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Trinity Essay, Research Paper

“Black Gods of the Inner City”

by Prince-A-Cuba

Fall 1992 / Gnosis Magazine

pp. 56-63.

Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam is a figure as current as

today’s headlines, but the movement of which he is a nominal spokesman has a

continuous history of over sixty years in this country. The Nation of Islam

(NOI), as it is officially known, came to the attention of the general public

in the 1960s as the “Black Muslims.” (1) It is well-known for its doctrine

that the White Man is a devil. but what is probably less well known is another

part of its teaching – that the Black man is god.

Outsiders have done little in-depth research to trace the NOI’s doctrinal

predecessors. The NOI itself has denied its connections with previous

movements, specifically the Moorish Science Temple of Noble Drew Ali. Ali,

who was born as Timothy Drew in North Carolina in 1886, taught, among other

things, that Blacks are descended from the ancient Canaanites. Legend has it

that he was the reincarnation of Muhammad, the Prophet of orthodox Islam.

Eventually relocating to Chicago, Ali built an organization that numbered

perhaps 30,000 adherents at its peak. (2)

On March 15, 1929, Ali was arrested after factional violence resulted in the

death of a rival, Sheik Claude Greene. Arrested and held in the county jail,

Ali was eventually released on bail, but died July 20, 1929, under mysterious

circumstances. (3)

Master Fard Muhammad

The story of the NOI itself starts with a man variously known as Wali Farrad,

W.D. Fard, Wallace Fard Muhammad, and Farrad Muhammad, but who is best known

as Msater Fard Muhammad. (4) According to his sucessor, Elijah Muhammad,

He came alone. He began teaching us the knowledge of ourselves, of

God and the devil, of the measurements of the earth, of other planets,

and the civilizations of some of the planets other than the earth.

He measured and weighed the earth and the water; [he gave] the

history of the moon; the history of the two nations that dominated the

earth. He gave the exact birth of the white race; the name of their

God who made them and how; and the end of their time, the judgement,

how it will begin and end. (5)

According to the same source, Fard had said, “My name is Mahdi; I am God.”

And according to another source, Fard, when asked who he was by the Detroit

police, responded: “I am the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” (6)

Master Fard Muhammad is officially noted by the NOI as having arrived in

Detroit on July 4, 1930, and departed on June 30, 1934. (There is an older

tradition of an earlier arrival twenty years previous as well as attendance

at the University of Southern California.) (7) In the interim, Fard

established temples in several cities and created a hierarchical organization

composed of a men’s military training unit called the Fruit of Islam (FOI), a

ministers’ corps, and a women’s auxiliary called the Muslim Girls Training and

General Civilization Class (MGT-GCC). (8) This infrastructure was built upon

Fard’s ideological foundation known as the “Secret Ritual,” which, arranged in

a question-and-answer format, became better known as the “Lost-Found Muslim

Lessons” or simply as “the lessons.”

Within these lessons were the basic elements of an ancient mystery school. It

involved secrecy from outsiders; an esoteric ritual containing keys for

recognition between fellow members; a cohesive world view; and a tradition that

could be explained only to initiates. Central to these teachings were the

knowledge of self and the Black man’s godhood. (9) According to these

teachings, the Black man was by nature divine, and in fact was the original

man, ancestor of the human race (antedating Louis and Mary Leakey’s discoveries

of early human remains in Africa by nearly thirty years.)

White people, on the other hand, were produced out of Black people by a

scientist named Yacub approximately six thousand years ago. (10) Discovering

a recessive gene in the Black man, Yacub used a system of eugenics on a

group of sixty thousand people on an island and, after six hundred years, was

able to create a biological mutation: the White man. Of course Yacub did not

live to see his creation, but he left behind an infrastructure to propogate

his system, as well as the ideological basis for White supremacy. Bleached

of the essence of humanity, Whites were “without soul.” Nonetheless the race

was destined to rule for an allotted period extending to 1914 A.D, though, as

Fard’s messenger Elijah Muhammad put it, “a few years of grace have been given

to complete the resurrection of the Black man, and especially the so-called

Negroes whom Allah has chosen for this change (of a new nation and world).

They (so-called Negroes) have been made so completely mentally dead … that

extra time is allowed.” (11) It was also taught that the supreme god amongst

this mighty nation of Black gods commanded the name of Allah. (12) This title

was claimed by Master Fard Muhammad himself.

Fard’s deification of man can hardly be considered an aberration in light of

historical precedents. The ancient pharaohs of Egypt, the Aztec emperors, and

the Peruvian Incas who traced their ancestry to the Sun God are well-known

examples. More recently, there are claims of divinity for emperors Hirohito

and Haile Selassie, the Dalai Lama, and Kushok Bakula. (13) And even these

should hardly turn any heads in the light of the tradition of Jesus of Nazareth

as God incarnate. The Hindu avatar tradition would also be right at home in

such company.

The teaching of the divinity of the Black man specifically (a doctrine known as

“incarnation”) is said to go back to ancient Egyptian mystery schools; in fact

Khem (and its variants Cham, Ham), an ancient name of Egypt, means “land of the

Blacks.” Nor did the doctrine of incarnation start with Master Fard Muhammad

and the NOI; according to Fard’s messenger and succesor, Elijah Muhammad, the

knowledge of man as god had been long known but “was kept a secret from the

public.” (14)

“The Lost-Found People of Islam”

Prior to Fard’s appearance in 1930, Noble Drew Ali’s Moorish Science Temples

of America were in decline. After the loss of its founder in 1929, the movement

had fallen into three separate schisms. Sheik John Givens El claimed that

Noble Drew Ali had become reincarnated into him, Givens El, on August 7, 1929.

in Chicago. This was publicly announced in Chicago’s Pythian Hall on August

19 of that year. (15)

But, according to scholar Ravanna Bey, W.D. Fard, known at the time as Abdul

Wali Farrad Muhammad, and two other Moorish Scientists, Mealy El and Charles

Kirkman Bey, contested the authority of Givens El. The latter two went on to

establish their own independent Moorish Science Temples, while Fard converted

a Detroit Moorish Science Temple and renamed it the Temple of the Lost-Found

People of Islam (a story that has been hotly contested by NOI leadership). (16)

A wartime memo claimed W.D. Fard was one Sheik Davis El from Kansas. (17)

According to yet another source, Fard had declared himself the reincarnation

of Noble Drew Ali. (18) With so many stories in circulation, confusion has

been the norm.

On November 21, 1932, Robert Karriem, a member of Fard’s Detroit temple, was

arrested for the murder of J.J. Smith, another temple member. The police

arrested thirty seven members in what they characterized as a case of “human

sacrifice” with religious overtones. They labeled the incident as the “Voodoo

Murder,” and the media followed suit. (19) The organization was referred to as

the “Voodoo Cult,” and Fard as “Chief of the Voodoos” by the detractors.

Karriem, also known as Robert Harris, was found insane and ordered to be

confined to the State Insane Asylum at Ionia, Michigan, on December 6, 1932.

Meanwhile Detroit was being turned upside down in pursuit of Fard, who was

proving to be elusive. After seven months, the police finally arrested him at

Detroit’s Hotel Fraymore on May 25, 1933. Held overnight for “investigation,”

he was photographed and fingerprinted. On the following day he was ordered out

of the city. Traveling to Chicago, he was again arrested. According to Elijah

Muhammad, Fard “came to Chicago in the same year [1933] and was arrested almost

immediately on his arrival and placed behind prison bars.” (20) According to

FBI sources, Fard was thought to have been arrested in Chicago on September 26,

1933, without disposition, photo, or fingerprints taken, for “disorderly

conduct,” a police euphemism for the harassment of undesirables. This is the

last official record of Fard. Unsubstantiated rumors lay his disappearance at

the door of the Chicago police department; but according to NOI tradition, Fard

continued to visit Detroit surreptitiously into 1934.

Fard The Man

Who was Fard? Official NOI teachings state that he was born in Mecca, Arabia,

February 26, 1877. The offspring of a Black father and a White mother, he was

“able to go among both black and white without being discovered or recognized.”

(21) His mission was to teach freedom, justice, and equality to the members of

the “lost tribe of Shabazz in the wilderness of North America.” He had

recieved the finest education in preparation for his mission; “he could speak

16 languages and write 10 of them. He could recite the histories of the world

as far back as 150,000 years and knew the beginning and end of all things.”(22)

However, different sources contribute their conflicting versions of the man.

Fard was also described as a “Palestinian Arab who had participated in various

racial agitations in India, South Africa, and London before moving on to

Detroit.” He was also thought to be the son of an African Jamaican mother and

a Syrian Muslim father. (23) Another report claimed that he was born of a

Maori mother and a British sailor father in New Zealand. (24) Still another

states that he was a Turkish-born agent for Hitler. (25) A recent account

somewhat incoherently describes Fard as a “Jewish Nazi Communist,” and says he

was an agent of the CIA in 1930 (seventeen years before that agency came into

existence). (26) One more recent writer has constructed the tenuous

hypothesis that Fard came to Sufi mysticism by way of Theosophy. (27) There is

even an account (complete with transcript) of a supposed ecncounter between

Fard and Albert Einstien at a Detroit radio station in 1932.

While the oral histories of Moorish Science adherents claim Fard as one of

their own gone astrary, NOI initiates say that Fard, arriving in the

“wilderness of North America” as early as 1910, taught Noble Drew Ali, Father

Divine, Daddy Grace and Sufi Abdul-Hamid (28) the concept of Black godhood,

though all of these later went on their own way. There is also a tradition

that in Egypt Fard taught Duse Muhammad Ali, the mentor of Marcus Garvey

(founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association), as well as Garvey

himself, whom he met in London.

Fard was described as having an “oriental cast of countenance,” (29) a

description which a 1933 police photo seems to bear out. Police sources

describe him as five feet six inches in height and weighing 133 pounds. His

eye color is given as “maroon,” his hair as black, and his complexion is

described as “dark” or “swarthy.” One entry described him as looking like a

“dark complected Mexican.” Only two photographs remain from Fard’s three and

a half years in Detroit: the police photo and a “glamourized” (i.e. touched-up)

portrait of a sort popular in the late 1920s, taken at a forty-five-degree

angle by a professional photographer. The latter became the official portrait

of Fard, and was later reproduced in a painted portrait at the Muhammad family

mansion in Chicago.

The Departure of Fard

Other accounts circulated after Fard’s disappearance. According to Elijah

Muhammad, Fard was “ordered out of the country” and caught a flight to Mecca.

(30) It was also reported that he sailed to Austrailia and New Zealand, and

that he was last seen “aboard a ship bound for Europe.” (31) A suspect source

claimed that Fard was interviewed in Germany but denied ever being in the

United States. (32) A recent report in an orthodox Muslim newspaper claimed

that Fard is alive and living in California and is now himself an orthodox

Muslim. (33)

In addition, there were rumors to the effect that Fard “met with foul play at

the hands of either the Detroit police or some of his dissident followers,” or

that he was the victim of “human sacrifice” himself, thereby accounting for

both his disappearance and his title of “Saviour.” (34) Another

unsubstantiated story said that, afflicted with an incurable illness, he died

and was buried under another name, and “no man knows of his grave to this day.”

Rumors aside, there has been no reliable report of his death. The FBI, which

initiated an investigation of Fard in 1942 that was to last more than thirty

years, could not substantiate or verify his name at birth, birth date, place

of birth, port of entry, exit, or present whereabouts, despite exhaustive

inquiries. There are even indications that bodies were exhumed in the search

for Fard.

The Messenger of Allah

It was Elijah Muhammad who was almost single-handedly responsible for the

deification of Fard as “Allah.” (35) Elijah Muhammad was born Paul Robert

Poole in 1897 on a tenant farm in Sandersville, Georgia, the seventh of

twelve children; he was given the name Elijah by his grandfather. Later on,

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