The Nation of Islam (NOI), also known as the Black Muslim Movement (although the term is discouraged by the NOI), is a spiritual/political movement founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad (1877-1934?). It was based on the doctrine that out of all the nations of the earth, black people are the only nation without any knowledge of their past history, no control of their present lives, and no guidance for their future. One of Wallace's first disciples was Elijah Poole, who later changed his name to Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975). Elijah Muhammad began preaching that W F. Muhammad was literally God in person.
Elijah was born in Georgia but later moved to Chicago where he came into contact with Fard Muhammad and accepted his teachings. He eventually travelled all across America setting up mosques or temples (as they are commonly called) and named them based upon his sequence of arrival. In New York, to this day, the mosque there is still referred to as Temple No. 7 because that was the seventh place visited by Elijah Muhammad during his travels. The main temple is dedicated to Mary the mother of Jesus.
Throughout this time Elijah Muhammad's teachings were spread by his followers, everywhere from the streets to the prisons. They eventually reached a prisoner called Malcolm Little. Upon his acceptance of the teachings, as he left prison he joined the Nation of Islam and became commonly known as Malcolm X. This 'X' represents what is called in mathematics an unknown variable. The followers accept this 'X', or in other cases an 'I', as a sign that they are rejecting all that this world has done to them including the family name given to their ancestors by slave owners. They eventually replace this 'X' with an Arabic name more descriptive of their personality and character. (see slave name)
Also around this time an up-and-coming calypso singer, actor and violinist called Louis Eugene Walcott came into contact with the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. He also accepted the teachings and eventually came to be known as Louis Farrakhan.
Elijah Muhammad's son, W. Deen Mohammad, took over NOI as successor after his father's death. Although he had been suspeded from NoI for "dissident views" and ideological rifts with his father over religious doctrine, he was unanimously approved during Savior's Day celebrations on February 26 1975, although not without controversy; Louis Farrkhan believed he should have been named Elijah Muhammad's successor.
When W.D. Muhammad was installed as Supreme Minister of Nation of Islam in 1975, he immediately began to reformulate his father's beliefs and practices to bring NOI closer to Sunni Islam. W. D. Muhammad publicly shunned his father's theology and black separatist views and forged ties with other muslim communities in the US..
Farrakhan disagreed publicly with W.D. Muhammad in 1977 over NOI's move toward Sunni Islam, and took a minority of NOI members with him into a splinter group. W. D. Mohammad renamed his organization a number of times, settling on the Muslim American Society, and most of his followers assimilated into mainstream Islam.
In 1981, Farrakhan announced restoration of the "old" Nation of Islam, and went forward with Elijah Muhammad's NoI teachings. He continues to be the more media savvy of the two successors, and was responsible for the dramatic Million Man March in 1995. Louis Farrakhan is currently the leader of The Nation of Islam and lives in Chicago, Illinois at the former home of Elijah Muhammad.
Reportedly Michael Jackson has joined Nation of Islam in 2003.
Nation of Islam and Islam coincide on many points, including the following:
- Both teach that there is but one God.
- Both teach that there will literally be a resurrection of the dead, and that resurrected souls (or bodies) will be sent to paradise or hell.
- Both teach that Muslims must fast during daylight hours during the entire month of Ramadan.
- God's incarnation
- NOI: Teaches that God became physically incarnate in the form of a black preacher in 1930s Chicago.
- Islam: Teaches that it is heretical to believe that God would manifest Himself as a human.
- Black supremacy
- NOI: Rejects the Muslim belief that Muhammad was the last prophet. Instead it teaches that Elijah Muhammad was a prophet of Allah, and that Louis Farrakhan is yet another messenger, sent to deliver a last call to humanity.
- Islam: Holds that Muhammad was the very last of all prophets, and that no more prophets would ever arise.