Who Is Imam Warith Deen Mohammed?
It was an iftar with some of The Imams.
Here, in the United States, we refer to The Imams as those we consider the foremost students of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. These are people who even the ones with advanced degrees say they would give their degrees up for the knowledge Imam Warith Deen Mohammed taught them. Imam Qasim Ahmed often said The Imam once told him to put down the books he was reading until he finished teaching him, then he could go back and rewrite all those books later.
Before he was The Imam, he was Wallace D. Muhammad– the seventh son of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Like Muhammad Ali, he refused to be drafted and, in 1960, was convicted of draft evasion. He was released from prison in 1963 when he served as a minister in the Nation of Islam at Philadelphia’s Temple #11.
During that time, Minister Wallace’s beliefs and teachings at times clashed with others in The Nation of Islam’s leadership, but when his father died in 1975, he was unanimously elected Supreme Minister of the Nation of Islam. Within a year, he dropped the title of Supreme Minister in favor of Imam, changed the name of the organization to the World Community of Al-Islam in the West, and changed his own name from Wallace D. Muhammad to Warith Deen Mohammed. The name of this organization would later be changed to the American Muslim Mission (1978) then to the Muslim American Society (1985), and his legacy would continue to grow from there. Imam W Deen Mohammed is considered a national treasure and ambassador by a large community of Black Muslim Americans.
As I contemplate the history of this community, I find it fascinating how it went from calling White people degrading names to where we find it now– every year fasting during the day for a whole lunar month. Muslims call this month Ramadan, and we not only observe the fast but also participate, under the encouragement of The Imam, in what we call Ramadan Sessions where we get together during the day with scholarly Imams and learn as much as we can about Al-Islam and how to better ourselves and our communtiy. Trust me, it makes the daily fast so much easier.
One Night in Mobile
It was 2012 at the end of July. It was the end of a Ramadan Session in Mobile, AL. This iftar was at a Muslim-owned restaurant close to the hotel where the event was held, and Imam Yahya Abdullah was generous enough to not only let me tag along but also give me a ride over.
It just so happened I sat across from Houston Imam Wazir Ali. In casual conversation while the food was being cooked, I shared with him I was working on my PhD in mathematics at Howard University. I remember him being fairly unimpressed– asking, “Well, what do you plan on doing with that?” We both shared a laugh. Looking back, this was probably the night I decided to get more serious about entrepreneurship.
The meal was great. Honestly, after fasting all day, I probably would have been perfectly fine with a grilled cheese sandwich, an apple, and a glass of water.
I remember Imam Dr. Nasir Ahmed asking me how my study of The Imam was going. I remember telling him all I was doing was just writing everything down he and the other Imams taught me. He laughed and said, “Well. That’s all WE did!”
I can’t remember whether it was Imam Wazir or myself who told him I was working on my Doctorate in mathematics, but, when we were on our way out the restaurant, he shared it with Imam Qasim Ahmed. Anyone who knew Imam Qasim knew he could be a bit of an enforcer at times, so you really never knew what he was going to say. He responded, “Good. He can help us count the TRILLIONS we are about to get … and not steal from us.”
We all laughed before I got back into Imam Yahya Abdullah’s car and headed back to the hotel.
I can’t say how grateful I am for The Imam, his father, and The Imams. The Imam is no longer with us, but The Imams have been so helpful to continue to show us the way as Black Americans.
This event was only months after Trayvon Martin was fatally shot after the teen bought a bag of skittles from a convenience store. After the highly suspect actions of a Seminole County State Attorney and Special Prosecutor, and due to a loosely applied stand your ground law, his murderer went free and the Martin family did not get justice for Martin’s death. There were so many questions about this and so many other issues The Imams helped us through.
The Imams help us put many things into perspective including our relationship with other Muslim communities, police departments, and movements such as the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Martin, Douglas. “W. Deen Mohammed, 74, Top US Imam, Dies.” New York Times (2008).
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Warith Deen Mohammed”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 26 Oct. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Warith-Deen-Mohammed. Accessed 14 March 2021.
Miami Herald. “A look at what happened the night Trayvon Martin died.” Tampa Bay Times. Accessed 14 March 2021.