4 Influential Black Muslim in the US | Islam views all human beings of different backgrounds and races equally before Allah, and the only difference is its piety.
On that basis, these four African-American figures embraced Islam to fight for racial injustice in America during the rise of the civil rights movement.
For decades, black people in America fought for equality. The civil rights struggle spanned many American cities, from Atlanta, Georgia, Kansas, Memphis, Tennessee, Birmingham, to Washington DC.
The civil rights movement began primarily during the 1950s and 1960s. The movement for social justice and equality aims to encourage black people to be treated equally under U.S. law.
Slavery was abolished at the end of the American civil war. However, there is no discrimination against black people. They continue to suffer from racism, especially in the South.
Unable to stand systematic prejudice and violence against them, African-Americans began mobilizing the struggle for equality in the mid-20th century. The movement lasted for two decades.
There are four African-Americans who embraced Islam as a means to drive change. Here are the four figures:
1. Elija Muhammad (4 Influential Black Muslim)
Born Elijah Poole, he was born in Sanderville, Georgia, USA, on October 7, 1897. Elija was born into poverty among her 13 siblings in rural areas. Her father was a farmer for produce and her mother was a domestic worker.
Poverty made him have to drop out of school while in the fourth grade and he was forced to help parents to make ends meet by working odd jobs.
Rampant racism and violence faced in the Deep South, led Elija to bring her family to Detroit, Michigan, in search of a better life in 1923. In 1930, he became assistant minister to Wallace D Fard, who was the founder of the Nation of Islam, sometimes known as the Black Muslims.
Elija succeeded Fard when he disappeared in 1934 as head of the movement, with the title “Ambassador of Islam”. He moved to Chicago to establish Temple No. 2 due to a dispute among temples in Detroit.
Elija called for the creation of a separate state for black Americans and adopting a religion based on worship of God and the belief that black people were her chosen people.
Elija rose to fame, especially for her rhetoric aimed at white people, whom she called “blue-eyed demons.” But in his later years, he moderated his anti-white tone and emphasized self-improvement among blacks rather than confrontation between races.
2. Muhammed Ali (4 Influential Black Muslim)
The boxing champion was born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. His birth name was Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. Ali was a black American Muslim who fought for civil rights.
Cassius Clay joined the black Muslim group Nation of Islam in 1964. Initially, he referred to himself as Cassius X before establishing his name as Muhammad Ali. The boxer eventually converted to traditional Islam during the 1970s.
Ali began a different struggle with his open views against the Vietnam War. He refused to serve in the military when he was recruited in 1967.
He reasoned that he was a devout Muslim ambassador who prevented him from going to war. However, he was once arrested for a felony and narrowly lost his world title in boxing.
The U.S. Department of Justice found Ali guilty of violating Selective Service laws and he was sentenced to five years in prison in June 1967. However, Ali was free when he appealed his conviction.
However, unable to compete professionally, Ali missed the first three years of his athletic career. Ali returned to the ring in 1970 with a victory over Jerry Quarry. The U.S. Supreme Court finally overturned his guilty verdict in June 1971.
3. Malcolm X
Malcolm X was an ambassador, human rights activist and prominent black nationalist leader who served as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam during the 1950s and 1960s.
Because of most of these efforts, the Nation of Islam grew from just 400 members by the time he was released from prison in 1952 to 40,000 members in 1960.
He split from the Nation of Islam in 1963 after falling out with Elijah Muhammad. He saw that his hero and mentor, Elijah, had violated many of his own teachings, most strikingly by doing many extramarital affairs. Malcolm was very disappointed with Elijah.
Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the fourth of eight children born to Louise, a housewife, and Earl Little, a preacher who was also an active member of the local branch of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and a strong supporter of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
As a naturally gifted orator, Malcolm X urged black people to get rid of the shackles of racism by any means necessary, including violence.
After severing ties with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X embarked on a long journey through North Africa and the Middle East in 1925.
The journey proved to be a political and spiritual turning point in his life. There, he learned to put the American civil rights movement in the context of the global anti-colonial struggle, embracing socialism and pan-Africanism.
Malcolm X also performed hajj to Makkah, where he converted to traditional Islam. After that, he changed his name to El-Haji Malik El-Shabazz. When he returned to the U.S., he was less angry and more optimistic about the prospects for a peaceful resolution to America’s racial issues.
“The true brotherhood I have seen has influenced me to recognize that anger can blind human vision. America is the first country that can really have a revolution without blood.”
However, when he transitioned ideologically and potentially changed the course of the civil rights movement, he was assassinated on February 21, 1965. He was assassinated while taking the stage to address the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan.
4. Louis Farrakhan
Louis Abdul Farrakhan’s real name is Louis Eugene Walcott. He was born on May 11, 1933 in the Bronx, New York. He is the leader of the Nation of Islam, an African-American movement that has combined elements of Islam with black nationalism since 1978.
Farrakhan was raised in Boston by his mother, Sarah Mae Manning, an immigrant from St. Kitts and Nevis. As a devoutly religious child, he was active in the Episcopal Church in St Cyprian in the Roxbury neighborhood.
In 1955, he joined the Nation of Islam. Following a custom in the organization, he changed his surname to ‘X’. It became a custom among followers of the Nation of Islam who assumed their surnames came from white slave owners.
Initially, Louis X established himself at Temple No. 7 in Harlem, where he emerged as a protégé of Malcolm X, the organization’s ambassador and one of the most prominent members of the Nation of Islam.
By Elijah Muhammad, Louis X was later given his Muslim name, Abdul Haleem Farrakhan. Farrakhan was appointed ambassador of Boston Temple No. 11, which Malcolm had founded earlier.
Farrakhan became known to the American public through a series of controversies that began during the 1984 presidential campaign, during which time he supported American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.
In 1995, the Nation of Islam sponsored the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., to promote the unity and values of African-American families.