Muhammad, Warith Deen (1933– ), Religious Leader
Muhammad, Warith Deen
(1933– ), religious leader.
Born Wallace Mohammad to Elijah and Clara Muhammad in 1933, Warith Deen Muhammad ascended to the position of Supreme Minister of the Nation of Islam immediately after his father's death in 1975. Wallace Muhammad as a young adult had always placed himself in contention with the philosophy of the Nation of Islam and his father. Studying Arabic and Islam under various tutors led him to "orthodox" Islam and away from the teachings of the Nation of Islam. His return as the Supreme Minister was both applauded and considered suspicious. His mounting denunciations of his father's teachings and the remolding of the Nation of Islam into an "orthodox" Muslim community were welcomed by some and detested by more than a few.
The name of the Nation of Islam was changed to the World Community of Al-Islam in the West in 1976, and temples were changed to mosques. The standard dress of men—bow ties and suits—gave way to adaptations of Muslim world dress. The dress regulations for women changed also. Supreme Minister Wallace Mohammad became Imam Wallace Muhammad, and an internal war began. As other ministers of the old Nation of Islam pulled away and formed other Nations of Islam with the original tenets and objectives, Imam Muhammad continued to steer the remaining community to Islam and open its doors to others. Each step in the process was heralded by a community and newspaper name change; Muhammad Speaks became The Bilalian News.
In 1980 the community was the American Muslim Mission and the newspaper was renamed The Muslim World News. Imam Muhammad totally dismantled the centralized governance of his community by giving his local imams autonomy. The early 1990s signaled another step in the process, and the community became the Muslim American Community, with a news organ called by its current name, The Muslim Journal. Today the Muslim American Community is loosely connected; its school system, dismantled in the 1980s, is being rebuilt. Throughout the process of redirecting the community formally known as the Nation of Islam, Imam Muhammad embarked on a number of initially unsuccessful but extremely important programs. AMMCOP (American Muslim Mission Committed to Purchase One Thousand Products Plus) was a well-structured cooperative buying program. This program was designed on the order of the large buying clubs around the country. CRAID (Committee to Remove All Images That Attempt to Portray the Divine) was designed to stimulate conversation and change in views on racial divinities in religion. Both of these programs are being revived.
In 1992 Imam Muhammad delivered the first address by a Muslim on the floor of the Georgia state legislature and was also the first Muslim to deliver an invocation on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Today Imam Warith Deen Muhammad is a respected leader of a large community of African-American Muslims engaging his community in a wide range of civic projects and interreligious dialogues. In 1999 he began a public reconciliation with Minister Louis Farrakhan concerning family disputes resulting in Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975.
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