Minister Farrakhan is 85 years of age today, May 11. This is a continuation of the second installment of five honoring his life, his journey throughout the Nation of Islam, his mission, his accomplishments and his legacy.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan joined the Nation of Islam under Malcolm X. After he joined, Allah (God) would send him on a journey of trials that would shape the course of his identity as the National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
After Malcolm X invited Minister Farrakhan into the ministry class, he soon became a lieutenant*.
As Minister Farrakhan rose through the ranks of the Nation of Islam, he would work jobs that gave him very little money compared to show business.
“My first job was selling storm windows. I made $35 a week,” Minister Farrakhan said in the book Closing the Gap, which contains a series of interviews compiled and conducted by Jabril Muhammad.
Many of the jobs he took on, he failed. Because he was determined to move forward and not backward, he decided it was time to pack up and leave New York and go back to Boston where he grew up. When he arrived in Boston, Malcolm X appointed him as the captain.
“The Messenger decided in May of 1957 to make me the minister,” Minister Farrakhan said.
Even as the minister of Boston, Minister Farrakhan and his family lived in extreme poverty. Nevertheless, he still found money to donate to charity. In 1958, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad told the Minister he should “come away from the day job and concentrate fully on the resurrection of our people.” Minister Farrakhan would be making $100 a week, which helped him overcome the trial of poverty.
Another trial would be his friend and brother Malcolm X. In December 1963, although the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad instructed Nation of Islam ministers not to comment on the assassination of President Kennedy, Malcolm X addressed the subject publicly. As a result, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad sat him down for 90 days.
“Brother Malcolm did not come to the Temple but he came after the lecture and picked me up and brought me to his home,” Minister Farrakhan said.
After they ate, Malcolm X began to tell Minister Farrakhan about the domestic life of Elijah Muhammad and his having more than one wife.
“He said, ‘I could get these sisters on the telephone. They won’t know that you are on the other end of the line. I would trick them into speaking about their personal life with him,’” Minister Farrakhan recounted.
He didn’t want to be involved with Malcolm X’s plan or to “be caught in the middle between two powerful men.” At that time, Malcolm X was his superior and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was the superior of both.
“A trial—the love between your supreme teacher and your superior teacher. Of course, I had to favor the man I had looked for all my life over a man that I met as a result of seeing the man that I looked for all my life,” Minister Farrakhan said.
He wrote a letter to the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad about the situation. He then defended his superior teacher, and as a result of his defense, Elijah Muhammad appointed him to be the minister of New York’s Temple No. 7.
Malcolm X separated from the Nation in 1964. The house that he lived in was firebombed. When Minister Farrakhan was made the minister of Temple No. 7, the house was redone, and he and his family of seven moved into the house.
Shortly after, the Minister was made the National Representative of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and he received the name he is known by today: “Farrakhan.”
“When he gave it to me in 1965, September, through the newspaper, when I came out and sat at the table, he said, ‘Well Minister how do you like your new name?’ I didn’t want to tell him, dear Apostle, I didn’t like it because I saw the name Muhammad. I said, ‘Oh it’s nice dear Apostle but what does it mean?’ He said, ‘Oh, I has the meaning upstairs. It has very many good meanings. It is a modern up-to-date name of God. Has many good meanings, Brother, but I will give you the meaning in time,’ Minister Farrakhan recounted.
Over the course of his journey, the Minister has run into the meaning of his name. The origin of the name “Farrakhan” comes from the 25th Surah of the Holy Qur’an: Al-Furqan, meaning The Discrimination (the discernment between good and bad).
Minister Farrakhan’s faith was put to the test in 1972, when the police attacked the New York mosque.
“I was in my office giving dictation to my secretary and I heard some shots,” he said in his 1996 lecture “Fear, Faith and Truth.”
The Minister told the secretary to stay and went down the stairs.
“I saw a gun, [with] a long barrel; it was like a rifle with a. . .you know how they have these holes where you can cool the barrel? The gun was smoking, so you know the boy was firing it. And I mean, when I saw that smoking gun, as I was coming down, the gun preceded whoever was holding it. I’m coming down the stairs,” he said.
He was afraid, but he challenged his fear and continued down the stairs.
“And when I went down, a calm was around me,” he said.
He went into the basement where police had several brothers down with their hands up. He told them to put their hands down. Nearly 10,000 Black people surrounded the mosque, including the Fruit of Islam (F.O.I). The police were inside.
“Bring Farrakhan out! And you let us see him because if any harm come to him, everybody gone die here today,” the Minister recounted the people saying.
He ended up leading the high ranking police officers through the angry Black people. He went to the police station and resolved the incident.
Minister Farrakhan served the people of New York well, and as a result, they rose to his defense in a time of need. He loved the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and he loved the people.
Approximately two years later, he picked back up his first love: music.
“In 1974, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had me to bring my violin out to play for him.”
After he played, Elijah Muhammad told him, “You really can play that thing.”
Later in 1974, Elijah Muhammad invited him to play again.
“After I finished playing, he said, ‘Didn’t you play that for me the last time you were here?’ I said, ‘Yes Sir, dear Apostle.’ With a frown he said, ‘Well don’t you know anything new?’ How could I know anything new? I wasn’t practicing,” Minister Farrakhan said.
Elijah Muhammad subtly gave the Minister permission to continue his music.
“He was planting the seed then to raise me to a level, again, where my heart and my breast would be expanded through the playing of the violin that would now prepare me for the universality of the mission,” Minister Farrakhan said.
Shortly after, in February 1975, his teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, departed.
*The Nation of Islam is a military structure. You have the minister, then the captains (one brother captain, one sister captain), lieutenants, and officers.
Stay tuned for the third installment on Minister Farrakhan’s rebuilding of the Nation. Background information and quotes taken from Closing the Gap, Fear Faith and Truth transcription, and http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/Minister_Louis_Farrakhan_9/article_103513.shtml.