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Nation of Islam

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Famous leaders
Wallace Fard Muhammad · Elijah Muhammad · Malcolm X · Warith Deen Mohammed · Louis Farrakhan

History and beliefs
Saviours' Day · Nation of Islam and antisemitism · Tribe of Shabazz · Yakub · Million Man March

The Final Call · How to Eat to Live · Message to the Blackman in America · Muhammad Speaks

Subsidiaries and offshoots
American Society of Muslims · Fruit of Islam · The Nation of Gods and Earths · New Black Panther Party · United Nation of Islam · Your Black Muslim Bakery

Wallace Fard Muhammad was a preacher and founder of the Nation of Islam (NOI). He established the Nation of Islam's first mosque in Detroit, Michigan in 1930 and preached his distinctive religion there for three years before mysteriously disappearing in June 1934. His follower and succeeding leader Elijah Muhammad proclaimed him to have been Allah on earth.

Fard's real identity is not definitively known. Alternative names on record include Wallace/Wallie Dodd Ford, Wallace Dodd, Wallie Dodd Fard, W.D. Fard, David Ford-el, Wali Farad, Farrad Mohammed and F. Mohammed Ali. Within the NOI he is generally known as Master Fard Muhammad.


Controversy over identity

Nation of Islam's official photograph of Wallace Fard Muhammad
FBI's photograph of Wallace Dodd Ford

There is much uncertainty about his origins.


What is known

A World War I draft registration card for Wallie Dodd Ford from 1917 indicated he was living in Los Angeles, California, unmarried, as a restaurant owner, and reported that he was born in Shinka, Afghanistan on February 26, 1893. He was described as being of medium height and build with brown eyes and black hair.[1] As of 1920, he was still living in Los Angeles, as 26 year-old Wallie D. Ford, with his 25 year-old wife, Hazel. In the 1920 United States Census he reported his occupation as a proprietor of a restaurant, and gave his place of birth as New Zealand. He provided no known place of birth for his parents, nor his date of immigration.[2] In 1926, Ford was arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses, serving three years in San Quentin State Prison between 1926 and 1929. When he was released from prison, he disappeared from the public record until "Wallace Fard" was arrested in 1932. He was identified with Wallace Dodd Ford on the basis of photographs and matching fingerprints.

The NOI rejects this identification of Wallace Dodd Ford with Wallace Fard Muhammad, interpreting it as part of a smear campaign. They also say that he was born in 1877 (which would put him in his 50s when photographed), and that he came from Mecca. Elijah Muhammad, Fard Muhammad's student and successor as Nation of Islam leader, wrote in his book Message to the Blackman:

Allah (God) came to us from the Holy City Mecca, Arabia, in 1930. He used the name Wallace D. Fard, often signing it W. D. Fard. In the third year (1933), He signed His name W. F. Muhammad, which stands for Wallace Fard Muhammad. He came alone. He began teaching us the knowledge of ourselves, of God and the devil, of the measurement of the earth, of other planets, and of the civilizations of some of the planets other than earth.

Elijah Muhammad also challenged the Hearst press, which had publicized the story, and offered US$100,000 to anyone who could prove W. F. Muhammad was an alias of Wallace Dodd Ford. Soon enough Ford's former common-law wife, Hazel Ford, stepped forward with what she claimed was proof that W. F. Muhammad and Wallace D. Ford were indeed the same person. She also claimed to have a child fathered by Ford. The money was never placed in escrow and Ford was never paid the money.

While the question of W. F. Muhammad's identity is controversial, the current NOI lead minister, Louis Farrakhan, does accept that Fard was imprisoned. He insists that this was because W.F. Muhammad's preaching threatened the racial status quo, not because of any criminal acts. However, the most zealous NOI followers refuse to even consider this possibility.

Conclusions of researchers

According to FBI records, Wallace Fard (pronounced fuh-RAHD) Muhammad is identical to Wallace Dodd Ford, also known as Wallace Dodd, whose birth is recorded by the FBI as 26 February 1891, of mixed European and Polynesian parentage.[3] More recently a researcher concluded that Dodd was a New Zealander of half-Indian descent, born in 1893.[4] The view that he was of Turco-Persian descent was asserted at a conference by Elijah Muhammad's son Akhar Muhammad.[5]


Taking the view that Fard and Dodd/Ford are one and the same individual, his biography can be partially reconstructed up to 1934. His distinctive mixed parentage allowed him at various times to claim to belong to several different races, often either African, Arab or Indian. This may have influenced his later doctrine of the "Asiatic Blackman" [sic] and his emphasis on Islam as the authentic Black religion, though he did not originate these ideas. He also seems to have been a member for some time of the Moorish Science Temple of America, a religious organization that states African Americans were descended from the Moors and thus were originally Islamic.

Involvement with the Moorish Science Temple

According to several authors, in spring 1929, after his release from prison, Dodd/Ford joined the Moorish Science Temple of America, founded by Timothy Drew, where he was renamed David Ford-el.[6] Timothy Drew, by then known as Noble Drew Ali, needed someone capable of overseeing his organization while he was awaiting a trial on suspicion of accessory to the murder of his rival Sheik Claude Greene. He put Fard in charge of the Chicago Temple.

On July 20, 1929, less than a month after he named Fard acting head of Chicago mosque, Drew Ali was found dead in his home. David Ford-el claimed Drew Ali had left him in charge and declared himself the reincarnation of Noble Drew Ali.[6] Arguments erupted over the issue of successor. Those who had been loyal to Greene argued that Fard had not been with the MSTA long enough to succeed Drew Ali, and insisted that Charles Kirkman Bey, one of Greene’s closest allies, had the authority to assume the mantle of leadership. Another faction, headed by Ira Johnson Bey, claimed that Kirkman Bey was unfit. On September 25, 1929 four of Johnson Bey’s lieutenants went to Kirkman Bey’s home and kidnapped him. Police were called and a shootout with police occurred.

One month after the shootout, the stock market crashed. Fard allegedly claimed that the crash proved he was the reincarnation of Noble Drew Ali. Some of Drew Ali’s followers swore allegiance to him.

The Nation of Islam have denied that Fard was involved in these events, insisting that he was never a member of the Moorish Science Temple.

Founding of the Nation of Islam

In November 1929 Fard moved from Chicago to Detroit, Michigan. Using the names Wallace D. Fard and Wallace D. Fard Muhammad, he renamed the faction he controlled the Allah Temple of Islam, established the University of Islam, a group of male security guards called the Fruit of Islam, and other Black Muslim organizations. From Drew Ali's ideas, he developed his own theories, mixing aspects of theosophy and traditional Islam, preaching his new gospel among African Americans.

Fard's activities were brought to wider public notice after a major scandal erupted involving an apparent ritual murder in November 1932, reportedly committed by one of Fard's early followers, Robert Karriem. He later said he had committed the murder "to bring himself closer to Allah." Karriem had quoted from Fard's booklet titled "Secret Rituals of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam": "The unbeliever must be stabbed through the heart." This quotation, as well as stating that "every son of Islam must gain a victory from the devil. Four victories and the son will attain his reward," convinced the Detroit police to seek out Fard in connection with the murder.

Although not charged with any crime, Fard was asked to leave town in early 1933 and to never return. Fard left, but returned secretly to Detroit the next year. Fard was arrested and again asked to leave Detroit.

One of Fard's first followers had been Elijah Poole, who later changed his name to Elijah Muhammad. Elijah began preaching that Wallace Fard Muhammad was the Mahdi and even deified Fard as the True and Living God. Shortly before he departed Detroit for the last time, Fard had conferred leadership of the Nation of Islam on Elijah Muhammad.[7]


In June 1934 Fard left Detroit for Chicago and disappeared without a trace. When nothing further was heard from him, some supporters came to believe that he had been killed by police. Others asserted that he had returned to Mecca to prepare for his eventual return. The later official view of the NOI was that he was in Mecca. Others believe he had been killed by Elijah Muhammad. The Nation of Islam teaches that he boarded the Mother Plane.[8]

There is some evidence that Fard lived at least until the 1960s; his alleged lover stated that he had returned to New Zealand. The FBI maintained an open file on Fard Muhammad up until as late as 1960, according to documents published through the Freedom of Information Act.[8]

In 1981 Pakistani scholar Zafar Ishaq Ansari researched Fard's life and claimed that Fard was identical with Muhammad Abdullah, a Pakistani Ahmadiyya Muslim. He was an adviser of Elijah Muhammad since the late 1950s and was the tutor of his son and successor Warith Deen Mohammed. After Elijah's death, Warith Deen appointed Abdullah imam of Mosque #77 in Oakland, California. The November 26, 1976 issue of the NOI journal Bilalian News reports Muhammad Abdullah's first khutbah at the mosque and shows a photo. Abdullah himself denied that he was Fard, saying "It is all right to say I am Fard Muhammad for Wallace [Warith] D. Muhammad. I taught him some lessons. But I am not the same person who taught Elijah Muhammad and I am not God."[9]


Fard claimed that Armageddon was imminent. He maintained that black people in the United States had a duty to discover their origins and purpose. Out of all the nations of the Earth, diasporic Africans, particularly those in "the hells of North America," were the only nation without any knowledge of their history, no control of their present lives, and without any guidance for their future. Black people had been systematically denied knowledge of their true history by their white oppressors. Christianity was a religion of the slave owners that had been forced on enslaved or subordinated Black peoples.

He claimed that Islam was the original faith of Black people prior to slavery and that the original peoples of the world were Black. He called white people a race of devils created by a scientist named Yakub on the island of Patmos. He also claimed that Black people were divine by nature, created by Allah from the dark substance of space and that a "Mother Plane" or "Wheel", that was seen and described in the visions of the prophet Ezekiel in the "Book of Ezekiel", would destroy whites for their supposed evil.

The idea that Islam is the original true religion is derived from mainstream Islamic theology, which claims that Judaism and Christianity are corrupted forms of God's original message that Muhammad reaffirmed. The presence of Islam in eastern countries such as Indonesia and the Middle East may have led Fard to conclude that it was the historical faith of Asian peoples as a whole. This theory was directly influenced by Drew, who had claimed that all non-Europeans are in fact part of a unified Asian race, which he called Moorish.

Christian missionary activity under imperialism may also have contributed to Fard's association of white supremacy with the attempted imposition of corrupted religious ideas. The figure of Yakub is derived from the Biblical Jacob (Yaqub in the Qur'an), while his activities on Patmos recall St. John's revelations. Thus, he combined central figures in the founding of Judaism and Christianity.

Fard's racialization of Islamic beliefs is part of the widespread preoccupation with racial theory and eugenics among many people from various backgrounds at the time. The common white supremacist idea that Black people were somehow less evolved than whites was turned around, so that Black people become the original uncorrupted peoples of the world and whites were defined as a degenerate offshoot. According to Fard, Yakub's progeny were destined to dominate the world for 6,000 years before the original Black peoples once again assumed power. Fard said this process had begun in 1914, while his followers said he had been sent to proclaim it.

Fard's followers were given Arabic names to replace their given names. His claimed birth date is celebrated today by the Nation of Islam as Saviours' Day.

References in popular culture

A reinterpretation of the historical mantle exists in Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel Middlesex, which won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In the story, Fard's real name is Jimmy Zizmo, and he is a small time bootlegger, of rumored Greek-Turkish-Pontian descent who fakes his death upon suspecting that his wife is a lesbian. Having convinced everyone that he is dead, he assumes the Fard identity, apparently out of a desire to reaffirm his Turkish roots. Just as in real life, the Fard-Zizmo character disappears after the ritual murder scandal.

In Spike Lee's film Malcolm X, a portrait of Fard hangs above the fireplace mantle in the scene at Elijah Muhammad's home.


  1. ^ database, Registration Location: Los Angeles County, California; Roll: 1530899; Draft Board: 17
  2. ^ 1920 Federal U.S. Census, Los Angeles City, Enumeration District 206, Sheet 10B
  3. ^ Fard, Wallace D. Federal Bureau of Investigation - Freedom of Information Privacy Act
  4. ^ Mystery man Detroit Metro Times, 2003-03-05, Kelli B. Kavanaugh
  5. ^ Turner, RB, Islam in the African-American Experience, Indiana University Press, 2003, p.165
  6. ^ a b E. U. Essien-Udom, Black Nationalism: The Search for an Identity, University of Chicago Presswi, 1995, p.35
  7. ^ NOI history
  8. ^ a b Richard Brent Turner, Islam in the African-American Experience, Indiana University Press, 2003, p.167.
  9. ^ Turner, RB, Islam in the African-American Experience, Indiana University Press, 2003, p.165

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