4,000 Mourn 'Tremendous Influence' on Their Faith

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Byline: Hafsa Naz Mahmood hmahmood@dailyherald.com

Thousands of Muslims from around the nation came to Villa Park Thursday to pay respect to the life of a man they saw as a bridge between mainstream Islam and one of the most important outgrowths of the religion in the 20th century.

Religious leaders like Chicagos Louis Farrakhan and Brooklyns Siraj Wahhaj were among an estimated 4,000 mourners who joined family, friends and supporters in a celebration of the life of Imam W. Deen Mohammed. Mohammed, 74, died Tuesday during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

Mohammed, a son of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, emerged from the Nation of Islam but followed Malcolm X, who was moving toward traditional Islam when he was assassinated in 1965. When Mohammeds father died, he became the leader, broke off from his fathers teachings and led hundreds of thousands of followers toward mainstream Islam.

Wahhaj was a follower of Elijah Muhammad when the Nation of Islam leader died. Soon after, Imam W. Deen Mohammed came to Wahhaj personally and led him toward the traditional interpretation of the faith.

"I became a true Muslim in 1975 when Imam Deen

Mohammed became the leader," Wahhaj said."He had an unbelievable impact on me, and he is the bridge from the Nation of Islam to Orthodox Islam."

Muslims formed endless rows and came together in the mosques lawn for Thursdays service.

"This was the largest (funeral prayer) ever prayed here at the Islamic Foundation," the Islamic Foundations Sheik Abdul Rahman Khan said. "We felt it was an honor for the Islamic Foundation to be the host for such a great event and to give the final rights to one of the greatest leaders of Islam in America. …