Nation of Islam Marks 81 YearsBy Charlene Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Feb 23, 2011 - 8:42:11 PM
A divine mission, a movement and a methodology for saving lives
- The Official Saviours' Day Website (NOI.org/SavioursDay)
Some may view the movement as just a religious or rights organization but its influence is boundless and the vision and mission of the teaching of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad reaches into all aspects of life, whether spiritual, political, cultural, economic or any part of human existence.
At the root of the teaching, the discipline, the study and the example is a commitment and methodology that exists to save lives, uplift a fallen people and benefit all who will accept divine truth.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad's work is a work largely centered in reformation politic that sought to recapture the spirit and enthusiasm of people who had been either thrown away by society or had given up on society largely,” said educator and author Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad.
In the 1930s, Blacks were feeling the brunt of the Great Depression, widely discriminated against and what Mr. Muhammad and the Nation of Islam brought was the impetus for the nationalist, Black pride or pro-Black radical movement, argued Dr. Samad.
From the outset, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's do for self teaching was a fundamental bridge to economic and social independence, and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's been able to pull in aspects of internationalism to Mr. Muhammad's program, he said.
The whole intent was to try to connect Blacks in America with Blacks in South America, the Caribbean, in Africa and throughout the world and Min. Farrakhan has made significant progress in that aspect of the mission and the work of the Nation of Islam cannot be minimized, he said.
That's particularly true when people look where America is with a Black president, Dr. Samad said. The Million Man March and the work of the Millions More Movement positioned Blacks to be more aware of the time, he asserted.
Muhammad's wide vision and Supreme Wisdom
According to Abdul Akbar Muhammad, the international representative of Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, the wide impact of the Nation of Islam stems from the divine, widespread vision of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and where people stand on that vision.
The vision of international unity was underscored on the masthead of the Muhammad Speaks newspaper, published weekly by the Nation of Islam in the 1960s and 1970s, which showed two Black men locking hands across the world, said the longtime member of the Nation of Islam.
“Though during the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's time we had international trade, we never reached out to the world in the manner that Min. Farrakhan has been blessed to do, especially after the Million Man March,” Min. Akbar Muhammad said.
According to the student of N.O.I. history, Min. Farrakhan was traveling in the 1980s, eight years after he began to rebuild the work of his teacher. But after the Million Man March, the Minister was thrust onto the world scene and was able to share a divine message with the world, he said.
Min. Farrakhan was able to also share his vision of how to implement the Nation of Islam message for the benefit of Black people in America, Canada, the Caribbean, and the entire world, especially the suffering masses, added Min. Akbar Muhammad.
“There's even the impact of the work carried out across Europe by our brothers there, though the Minister himself personally never did an extensive tour of many of the European countries, yet the message resonates,” Min. Akbar Muhammad said.
The Nation's international impact reached into Haiti recently when Min. Farrakhan purchased a water purification system for the country, which is still suffering since a massive earthquake left millions dead, and over 1 million people homeless and destitute.
The impact of the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad can be witnessed across the board, whether it's in sports, entertainment, education or politics, said Ava Muhammad, an attorney, author and Nation of Islam student minister.
A major impact is seen in sports in the increased number of athletes wearing original names—names that may be African or Islamic but are not reflective of ancestors who carried the names of their slavemasters—which is among the first criteria in the process of returning to one's self, she explained.
The ability of athletes to define themselves by name may be taken for granted today but in 1975 basketball great Lew Alcindor was traded by the Milwaukee Bucks after winning an NBA championship partly because he had changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Muhammad Ali, the great boxer and member of the Nation of Islam, forced the media, the public and opponents to respect his “original name”—literally pummeling boxing champion Ernie Terrell into submission February 6, 1967 for calling him “Clay.”
“What's my name, Uncle Tom ... What's my name?” the great fighter asked opponent Terrell, delivering 15 rounds of punishment but not launching a knock out blow.
It was Muhammad Ali, benefiting from the wisdom of Elijah Muhammad and the management of his son Jabbar, who opened the door for athletes to earn millions of dollars and funds in line with their true value. He would later rise to greater fame and respect for refusing to fight in the Vietnam war, unjustly serving time in prison and returning to win world boxing titles.Doing for self and defining self interest
Min. Farrakhan walks in the mission of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad every day and asserts independence and defines his own interest and the interest of his people and oppressed people. An example can be seen in the accomplishment of the Million Man March.
The Minister sought no approval from the slave master's children and called more than one million Black men to meet him at the nation's capitol and they came. The rulers of this country left town and not only was it the largest gathering in U.S. history, it was the most peaceful.
Barack Hussein Obama, America's first Black president, is another example of the impact of the teachings and wisdom of the Nation of Islam, Student Min. Ava Muhammad said. Mr. Obama is also an example of one who accepted the original name of his ancestors, instead of being referred to as “Barry.”
“Barack Obama attended the Million Man March ... and I can guarantee it without knowing it that whatever little feeling was left, because he was a man of great achievement up to that point ... that man stood out there and listened to Min. Farrakhan and after hearing Min. Farrakhan, that man said to himself, ‘I can run this country,' ” Min. Ava Muhammad added.
It is a common mistake to categorize the Nation of Islam in a civil rights or anti-slavery vein, and those things have their place, but those issues do not reflect the Nation's connection to having the root knowledge of all things, she continued.
Nothing that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught is any less true than it was 50 years ago and his teachings are more important than ever, she said. The test, especially for his followers, is whether people accept what he says as truth or not, Ava Muhammad said.
“Everything he said in 1965, 1975 is coming to pass and the only reason we're not flourishing right now is we have yet to act upon the knowledge that we've been given.If you're told that the building you're in is about to cave in, wouldn't you go outside?” she asked.
“We need to go and do for self ... That's what being saved is. Our salvation is going for self,” she said.
According to activist and former Black Panther Party chairman Elaine Brown, the do for self foundation and the fact that the Nation hasn't bargained away its commitment to the people makes the Nation a viable force in the lives of so many people.
“The most important thing about the Nation of Islam is it is more than a religious organization, from the perspective of a person who is not in the Nation and not a Muslim,” she explained.
“I think most of us see the Nation as a bulwark for our people, standing up for our issues and we can look to it for support over the years and the consistency of that is what's important. They're available and ready to work in and for the community at large without regard for whether or not another person is a Muslim,” Ms. Brown said.
“There's Minister Troy Bey, 80-years-old, but doesn't look like a man that's 80.Abdul Rahman, 80-years-old this year. If you look at his face, his mind, his ability to move around, he doesn't look that way. Dr. Abdul Alim Shabazz, the great mathematician, 84-years-old, still teaching, still traveling the world, and there's many, many more who are healthy, as well as some of our sisters across the country,” Min. Akbar said.
In addition, Akbar Muhammad said, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's prophetic voice warned of and gave guidance and solutions to the social ills plaguing Blacks in America's major cities: mass killings, dysfunctional families, high school drop outs, the prison industrial complex, and proliferation of drugs.
“The best root, organization, for people to do that are the brothers and sisters in the Nation of Islam because of our discipline and concern for our community ... As Minister Farrakhan said in his early days of rebuilding, the Nation of Islam is not exclusive, but will be inclusive in all of the problems that Black people are challenged with across America,” he said.
With Black men and women increasingly tied to the criminal justice system, the prison outreach and ministry that transformed Malcolm Little into Malcolm X remains a major focus for the Nation of Islam. Despite continued opposition, including some decisions to ban The Final Call newspaper from incarcerated Believers who treasure its spiritual message, the National Prison Reform Ministry headed by Abdullah Muhammad continues its work.
Nation of Islam: A comprehensive teaching
Dedon Kamathi, a 61-year-old L.A.-based political scientist, said he's been in the Black liberation movement all his life—as part of Black student unions, the Black Panther Party, and the All African People's Revolutionary Party.For him, the Nation of Islam has represented a major part of a coalition which confirmed African beauty, African values, and African history. The “Black is beautiful” movement grew out of the 1930s with the Nation of Islam, he said.
“My respect for the Nation of Islam is more of a political, cultural one, especially political because first of all, in educating our people, it has the largest distribution of an independent, African newspaper, The Final Call,” Mr. Kamathi said.
He respects the fact that the newspaper is not dependent upon a European distribution system, but Black men and women carry the news every week on what's occurring in America, the Middle East, and Africa and throughout the world from an internationalist, anti-imperialist, anti-zionist, and anti-oppression perspective.
“The brothers and sisters in the Nation are constant role models of what a proper Black person should walk like, act like, and conduct themselves, especially in terms of historical transformation of brothers in the penitentiaries and who live the street life and how they've been transformed to become upright warriors, soldiers,” Mr. Kamathi continued.
He reflected on the Nation's fight to reduce crime and drug proliferation in housing projects in Washington, D.C. and Venice Beach, California and said he wishes its security teams could get more contracts.
Law enforcement and private security forces have attempted for years but what they lack is the love and concern that the Fruit of Islam, men in the Nation of Islam, have for their people.
As a Pan-Africanist, he said he has witnessed firsthand the Nation's commitment to Africa, dating back to its founder Master Wallace Fard Muhammad's and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's pointing to Africa as the homeland.
Mr. Kamathi views the Nation of Islam as a movement, not just a religion, but on the question of religion and revolution—of all the faiths and organizations among Black people—the Nation has the most revolutionary application of spirituality and religion to humanity, he said.
“I'm not just going to say African people, because of course The Final Call talks about the Native American struggle, the Asian struggle, so it's a solution and it's the largest political, spiritual, religious liberation force in the United States,” he said.
People get shocked by the assertion, until Mr. Kamathi challenges them to name one religious movement that has it all—ideology, spirituality, liberation program, world view, and an interpretation of history.
“Even my own organization.As much as I believe in it, I have to acknowledge the fact that our impact can't even get in the shadow of the Nation of Islam physically speaking ... maybe ideologically ... but not physically,” Mr. Kamathi said.