ATLANTA—There is no argument. No greater bearer of witness to the work of the Nation of Islam, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and the cause of Islam exists to date beyond the efforts of Brother Minister Jabril Muhammad. Reflections on his legacy continue to pour out worldwide. A grateful Nation celebrates his commitment.
“First of all, I want to express my personal condolences to the brother’s family and friends. And I would say, I express condolences to the entire Nation of Islam and to the entire community of Muslims,” began Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, a longtime member of the Nation of Islam, former National Spokesman of Minister Farrakhan, and longtime associate of Minister Jabril Muhammad.
He was speaking from his Washington, D.C., home, on a special session of The People’s Podcast, hosted by Brother Joshua Muhammad of Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta. The special broadcast was on the life of Minister Jabril Muhammad and his importance.
The passing of Brother Minister Jabril Muhammad was announced on July 16.
“With the loss of Brother Jabril, we have really lost a giant. And I know there is some personal pain in the circle of his family and close associates, but there’s a different kind of pain with us all. Because we live in a very dark world. A world of ignorance, spiritual blindness, and Brother Jabril was a light in that darkness. And we all found guidance with his light,” he shared. “He was a witness bearer who did a mighty work of scholarship.”
He added that those who were in the Nation of Islam prior to 1975 are all in great debt to Brother Jabril, then known as Brother Bernard Cushmeer, “because his was a voice that had never been heard before. Brother Jabril’s voice was the voice of a scholar. The enemy that needed to be killed was ignorance,” Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad said. He classified Brother Jabril as a learned man totally committed to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad with a desire to deepen his connection to Allah (God) Who Appeared in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad.
“He was a student of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He was a witness bearer of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Not on the ordinary level of witness bearers … he was a scholar, and he wrote down able arguments that confounded the opponents of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.”
The theology of the Nation of Islam was expressed through Brother Minister Jabril Muhammad’s writings and defense of Allah, his alignment with the mind of Messenger Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan’s mind becoming one with His (Elijah Muhammad’s) mind, he explained.
In the second weekend of September 1977 on the 12th floor of the then Hyatt Continental Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, a series of meetings occurred between Bernard Cushmeer (Minister Jabril) and Minister Farrakhan. Accompanying Minister Farrakhan on this excursion, though not privy directly to those meetings, was his longtime business partner and booking agent, Brother Wali Jafar Muhammad, known today as Brother Abdul Wahid Muhammad.
“I was the Maitre’d,” he would quip in an exclusive interview with The Final Call. “The Minister was expecting Brother Jabril. I did not know they had talked a few days before he showed up to the hotel. The Minister had his tie on and had just shaved and he asked us to wait for him in the restaurant and that he would be down shortly,” he recalled.
“Well, we went into the restaurant, and I said to Minister Jabril (Bernard Cushmeer) that I was sorry he had to wait. Minister Jabril looked at me and said, ‘Brother I have been waiting for three years,’ he told me.” In the restaurant, Minister Jabril had a brown bag, Brother Wahid recalled. “He pulled some pages out of this bag and said, ‘read this.’
But just when I looked down to read, the Minister arrived. Jabril immediately took the papers back, put them back in the bag, and handed it over to Minister Farrakhan. I never got to read it, but those were the notes that removed the scales from over the Minister’s eyes,” he said.
After reading the material, Brother Wahid said the Minister immediately decided to rebuild the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
What is interesting to note are the doors used in time. Brother Wahid’s path to Islam prior to 1975, is the same pathway that led him to be the first to convert to Islam under Minister Farrakhan being made a witness to the work of Brother Jabril.
Then known as William J. McCowan, in 1962 Brother Wahid was discharged from the military after a stint in the Korean War. A soldier he served with was discharged before him and he encouraged Mr. McCowan to come to San Francisco and he could stay with him. Brother Wahid did just that. In that same year, he visited San Francisco’s Muhammad Temple No. 26, where Brother Bernard Cushmeer (Jabril) swerved as the minister.
“When I got there, Minister Jabril was the official minister of the Temple, but he was still in prison for refusing to go to the (Korean) War,” reflected Brother Wahid. Minister Jabril would serve two years in prison. “So, I accepted the Teachings that day under Brother John Welsey, his student minister.”
However, the next two to four months served to be an anointing experience. During Brother Wahid’s first week of processing to become a registered member of the Nation of Islam, it was announced that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad would be speaking in St. Louis, Mo., where Brother Wahid was from.
He went to hear and see the Messenger of Allah and he took his parents and siblings with him. While there, his mother told him that his younger brother had joined the Nation of Islam in Boston. Two weeks later, he would travel to Boston to visit his brother to learn that he was a student minister under then Minister Louis X (Farrakhan).
“I heard the Minister speak. Two weeks before then, I heard the Honorable Elijah Muhammad speak. I was like, ‘Wow’! They are saying the same thing. He (Minister Farrakhan) would say those things the Messenger said but give it to you on another level,” in his delivery, he explained.
Brother Wahid stayed for another few weeks completing his processing in Boston, then returned to San Francisco where now Minister Bernard Cushmeer (Jabril) had been released from prison and back on the rostrum. In his return to Temple 26, Brother Wahid wore many hats: martial arts trainer, First Officer, and Student Minister. He and Minister Jabril lived in the same apartment building, married around the same time and their wives gave birth months apart to their first children.
Minister Jabril married Sister Bernique, secretary to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. She left Chicago, moved to San Francisco and had their first child, Sister Ati H. Muhammad. She and Brother Wahid’s daughter, Sister Sultana, are the same age. To this day, Brother Jabril Muhammad’s children still refer to Wahid as “Uncle.”
“I was always trying to do more to help the Nation. What made me so attached to Brother Jabril was his dedication to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He stayed focused on the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He wasn’t just focused, but he applied his focus. Jabril taught Islam and on the Honorable Elijah Muhammad on a higher level. He lived three and a half years with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. So, naturally, you come away with a little more wisdom spending all your time drinking directly from the man with the wisdom.”
In December of 1980, three years after their three days together in Hollywood Minister Farrakhan was driving. “In between the seats of his Lincoln Continental, he found the pages of the book given to him three years before from Brother Jabril.
Pages that he had not read. Those pages revealed to him that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was physically alive,” Brother Wahid reflected. The Minister told Brother Wahid that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad lives and that the Nation of Islam was going to hold a Savior’s Day convention the following year and that the title of the message would be, “A Savior is Born.”
Brother Wahid’s wife, Sister Anniyyah, is currently working on a book that chronicles her husband’s journey. She said of the meeting encounters, “when you look at the meeting in September 1977, both Minister Jabril and my husband witnessed the transformation of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan at the same time from different perspectives.
Brother Jabril could see the transformation and knew what was happening with the Minister because he wrote the book. So, he could see the book working on him. My husband did not see the book and he knew something was working on the Minister and he knew to follow him,” she acknowledged.
Sister Anniyyah would go on to tell us how they would meet with Brother Jabril at a local Starbucks coffee shop in Phoenix and he would have The Final Call newspaper opened to the most recently published article. Brother Minister Jabril would ask them what they got out of it, then he would share what he wanted them to know from it. Even when Minister Jabril would go on to eventually lose his voice, his wife Dr. Patina Muhammad would be there to interpret for him what he was conveying to the couple.
He was a soldier
Sister Alverda Muhammad joined the Nation of Islam in 1962 at Temple No. 7. Brother Jabril was gone by then but he was well-loved, she said. “With all my heart, I thank Allah for Brother Jabril’s teaching us who the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is so that hopefully we don’t lose sight or that we gain sight and not give him less honor than is due him,” she told The Final Call.
“I read his Final Call column every week on the Fajr Prayer Line. I’ve had that assignment for a couple of years. He was always trying to let us know and learn who exactly the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is, and of course we all thank him for helping the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan stand up in the first place.”
One of Brother Jabril’s early responsibilities in the Nation’s rebuilding phase was teaching the new ministers. Student Minister Abdul Arif Muhammad is a member of the N.O.I. Shura Executive Council and serves as the Nation’s General Council. “Whenever we met him, he was very sober-minded and serious. He was always teaching us, to challenge us, to stretch our minds by raising questions and giving us insight into the deeper meaning of the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” Student Minister Arif Muhammad told The Final Call.
“In 1982 we started receiving his study guides. I believe there were four such sets of study guides that put us in an intense study. They were profound writings about the Teachings, raising questions, questioning us about evidence and proof in terms of the Teachings that of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He always provided very serious, deep and probing spiritual questions to stretch our minds.”
Student Minister Jamil Muhammad also has fond memories of the early days with Brother Jabril Muhammad. “Bernard Cushmeer is essential to understanding the pure power of the position of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the divine scheme of Almighty Allah. I met him as a friend, a brother and a mentor.
That’s time for which I will always be grateful. Brother Jabril loved Islam. That’s what he would talk about, and other things related to Islam. He came to the Nation in the 1950s and hit the ground running as a helper of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” said Student Minister Jamil Muhammad.
“He was a soldier. He put in his time on the front line. He was very valuable to me for that. In his later days when he was speaking less, I would see him and he would punch me ‘pow’ right in the gut and said, ‘I don’t want no fat to kill my brother.’”
N.O.I. Archivist Student Minister Abdul Salaam Muhammad remembers a similar experience with Brother Jabril Muhammad’s concerns about the believers’ weight during a marathon weekend trip to Baltimore’s Mosque No. 6. “He was such a stickler for ‘How To Eat To Live’ and how we had to watch our weight, never become obese or overweight,” said Student Minister Salaam, referring to the books and dietary way of life given to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad from Allah (God) in Person, Master Fard Muhammad.
“He talked about the refrigerator and how many times we would go in the refrigerator throughout a day, and he said, ‘I’m going to plant it in your head so much that the next time you go in that refrigerator, you’re going to see my head telling you to get out of that refrigerator.’ To this day, I go in the refrigerator sometimes and I can hear my brother making that statement.”
A second tour of duty
“I spoke about him on a podcast for nearly two hours, not knowing three days later he was going to transition,” stated Brother Anthony Ishmael Muhammad from his Maryland home, speaking with The Final Call. From 1983-1990, Brother Anthony lived in Phoenix and attended Muhammad Mosque No. 32 while in his first few years there attending Arizona State University.
“I’m deeply saddened by the transition and passing of my dear beloved friend and mentor Brother Jabril Muhammad, who I spent a number of years under his mentorship and tutelage there in No. 32 while he was the minister and after I was still there with him studying and helping him with his research, articles and just the various assignments that were put on him by the Minister (Farrakhan).”
“One of the things I want to say is that the believers there at Mosque No. 32 and around the Nation, if we want to pay homage to Brother Jabril we need to study. We need to get deeply rooted in the scriptures so that we can defend our brother (Min. Farrakhan) and we can keep this Nation going.
It’s just time now because there are a lot of young people in the Nation that don’t know about the history, about the rebuilding process that many of us came up under, and how dangerous it was. They don’t know why the Nation fell. So, it’s incumbent upon us to take a ‘second tour of duty’, and help strengthen our Nation,” Brother Anthony Muhammad said.
“What he did with us in Phoenix, he had tried to root us into scripture to such a point that we would be able to track and see prophecy unfold right in front of us. One of the assignments that he gave was for us to read newspapers, look at the news, and relate it to things we would read in the Bible and the Holy Qur’an. Even to this day, I would tell people that I will look at the news or read the news if I got a printed paper and Bible and Holy Qur’an verses were popping into my head,” added Brother Anthony.
“So, I am telling you, if you want to pay tribute to him, get firmly rooted in The teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, pay your No. 2 Poor (charity). He was big on that. And keep the work going.”
Brother Minister Jabril Muhammad left a legacy of books, study guides, weekly columns in The Final newspaper and memories with believers all across the country. May Allah be pleased with him. Ameen.
Staff Writer Nisa Islam Muhammad contributed to this report