Elijah Muhammad and Islam

Elijah Muhammad and Islam

Elijah Muhammad and Islam

Elijah Muhammad and Islam


Elijah Muhammad is arguably the most significant figure in the history of Islam in the United States. Successor to W. D. Fard, the founder of the Nation of Islam, and a mentor to Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad led the Nation of Islam for over forty years.

In Elijah Muhammad and Islam, Herbert Berg focuses on Elijah Muhammad's religiosity, which is frequently brought into question as the authenticity of the Nation of Islam as "truly Islamic" remains hotly debated. To better comprehend this powerful and controversial figure, Berg contextualizes Elijah Muhammad and his religious approach within the larger Islamic tradition, exploring his use of the Qur'an, his interpretation of Islam, and his relationships with other Muslims. Above all, Berg seeks to understand--not define or label--Muhammad as a Muslim. To do otherwise, he argues, is to misunderstand and distort the man, his teachings, his movement, and his legacy.


In early 1972 Elijah Muhammad granted a rare interview. Although at the time he seemed to be at the center of a movement beset by inner power struggles and external opposition, the frail and dignified leader of the Nation of Islam sat calmly, allowing sixteen journalists to ask whatever they wished. With poise and in his awkward English, Elijah Muhammad answered their questions about God, Islam, Blacks, Whites, and his mission as the Messenger of Allah:

For forty years I have been a target for assassination, but I do not pay any
attention to that kind of talk. That does not annoy me, because I know
God is on my side to protect me, Who Came in the Person of Master
Fard Muhammad To Whom Praises Is Due forever.

A good Muslim is one who observes and obeys the laws of the Reli
gion of Islam, designed by God, Himself…. [There] will be a New Is
lam to what the old Orthodox Islam is today. It will be altogether a New
One…. the Old Islam was led by white people, but this one will not be.
This Islam will be established and led by Black Muslims only…. Islam in
America is to reclaim our people and put them in their own. This is the
Resurrection of our people in America.

This is the Resurrection I refer to of our Black people in America. And
this is the place that they must come up first. They are in the “crossroads”
here and they have to be pointed out the right way to go out. I do not
mean to say they go out of America, but out of the evils of America….
They were made unrighteous by the slavemasters. They are not even
charged with it. You are forgiven everything of evil, on your accepting
Islam—your Own. That is all God Asks you to do today, go back to your
Own. You are forgiven for everything, because all the evil you did in the
past, it was not you, it was the slavemaster who made you do evil.

Yes, they [slave owners] were, by nature, made unrighteous. Their
nature was that…. That included all white people then and all white

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