Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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This book took a long time to percolate, and then, during one glorious year at the National Humanities Center () in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Some of the book’s ideas can be dated back to my initial encounters with African American Muslim life in 1993 and 1994, when I conducted fi eldwork at Masjid al-Mu9minun, an African American Muslim mosque in St. Louis, Mis-...
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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 (). They pledged their allegiance to Elijah Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, a prophet who taught them “right from wrong” and a “code of honor.” They believed that, in following Elijah Muhammad’s prophetic pronounce-ments, they would achieve “success and true happiness.” This volume oﬀers a systematic and comprehensive analysis of their rituals, ethics, doctrines, and re-...
CHAPTER ONE: What Islam Has Done For Me: Finding Religion in the Nation of Islam
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Given the ways in which powerful interpreters of culture framed the 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. leaders also contributed to this image of the group; their sometimes heavy-handed use of the word “religion” was partly a political strategy used to claim social legitimacy and legal protec-tions. leaders frequently cited the American tradition of religious liberty as a powerful symbol in their fi ght to protect males from the military draft, to repel the interference of local police forces and the , and to defend Elijah ...
CHAPTER TWO: Making a Muslim Messenger: Defending the Islamic Legitimacy of Elijah Muhammad
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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. He cited Elijah Muhammad’s as a primary example of the dangers inher-ent in doing nothing to change the inequities of Jim Crow. The , according to King, was an expression of “bitterness” and “hatred” that was “nourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination.” He oﬀered to stand between the forces of complacency in the black community ...
CHAPTER THREE: Black Muslim History Narratives: Orienting the Nation of Islam in Muslim Time and Space
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This chapter illustrates how members, including both intellectuals and the rank and fi le, produced historical narratives that linked the destiny of black people to the religion of Islam. Many of these narratives incorporated Afro-Eurasian Islamic fi gures, place names, texts, events, and themes; oth-ers utilized African American Christian symbols, black secular traditions, and novel mythologies popularized by the ’s intelligentsia. These stories about the past sometimes focused on Elijah Muhammad and his role in history, but many did not. This is an important fact, since it suggests that no matter how central the Messenger was to the life of the movement, he was not the sole focus ...
CHAPTER FOUR: The Ethics of the Black Muslim Body
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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 Even today, dramatic events such as the 1998 lynching of James Byrd in Texas or the sexual assault of Haitian im-migrant Abner Louima by New York City police in 1997 continue to show how bodily safety can become a key concern of African American life. As a result, the black body has been and continues to be an important symbol of the struggle ...
CHAPTER FIVE: Rituals of Control and Liberation
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It is clear that by the early 1970s, many members of the 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 ex-ample, of Islam’s prescribed prayers, or the salat. At fi rst glance, there is ample evidence to suggest that most followers of Elijah Muhammad did not observe salat, a tradition that many, if not most Muslims believe to be a require-ment of their faith. Malcolm X, for example, said that he did not know the ritual prayers when he arrived in Mecca for his fi rst pilgrimage in 1964. “Imagine, being a Muslim minister, a leader in Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, and ...
Conclusion: Becoming Muslim Again
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I don’t regret it. I do not regret it. And I tell people often 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 Sav-iour’s Day convention in Chicago, his son Wallace D. Muhammad was declared the new leader of the organization.2 Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1933, W. D. Mohammed, as he is now known, had been a frequent critic of his father’s interpretations of Islamic religion. In the 1960s and 1970s, he left or was expelled from the movement several times, although he always rejoined. Like ...
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Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 7 illus.
Publication Year: 2006