Nation of Islam

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The Nation of Islam (NOI) is a religion and social/political organization founded in the United States by Wallace Fard Muhammad in 1930 with an aim of resurrecting the spiritual, mind, society, and economics condition of the Black people of America and the rest of the world.

Minister Louis Farrakhan is currently the leader of a reconstituted Nation of Islam, the original organization having been renamed and eventually dissolved by Warith Deen Muhammad. The Nation of Islam's National Center and headquarters is located in Chicago, Illinois and houses its flagship Mosque No. 2, Mosque Maryam in dedication to Mary, mother of Jesus.


The original Nation of Islam was founded in the U.S. in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad also known as Master W. D. Fard Muhammad (1877, 1891 or 1893–1934 or later), whom the Nation of Islam believes to be the long-awaited "Messiah" of the Jews and the Mahdi of the Shia Muslims. One of Fard's first disciples was Elijah Poole, whose name Fard later changed to Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975). Elijah Muhammad began preaching that W.F. Muhammad was literally God in person. [citation needed]

The organization came to national prominence in America in the late 1950s and early 1960s, due to many factors, including nationally televised reports such as The Hate That Hate Produced by then-CBS reporter Mike Wallace (journalist); grassroots organizing efforts by dozens of NOI Ministers throughout the country; the notoriety of speeches by Elijah Muhammad's then-national spokesman, Malcolm X; and the controversy around its most famous member at the time, Muhammad Ali. One day after Elijah Muhammad's death in February 1975, the succession of his son Wallace was approved unanimously during the annual Saviors' Day celebrations on February 26. Warith Deen Muhammad had been suspended from the Nation of Islam for "dissident views" and ideological rifts with his father over religious doctrine, but had been restored to the organization by 1974. When W.D. (Wallace) Muhammad was installed as Supreme Minister of the Nation of Islam in 1975, he immediately began to reformulate his father's beliefs and practices to bring the Nation of Islam closer to mainstream Sunni Islam.

In 1978, after wrestling with the changes and consequent dismantling of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan and his supporters decided to rebuild the original Nation of Islam upon the foundation established by W. Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad. In 1981, Farrakhan publicly announced the restoration of the Nation of Islam and went forward with Elijah Muhammad's teachings. In 1995 Farrakhan convened what his followers say was the largest march in U.S. history, the Million Man March.

Marking 70 years since the Nation of Islam was founded in America, in 2000 Imam Warith Deen Muhammad (formerly Wallace Muhammad) and Minister Louis Farrakhan publicly embraced and declared unity and reconciliation at the annual Saviors' Day convention.

Beliefs and theology


The main belief of The Nation of Islam and its followers is that there is no God but Allah. Their most important worship is praying five times a day. The official beliefs as stated by the Nation of Islam have been outlined in books, documents, and articles published by the organization as well as speeches by Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and other ministers. These include inflammatory statements as well as the pejorative use of the term “white devils” to refer to white people. Many of Elijah Muhammad's teachings may be found in Message to the Blackman in America and The True History of Jesus as Taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (Chicago: Coalition for the Remembrance of Elijah Muhammad, 1992). Many of Malcolm X's teachings of NOI theology are in his The End of White World Supremacy, while a later more critical discussion of those beliefs can be found in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-written with Alex Haley.

Passed down via written lessons from 1930-1934 from W. Fard Muhammad to his student, Elijah Muhammad, referred to and titled, The Supreme Wisdom the Nation of Islam continues to teach its followers that the present world society is segmented into three distinct categories. They teach that from a general perspective, 85% of the world's people of all races and faiths are the deaf, dumb and blind masses of the people who are easily led in the wrong direction and hard to lead in the right direction. These 85% of the masses are said to be manipulated by 10% of the people who are referred to as the rich slave-makers of the masses of the people. Those 10% rich slave-makers are said to manipulate the 85% masses of the people through ignorance, the skillful use of religious doctrine and the mass media.

The third group referred to as the 5% poor righteous teachers of the people of the world who know the truth of the manipulation of the 85% masses of the people by the 10% and that 5% righteous teachers are at constant struggle and war with 10% to reach and free the minds of the masses of the people. (Assignment of Mr. Elijah Muhammad, The Supreme Wisdom, February 20, 1934; Power at Last Forever, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Madison Square Garden, New York, October, 1985)

The official platform of beliefs as stated by Elijah Muhammad in Message to the Blackman in America published in 1965 are as follows verbatim:

1. We believe in the One God whose proper Name is Allah.
2. We believe in the Holy Qur'an and in the Scriptures of all the Prophets of God.
3. We believe in the truth of the Bible, but we believe that it has been tampered with and must be reinterpreted so that mankind will not be snared by the falsehoods that have been added to it.
4. We believe in Allah's Prophets and the Scriptures they brought to the people.
5. We believe in the resurrection of the dead--not in physical resurrection--but in mental resurrection. We believe that the so-called Negroes are most in need of mental resurrection; therefore they will be resurrected first.
Furthermore, we believe we are the people of God's choice, as it has been written, that God would choose the rejected and the despised. We can find no other persons fitting this description in these last days more than the so-called Negroes in America. We believe in the resurrection of the righteous.
6. We believe in the judgment; we believe this first judgment will take place as God revealed, in America.
7. We believe this is the time in history for the separation of the so-called Negroes and the so-called white Americans. We believe the black man should be freed in name as well as in fact. By this we mean that he should be freed from the names imposed upon him by his former slave masters. Names which identified him as being the slave master's slave. We believe that if we are free indeed, we should go in our own people's names--the black people of the Earth.
8. We believe in justice for all, whether in God or not; we believe as others, that we are due equal justice as human beings. We believe in equality--as a nation--of equals. We do not believe that we are equal with our slave masters in the status of "freed slaves."
We recognize and respect American citizens as independent peoples and we respect their laws which govern this nation.
9. We believe that the offer of integration is hypocritical and is made by those who are trying to deceive the black peoples into believing that their 400-year-old open enemies of freedom, justice and equality are, all of a sudden, their "friends." Furthermore, we believe that such deception is intended to prevent black people from realizing that the time in history has arrived for the separation from the whites of this nation.
If the white people are truthful about their professed friendship toward the so-called Negro, they can prove it by dividing up America with their slaves.
We do not believe that America will ever be able to furnish enough jobs for her own millions of unemployed, in addition to jobs for the 20,000,000 black people as well.
10. We believe that we who declare ourselves to be righteous Muslims, should not participate in wars which take the lives of humans. We do not believe this nation should force us to take part in such wars, for we have nothing to gain from it unless America agrees to give us the necessary territory wherein we may have something to fight for.
11. We believe our women should be respected and protected as the women of other nationalities are respected and protected.

We believe further and lastly that Allah is God and besides HIM there is no god and He will bring about a universal government of peace wherein we all can live in peace together. </blockquote>

Black experience of slavery was Bible prophecy

The NOI teaches that black people constitute a nation and that through the institution of the Atlantic slave trade they were systematically denied knowledge of their past history, language, culture, and religion and, in effect, lost control of their lives. Central to this doctrine, NOI theology asserts that Black people’s experience of slavery was the fulfillment of Bible prophecy and therefore, black people are the seed of Abraham referred to in the Bible, in Genesis 15:13–14:

And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. (KJV)

And Acts of the Apostles 7:6–7:

And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. (KJV)

Teachings on race

The Nation of Islam teaches that African (Black) people were the original humans. Louis Farrakhan has stated that "White people are potential humans…they haven’t evolved yet." (Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/18/00).

Louis Farrakhan further expounded by saying, "If you look at the human family -- now, I'm talking about black, brown, red, yellow and white -- we all seem to be frozen on a subhuman level of existence. In Islam and, I believe, in Christian theology and Jewish theology as well, there are three stages of human development. The first stage is called the animalistic stage of development. But when we submit to animal passions, then we can do evil things to one another in that animalistic stage of development. But when moral consciousness comes and we have a self-accusing spirit, it is then that we become human beings. Right now, we have the potential for humanity, but we have not reached that potential, because we are functioning on the animalistic plane of existence." (Million Family March Transcript, 10/16/00)

"The Blackman is the original man. From him came all brown, yellow, red, and white people. By using a special method of birth control law, the Blackman was able to produce the white race. This method of birth control was developed by a Black scientist known as Yakub, who envisioned making and teaching a nation of people who would be diametrically opposed to the Original People. A Race of people who would one day rule the original people and the earth for a period of 6,000 years. Yakub promised his followers that he would graft a nation from his own people, and he would teach them how to rule his people, through a system of tricks and lies whereby they use deceit to divide and conquer, and break the unity of the darker people, put one brother against another, and then act as mediators and rule both sides." (Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America, Muhammad's Temple No. 2, 1965 & Dorothy Blake Fardan, Yakub and the Origins of White Supremacy, Lushena Books, 2001)

In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Louis Farrakhan said the following in response to host Tim Russert's question on the Nation of Islam's teachings on race:

"You know, it’s not unreal to believe that white people—who genetically cannot produce yellow, brown or black—had a Black origin. The scholars and scientists of this world agree that the origin of man and humankind started in Africa and that the first parent of the world was black. The Qur'an says that God created Adam out of black mud and fashioned him into shape. So if white people came from the original people, the Black people, what is the process by which you came to life? That is not a silly question. That is a scientific question with a scientific answer. It doesn't suggest that we are superior or that you are inferior. It suggests, however, that your birth or your origin is from the black people of this earth: superiority and inferiority is determined by our righteousness and not by our color."[1]

Pressed by Russert on whether he agreed with Elijah Muhammad's preaching that whites are blue-eyed devils, Farrakhan responded:

"Well, you have not been saints in the way you have acted toward the darker peoples of the world and toward even your own people. But, in truth, Mr. Russert, any human being who gives themself over to the doing of evil could be considered a devil. In the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, it talks about the fall of Babylon. It says Babylon is fallen because she has become the habitation of devils. We believe that that ancient Babylon is a symbol of a modern Babylon, which is America."

While Malcolm X was a member of the Nation of Islam he also preached that black people were genetically superior to white people.

"Thoughtful white people know they are inferior to Black people. Even Eastland knows it. Anyone who has studied the genetic phase of biology knows that white is considered recessive and black is considered dominant." (The Playboy Interview: Malcolm X, interviewed by Alex Haley, Playboy Magazine, May 1963).

He later repudiated this belief, as a result of embracing orthodox Islam.

The Mother Plane

Elijah Muhammad taught his followers about a Mother Plane or Wheel, a UFO that was seen and described in the visions of the prophet Ezekiel in the Book of Ezekiel, in the Tanakh.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. Book of Ezekiel Chapter 1:15-18, Bible, English Standard Version

Louis Farrakhan, commenting on his teacher's description said the following:

"The Honorable Elijah Muhammad told us of a giant Mother Plane that is made like the universe, spheres within spheres. White people call them unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Ezekiel, in the Old Testament, saw a wheel that looked like a cloud by day but a pillar of fire by night. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that that wheel was built on the island of Nippon, which is now called Japan, by some of the Original scientists. It took $15 billion in gold at that time to build it. It is made of the toughest steel. America does not yet know the composition of the steel used to make an instrument like it. It is a circular plane, and the Bible says that it never makes turns. Because of its circular nature it can stop and travel in all directions at speeds of thousands of miles per hour. He said there are 1,500 small wheels in this Mother Wheel, which is a half mile by a half mile (800 m by 800 m). This Mother Wheel is like a small human-built planet. Each one of these small planes carry three bombs.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said these planes were used to set up mountains on the earth. The Qur'an says it like this: We have raised mountains on the earth lest it convulse with you. How do you raise a mountain, and what is the purpose of a mountain? Have you ever tried to balance a tire? You use weights to keep the tire balanced. That's how the earth is balanced, with mountain ranges. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that we have a type of bomb that, when it strikes the earth a drill on it is timed to go into the earth and explode at the height that you wish the mountain to be. If you wish to take the mountain up a mile (1.6 km), you time the drill to go a mile (1.6 km) in and then explode. The bombs these planes have are timed to go one mile (1.6 km) down and bring up a mountain one mile (1.6 km) high, but it will destroy everything within a 50-square-mile (130 km²) radius. The white man writes in his above top secret memos of the UFOs. He sees them around his military installations like they are spying.
“That Mother Wheel is a dreadful-looking thing. White folks are making movies now to make these planes look like fiction, but it is based on something real. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that Mother Plane is so powerful that with sound reverberating in the atmosphere, just with a sound, she can crumble buildings.”
Minister Louis Farrakhan, The Divine Destruction of America: Can She Avert It?[2]


The NOI has been seen by some as attempting to be its own religion separate from Islam. The first book analyzing the Nation of Islam was The Black Muslims in America (1961) by C. Eric Lincoln. Lincoln describes how religious services use fictions and over-generalizations to indoctrinate NOI adherents.

Often the minister reads passages from well-known historical, sociological, or anthropological works, and finds in them inconspicuous references to the Blackman’s true history in the world.... Occasionally the minister chides the audience for its skepticism: “I know you don't believe me because I happen to be a Black man. Well, you can look it up in a book I’m going to tell you about that was written by a white man.” He then reads off references that his hearers are challenged to check (21).

As of 2005, the Nation of Islam was included in the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of active hate groups in the United States.[3]

Legend of the 1975 death of Elijah Muhammad

Members of The Nation of Islam have long held that Elijah Muhammad did not die, but instead escaped a death plot, was restored to health, and is aboard “that huge wheel-like plane that is even now flying over our heads.” Among Muhammad's passengers on the Mother Wheel is the mysterious figure named W.D. Fard. The Mother Wheel is based upon the biblical wheel of Ezekiel .

Allegations of anti-Semitism

For the main article discussing the relationship between the Nation of Islam and Jews, see Nation of Islam and anti-Semitism.

A number of Jewish organizations consider the Nation of Islam to be anti-Semitism. Specifically, they claim that the NOI has engaged in revisionist and antisemitic interpretations of the Holocaust and exaggerates the role of Jews in the African slave trade.[4] The Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) alleges that NOI Health Minister, Abdul Alim Muhammad, has accused Jewish doctors of injecting Blacks with the AIDS virus,[5] an allegation that Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad has rejected as an outright lie.

The Nation of Islam has repeatedly denied charges of anti-Semitism,[6] and NOI leader Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated, "The ADL .. uses the term 'anti-Semitism' to stifle all criticism of Zionism and the Zionist policies of the State of Israel and also to stifle all legitimate criticism of the errant behavior of some Jewish people toward the non-Jewish population of the earth." (The Final Call, February 16, 1994)

Jude Wanniski, a conservative commentator and former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, was a supporter of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam, while he was alive. Before his death in 2005, Wanniski called for Abe Foxman, national director of the ADL, to be fired.

In a memo to Howard P. Berkowitz, National Chair of the ADL, Wanniski stated "I think you have to offer Abe Foxman an early retirement or flat out fire him... Abe [Foxman] has become drunk with power, swinging his weight around knowing he can label anyone who challenges him an anti-Semitic bigot." Wanniski personally defended Minister Farrakhan and the believers in the Nation of Islam, writing, "I've met dozens of men and women who belong to the Nation of Islam, attended many of their conferences, and prayed with them in their Chicago mosque to the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. I've concluded beyond any reasonable doubt that there is not an ounce of anti-Semitism or bigotry in Farrakhan."

Wanniski put the focus on Abe Foxman pointing out, "My conclusion is that Foxman is in the wrong, not Farrakhan, that the ADL has spent the last 15 years using its political and financial clout to demonize Farrakhan and financially destroy the Nation of Islam... The ADL, which has spent a fortune trying to destroy him and the financial underpinnings of his religious institution."

Wanniski also pointed at the one sided media coverage of Farrakhan and the NOI. Wanniski wrote,"I can post a defense of Farrakhan on the Internet, as I do with this [memo] to you, but there is no major news outlet that would entertain such a defense, wary of being condemned by Foxman as an agent of hate -- as he has done to NBC." [1]

NOI leader, Louis Farrakhan and members of the Neturei Karta International orthodox Jewish community.

The Nation of Islam has had friendly relations with the Neturei Karta, a Jewish group that is well-known for its association with and support for anti-Zionism. Neturei Karta stressed that NOI leader, "Minister Louis Farrakhan is an extraordinary force for good in the Black community. His followers are responsible, industrious, modest and moral. And for this he and they have our respect." [2]

In a letter responding to ADL Director Abraham Foxman's insistence that black leaders distance themselves from the Nation of Islam, hip hop music mogul Russell Simmons wrote, "Simply put, you are misguided, arrogant, and very disrespectful of African Americans and most importantly your statements will unintentionally or intentionally lead to a negative impression of Jews in the minds of millions of African Americans," he continued, "For over 50 years, Minister Farrakhan has labored to resurrect the downtrodden masses of African Americans up out of poverty and self-destruction" and indicated that he had personally witnessed Farrakhan affirm, 'A Muslim can not [sic] hate a Jew. We are all members of the family of Abraham and all of us should maintain dialogue and mutual respect.'" (Hip Hop Summit Action Network Press Release, May 9, 2005)[7]

Comparison to traditional Islam

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The Nation of Islam preaches adherence to the Five pillars of Islam: shahada, or Profession of Faith; salat, or prayer, five times daily facing toward Mecca; zakat, charity to the poor; fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; and that every Muslim who is physically and financially able must make Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in his or her lifetime. The NOI also teaches morality and personal decorum, emphasizing modesty, mutual respect, and discipline in dress and comportment. NOI adherents do not consume pork, stress a healthy diet and physical fitness, and the consumption of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco is frowned upon. In these respects, the NOI is in general agreement with traditional Islamic practices. However, the Nation of Islam argues that because of the unique experience of the oppression and degradation of slavery, Elijah Muhammad used unique methods for introducing Islam to his people.

A little mosque of Nation of Islam in Louisiana, 2005.
File:Masjid aqsa - NOI mosque.jpg
A mosque of Nation of Islam in Harlem (New York City), 2005.

Other doctrines of the Nation of Islam are disputed, specifically:

  • God's incarnation
    • NOI teaches that "Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July, 1930; the long-awaited Messiah of the Christians and the Mahdi of the Muslims.
    • Orthodox Sunni and Shi'a Muslim doctrine is that Islam teaches that it is heretical and blasphemous to believe that God would manifest Himself in human form (or any material form).
  • Relations with White people
    • NOI teaches that the black man is the original man, and from him came all brown, yellow, red, and white people. By using a special method of birth control law, the Blackman was able to produce the white race. This method of birth control was developed by a Black scientist known as Yakub, who envisioned making and teaching a nation of people who would be diametrically opposed to the Original People. A race of people who would one day rule the original (black, red, brown, yellow) people and the earth for a period of 6,000 years. Yakub promised his followers that he would graft a nation from his own people, and he would teach them how to rule his people, through a system of tricks and lies whereby they use deceit to divide and conquer, and break the unity of the darker people, put one brother against another, and then act as mediators and rule both sides. (Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America, Muhammad's Temple No. 2, 1965 & Dorothy Blake Fardan, Yakub and the Origins of White Supremacy, Lushena Books, 2001)
    • Furthermore, liking any individual(s) to God is a form of 'shirk' - a major sin in the Islam.[8] Islam recognizes the Biblical and Qur’anic figure, the patriarch Jacob, but this Jacob is viewed by Muslims as a prophet, and is not connected to the Yakub of the NOI. Traditional Islam does not teach of the Yakub featured in Nation of Islam theology.
  • Perspectives on the Quran.
    • The vast majority of Muslims, worldwide, believe that it was Allah's final revelation to mankind and that it was given to the Islamic prophet Muhammed between the years of 610 and 632. While NOI states that they believe in the Qur'an and the writings of all the prophets of God, the organization also states that they are the authors of the Bible and Qur'an and the creators of history.[9]
  • Status of the Islamic prophet Muhammed vs. other prophets.
    • The majority of Islam teaches that Muhammad was the last of the messengers that Allah has sent to us--there would be no more, and the one for all to follow. The Nation of Islam believes that Elijah Muhammad was also a messenger and was taught by God himself (W. D. Fard).[10]

Actions and programs

NOI preacher in 1999, in England.
File:Nation of islam seller.jpg
A Nation of Islam member sells copies of the Final Call newspaper and what looks to be assorted oils and perfumes.

The NOI has a do-for-self philosophy that resulted in the NOI owning and operating hundreds of businesses nationwide, employing thousands of people. The NOI has purchased and now operates food-industry services, bakeries, and restaurants. It owns a large amount of farmland in Georgia (U.S. state), USA. It owns and operates hair-care shops. Some of these business ventures have been success stories. Others have been criticized as Amway-style marketing schemes that have not benefited most of their employees.

The NOI has worked to clean up drug addicts, reform prostitutes, and keep black youth out of gangs. It has helped some newly released ex-convicts make a new start and stay out of jail.

In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin (writer) wrote:

"Elijah Muhammad has been able to do what generations of welfare workers and committees and resolutions and reports and housing projects and playgrounds have failed to do: to heal and redeem drunkards and junkies, to convert people who have come out of prison and to keep them out, to make men chaste and women virtuous, and to invest both the male and the female with pride and a serenity that hang about them like an unfailing light. He has done all these things, which our Christian church has spectacularly failed to do." (James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time, Vintage International, 1963)

During the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development employed several private firms run by members of the Nation of Islam to provide security in housing projects in black neighborhoods. The Anti-Defamation League was successful in lobbying congress to sever the HUD contracts.[11]

Converts to the Nation of Islam

  • Elijah Muhammad
  • Louis Farrakhan
  • Malcolm X - Later converted to mainstream Islam
  • Muhammad Ali - Later reverted back to mainstream Islam
  • John Allen Muhammad - "Beltway Sniper", Gulf war veteran who later left NOI
  • Benjamin Chavis Muhammad

See also

  • History of the Nation of Islam
  • Nation of Islam and anti-Semitism
  • The Final Call
  • Fruit of Islam (FOI)
  • Black Muslims
  • Moorish Science Temple of America
  • The Nation of Gods and Earths
  • Black supremacy

Audio/video webcasts


  1. FCN/NBC, 1997
  2. FCN, 1996

External links

Nation of Islam Links

Criticism from Non-NOI Muslims