The Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad have a deep root in the Black and religious communities in America, yet not many are aware of his contributions. His influence spreads across the realms of music, religion, food, and even education. While this is not a complete list of the things that he impacted, they are not little contributions. These are crucial aspects that helped to shape and mold the consciousness of Black people and the disruption of religious ideologies. We should no longer look at the fruit of his labor without acknowledging or understanding the tree from whence it came.
1. Black Consciousness
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad had a strong influence and emphasis on the importance of Blackness during a time when the word “Black” was considered offensive. His program for the betterment of the condition of Black people influenced many strong Black movements and organizations that we know and admire. For example, we know of the substantial influence that his student, Malcolm X, had on the Black Panther Party. The demands for Black progress made under The Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim Program entitled “What the Muslims Want” and “What the Muslims Believe” made way for the Black Panther’s Ten-Point Program.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad also stressed the importance of protecting and respecting Black women. The Malcolm X quote that speaks to the disrespect and unprotection of the Black woman is heavily circulated in mainstream media and pop culture. However, this is not something that he just randomly said, nor was it something separate from what The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught and believed. The quote in full context acknowledges the source and verifies that Malcolm X got it from his teacher.
Furthermore, the concept of Black theology itself would not be made possible without The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. The idea that Black people are direct descendants of God Himself completely contradicted the belief popularized in the Reconstruction Era that Black people were not of God, due to God being “white.” The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is one of the primary leaders to put stress on a Black Jesus, God, and divine figures in scripture that people discuss today. Presently, we can largely rebuke a white Jesus, but the Honorable Elijah Muhammad denounced all-white biblical figures that were considered holy.
2. Music & Poetry
The song commonly used as an anthem for Black consciousness, “Say It Loud –I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown, was inspired by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Many musicians who ran into the Nation of Islam, whether or not they joined, were influenced by it and the impact it had on the Black community. Leon Huff, Robert “Kool” Bell, Ronald “Khalis” Bell, Joe Tex, Etta James, and others were all members of the Nation of Islam. Some of the early songs of Kool & The Gang, such as “Hereafter” and “Higher Plane”, saluted the works of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It was not uncommon for Black musicians to join the Nation of Islam or use the Teachings in their work. We see the same thing today in the likes of Jay-Z, Jay Electronica, Nas, and others. It’s no secret that the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was and is a large element of Hip-Hop.
Poets also embraced the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Well-known poets such as Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Toure Muhammad, Marvin X, and more all produced works that praised, nodded to or took inspiration from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his students. He’s a powerful source whose Teachings became essential to the Black Arts Movement.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad revolutionized the diet of Black Americans. We are a people who historically created a food culture that birthed from survival in slavery. Black people who are now “food conscious” and moved away from that traditional diet would not have that knowledge if it were not for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his books, How to Eat to Live I & II. Well-respected giants in the holistic community like Dr. Sebi were taught and inspired by him.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught why people should move away from pork and many other foods due to their harmful impact on the human body. He gave guidance on how to fast to prevent disease, prescribed eating one meal a day to promote proper digestion, and more.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is an early pioneer for Black independent education. He and his followers went to jail on the false charge of “contributing to the delinquency of minors.” In actuality, he fought to teach Black children outside of public schools whose curriculums would otherwise stifle their intelligence and educational growth.
Those who now have Afrocentric schools or charter schools enjoy that freedom because the Honorable Elijah Muhammad won that fight. His wife, Mother Clara Muhammad, and others taught the children in their homes once her husband went to jail. They are pioneers of what we now call “homeschooling.”
5. Black Economics
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad invested in Black people and truly manifested the idea of circulating our dollars in the Black community. He established housing, banking, restaurants, import and export businesses, land acquisition, aviation, factories, etc., within the NOI for Black people. He also instituted Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint, which promoted Black economic self-sufficiency through saving money and producing real wealth through investing in things such as farmland and real estate. This was crucial for the advancement of the Nation and Black people as a whole.
6. Religious Freedom
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is an early pioneer for ensuring religious freedom in the United States. Muslims who today can freely say “As-Salaam Alaikum” or wear hijab in public have that freedom due to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his followers being jailed and persecuted for teaching and practicing Islam. Imprisoned Muslims were once unable to have the Holy Qur’an. Mother Clara Muhammad would write out the Qur’an and send those pages to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad when he was in jail. Today, religious documentation can be given to inmates, and ministers can even come in and preach to them.
Because he’s Muslim, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad refused to fight in World War II. He was also too old to be drafted; yet, he was charged with “draft evasion.” He was arrested in 1942, but many other Muslims became conscientious objectors. Brothers such as Muhammad Ali followed in his footsteps in refusing to fight in wars due to their religion.
7. Religious Thought
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad opposed commonly believed aspects of religions, both in Islam and Christianity. He set the argument, scientifically and mathematically, that Heaven and Hell are conditions of life on earth rather than actual places people go after death. He denounced “spooky” and “mysterious” concepts of religion, even when it came to God Himself.
He also challenged the view of women in religion. He rejected the idea that women came from “man’s rib,” but instead taught that God created the woman as He created man, from the same essence, as the Holy Qur’an says. He went further to say that women are the Second-Self of God and His Twin. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad stressed the importance of women in their connection to the Divine. He disrupted notions that women were unfit to preach the Word by letting women become ministers, while many Churches and even some mosques refused to let women speak or have those kinds of positions.
He caused a shift in challenging Christian theology that encouraged more Black people to rethink religious doctrine for themselves. His examination of Christmas, Jesus, and other Christian elements are studied and repeated by many people today.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is an important figure in the life, culture, and consciousness of the Black and religious community. We simply cannot deny his impact on all of us either directly or indirectly.
Nzinga Muhammad is a junior at Bennett College For Women majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in History, and minoring in English. Hailing from Rochester, New York, Nzinga is known to be a passionate writer, and a strong voice on the issues of racism, Islamophobia, and sexism. She was born into the Nation of Islam and is part of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s distinguished Twitter Army. She is also a visual artist, specializing in acrylic portraiture. To purchase her work, visit www.artpal.com/queennzinga.