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How is the Nation of Islam different from mainstream Islam?

July 30, 8:30 PM Sakina Al-Amin - Detroit Muslim Examiner

Temple #65 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mosques were numbered in nume-

ical sequence of establishment. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Most non-Muslims don't realize that the Nation of Islam is not what the majority of Muslims adhere to. Often, Black people, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, don't know there is a considerable difference between the two groups.


The Nation of Islam (NOI) began in our very own city of Detroit in the year 1930. Little is known of the founding father of the organization* but evidence supports that he was called 'David Ford' and/or derivatives of 'Wallace Fard Muhammad'. In this article I will use the initials WFM to refer to him.


WFM established Temple #1 in Detroit, MI, where he preached the NOI doctrine to the African Americans in the community. Some components of the doctrine spoke of how all of humankind descended form the African peoples, how black people were tricked and cheated out of their power and rights, and how Islam was the true religion of blacks since hundreds of years ago before the advent of slavery and colonization of Africa.


When WFM mysteriously disappeared in 1934 his pupil Elijah Poole-Muhammad succeeded as the spokesperson and teacher of the NOI. It was under his leadership that Malcolm X became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz signifying his entrance into mainstream Islam.


Poole-Muhammad did not teach his NOI followers to pray as mainstream Muslims do 5 times a day. He also did not instruct NOI followers to fast during Ramadan and he did not introduce them to Quranic recitation. However Poole-Muhammd did teach his followers that Black peple were superior to whites. He did instruct his followers to believe that he was The Messenger. And he even went as far as to claim that WFM was the embodiment of God on Earth--An incredible belief that would take any person out of the fold of Islam.


Perhaps, in the 70's at its worst the Nation of Islam was considered a hate organization and at its best it was considered a positive and significant movement for Black Americans. It gave African Americans something to be proud about and it decreased the number of black men going to jail, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs. It gave the black men and women a physical makeover in the form of bow-tied suits and pristine jumpers and a socio-psychological boost in the form of origin stories and practical education.

Most of the black Muslims who came to know of Islam through the NOI organization have conveyed this sentiment regarding the NOI: It served its purpose. And that purpose seemed to have been to uplift, unify, and improve the black individual in America. Today there are only ~20,000 members of the Nation of Islam.

Because of the socio-political components that laced the teachings of the NOI we cannot deem it as a purely Islamic movement. One could argue that it isn't Islamic at all since it is not inclusive of all races. And certainly any person that believes God came down to us in human-form does not understand the idea of tawheed or is not a Muslim.

Under the decree of Warith D. Muhammad, son of Elijah Poole-Muhammad, the NOI was to enjoin with mainstream Islam and stand separate no more. Unfortunately, Minister Louis Farrakan disagreed with this ruling and broke away to lead and re-establish the NOI as it was initially birthed in the 1930's.

*Throughout my article I have intentionally refrred to the NOI as an organization as opposed to a religion because I believe the term is more accurate

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Sakina Al-Amin is an Examiner from Detroit. You can see Sakina's articles at: ""

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