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Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975

Edward E. Curtis IV

Publication Year: 2006

Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam came to America's attention in the 1960s and 1970s as a radical separatist African American social and political group. But the movement was also a religious one. Edward E. Curtis IV offers the first comprehensive examination of the rituals, ethics, theologies, and religious narratives of the Nation of Islam, showing how the movement combined elements of Afro-Eurasian Islamic traditions with African American traditions to create a new form of Islamic faith. Considering everything from bean pies to religious cartoons, clothing styles to prayer rituals, Curtis explains how the practice of Islam in the movement included the disciplining and purifying of the black body, the reorientation of African American historical consciousness toward the Muslim world, an engagement with both mainstream Islamic texts and the prophecies of Elijah Muhammad, and the development of a holistic approach to political, religious, and social liberation. Curtis's analysis pushes beyond essentialist ideas about what it means to be Muslim and offers a view of the importance of local processes in identity formation and the appropriation of Islamic traditions. Although it came to the nation's attention as a separatist and radical African American social and political group in the 1960s and 1970s, Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam was also a religious movement. This book offers the first comprehensive examination of the NOI's rituals, ethics, theologies, and religious narratives based on interviews, members' memoirs, and contemporary media produced by the NOI, such as the weekly newspaper Muhammad Speaks. Curtis explains how the practice of Islam in the movement included the disciplining and purifying of the black body, the reorientation of African American historical consciousness toward the Muslim world, an engagement with both mainstream Islamic texts and the prophecies of Elijah Muhammad, and the development of a holistic approach to political, religious, and social liberation. Curtis's analysis pushes beyond essentialist ideas about what it means to be Muslim and promotes a view of the importance of local processes in identity formation and appropriations of Islamic traditions. Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam came to America's attention in the 1960s and 1970s as a radical separatist African American social and political group. But the movement was also a religious one. Curtis offers the first comprehensive examination of the Nation of Islam's rituals, ethics, theologies, and religious narratives, showing how the movement combined elements of Afro-Eurasian Islamic traditions with African American traditions to create a new form of Islamic faith. Curtis's analysis pushes beyond essentialist ideas about what it means to be Muslim and promotes a view of the importance of local processes in identity formation and appropriations of Islamic traditions. Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam came to America's attention in the 1960s and 1970s as a radical separatist African American social and political group. But the movement was also a religious one. Edward E. Curtis IV offers the first comprehensive examination of the rituals, ethics, theologies, and religious narratives of the Nation of Islam, showing how the movement combined elements of Afro-Eurasian Islamic traditions with African American traditions to create a new form of Islamic faith. Considering everything from bean pies to religious cartoons, clothing styles to prayer rituals, Curtis explains how the practice of Islam in the movement included the disciplining and purifying of the black body, the reorientation of African American historical consciousness toward the Muslim world, an engagement with both mainstream Islamic texts and the prophecies of Elijah Muhammad, and the development of a holistic approach to political, religious, and social liberation. Curtis's analysis pushes beyond essentialist ideas about what it means to be Muslim and offers a view of the importance of local processes in identity formation and the appropriation of Islamic traditions.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

This book took a long time to percolate, and then, during one glorious year at the National Humanities Center (NHC) in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, it poured onto the page. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-14

This book shows what it meant, during the 1960s and 1970s, for thousands of Americans like Brother Edward 6X Ricketts to practice a religion that they understood to be Islam. These Muslims, like Brother Edward, were members of an African American Islamic group called the Nation of Islam (NOI). ...

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Chapter One: What Islam Has Done For Me: Finding Religion in the Nation of Islam

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pp. 15-34

Given the ways in which powerful interpreters of culture framed the NOI during the 1960s and 1970s, it is no wonder that many Americans came to regard the movement primarily as a political and social movement rather than a religious one. NOI leaders also contributed to this image of the group; ...

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Chapter Two: Making a Muslim Messenger: Defending the Islamic Legitimacy of Elijah Muhammad

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pp. 35-66

In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. penned his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In this moving and dramatic plea for support from white Christian clergy, King warned that the failure to bolster the nonviolent civil rights struggle would only strengthen the hand of extremism, in all its forms. ...

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Chapter Three: Black Muslim History Narratives: Orienting the Nation of Islam in Muslim Time and Space

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pp. 67-94

This chapter illustrates how NOI members, including both intellectuals and the rank and file, produced historical narratives that linked the destiny of black people to the religion of Islam. Many of these narratives incorporated Afro-Eurasian Islamic figures, place names, texts, events, and themes; others utilized African American Christian symbols, ...

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Chapter Four: The Ethics of the Black Muslim Body

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pp. 95-130

From slave times until the present day, the care and protection of the black body has been a central concern in the formation of African American culture.1 For much of American history, persons of African descent have been denied the most basic rights to protect themselves and their families from bodily harm and humiliation.2 ...

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Chapter Five: Rituals of Control and Liberation

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pp. 131-174

It is clear that by the early 1970s, many members of the NOI were at least familiar with the ritual requirements of Sunni Islamic religious tradition, even if the practice of these rituals was infrequent.1 Take the case, for example, of Islam’s prescribed prayers, or the salat. ...

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Conclusion: Becoming Muslim Again

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pp. 175-188

On 25 February 1975, at the age of seventy-seven, Elijah Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, died of heart failure. News of his death made the front page of the New York Times.1 The next day, during the annual Saviour’s Day convention in Chicago, his son Wallace D. Muhammad was declared the new leader of the organization.2 ...

Notes

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pp. 189-228

Index

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pp. 229-241


E-ISBN-13: 9781469606088
E-ISBN-10: 1469606089
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807830543
Print-ISBN-10: 0807830542

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 7 illus.
Publication Year: 2006

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