Warith Deen Mohammed (born Wallace D. Muhammad; October 30, 1933 – September 9, 2008) was an African American Muslimleader and the son of Clara and Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam from 1933 to 1975.
He became leader of the Nation of Islam after his father’s death on February 25, 1975 and merged it to mainstream Islam. He oversaw the biggest conversion to Islam in the history of the United States of America. He rejected the deification of W.D. Fard as God on earth, accepted Whites as worshippers, forged closer ties with mainstream Muslim communities and introduced the Five Pillars of Islam into the organization’s theology. Under Warith Muhammad the organization changed its name several times until it settled on the American Society of Muslims.
Inheritance of Nation of Islam
Warith Deen Mohammed (English: Inheritor of the Religion of Muhammad) was born Wallace Delaney Muhammad in 1933 on Yeman Street in Hamtramck, Michigan. His father, Elijah Poole Muhammad, was the leader of the Nation of Islam, an organization that preached a form of Black nationalism and its own version of Islam from 1934 until his death on February 26, 1975. Warith Deen Mohammed served as a minister under his father in Philadelphia in the late 1950s and the early 1960s before being excommunicated by his father for denying the divinity of W. F. Muhammad. On his 28th birthday in 1961, Warith Deen Mohammed was sent to federal prison in Minnesotafor refusing induction into the United States military. In his 14 months in the Minnesota prison, he spent most of his days and nights studying the Qur’an. He became even more convinced that the Nation of Islam had to change its message. He was let out of prison in 1963. After the death of his friend Malcolm X in 1965, he was allowed back into the Nation of Islam, but he was subsequently excommunicated two more times for denying the divinity of Wallace Fard Muhammad.
He was finally allowed back in the Nation for good in the early seventies, and after his father’s death, Warith was accepted by the Nation of Islam as its leader. He introduced many reforms intended to bring the organization closer to traditional Islam, and renamed it a number of times. He rejected literal interpretations of his father’s theology and Black-separatist views. On the basis of his lifelong study of theHoly Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad, he accepted whites as fellow worshippers and forged closer ties with mainstream Muslim communities, including Latino Muslims. W. Deen Mohammed was instrumental in establishing interfaith cooperation with other religious communities especially Christians and Jews. In 1977 W. Deen Mohammed led the then largest delegation of Muslim Americans (300), most former members of the Nation of Islam, on Hajj, Pilgrimage to the Sacred House in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. That same year he toured China with “American Friends of China”. On January 2, 1983 he temporarily resigned from his post as Chief Imam of the American Society of Muslims and his position as resident Imam of the communities Chicago Mosque to devote more time to evangelism and Islamic studies.
In February 1978 he gave a historic address before more than 1,000 Jews and Muslims at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C., then under the leadership of Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman. On September 10, 1992 he was cited for exemplary work in the religion of Islam by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and giving “The Gold Medal of Recognition” Egypt’s highest and most distinguished religious honor. In 1993 he spoke at the Interfaith Roundtable National Conference of Christians, Jews and Muslims in Detroit, Michigan; and he also gave a tribute to freedom at a luncheon hosting South African President Nelson Mandela. From October 15–16, 1994 Warith Deen Mohammed was visited by Mufti Abdullah Mukhtar, the leader of an estimated 60 million Muslims at Masjid Bilal in Cleveland, Ohio. This was M. A. Mukhtar’s first visit to the U.S.. In February, 1995 he was invited to officiate at the first “Acts of Kindness Week” in Dallas, Texas. On March 1995 he delivered the keynote address at the Muslim-Jewish Convocation in Glencoe, Ill. this was one of the first serious public dialogues between top leaders of Islam and reformed Judaism. He also received the “Cup of Compassion” award from Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. in 1995. He also was selected as a President of the World Conference on Religion and Peace which is located in Copenhagen, Denmark. From October 1–6, 1996 he met with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Vatican’s Chief of Staff for Interreligious Affairs at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. On August 17, 1997 he was presented the Luminosa Award for Unity from the Focolare Movement. From May 18–20, 1998, he participated in the Conference on Religion and Peace sponsored by the Center for Christian, Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University in Auschwitz, Poland. On June 1998 he addressed the Muslim Friends of the Focolare conference in Rome, Italy. Warith Deen Mohammed returned to Rome, Italy on October 28, 1999 and addressed a gathering of 100,000 in the Vatican Rome with Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama present. He also was a participant at the Jubillenium Interfaith Conference for World Peace on November 21, 1999.
On October 29, 2001, Mohammed participated in an “Evening of Religious Solidarity”joined by Reverend Robert H. Schuller, Minister Louis Farrakhan and members of the Parliament of World Religions at The Mosque Foundation in Villa Park, IL., on November 17 of that same year Mohammed was invited toAssisi, Italy by Pope John Paul II for the Contribution of Religion to the “Conference of Peace Forum”.
Political and social activities
In 1975 he met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the National House (The former residence of his father Mr. Elijah Muhammad). On July 4, 1976 he started the New World Patriotism Day celebrations which were conducted on Independence Day in the major cities across America. Also in 1976 he met with and received a $16 million donation from Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi, head of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, to finance the purchase of a mosque and the construction of a school in Chicago, Illinois, the project was never completed and the funds were returned. In January 1977 he met with then President Jimmy Carter to discuss the crucial issues of drug addiction, violence, immorality, and other forms of blight in the African American communities across the country. Later that year he addressed the National Newspaper Publishers Association, and urged them to “Promote excellence in consumer and voter education.” In 1979 he was the only American invited and the only American to attend the 10th Annual Islamic Conference of Ministers in Fez, Morocco, held from May 8 to May 12, 1979.
Then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton proclaimed March 26, 1983 “Economic Dignity Day” in the state of Arkansas. In doing so he stated the following: “Whereas, through the leadership and efforts of Warith Deen Muhammad, the American Muslim Mission is on the path of economic progress and achieving growth through unity…(I) urge all citizens to engage in activities which promote economic progress.”
In 1985 500,000 participants joined in a “Walk for Justice” convened by Warith Deen Muhammad to protest the handling of the American Muslim Mission (Nation of Islam) Probate court case in Chicago, Ill. Also in 1985 he met in Geneva, Switzerland with Dr. Muhammad Ahmad Al-Sharif, Secretary General of the Islamic Call Society of Libya and Dr. Abdul Hakim Tabibi, an Afghan Mujaheddin to discuss areas of future cooperation with the Islamic Call Society and the Muslim Community of America.
In 1986 He was selected to serve on the World Supreme Council of Masajid (Mosques) as one of only three United States residence on this council. In 1988 he was invited to Morocco byKing Hassan II to participate in the traditional devotions during Ramadan. In April, 1988 he participated as the representative of Muslim Americans in the “Political and Religious Leaders Campaign for Planetary Survivor” Oxford Town Hall, England were 150 leaders from around the world met. Later that year he was among 100 leaders in religion, government, business, law and philanthropy who gathered in Williamsburg, VA during the Williamsburg Charter Foundations “First Liberty Summit”. Where they signed a charter that restated the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Freedom of Religion).
In 1990 he led a delegation of Muslim leaders and scholars to the Persian Gulf to confer about Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. At this conference, he made his opposition to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait a matter of public record.
Warith Deen Mohammed gave the first invocation in the U.S. Senate ever by a Muslim in 1992 after touring and visiting the Pentagon from Feb. 5-6. Also on March 3 of that year he became the first Muslim to deliver an address on the floor of the Georgia State Legislature. In 1993, he gave an Islamic prayer during the first Inaugural Interfaith Prayer Service of President Bill Clinton, and again in 1997 at the second Interfaith Prayer Service.
In 1996 Dr. Mohammed Nuir Manuty, the President of the Muslim Youth Movement invited Mohammed to visit Malaysia. The Deputy Prime Minister and Mohammed met and he was interviewed on Malaysian National Television program “Good Morning Malaysia”. On December 1996, he led a delegation of American Muslims to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, to take part in talks with Palestinian leader, President Yassir Arafat. Also in 1996 he was invited to Egypt by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to address the Supreme Council of Affairs in Cairo on the theme: “Islam and the Future of Dialogue between Civilizations.” In January 1997, he was appointed to then President Bill Clinton‘s Religious Advisory Council under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. From December 9–11, 1997 Mohammed attended the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Teheran, Iran. In attendance that year were the heads of Islamic states, including King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Hassan II of Morocco, King Hussein of Jordan and PresidentYasser Arafat of the West Bank.
In 2000 Warith Deen Mohammed was appointed to the Executive Committee of Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP). On September 11, 2001 Mohammed, denounced the terrorist attacks on the United States as un-Islamic and evil. On April 6, 2002, Mohammed was inducted as a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers atMorehouse College, Atlanta, GA. Mohammed was honored with his portrait in the International Chapel of Morehouse College. From June 12–15, 2002 as International President of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, Mohammed was invited to attend an HIV/AIDS Conference in Kenya. On Sat., Sept. 3, 2005, the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) presented an award to W. Deen Mohammed in recognition of his outstanding leadership role in the American Muslim community at The Mosque Cares sponsored Annual Islamic Convention.
Relations with Louis Farrakhan
A number of dissident groups resisted the changes in the Nation of Islam, most notably those who followed Louis Farrakhan in breaking ranks with Wallace and reviving the name ‘Nation of Islam’ in 1981.
Marking 70 years since the Nation of Islam was founded, in 2000 W.D. Mohammed and Farrakhan publicly embraced, and declared unity and reconciliation, at the annual Saviours’ Dayconvention. W.D. Mohammed said on this occasion:
|“||Dear Muslim brothers and sisters, it is not difficult for Minister Farrakhan and Wallace D. Mohammed to embrace each other. That’s easy for us. When I first met him in the early ’50s, I liked him on first sight, and I became his friend and his brother. And I have not stopped being his friend and his brother. Maybe he has not understood, but I have always been his friend and his brother. For me, this is too big a cause for our personal problems and differences. Allah-u Akbar (God is great). FCN, February 25, 2000||”|
Although the relationship between Warith Deen Mohammed and Minister Farrakhan had finally thawed out by February, 2000, previously as early as 1995 relations were cool. Warith Deen Mohammed and Louis Farrakhan have been at odds since 1978 over a number of issuses not related to Elijah Muhammad. On August 10, 2007, in one of his final interviews before his death, Mohammed reiterated his frustration with Farrakhan and the current Nation of Islam.
In an interview conducted, in the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper, by his brother Jabir Herbert Muhammad, he described his role on succeeding his father Elijah Muhammad as that of a Mujeddid (Mujaddid), one who would watch over the new Islam or community. In 1979 he used the title Mujeddid (Mujaddid) on his byline in his weekly Bilalian News (formally, Muhammad Speaks Newspaper) articles.
In an article in the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper in 1975 entitled “Invisible white Divinity by a Visible Whitened Divine” he explored the profound latent effects of images in religion. In an August, 1977 Jumuah Prayer Service on Chicago’s Southside he taught on “The meaning of colors in Scripture and the Natural Powers of Black and White”. In this talk (Khutbah) he described and explained ancient scriptural symbolism and its effect on modern-day scriptural and religious interpretation. He also elaborated on how colors in scripture have triggered racist influences in the religious societies. Also in 1977 he engaged in a (debate) public forum discussion with Reverend Al Sampson in Chicago, Ill. on images in religion and racism.In 1980 he formed the Committee for the Removal of All Images that attempt to Portray the Divine (C.R.A.I.D.).
Warith Deen Mohammed was married a total of 5 times, with four of the marriages ending in divorce. Mr. Mohammed’s first wife was Shirley Mohammed, with whom he had four children (Laila, Warith II, Ngina and Saudi who preceded him in death). After divorcing Shirley he married Lorraine and had two children by her. They were eventually divorced, and he married Thelma and had three children by her until they, too, were divorced. Next he married Bina Mohammed and they, too, were divorced. He finally married Khadijah Siddeeq and they remained married for four years up until his death. The distribution of his property is currently a matter of legal dispute.
At the time of his demise W.D. Mohammed was the leader of The Mosque Cares, an Islamic proselytization on project and a business entity called the CPC (Collective Purchasing Conference). His lectures were published weekly in Muslim Journal Newspaper and his videos and audio tapes were also listed. Mohammed had a syndicated television program, “W. Deen Mohammed and Guests,” and was and is heard locally and nationally on the World Wide Broadcast of “Imam W. Deen Mohammed” in over 100 cities. He also was a member of The World Supreme Council of Mosques, The Peace Council, and he was an international president of the World Conference of Religion and Peace. All of his estimated 2.5 million students regard themselves as a portion of the worldwide Muslim community and have accepted traditional Islam.
W.D. Mohammed died in Chicago on September 9, 2008, the 9th day of Ramadan, of heart disease and complications from diabetes. His Janazah was held at Islamic Foundation inVilla Park, Illinois on September 11, 2008.
In eulogizing Warith Deen Mohammed on CNN blogs, Ahmed Rehab Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, called him “America’s Imam.”
On February 26, 2010, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Mayor Bing of Detroit issued proclamations marking 2/26 as Imam Warith Deen Mohammed Day.
Awards, citations and proclamations
- Walter P. Reuther Humanitarian Award
- President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt honored Warith Deen Mohammed with “The Gold Medal of Recognition” in 1992 and 1993 in recognition of his religious work in the United States.
- “Cup of Compassion” award from Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. in 1995
- Focolare Movement “Luminosa Award for Unity,” August 17, 1997
- 2005 Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Leadership Award
- April 13, 2003, Mohammed received an Honorary Doctorate degree from the Internet Islamic University in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
- On June 29, 2003, Sojourner-Douglass College, in Baltimore, Md., bestowed an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters to Warith Deen Mohammed.
- The Teachings of W. D. Muhammad, Muhammad’s Mosque #2, Chicago, Illinois, 1975
- The Lectures of Emam W. D. Muhammad, Muhammad’s Mosque #2, Chicago, Illinois, 1976
- Book of Muslim Names, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad Mosque #2, Chicago, Illinois, February 1976
- The Man and the Woman in Islam, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad Mosque #2, Chicago, Illinois, February 1976
- As the Light Shineth from the East, W.D.M. Publications, Chicago, Illinois, 1980
- Religion on the Line, W.D.M. Publications, Chicago, Illinois, 1983
- Prayer and Al-Islam, Muhammad Islamic Foundation, Chicago, Illinois, 1982, Library of Congress Card Number: 82-61077
- Imam W. Deen Muhammad speaks form Harlem, N.Y. Book 1, W. D. M. Publications, 1984
- Imam W. Deen Muhammad speaks form Harlem, N.Y.: Challenges That Face Man Today Book 2, 1985
- An African American Genesis, M.A.C.A. Publication Fund, Chicago, Illinois, 1986, Library of Congress Card Number: 86-63266
- Focus on Al-Islam, Zakat Publications, Chicago, Illinois, Dec. 1988, Library of Congress Card Number: 89-090728
- Al-Islam: Unity, and Leadership, The Sense Maker, Chicago, Illinois, 1991, Library of Congress Card Number: 91-061449, ISBN 1-879698-00-5
- The Worst Oppression Is False Worship, W.D.M. Publications, Chicago, Illinois, 1991
- Growth for a Model Community in America, W.D.M. Publications, Chicago, Illinois, 1995
- Islam’s Climate for Business Success, The Sense Maker, Chicago, Illinois, 1995, Library of Congress Card Number: 95-071105, ISBN 1-879698-01-3
- Mohammed Speaks, W.D.M. Publications, Chicago, Illinois, 1999
- Blessed Ramadan – The Fast of Ramadan
- Plans for a Better Future: Peace, Inclusion and International Brotherhood
- The Schemes Of Satan the Enemy of Man
- The Champion We Have In Common: The Dynamic African American Soul Books 1, 2, 3, & 4, The Mosque Cares Publications, August 2005
- A Time for Greater Communities Vol. 1-4
- Securing our Share of Freedom
- Prayer in al-Islam, A Learner’s Guide w/Instructional CD, WDM Publications, Chicago, Illinois, 2007
- Return to Innocence: Transitioning of the Nation of Islam, The Sense Maker, Chicago, Illinois, 2007
- Life The Final Battlefield, W.D.M. Publications, Chicago, Illinois, 2008