Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 23

Elijah Muhammad - Early life, Teachings, Legacy

movement detroit followers fard

Religious movement leader, born near Sandersville, Georgia, USA. The son of former slaves and sharecroppers, he left home at age 16 and went to Detroit, where he worked in a Chevrolet car plant. Having had his own spiritual revelation (c.1930), he fell in with the Nation of Islam, a movement founded by W D Fard (or Farad), a somewhat mysterious African-American who was working as a salesman in Detroit, but whose followers believed he had come from Mecca to save blacks from the ‘white devils’. When Fard disappeared from Detroit (1934), Poole took over, changed his name to Elijah Muhammad, proclaimed himself the ‘Messenger of Allah’, and made a national movement out of the Black Muslims (a name that Muhammad and his followers neither used nor liked). He stressed the need for separation of the races and scorned attempts of the civil-rights movement to bring about integration; he even called for an all-black state or territory within the USA. He advocated the need for African-Americans to establish their own economic power-base, and he required strict obedience to certain tenets of Islam.

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