Warith Deen Mohammed
Leader of the Nation of Islam
Warith Deen Mohammed
Warith Deen Mohammed also known as W. Deen Mohammed or Imam W. Deen Muhammad, was a progressive African American Muslim leader, theologian, philosopher, Muslim revivalist and Islamic thinker (1975 to 2008) who disbanded the original Nation of Islam in 1976 and transformed it into an orthodox mainstream Islamic movement, the World Community of Al-Islam in the West which later became the American Society of Muslims.
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  • 2008
    Age 74
    He told ISLAMICA magazine in 2008 that he felt that the madhhab—the schools of thought within fiqh—were geographically influenced and should be regionally developed, suggesting that "I think we are gradually getting a sense of madhabs in America, especially those like me.
    More Details Hide Details We are getting a sense of madhabs. And with the coming generation I think that we will be getting a much stronger sense of it. It is coming more and more. Mohammed was sensitive to the potential impact caused by the use of images and symbols in religion. In a 1975 article, he explored this topic and in 1976 published the first article on the subject in the Bilalian News (later the Muslim Journal). Titled "A Message of Concern", this article has run in every copy of the publication since. He spoke about the subject, as well. For instance, in a June 17, 1977 Friday service, he taught on "The meaning of colors in Scripture and the Natural Powers of Black and White", describing 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 religious societies. In 1977 he formed the Committee for the Removal of All Images that Attempt to Portray the Divine (C.R.A.I.D.).
  • 2005
    Age 71
    On Saturday, September 3, 2005, the Council on 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.
    More Details Hide Details In eulogizing Mohammed on CNN blogs, the Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, Ahmed Rehab, called him "America's Imam."
  • 2004
    Age 70
    Mohammed married Khadija Siddeeq in 2004.
    More Details Hide Details Mohammed's eldest child Laila Mohammed stated that Warith Deen practiced polygamy. However this polygamy assertion is disputed within the community. Beyond his public role in religion and politics, Mohammed was involved in real estate, import clothing and skin care. During his excommunications from the Nation of Islam in his 30s, he served as a laborer.
  • 2002
    Age 68
    On April 6, 2002, Mohammed was made a member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and his portrait was hung in the International Chapel there.
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  • 2001
    Age 67
    On September 11, 2001, he denounced the terrorist attacks as un-Islamic.
    More Details Hide Details While emphasizing unity within the Muslim community, Warith Deen Mohammed called upon the American Muslim community to establish a new school of fiqh, a code of conduct for the observance of rituals, morals and social legislation in Islam.
  • 1999
    Age 65
    On May 17, 1999, he received a Certificate of Appreciation from the United States Department of State. In 2002, Ebony Magazine selected him as one of its "100 Most Influential Black Americans".
    More Details Hide Details On December 9, 1994 he received the Cup of Compassion from the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut.
    In 1999, he was elected to the Islamic Society of North America's shura board.
    More Details Hide Details That same year, during Ramadan, he pledged to work with then Grand Mufti of Syria, Shaikh Ahmed Kuftaro an-Naqshbandi for the advancement of Al-Islam during a meeting with Kuftaro and Shaikh Nazim al-Haqqanian-Naqshbandi. He was the special invited guest and keynote speaker at the "Inaugural Conference on the Growth and Development of Islam in America", held at Harvard University on March 3–4, 2000.
  • 1997
    Age 63
    He received the Focolare Movement "Luminosa Award for Unity" in 1997.
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    In January 1997, he was appointed to then President Bill Clinton's Religious Advisory Council.
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  • 1996
    Age 62
    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".
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  • 1995
    Age 61
    Also in 1995 he was selected as a President of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) and addressed its governing board in Copenhagen, Denmark.
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  • 1994
    Age 60
    Warith Deen Mohammed's first wife was Shirley Mohammed, with whom he had four children. By 1994, according to The Los Angeles Times, Mohammed had been married four times and had fathered eight children.
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  • 1993
    Age 59
    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.
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  • 1992
    Age 58
    In 1992, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt honored Warith Deen Mohammed with "The Gold Medal of Recognition" for his religious work in the United States.
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  • 1990
    Age 56
    On behalf of the Muslim American Community, he donated $85,000 to Nelson Mandela to aid his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa during a personal meeting in Oakland, California on June 30, 1990.
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    On September 10, 1990 he participated in the international conference on the "Current Situation in the Gulf", where he made his opposition to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait a matter of public record.
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    In 1990, Mohammed supported and endorsed Neil Hartigan for Governor of Illinois.
    More Details Hide Details He gave his support to the peacemaking and humanitarian efforts of Bishop Samuel Ruiz.
  • 1989
    Age 55
    On December 23, 1989 he spoke at the Annual Conference of the Islamic Committee for Palestine on the plight of the Palestinians.
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  • 1986
    Age 52
    He sat on a number of councils and committees, domestically and abroad. In 1986, he was selected to serve on the World Supreme Council of Masajid (mosques) as one of only three representatives of the United States.
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  • 1985
    Age 51
    In 1985, to protest the Chicago probate court handling of an American Muslim Mission case, he organized a "Walk for Justice" that drew 500,000 participants.
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  • 1984
    Age 50
    Mayor Harold Washington issued a proclamation declaring July 4, 1984 as New world Patriotism Day Coalition Parade Day in Chicago.
    More Details Hide Details In 1988, King Hassan II of Morocco, invited Mohammed to participate in the traditional devotions during Ramadan, stating: Through you Imam W. Deen Mohammed all the people in America are represented.
    In 1984, Mohammed went against the mainstream African American political establishment and opposed Reverend Jesse Jackson's run for the Democratic nomination for President.
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  • 1979
    Age 45
    He was the only American invited and the only American to attend the 10th Annual Islamic Conference of Ministers in May, 1979, in Fes, Morocco.
    More Details Hide Details In April, 1988, he participated as the representative of Muslim Americans in the "Political and Religious Leaders Campaign for Planetary Survivor" in Oxford Town Hall. Later that year he was among 100 leaders in religion, government, business, law and philanthropy who gathered in Williamsburg, Virginia during the Williamsburg Charter Foundations "First Liberty Summit". In 1995, he participated in the Forbes Forum on Management in Naples, Florida. The following year, he participated in the "National Discussion on Race & Reconciliation" sponsored by the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. In late 1997, he attended the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Teheran, Iran, and he participated in The Religious Community and Moral Challenge of Poverty Round Table Discussion convened by former U. S. Senator Paul Simon in 1998 in Carbondale, Illinois. During the month of November 1999 he attended consecutive World Peace Conferences. The first conference, Jubilenium Interfaith Conference for World Peace, was an invitation-only event held in Tiberias, Israel. The second was the 7th World Assembly of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, held in Amman, Jordan.
  • 1978
    Age 44
    On September 10, 1978 in an address in Atlanta he resigned as Chief Imam and appointed a six-member council to lead the Community.
    More Details Hide Details Mohammed felt quite keenly his role in reform. In an interview published in the Muhammad Speaks newspaper and conducted by his brother Jabir Herbert Muhammad, Mohammed described his role as successor to their father as that of a Mujeddid, one who would watch over the new Islam or community. In 1979 he used the title Mujeddid (Mujaddid) on his byline in his weekly articles for the Bilalian News (the new title of Muhammad Speaks).
    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.
    More Details Hide Details This was a focus that would persist throughout his career. In 1993 he spoke at the Interfaith Roundtable National Conference of Christians, Jews and Muslims in Detroit, Michigan. In March 1995 he gave the keynote address at the Muslim-Jewish Convocation in Glencoe, Illinois. From October 1–6, 1996 he met with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Francis Arinze at the Holy See in Rome. On August 17, 1997 he was presented the Luminosa Award for Unity from the Focolare Movement. On September 9, 1997 he addressed the Baltimore Jewish Council speaking on themes of world-wide justice and fairness. On May 18–20, 1998, he attended the Conference on Religion and Peace sponsored by the Center for Christian, Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University in Auschwitz, Poland. In June 1998 he addressed the Muslim Friends of the Focolare conference in Rome, Italy, in October of the following year, along with a 92-member delegation, he spoke before a gathering of 100,000 people in the Vatican. Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama were both in attendance. On October 29, 2001, Mohammed participated in an "Evening of Religious Solidarity" joined by Minister Louis Farrakhan, Pastor Robert H. Schuller, and members of the Parliament of the World's Religions at the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park, Illinois.
  • 1977
    Age 43
    On his 44th Birthday October 30, 1977, Mohammed received the Key to the City of Detroit, Michigan from the then Mayor of Detroit Coleman Young, along with a Proclamation declaring October 30, 1977 Wallace D. Muhammad Day in Detroit.
    More Details Hide Details 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. On July 4, 1983 Muhammad shared the Reviewing Stand for the 1984 New World Patriotism Day Parade in Chicago with then State Senator, Emarald Jones, State Representative, Howard Brooks, parade Grand Marshal, Harold Washington the then Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, and many other dignitaries.
    In 1977 he participated in a Muslim-Christian dialogue in Fort Worth, Texas with Dr. Jack Evans, then President of Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas.
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  • 1976
    Age 42
    Just as Mohammed sought to be racially inclusive, he also focused on cooperation between multiple faiths. On May 23, 1976, he conducted a massive interfaith Spiritual Life Jubilee in Los Angeles, California and spoke on the subject "A New Heaven and a New Earth".
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    In 1976, he took a delegation to Guyana on an official state visit to meet with Prime Minister L. Forbes Burnham, and the then President of Guyana Arthur Chung, during which he forged ties with the Muslim communities in the region.
    More Details Hide Details In 1985, he met in Geneva, Switzerland with Dr. Muhammad Ahmad Al-Sharif, Secretary General of the World Islamic Call Society of Libya and Dr. Abdul Hakim Tabibi, an Afghan mujahid, to discuss areas of future cooperation with the World Islamic Call Society and the Muslim Community of America. He hosted Grand Mufti Abdullah Mukhtar, the leader of an estimated 60 million Muslims at Masjid Bilal, during his first visit to the U.S. in 1994.
    However, he also encouraged African Americans (Bilalians) to separate themselves from their pasts, in 1976 calling upon them to change their surnames which were often given to their ancestors by slave masters.
    More Details Hide Details He forged closer ties with mainstream Muslim communities, including Latinos. He also decentralized power.
    Among the first changes Mohammed instituted, he dropped the title Supreme Minister and took the title Chief Imam, or simply Imam, in 1976.
    More Details Hide Details The same year, he unveiled a new flag for the NOI community. These were just two of the many reforms Mohammed introduced. Among others, he eliminated the NOI dress code, disbanded the military branch of the NOI, clarified the concept of the devil, and, through his Muhammad Speaks newspaper and public speeches, introduced and explained Islam's Five Pillars. He stated that Fard was not divine and that his father was not a prophet. All of the over 400 temples were converted into traditional Islamic mosques. He also renamed the community several times before finally settling on the American Society of Muslims to reflect the new thinking. Mohammed was frank about his intentions to evolve the movement. On November 19, 1978 he spoke on the "Evolution of the Nation of Islam" at the American Academy of Religion in New Orleans.
  • 1975
    Age 41
    Throughout his ministry, Mohammed remained politically active, domestically and internationally. Early meetings with prominent political figures included Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1975, Sharjah ruler Sheik Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi in 1976, and U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1977.
    More Details Hide Details But Mohammed would attend many events around the world focused on the advancement of Islam, racial unity and world peace.
    Upon the death of his father on February 25, 1975, Mohammed was unanimously chosen as the leader of the Nation of Islam and introduced to the NOI membership as such at the annual Saviours' Day convention on February 26, 1975.
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  • 1974
    Age 40
    Because of this conclusion, he was excommunicated five times, but by 1974, he was returned permanently to NOI.
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  • 1963
    Age 29
    In 1963 he was released from prison.
    More Details Hide Details Close to Malcolm X, who was also questioning the NOI, he found that by this time his viewpoints deviated significantly from those of his father, whom he no longer believed was a prophet.
  • 1961
    Age 27
    In 1961, on his 28th birthday, Mohammed began a term in federal prison for having refused induction into the United States military.
    More Details Hide Details He could have performed community service, but his father pressed him to accept the jail time. He spent most of that time studying the Quran, the main Islamic holy book. He became convinced that the Nation of Islam had to change.
  • 1958
    Age 24
    Mohammed became a minister under his father in late 1958 and served in Philadelphia during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
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  • 1934
    Age 0
    From 1934 until his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad led the Nation.
    More Details Hide Details Named to honor Wallace Fard Muhammad (Fard), the founder of the Nation of Islam, Mohammed grew up in Chicago, one of seven siblings. His early education came from the Muhammad University of Islam school system now known as the Clara Muhammad Schools, or Muhammad Schools. He studied Arabic as a youth under Professor Jamal Diab, a Palestinian who had been hired by his father to teach at the M.U.I. in Chicago.
  • 1933
    Mohammed was born Wallace Delaney Muhammad on Yeman Street in Hamtramck, Michigan in 1933.
    More Details Hide Details In 1980 he changed his name to Warithuddin Muhammad, Warith Deen Muhammad, which translates to 'Inheritor of the Religion of Muhammad'. His parents were Clara and Elijah Muhammad, both highly active in the Nation of Islam (NOI), the organization that preached a form of Black nationalism and its own version of Islam.
    He was a son of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam from 1933 to 1975.
    More Details Hide Details He became the national leader (Supreme Minister) of the Nation of Islam in 1975 after his father's death. As a result of his personal studies and thinking, he had led the vast majority of the members of the original NOI to mainstream, traditional Sunni Islam by 1978. With this merger, he oversaw the largest mass conversion to Islam in the history of the United States. He rejected the previous deification of Wallace Fard Muhammad, accepted whites as fellow-worshippers, forged closer ties with mainstream Muslim communities, and introduced the Five Pillars of Islam into his group's theology. Splinter groups resisting these changes formed after Elijah Muhammad's death, particularly under Louis Farrakhan, who in 1981 would revive the name Nation of Islam (from Final Call) for his organization, Farrakhan's NOI and previous Final Call claim direct continuity from the pre-1976 NOI.
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