Among Black Muslims, two names stand out: Wallace D. Fard and Robert Poole. Even if you’re familiar with the history of this indigenous Islamic religion, you may not recognize them — both were better known under different monikers: Wali Fard and Elijah Muhammad.
Wallace D. “Wali” Fard (1893?-1934?) is a somewhat mysterious character. Elijah Muhammad wrote that Fard, who appeared on the religious scene in Detroit about 1930, was “Allah…from the Holy City of Mecca, Arabia.” Another writer said he was merely “a foreign born Muslim from India or Pakistan” who was born in 1877 and turned up in Detroit in the early 1900’s. A third said he claimed a British father and Polynesian mother. A fourth noted Fard claimed to be part of the Kuraish Tribe, the Arabian tribe of the Prophet Muhammad. Yet another says he’s an Afghan-born immigrant.
Called “the Prophet” or “the Great Mahdi,” Fard (who also has been identified as Wallace Fard Muhammad, W. D. Farad, Wali Farrad, Professor Ford, Wallace Delaney Fard, Wallace Dodd Ford, Farrad Mohammed and F. Mohammed Ali) founded Temple No. 1 in Detroit “which, at its peak, had over eight thousand followers.”
One of those followers was Robert (or Elijah) Poole, later to rename himself Elijah Muhammad and found Temple No. 2 in Chicago. After problems with the police in Detroit, Fard moved to Chicago in 1933. Fard mysteriously disappeared in 1934; this disappearance was rumored to be linked to Elijah Muhammad (who noted that if Fard was Allah, then the natural successor would be himself, as messenger of Allah), but the connection was never proved.
Elijah Muhammad said that Fard had returned to Mecca. but some “critics of the Black Muslim movement observed that Fard’s disappearance and Muhammad’s subsequent rise to power were not coincidental.”
See also: Elijah Muhammad