What is the “Nation of Islam”?

The Nation of Islam (NOI) is most commonly defined as a quasi-religious, U.S.-based, black nationalist organization with an estimated membership of 100,000 in 1995 and perhaps somewhat less today. Its headquarters are in Chicago IL.

Photo of Malcolm X. Origin unknown.
Malcolm X

The Black Muslim movement gained wide attention in the middle part of the last century, due in part to the influential advocacy of Malcolm X (1925-1965), a strong proponent of black nationalism.

Louis Farrakhan is today's NOI leader and without a doubt this group continues to be one of the fastest-growing religious movements in the modern black American community. Farrakhan and NOI, although highly controversial, have done much to raise the sense of dignity of many black Americans. Many young black men feel that they have "found a place to serve God in the dignity of my race."


The Nation of Islam

The historical basis for the NOI is dubious. Wallace D. Fard arrived in Detroit, Michigan, on July 4, 1930. Apparently, Fard had been released from San Quentin Prison the year before, after serving three years on a drug trafficking charge. He was a door to door salesman who, when asked by the Detroit police to identify himself, responded, “I am the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” He represented himself to other black Americans as a mystic and a prophet from the Middle East. Soon the NOI was 8,000 strong.

Later an unemployed Georgia migrant worker, Elijah Poole, was renamed “Elijah Muhammad” by Fard. Then, in 1934, Fard himself mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again, and Elijah Muhammad became his successor for the next 41 years. He taught that even though Fard was believed to be Allah in human form, when Fard died, Allah did not die. God then manifested Himself in Elijah Muhammad who was revealed to be the 'Messiah' of the Jews, the 'Jesus' of Christians, and the 'Mahdi' of Muslims.

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In 1975 Elijah Muhammad died and his son, Wallace Muhammad, took over, only to disband the NOI. Shortly thereafter, Louis Farrakhan broke away from Wallace Muhammad and reorganized the NOI, assuming absolute control of its leadership. At last check, Farrakhan owned “ornate palaces” in Chicago IL and Phoenix AZ, a Mexican villa, and a 77-acre estate in Michigan. His vehicles included a Lexus, a Mercedes, a Rolls Royce, and a Lincoln Town Car.

Farrakhan has said,

“I am a Messiah, Elijah Muhammad was raised by Master Farad Muhammad to become the Messiah and he raised me to become the little Messiah.”

Relation to Islam

The NOI is not part of mainstream Islam. True Muslims viewed it as a fringe cult. It is a strange mixture of Islam, Masonry, Christianity and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Contrary to the theology of Islam, NOI teaches that:

These are only a few of the major deviations from Islam.

Other Notes

While it is commendable that the dignity of black Americans is raised in the NOI, it ought not be done at the expense of other races. NOI teaches that all black men are gods and that all white men were created by an evil black god (Yakub) who was a scientist. As Farrakhan has said, "You (white people) are the devil… you are nothing but the devil in the plainest language."

Jews are viewed as “blood suckers,” and those who have historically taken advantage of the downtrodden state of the black man. Farrakhan has described Hitler as “wickedly great,” and Judaism as a “dirty religion.”

By way of contrast, I would urge careful consideration be made of the claims of Jesus Christ. Jesus also claimed to be God in human form, but only He truly fulfills a 1000-year plus prophetic history. While here on Earth Jesus pointed toward His own death and resurrection as evidence of who He really was/is—credentials that can still be tested historically.

Christian Answers EffectiveEvangelism™ site - Learn how to be more effective in sharing the Gospel If you are a follower of Jesus Christ who is interested in sharing your faith with Muslim's, visit our special evangelism help pages about Islam in our Effective Evangelism section. It includes articles, tips on witnessing to Muslims, stories from those who have come out of Islam, recommended resources, and more.

Author: Robert T. Pardon, M.Div., Th.M. of New England Institute of Religious Research (NEIRR). Provided by AIIA Institute.

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