Article by: Joe Carter
In a video that has been viewed nearly 2 million times on Facebook, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said, “I know that my redeemer liveth. I know. I’m not guessing that my Jesus is alive.” This clip has lead some people to wonder if Farrakhan has become a closet Christian, but other people more familiar with the Nation of Islam’s teachings have pointed out that the use of such language is nothing new.
Here is what you should know about the controversial religious group known as the Naiton of Islam.
1. The Nation of Islam (NOI) is an African-American movement and organization that combines elements of traditional Islam with black nationalist ideas and race-based theology. Although the group is rather small (estimated membership is between 20,000 and 50,000 people), Farrakhan has used the organization to leverage his influence within the African-American community. In 1995 he organized and was the keynote speaker for the Million Man March, a gathering in Washington, D.C., that attracted 400,000 people.
2. The NOI was founded in Detroit on July 4, 1930, by Wallace D. Fard (a.k.a. Wallace Fard Muhammad). Fard worked as a door-to-door salesman before gaining a following in the black community as a religious leader. In 1931, Fard met a migrant worker named Elijah Poole (aka Elijah Muhammad) and for the next three and a half years he reportedly “taught and trained the Honorable Elijah Muhammad night and day into the profound Secret Wisdom of the Reality of God.” The NOI considers Fard to be the Messiah of Judaism, the Mahdi of Islam (the prophesied redeemer of Islam), as “Allah in the flesh,” and “the second coming of Jesus, the Christ, Jehovah, God, and the Son of Man.” Fard mysteriously disappeared in 1934. He was last seen by Elijah Muhammad and was never heard from again.
3. Elijah Muhammad took over leadership of Fard’s group in Detroit and changed the name from the Allah Temple of Islam to Nation of Islam. For the next 41 years, until his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad served as a mentor to some influential African Americans (most notably Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali), grew the small group into a large movement, developed many NOI-owned businesses and schools, and created the largest African-American newspaper in the United States. At the height of his power, the NOI is estimated to have had 250,000 members.
4. Under Elijah Muhammad’s leadership, the NOI grew to be an influential, controlling, and intimidating organization. Malcolm X had once been a protégé of the religious leader but was suspended from the NOI because Elijah Muhammad believed he was becoming too influential. A year later, Malcolm X was shot to death by NOI members while speaking at a rally in New York City. Another former student, Cassius Clay (a.k.a. Muhammad Ali), reportedly refused to be drafted into the U.S. military out of fear of being killed by Elijah Muhammad (who opposed the draft and had avoided it himself). In the 1970s Ali told reporter Dave Kindred : “I would have gotten out of [the Nation of Islam] a long time ago, but you saw what they did to Malcolm X. . . . I can’t leave the Muslims. They’d shoot me, too.”
5. A day after Elijah Muhammad’s death, his son Warith Deen Mohammed was declared the new leader of the NOI. Over the next few years, Warith changed the organization’s name to the American Society of Muslims and attempted to make it a more orthodox Islamic movement. In 1981, a protégé of Elijah, Louis Farrakhan (nee Louis Wolcott), started a new group, took back the name “Nation of Islam,” and worked to restore the original movement of Elijah Muhammed. Under Farrakhan’s leadership, the movement shifted back to its cultish religious beliefs and readopted racist and anti-Semitic views.
6. In 2010, Farrakhan publicly announced his embrace of cult leader L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings known as “Dianetics.” Although claiming he wasn’t a Scientologist, Farrakhan actively encouraged Nation of Islam members to undergo auditing from the Church of Scientology. “I’ve found something in the teaching of Dianetics, of Mr. L. Ron Hubbard, that I saw could bring up from the depth of our subconscious mind things that we would prefer to lie dormant,” he told his Chicago congregation. “How could I see something that valuable and know the hurt and sickness of my people and not offer it to them?” In 2011 he added, “All white people should flock to L. Ron Hubbard. You can still be a Christian; you just won’t be a devil Christian. You can still be a Jew, but you won’t be a satanic Jew.”
The responsibility of the F.O.I. is that of a head of house: protection, provision, and maintenance of the Nation of Islam (all Original People). The F.O.I. are militant in the sense that our operations are done as a unit (Latin: mili – meaning “one”). He is a soldier. Soldier has a root, again Latin, solidus, meaning solid. “Belong” means “to be owned by”. An F.O.I. is respectful to all regardless of color, class, or creed. He is honest, and hardworking, never considering crime as an alternative nor encroaching on another man’s right to peace and property.
The F.O.I. is sometimes confused with the Five-Percent Nation (aka Five Percenters), a splinter group that separated from NOI in the 1960s.
7. The NOI asserts that white people were created through scientific experimentation by a scientist named Yakub. As Farrakhan has explained, “the Bible calls him ‘Jacob,’ who wrestled with The Angel, and prevailed, and his name was changed from “Jacob” to Israel). He was a great Black Scientist.” Yakub supposedly began a program of selective breeding that was carried out by his followers after his death and resulted in the creation of the “white race.” This race became famous for corrupting and enslaving other races. As Farrakhan says, “the white race is a race of devils.”
8. Since its founding the NOI has frequently been accused of spreading anti-Semitic propaganda and promoting anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. For example, as the Anti-Defamation League notes, Farrakhan has “repeatedly alleged that the Jewish people were responsible for the slave trade and that they conspire to control the government, the media, Hollywood, and various Black individuals and organizations to this day.” In a prominent address in 2015, Farrakhan claimed Israel and Jews orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, that “Israelis had foreknowledge of the attacks,” and that Jews were warned ahead of time not to come to work that day.
9. The NOI advocates for racial separatism. As outlined in “The Muslim Program” the movement wants to establish a “separate state or territory of their own–either on this continent or elsewhere.” The group believes “our former slave masters are obligated to provide such land and that the area must be fertile and minerally rich [sic]. We believe that our former slave masters are obligated to maintain and supply our needs in this separate territory for the next 20 to 25 years–until we are able to produce and supply our own needs.” Until such time as they are allowed to create their own separate nation, the NOI wants segregated schools, exemption from all taxation, a prohibition on intermarriage or race mixing, and to have “the religion of Islam taught without hindrance or suppression.”
Other posts in this series:
Slave Trade • Solar Eclipses • Alcohol Abuse in America • History of the Homeschooling Movement • Eugenics • North Korea • Ramadan • Black Hebrew Israelites • Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court Confirmations • International Women’s Day • Health Effects of Marijuana • J. R. R. Tolkien • Aleppo and the Syrian Crisis • Fidel Castro • C.S. Lewis • ESV Bible • Alzheimer’s Disease • Mother Teresa • The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • Nuclear Weapons • China’s Cultural Revolution • Jehovah’s Witnesses • Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State
Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He serves as an elder at Grace Hill Church in Herndon, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter.