What is the Nation of Islam?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Often referred to as a militant African American organization, the Nation of Islam is a religious and social group. Founded in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad, the organization works toward the betterment of African Americans in a variety of areas, including spiritual, financial, and social. Its supporters hail it as an uplifting organization for African Americans, while its opponents declare it racist, sexist, and anti-homosexual. It is also frequently accused of being anti-Semitic.

Nation of Islam members believe in the Holy Qu'ran.
Nation of Islam members believe in the Holy Qu'ran.

The Nation of Islam considers its founder a prophet or redeemer of Islam. In fact, Elijah Muhammad, W.F. Muhammad’s chief minister, claimed the founder was literally God in human form. When W.F. Muhammad disappeared in 1934, Elijah Muhammad took over the movement.

The Nation of Islam adheres to most basic Islamic beliefs.
The Nation of Islam adheres to most basic Islamic beliefs.

Followers believe Allah is God. They follow basic Islamic beliefs and believe in the Holy Qu’ran. They also believe in the Scriptures of All the Prophets of God. However, the organization is often criticized for not following orthodox Islam’s teachings on equality.

One of the basic concepts touted by the Nation of Islam is the superiority of people of African descent. Followers believe that blacks are the original humans and whites are potential humans. The original teachings of the organization hold that a black scientist created white humans. According to these teachings, the scientist created whites with the intention of forming a race that would oppress and oppose the original people for 6,000 years.

In 1978, after much controversy and change, Louis Farrakhan took over leadership of the Nation of Islam. He continued on with the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. However, he has been less vocal concerning the teachings of superiority. When questioned publicly, he has stated that all races originated from Africans. He’s gone on to say that this does not necessarily mean one race is superior to others.

The organization claims that it promotes independence and self-sufficiency for African Americans. Followers are encouraged to own and operate businesses. In fact, the Nation of Islam owns several businesses, including restaurants, as well as a large farm in Georgia. Businesses owned by the group number in the hundreds and the organization employs thousands.

Women who are members are expected to be modest in public. This includes dressing modestly. Members are taught to respect women as the mothers of civilization. All followers are taught to strive for cleanliness, both inside and out. They do not eat pork and are expected to abstain from alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments



If racism against whites is "giving them a taste of their own medicine" as you seem to suggest, when will the retaliation and animosity end? I believe that the only solution to centuries-long bitterness and fighting is forgiveness, not judgment and raw justice.


While I strongly disagree with racism in any form, it seems to me that racism against whites in recent history has given them a faint glimpse of the difficulties that African-Americans have encountered throughout their history. There are few things more upsetting than knowing that someone disdains you because of your heritage.

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