Farrakhan Moves Toward Muslim Orthodoxy

Returning after a year-long illness-induced absence, the Nation of Islam head unveiled a major theological shift for his group.

CHICAGO, Feb. 27 (AP)--Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on Sunday reaffirmed his pledge to reconcile his breakaway movement with orthodox Muslims, trying to fulfill the expectations of millions of mainstream worshippers.

Farrakhan used the occasion of the Nation's most important annual gathering, Saviour's Day, to embrace W. Deen Mohammed, the leader of the orthodox Muslim American Society and the son of the late Elijah Muhammad.

``He and I will be together,'' Farrakhan said of Mohammed. ``Not for evil but for love - not for hatred, but in good.''

Before Sunday's rally, W. Deen Mohammed had made clear what orthodox Muslims nationwide expected: a different Farrakhan. And Farrakhan spoke directly to the expectation.

``Has Farrakhan abandoned us? Has Farrakhan changed?'' Farrakhan asked the audience of more than 20,000. ``Yeah, I have. Everybody should be changing...but I haven't abandoned you.''

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The speech was regarded as one that could make or break Farrakhan's fledgling vow to reconcile with other orthodox Muslims.

Farrakhan had joined with Mohammed at traditional prayers on Friday--the 25th anniversary of the death of Elijah, whose legacy Farrakhan and Mohammed have struggled over.

Elijah led the Nation of Islam for decades, but after his death in 1975, his son led the movement toward orthodoxy. In 1978, Farrakhan broke away to revive Elijah's teachings under the old Nation of Islam name.

In the Nation's theology, Elijah's teacher in the 1930s, W. D. Fard of Detroit, was given divine status and Elijah was the final prophet to mankind. Orthodox Muslims believe the final prophet was Mohammed of Mecca, who founded Islam in the seventh century.

At that prayer service, Farrakhan and W. Deen Mohammed both vowed to bury their differences and work together to unite U.S. Muslims.

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