September 10th, 2008
08:20 AM ET

Farewell, America's Imam

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/09/art.ahmedrehab.w.d.jpg caption="Ahmed Rehab, on left, watches as the Honorable Imam Warith Deen Mohammed gives a speech." width=292 height=320]Ahmed M. Rehab
Executive Director, Chicago Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

The American Muslim community mourns the passing of a historic figure who was crucial in the development of Muslim life in America.

The Honorable Imam Warith Deen Mohammed was an African-American Muslim spiritual leader, reformer, educator, civil rights advocate, interfaith activist, and an international goodwill ambassador. He died Tuesday.

Wallace (as he was named at birth) was born on October 30, 1933, in. Detroit, Michigan, the seventh son of. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam.

I had the privilege of personally knowing Imam Mohammed who was a key supporter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, the organization I lead.

I once asked him how he would like to be remembered after his passing. “That I preached the Unity of God,” he smiled.

Mohammed led many of The Nation of Islam’s followers to a more traditional embrace of Sunni Islam after the death of his father in 1975. He also accompanied Malcolm X in his spiritual evolution that culminated in Malcolm X renouncing his anti-white racist views and championing universal human rights in accordance with Qur’anic teachings.

Throughout his decades of leadership, Imam Mohammed, an interfaith partner of Pope John Paul, was a steady force for peace, reconciliation, and enlightenment. Few others matched the length and breadth of his impact on American Muslim spiritual life in the 20th century. He developed successful grassroots economic plans to help African-American Muslims living in hardship pull themselves up by the bootstraps and inspired a culture of confidence and motivated communities in the pursuit of knowledge. For Imam Mohammed, ignorance was the enemy and education was man’s best ally.

He helped build schools, newspapers, and several community organizations, the most recent of which was The Mosque Cares whose convention held in Chicago every year offers a unique blend of illuminating religious sermons, debates, and workshops together with great music, food, and fashion shows.

Imam Mohammed will be remembered for preaching “personal responsibility, economic independence, free thought, and moral excellence.”

Many will honor “America’s Imam” with services and tributes as the American Muslim community bids farewell to W.D.

Editor's Note: The Associated Press' article "Former Nation of Islam leader W.D. Mohammed dies" was used as background research for this blog.

Filed under: Islam • Religion
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Askar Abdus-Salaam

    It makeslittle or no difference whether the media honors Imam Mohammed or not.He lived his life in such a way to have been a pristine example of how ahuman being should conduct himself in this life.May Allah bless and keep him.

    September 11, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  2. Farha Aleem

    It is a shame that a person who professed unity in the name of God does not get any coverage upon his death. He was instrumental in changing the black supremacist views into what is beneficial to whites, blacks and the rest of America. Please do acknowledge and honor this great man.

    September 10, 2008 at 7:48 pm |
  3. eleanor wiley

    I had to come to the website to hear about this wonderful man's death. Please give him the honor you would other religious leaders. WE all need to know about the gifts we all receive from Islam. This wonderful Imam is what we should be hearing about rather than terrorists, especially at this time in our world. Thank you. Blessings on your day

    September 10, 2008 at 2:38 pm |
  4. kinza abdul salaam

    If Pat Robinson or a Catholic Bishop or one of the renowned Rabbis had passed, would the coverage been the same for what was accorded the Honorable Warith Deen Mohammed(the only living son of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed)?
    The national concensus of the media that the anti Islamic rhetoric is not targeting or intended for American moslems who go about their business daily, is, as you know and I know, very far from the truth. We are all witnessing the constant "taboo" associated with a people of great faith and deliberate character assasination. As a thinker whom I respect, let me ask you this: Why do you think there is so much emphasis on the deliberate under minding being carried out on this group? Please, as an Intellectual, DO NOT give that mediocre stuff of terroism. You are NOT dealing with one of the the targets ripe for subliminal seduction. Is it FEAR based? If so, what do you think that the powers that be have learned of the nobility of this group that would caused such reaction, such as their MIGHT to paint a frightful picture daily? Have you as a reporter ever decided to read the KORAN and conclude of your own accord? If so, WHAT did you find or HOW did you understand this BOOK? WHEN did you read and WHERE and WHAT are your facts to substantiate your finding? Aren't those the ONLY queries a journalist is obligated to report?

    September 10, 2008 at 10:24 am |