Elijah Muhammad

Elijah Muhammad
Elijah Muhammad NYWTS-2.jpg
Muhammad speaking in 1964
Leader of the Nation of Islam
In office
Preceded byWallace Fard Muhammad
Succeeded byWarith Deen Mohammed
Personal details
Born(1897-10-07)October 7, 1897
Sandersville, Georgia, U.S.
DiedFebruary 25, 1975(1975-02-25) (aged 77)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
(m. 1917; died 1972)
Childrenat least 23 (8 with Evans, 15 with others), including Jabir, Warith, and Akbar
OccupationLeader of the Nation of Islam

Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Robert Poole; October 7, 1897 – February 25, 1975) was an American religious leader, segregationist, black supremacist, and self proclaimed Messenger of Allah who led the Nation of Islam (NOI) from 1934 until his death in 1975.[1] Muhammad was also the teacher and mentor of Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali, and his own son, Warith Deen Mohammed.

Elijah married Clara Evans (1899–1972) on March 7, 1917. In 1923, the Poole family was among hundreds of thousands of black families forming the First Great Migration leaving the oppressive and economically troubled South in search of safety and employment.[2] Established in the North, his family and professional life would take him to Hamtramck, Michigan, Detroit, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. During their years in Detroit, Elijah and Clara had eight children, six boys and two girls.[3][4] Elijah also had three children with Lucille Rosary Muhammad, one child with Evelyn Muhammad, and four children with Tynnetta Muhammad; he also fathered several children from other relationships. In total, it is estimated that he had 23 children.[5]

In 1931, Elijah approached Wallace Fard Muhammad and soon became an ardent follower of his black self-empowerment ideology. As their relationship grew, Fard turned over leadership of the growing Detroit group to Elijah Muhammad, and the Allah Temple of Islam changed its name to the Nation of Islam.

In 1934, the Nation of Islam created the Muhammad University of Islam, where children of its members attended; this soon led to challenges from the Detroit Board of Education and Chicago Board of Education, which considered the children truants from the public school system. The controversy led to the jailing of several University of Islam board members and Elijah Muhammad in 1934 and to violent confrontations with police. Muhammad was put on probation, but the university remained open.[citation needed]

On May 9, 1942, Elijah Muhammad was arrested for failure to register for the draft during World War II. After he was released on bail, Elijah fled Washington D.C. on the advice of his attorney, who feared a lynching,[citation needed] and returned to Chicago after a seven-year absence. Elijah Muhammad was arrested there, charged with eight counts of sedition for instructing his followers to not register for the draft or serve in the armed forces. Found guilty, Elijah Muhammad served four years, from 1942 to 1946, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan.

While Elijah Muhammad was in prison, the growth of the Nation of Islam had stagnated, with fewer than 400 members remaining by the time of his release in 1946. However, through the conversion of his fellow inmates as well as renewed efforts outside prison, he was able to redouble his efforts and continue growing the Nation.[6] From four mosques in 1946, the Nation of Islam grew to 15 by 1955. By 1959, there were 50 mosques in 22 states.[7]

Around this time rumors began circulating among Nation of Islam members that Elijah was conducting extramarital affairs with young Nation secretaries‍—‌which would constitute a serious violation of Nation teachings. Malcolm X publicly accused Elijah Muhammad of having eight children with six different teenage girls.[8] Elijah Muhammad confirmed the rumors in 1963, attempting to justify his behavior by referring to precedents set by Biblical prophets.[9]

Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Nation of Islam sent a message of condolence to the Kennedy family and ordered its ministers not to comment on the assassination,[10] but Malcolm X, now the Nation's shining star, violated this guidance with controversial remarks, leading to sanction: Malcolm X retained his post and rank as minister, but was prohibited from public speaking for 90 days.[11]

Rumours of extramarital affairs, the suspension, and other factors cemented a rift between the two men, with Malcolm X leaving the Nation of Islam in March 1964 to form his own religious organization, Muslim Mosque Inc.[12] After the subsequent assassination of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965, many people suspected that the Nation of Islam was responsible for the killing of Malcolm X. Five days after Malcolm X was murdered, in a public speech at the Nation of Islam's annual Saviours' Day on February 26, Elijah Muhammad justified the assassination by quoting that "Malcolm got just what he preached", but at the same time denied any involvement with the murder by asserting in the same speech: "We didn't want to kill Malcolm and didn't try to kill him. We know such ignorant, foolish teaching would bring him to his own end."[13][14]

Muhammad's pro-separation views were compatible with those of some white supremacist organizations in the 1960s.[15] He allegedly met with leaders of the Ku Klux Klan in 1961 to work toward the purchase of farmland in the Deep South.[16]

Muhammad's life was highly controversial, leading to opinions as diverse as George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, once calling Muhammad "the Hitler of the black man"[17] to scholar Molefi Kete Asante listing Elijah Muhammad on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[18]

  1. ^ Curtis IV, Edward E. (August 2016). "Science and Technology in Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam: Astrophysical Disaster, Genetic Engineering, UFOs, White Apocalypse, and Black Resurrection" (PDF). Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. Berkeley: University of California Press. 20 (1): 5–31. doi:10.1525/novo.2016.20.1.5. hdl:1805/14819. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  2. ^ Mamiya, Lawrence H. (February 2000). "Muhammad, Elijah". American National Biography Online.
  3. ^ Richard Brent Turner, "From Elijah Poole to Elijah Muhammad", American Visions, October–November 1997.
  4. ^ Karl Evanzz, The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad Random House, 2001.
  5. ^ MacFarquhar, Neil (February 26, 2007). "Nation of Islam at a Crossroad as Leader Exits". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
  6. ^ Bowman, Jeffrey. "Elijah Muhammad." Elijah Muhammad (2006): 1. MasterFILE Premier. Web. December 16, 2013.
  7. ^ Cite error: The named reference EssienUdom was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ "The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X. Malcolm X's Explosive Comments About Elijah Muhammed". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  9. ^ Perry, Bruce (1991). Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America. Barrytown, N.Y.: Station Hill. pp. 230–234. ISBN 978-0-88268-103-0.
  10. ^ Natambu, Kofi (2002). The Life and Work of Malcolm X. Indianapolis: Alpha Books. pp. 288–290. ISBN 978-0-02-864218-5.
  11. ^ Perry, p. 242.
  12. ^ Perry, pp. 251–252.
  13. ^ Evanzz, p. 301. "Malcolm X got just what he preached," Elijah Muhammad said self-assuredly.
  14. ^ Clegg III, Claude Andrew (1997). An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-312-18153-6. We didn't want to kill Malcolm and didn't try to kill him," he explained. "We know such ignorant, foolish teachings would bring him to his own end.
  15. ^ Herbert Berg, Elijah Muhammad and Islam, NYU Press, 2009, p. 41.
  16. ^ Marable, Manning, Along the Color Line Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, reprinted in the Columbus Free Press, January 17, 1997.
  17. ^ "The Messenger Passes", Time Magazine, March 10, 1975.
  18. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002), 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.

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