Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (Courtesy of BET)
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (Courtesy of BET)

DETROIT — The Nation of Islam was born in Detroit on July 4, 1930, when a man from Mecca, Arabia, introduced himself to the 149,111 black residents in the section of town called “Black Bottom.” The man, W. Fard Muhammad sold silk door-to-door and introduced a new identity, a new religion — Islam — to the residents.

Fard Muhammad introduced himself as “The Saviour,” and he said that the names black folks were wearing were not their true names, but the names inherited from the last slave masters who owned the various individuals. In the three years and four or five months The Saviour was among the people, he converted many to his faith, and he gave “original” Islamic names — like Kareem, Shareef and Muhammad — to more than 25,000 people.

Ironically, Detroit and its suburbs are where the largest concentration of Muslim immigrants in the United States now reside.

Meanwhile, the black population in Detroit has multiplied, and spread over the entire city and the white population has mostly fled. Now, 562,949 of the city’s 677,116 inhabitants are black, more than 83 percent.

Among those who attended the meetings Fard Muhammad held in the homes of his converts was Clara Evans Poole. She was so excited at what she learned that she convinced her husband Elijah Poole to attend a meeting with her. The family had moved from Sandersville, Georgia, with their five children, joining the great black migration from the agricultural South to find jobs in the industrial Rust Belt.

Elijah joined the movement, quickly became Fard Muhammad’s chief lieutenant and was given the name Kareem. When Fard Muhammad left mysteriously in 1934, Elijah Kareem announced that he had been left in charge of the “Lost Found Nation of Islam in the Wilderness of North America,” and that henceforth he would be known as Elijah Muhammad. From that humble beginning has grown one of the most powerful movements in U.S. black history: the spiritual birthplace of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Imam Warithudeen Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan, among tens of thousands more.

After more than 44 years of leadership, Elijah Muhammad departed the scene in 1975, and his son and successor Warithudeen led the so-called “Black Muslim” movement in to orthodox Islamic doctrine and away from his father’s message. Three years later, Farrakhan, National Representative of Elijah Muhammad and successor to Malcolm X as leader of the powerful Harlem Mosque No. 7, determined that he would revive the movement, in strict conformity to Mr. Muhammad’s original teaching.

In 2017, more than 30,000 attended this year’s “Saviour’s Day” convention, which celebrates Feb. 26, 1877, the birthdate of Fard Muhammad, The Saviour.

Brenda Jones, president of the Detroit City Council, addressed the audience at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, the first and only major city sports arena named to honor a black athlete. She wants Muslims, and all black people in the U.S., to consider recolonizing Detroit.

“When the Nation of Islam comes home, crime goes down,” Jones said. “Come home to Detroit and help us build.”

Black folks in general, and Nation of Islam members in particular should consider moving to Detroit and purchasing a house — or more than one — where real estate prices have long been depressed, even underpriced, she advised.

The Nation of Islam has a well-deserved reputation for uncompromising militant rhetoric and action. Student Minister Nuri Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque in Indianapolis, for example, declared that the NOI stands in the tradition of the “freedom fighters, martyrs and revolutionaries” of the past, including Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr. And, he said, “If it weren’t for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” standing up and re-establishing the teaching of Mr. Elijah Muhammad, “there wouldn’t be any us.”

“God’s physical presence among us has been made known,” said Farrakhan’s National Assistant and Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, the son of Mr. Elijah Muhammad. Armed with the knowledge of “the person Allah,” members of the Nation can even awaken other Muslims who know only “the name of Allah,” Hillary Muhammad, the NOI’s European regional minister who’s based in London said.

Such knowledge, Hillary Muhammad emphasized, is vital, because black folks anywhere on earth without that proper understanding of who God is, who they are, and who the devil is do not have sufficient determination to break the chains that bind us.

The Europeans were able to take the land from the Africans because “their desire to enslave the black man was greater than our desire to be free.”

The desire, the determination, the work and the success of the Nation of Islam in the U.S. for nearly 87 years without interruption, is the modern exemplar of the needed departure from the “luxury” life of the post-Civil Rights age, into living the life that’s needed to raise up a cadre of black people who are determined to take back the lives which were destroyed by slavery; and take back the land which was stolen from the black man in Africa.

It is that mindset, that way of thinking which makes the Nation of Islam practically the only viable way forward for black liberation, the only way which does not lead once again to the trap of expecting white people who want to see blacks in perpetual misery, do for black people, what black people can do for themselves.

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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