The Nation of Islam swept through African American communities from the 1930s through the
1960s, and still has effects to this day. Here are 10 facts about this faith and its followers.
1. The Nation of Islam was originally known as the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in the
Wilderness of North America, and was started by a man named W.D. Fard who popped up
in 1930 in inner-city Detroit. Traditional Nation of Islam beliefs hold that Fard is God in
human form. He mysteriously disappeared in 1934 never to be seen again.
2. From its start, the Nation of Islam appealed to African Americans. It taught black supremacy
and separatism from whites.
3. A major reason for the Nation’s appeal was the idea that “the white man is the devil.” The
myth of Yakub says that a rebel demi-god named Yakub, took the original man, an African, and
removed his purity through a series of experiments. Over time and successive experiments
other shades of men were created until the most debased form, the white man, appeared.
4. While the Nation of Islam uses the Quran and claims many external similarities with Islam, it
differs signiﬁcantly from orthodox, historic Islam in its theology.
5. Fard’s protege, Elijah Poole (a.k.a. Elijah Muhammad) took over as the leader of the Nation
of Islam and grew its assets and standing. At one point he was called “the most powerful Black
man in America.
6. Malcolm Little (a.k.a. Malcolm X) came across the Nation of Islam while he was serving a
prison term. Malcolm X’s oratorical excellence and intelligence made him the mouthpiece of the
Nation of Islam movement.
7. Malcolm X became disillusioned with the Nation of Islam when he learned that his mentor,
Elijah Muhammad, had fathered children out of wedlock in affairs with two of his
secretaries. Soon thereafter, Malcolm X traveled to Mecca on the hajj where he underwent a
spiritual awakening. He abandoned the Nation of Islam and became an orthodox Sunni Muslim.
8. Malcolm X was shot and killed at a speaking engagement on February 21, 1965. Someone in
the audience yelled, “Get your hand out of my pocket” and in the distraction that ensued, three
gunmen shot Malcolm 21 times. It is widely believed that members of the Nation of Islam carried
out the assassination.
9. Wallace Deen Muhammad took over after Elijah Muhammad, his father, died. Throughout the
1970s, Wallace Deen began a comprehensive set of reforms designed to bring the Nation more
in line with historic Muslim teaching resulting in many factions and the splintering of the religion.
10. Today, Louis Farrakhan is the voice of the Nation of Islam, which in spite of its relatively
small numbers (70,000-100,000), exerts an enormous inﬂuence. For instance, the Million Man
March of 1995 was called and led by Farrakhan. Multiple thousands of Christians participated in
Discuss: Have you ever been a member of the Nation of Islam or do know someone who is a
member? Tell us about your experience.