City of Brass

City of Brass


Warith Deen Mohammed and the mountain

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Yesterday, iconic muslim-American leader Warith Deen Mohammed passed away. I want to reflect a bit on the significance of this man’s achievement and note what a landmark his life’s work was on the landscape of American Islam. But to understand the impact of what WD Mohammed achieved, it is necessary to remember another man, who died almost 44 years earlier: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, also known as Malcolm X.

Anyone who has read Malcolm X’s autobiography will recall that when X performed the hajj in April 1964, it was like a new revelation, completely transforming his militant views on racism. The spectacle of Hajj, with all race and class stripped away as men and women alike perform the simple acts of piety en masse, left an indelible impression upon him. As X wrote,

“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world.
They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans.
But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit
of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to
believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.

You
may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage,
what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of
my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my
previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my
firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and
to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge
unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the
flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent
search for truth.

During the past eleven days here in the Muslim
world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and
slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)-while praying to the same
God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose
hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of
white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the
‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black
African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

We are truly all the same-brothers.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”

The act of Hajj gave X the cumulative strength of Islam as his weapon against racism, and inspired him to embrace mainstream Sunni Islam. He had broken with the Nation of Islam only a month prior to embarking upon Hajj, and on his return established his own organization. The tension between him and the Nation of Islam ultimately led to his assassination, most likely at the direct command of Elijah Muhammed, then-leader of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm’s closest mentor, until their parting of ways.

Elijah Mohammed is W. Deen Mohammed father, and upon the former’s passing in 1975 it was WD Mohammed who took the reigns of the Nation of Islam. Consider the following facts about the Nation of Islam at the time:

  • NOI was a black supremacist, black separatist organization.
  • One cornerstone of NOI belief was that the white race was a genetic experiment gone awry.
  • The Negro race is believed to be God’s chosen people upon the earth.
  • NOI doctrine held that Wallace Fard Mohammed, the NOI founder, was literally Allah.

These views and beliefs are explictly stated in the official platform of beliefs written by Elijah Muhammad and published in 1965.

That was then.

Today, the black muslim-american community overwhelmingly embraces mainstream Sunni in its belief, apart from a splinter minority group (led by Louis Farakhan) that still holds onto the original Nation of Islam name. The mainstream black muslim community affirms the equal value of all races under God and seeks to work side by side other Americans of all faiths in doing good works for the community. And most importantly, the followers of WD Mohammed embrace the true shahada, that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad SAW is his only, and final, prophet.

It is said that if Mohammed SAW would not come to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mohammed SAW. Literally, it was WD Mohammed who moved that mountain to the doorstep of the Holy Prophet SAW. It is hard to convey the enormity of the task that WD Mohammed had undertaken in his lifetime. Here is how his biography page at The Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam describes the task:

The change and growth which has characterized Imam W. Deen Mohammed´s leadership since 1975 has been a progression toward satisfying the essentials of Muslim life and identity, and in the measure required by the authentic sources of the religion of Islam – the Holy Qur´an and the life example of Muhammed the Prophet (the prayers and the peace be on him).

Through the arduous steps of evolution from the ´Nation of Islam´ (1930-1976) to the ´World Community of Al-Islam in the West´ (1976-1981) to the ´American Muslim Mission´ (1081-1985) Imam Mohammed has piloted his people to what is today a de-centralized and thriving society of Muslim Americans. With Mosques and schools in every major city in Ameirca, and in parts of Canada and the Caribbean, he has garnered a respect and acceptance for Islam in the West not known before. The facts and details of his record of transforming a people depicted at the extreme of a “proto-Islamic” idea which combined Black nationalism and religion, into a community of Muslim Americans esteemed in the international following of Muhammed the Prophet, stands as testimony to his courage, dedication, wisdom, and firm faith in G-d.

Arduous steps of evolution, indeed. In a sense, WD Mohammed followed the path of Malcolm X instead of the path of his own father, and in many ways is the true heir to Malcolm’s legacy. But I think WD Mohammed’s task was greater, and harder. May Allah reward him for his khidmat to his fellow man and the American ummah as a whole.



  • muhammad

    thank you.
    warith deen was a good and decent man.
    he worked in the last part of his life with a christian charity organization out of italy. it is in his wiki.

  • Azim Mahmud Williams

    I strongly believe Allah(SWA) has blessed our communities, cities, countries and the whole world with the presents of knowledge to send us a man like the great leader Warith Deen Mohammed. May Allah bless him with paradise!

  • Susan Williamson

    I had opportunity to meet Imam Mohammad a good number of years ago, including a time when he made an address at the State Department, along with an organization with whom I then worked. You would not have known he had the background he had or that he was who he was simply because his quiet demeanor and self-effacing confidence was more than eloquent in depicting the man I’d heard of as well as the Muslim he was. His depth of character spoke well enough.
    Our warmth and condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of this tremendous Muslim. May Allah subhana wa’ta’alla situate Imam Mohammad well in Jannah.

  • Aneesah Salim

    Imam Warith Deen Muhammad was a great leader who made a commitment to direct humanity to God consciousness.May Allah accept all his good works and forgive his shortcomings.He was a man of peace and he will truley be missed.I offer condolences to his family and will keep him in my dua.

  • Ali Abdur-Raheem

    I have had the priviledge of reading publications and listening to this phenomenal muslim leader. May ALLAH forgive him his sins and grant him Paradise.I would like to comment that it is my understanding that the Imam Muhammad was the advisor to El Hajj Malik Shabazz( Malcolm X) Brother/Leader/Imam Warith Deen Muhammad provided alot of orthodox counseling to Malcolm X according to my research. He did not follow in the footsteps of Malcolm X.

  • Muhammad

    ASA,
    I too am saddeded by the passing of Imam W. Deem Mohammad. Although I am with the NOI under Min. Farrakhan, we all respected the deeds and works of Imam Mohammad. We are taught that we are all under one Uma in Islam. May Allah` be pleased with him.

  • Muslimah

    Warith Deen Muhammad was a man who left the sunnah and the sunnah left him. His speech was not Allaah said, the Prophet salallaahu alaihi was sallam said. Rather his speech was made up from his own desires. This man has made some horrible statements that have taken him from the fold of Islaam. His followers love him because they worship his personality. Anyone who loves Allaah and his messenger could no way love this man.

  • ‘Umar

    It would appear a comma was inadvertantly added to the previous link provided. With the additional comma added the link goes nowhere. By removing the comma at the end the link can be seen. Here is the link without the restriction: http://www.allaahuakbar.net/wallace_deen_mohammed.htm

  • Saleemah

    In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful
    I was sadden to have read of the death of Imam Warith Deem Mohammed, and was even more astonished not to have heard any type of media coverage of his death, and if something was cover than I stand corrected. I have been a member of the N.O.I. for at least eight years and because of my membership and Allah’s mercy I was revied from a dead state of being. I am greatly upset reading the constant negativity that has again clouded the teachings about the N.O.I. This is not the time to denounce and pass judgement about who believes what and how it should be believed, but to pray for his family and the believers and let Allah decide who is right and who is wrong. May Allah Be Pleased!, and my sympathy to his family and loved ones.
    As-Salaam Alakikum

  • jihad_shabazz@yahoo.com

    As-Salaam-Alaikum!
    My response is for Islamerica comment: Imam W.D. Mohammed (RA)has
    also taught his students, of which I am one, that we are not Sunni,
    or any other kind of Muslim with a title, we just MUSLIMS! No where
    in Al-Qur’an will you find the words ‘Sunni Muslim’,Black Muslim,
    White Muslim etc,etc,etc…The Imam (RA) made it plain for us not
    to get caught up in that particular kind of situation. And also you
    are very incorerct to say that Malcolm X (RA) advised the Imam (RA).
    If you really knew your history, you would know that Malcolm was in-
    troduced to Al-Islam by Imam Warith Deen Mohammed (RA).
    Jihad Shabazz/Oakland,CA.

  • Jihad Rasheed Shabazz

    Ali Abdur Raheem,
    May Allah (swt)forever continue to keep your fire (igorance) hot and
    confused about the life giving teachings of IWDM (RA), i.e. until
    He pleases, to remove from you your sins and evil practices of back-
    ward thinking that hold you prisoner to your tribualism. And what have
    you contributed to the advancement of Al-Islam as compared to the
    life-giving teachings of Imam Warith Deen Mohamed (RA)?
    Jihad Rasheed Shabazz/Oakland, Ca.

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