Muhammad, Warith Deen (1933– )

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Muhammad, Warith Deen (1933– )

Arguably the most important black Sunni Muslim leader in the history of African American Islam, Warith Deen Muhammad (b. 1933) was brought up as a member of Elijah Muhammad's "royal family." From the 1950s through the 1970s, Warith Deen served on and off as a minister in his father's Nation of Islam (NOI), but was constantly in trouble as he questioned the Islamic legitimacy of his father's teachings. Even so, when Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, Warith Deen emerged as movement leader. In the course of a few short years, he radically altered the official religious doctrines of the NOI, instructing members to observe the traditional five pillars of Islamic practice.

During this period, Warith Deen Muhammad led more African Americans toward Sunni Islam than any other person in history, before or after. He also reorganized the NOI, eventually disbanding it in favor of a decentralized national network of mosques. As Warith Deen led his followers toward Sunni Islam and away from his father's black religious separatism, however, he also insisted that African American Muslims continue to take pride in their ethnic heritage, work for improvement in the quality of black life, and interpret Sunni Islam in light of African-American historical circumstances. In 1992, Warith Deen became the first Muslim to offer the opening prayer before a session of the U.S. Senate. Now addressed as imam (leader) by thousands of followers across the country, he actively participates in interfaith dialogue and maintains strong ties to Muslim leaders both in the United States and abroad.

See alsoAmerican Culture and Islam ; Farrakhan, Louis ; Malcolm X ; Muhammad, Elijah ; Nation of Islam ; United States, Islam in the .


Curtis, Edward E., IV. Islam in Black America: Identity, Liberation, and Difference in African-American Islamic Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

Mamiya, Lawrence H. "From Black Muslim to Bilalian: The Evolution of a Movement." Journal for the Social Scientific Study of Religion 23 (1982): 138–152.

Edward E. Curtis IV

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Muhammad, Warith Deen (1933– )

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