoenix they met in houses under Brother Jabril’s constant tutelage, nine or 10 Believers, because the mosque was gone, reflected Sister Joyce. “And we held on! He was the brother that helped us to hold on,” she emphasized. “Brother Jabril brought the Believers here together with love. We were a family mosque here,” she said.
“Also, he was highly effective in his defense of both, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, regardless of who attacked them. Brother Jabril crushed them! He was able to come through every time,” added Brother Joel.
Sister Betty Muhammad, who was a secretary for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and now for Minister Farrakhan, first heard Brother Jabril when he was Bernard Cushmeer, in 1961. Her mother took her to Mosque No. 26 in San Francisco on her birthday on August 19. “He was so brilliant in his presentation. I had never heard anything like what he was saying,” said Sister Betty.
He was teaching so hard about shunning pork and cigarettes that when the meeting was over he asked if anyone wanted to join the Nation of Islam she said “yes” and raised her hand. Brother Jabril went on to teach Sister Betty, her mother and father, and he introduced her to her husband, Brother Leroy. They married in 1962.
In 1967, they moved to Phoenix on Brother Jabril’s suggestion, and were blessed to meet with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, she stated.
“I remember specifically he said to us, ‘The Messenger of Allah will not be with us much longer.’ We asked what are you talking about? And he said, ‘Well, it’s going to appear that he dies and they are going to bury him.’ He said to us personally, do not believe that because in the history he does not die in this country. He said he will be taken away by Allah from this country,” recalled Sister Betty.
When the news came in 1975 that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had “died”, Sister Betty and her husband heard the announcement over the news while driving to a conference.
“Both of us cried, of course, but Brother Jabril had already told us and explained to us significantly what was happening. We were saddened, of course, but not like many other people that thought he was dead. That was one very significant piece of knowledge and wisdom that he shared with us,” Sister Betty said.
A few years after that, Brother Jabril brought Minister Farrakhan to their home in Mesa, Arizona, introduced them, and asked if they could help him reestablish the Nation of Islam. They did, and it was an honor to have the Minister in their home, she said.
“Brother Jabril was so significant in so many things regarding my mom, dad, and me. We were taught so much information and that’s what continued to make us go forward in the Nation of Islam, to submit to whatever Brother Jabril would suggest that we do,” she continued.
Brother Patrick Muhammad, 7th Region Representative of the Nation of Islam and student minister of Mosque No. 7 in Miami, joined the Nation at Mosque No. 27, on February 10, 1993. He was taught and also learned that in order to sell The Final Call newspaper he first must read it, starting with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s article, then the Minister’s, then Mother Tynnetta Muhammad’s “Unveiling the Number 19” and then Brother Jabril’s “Farrakhan the Traveler,” he recalled.
That became his routine, and then, someone gave him a tape of a lecture by Brother Jabril. He was fascinated by some of the things Brother Jabril was teaching about the Messenger and the Minister, even things from when he lived in the Phoenix Palace and what the Messenger said about the Great Mahdi, Master Fard Muhammad, said Student Minister Patrick.
“I never thought I would have the opportunity to be in the ministry class of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan from the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, starting in Mosque 27 in Los Angeles, and then I went to Phoenix, Arizona, as a student minister, (in 2001, at age 30),” stated Student Minister Patrick.
“That’s where Brother Jabril lived. So, for the time things were not easy for me in transition. However, the times that I had to meet with him at his home, at coffee shops, and some of the things that he shared, he was always pointing out to better see the Minister in the limelight of who the Minister is, who he represents, who backs him, the Nation, our people. So I was able to extract all of that from him,” Student Minister Patrick shared.
In awe of Brother Jabril’s faith, he fondly remembers the moments they shared and personal stories that he said greatly proved how Brother Jabril was able to withstand so many things.
“I am very much thankful to Allah for as I pray to Him that I could be worthy enough to be among others to stand on the shoulders of the pioneers of the mighty Nation of Islam, such as Brother Jabril and others, to help continue this mighty mission, he said.”
What also stood out to him about Brother Jabril’s unique impression on Phoenix was how adamant he was about studying.
“Study. Study. Study. Study! Research! If something was happening, a move that the Minister would be making, and things about the Nation, he says, ‘Do you have an understanding about that in the scriptures? Do you know where you could find that in the scriptures?’” he reflected. Brother Jabril’s’ teaching style centered on relevancy to scriptures, and he was adamant that everything including God, the Christ, the Messiah, the Nation of Islam and everything that was, is and will happen is in accordance with the scriptures of the Bible and Holy Qur’an, explained Student Minister Patrick.
When Sister Latanya Muhammad relocated to Phoenix from New Jersey, in the late 70s, family members she lived with, Sister Cherie and Brother Kenton, who attended Arizona State University, always talked about Brother Jabril, she said. He was so powerful and had so much wisdom, they’d say. Believers began having study groups at their house, and then hers, shared Sister Latanya. They went on from morning to evening because Brother Jabril had so much knowledge and wealth of information that he wanted to share, she said.
“We would just be at his feet, all day long, all night long. He would just talk about the Teaching of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan! He just laid out so much information,” stated Sister Latanya.
So many times, she remembers, they’d have a potluck, and even at her own personal home, her then-husband, Brother Hannibal Yusuf Sirboya Muhammad (who made his transition to Allah on September 23, 2013) would host Brother Jabril, who would teach them.
“He was really the backbone that got me and my family into the Nation and why we studied so hard. He really taught us the importance of studying and breaking down the meaning of words,” she said. “He was a master. He was a master teacher,” said Sister Latanya. “He was so kind and very loving.”
In addition to loving the relationship he had with his own personal family, Sister Latanya said she really loved the way that Brother Jabril interacted with children. “He always would just give them so much of his attention. I liked the way that he would just hug them and just talk to them, just his love for the children and the powerful impact. He would talk about how they’re going to bring the change into the world,” she said.
Brother Amin Muhammad, and his wife, Sister Aminah Muhammad, joined the Nation of Islam in Atlanta in 1972 and 1974, respectively. The couple were also touched by the life of Brother Minister Jabril when they moved to Phoenix in 1976. They feel honored and blessed to have been of any assistance to help him and Minister Farrakhan rebuild the Nation of Islam, said Sister Aminah.
“Brother Jabril had the most exquisite faith than any believer I have ever seen in my whole life. He was so driven and so determined to help all of us understand who the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was and also to see the Minister correctly and to be able to defend him with everything we had,” said Sister Aminah.
They would meet from almost 8:00 a.m. to midnight, if necessary, she said. Brother Jabril was so determined and beautiful in his quest to teach and prepare them to help the Minister rebuild the Nation, she explained.
Brother Amin added that Brother Jabril was acutely aware of how vanity and pride set in a people when they have titles. “So, he never had titles. He wouldn’t let us call him ‘minister.’ He was just Brother Jabril. He wanted all of us to be brothers and sisters,” said Brother Amin.
“Brother Jabril had an extraordinary love for Master Fard Muhammad, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan, and our people. And he wanted us to learn who Master Fard Muhammad is, because he said you can’t obey a man and love a man if you don’t know who he is.”
Brother Jabril taught them to see with their spiritual eye, said Brother Amin. “He was very nurturing and patient and he didn’t believe in being a tyrant or nothing like that,” said Brother Amin.
Sister Marguerite Muhammad first encountered Brother Jabril during her attendance at Mosque No. 27 study group in Los Angeles. His voice resonated throughout the room, as she awaited the check procedure. She was anxious to just get to her seat, and when she did, she laughed.
“I see this little brother on the rostrum, and I was like, ‘wow!’ He has such a powerful voice and presence, and his assuredness, his conviction came through his voice, even before I saw him,” reflected Sister Marguerite. As he began to talk about the Teachings, she submitted that night.
Within one year, circumstances made way for her to move to Phoenix. She left everything behind and literally became homeless because she was searching and seeking for what Brother Jabril had, which was an in-depth grasp on the knowledge of the Teachings.
Within that same year, she met her future husband, Brother Charles Muhammad. “One of the things he taught us was to become open with each other. We had to get to know each other. We had to get comfortable with one another, and we got so close in the process that he took us through, that we learned each other’s family,” she continued.
It wasn’t that way initially for Sister Kelmer Muhammad, of Boston, Massachusetts, who was born and raised in the Nation of Islam, prior to 1975. Minister Farrakhan was her first minister, she said. She relocated to Phoenix in 1986, where she, too, met Brother Jabril.
She was 22-years-old when she first met Brother Jabril. “I did not like him. I thought he was the most arrogant man in the world. I used to tell him that,” said Sister Kelmer. “Whenever I’d hear him talk, he was hard on the Believers here in Phoenix, and I couldn’t understand it, because I’m a child,” she said.
But when Brother Jabril opened up about his life he became a father figure for her, as well. “I learned that he talked to the public like that, but when he got around us as the women, he became sweeter and softer. And I fell in love with him as a father, as a big uncle to me,” she said. “Many people keep trying to put him on a different pedestal.
Brother Jabril was never like that. And he would always say, ‘I never said for them to do that,’” continued Sister Kelmer. “Brother Jabril is one of the most prominent figures in the Nation of Islam besides the Minister and the Messenger, of course. … He always spoke and taught, and always talked about the Messenger, prior to ’75.” J.A. Salaam con