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Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam
Background and Beliefs
By Dr. Robert Smith
Is Islam the Black man's religion? Is Christianity the White man's religion? Has the Bible been corrupted by the White man? Was Jesus only a prophet? Is Christianity a slave religion?
These are some of the crucial questions that we must answer in connection with Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam (NOI). The overwhelming majority of the converts to the Nation are Black men who in turn introduce their wives, children, and friends to their religion. Because of its contrast to true Christianity, the Nation of Islam should be studied, understood, and intelligently discussed from a biblical perspective.
This booklet is intended to give the reader a working knowledge of the critical issues involved and to serve as a catalyst for further thinking and discussion.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NATION OF ISLAM
The first person to appear on the modern American scene as the "savior" of Blacks from an oppressive White system was Timothy Drew. In 1913 he left his native North Carolina for Newark, New Jersey, took the name Noble Drew Ali, and founded the Moorish Science Temple of America. His primary philosophy of salvation for Blacks was through discovering their "national origins." They should refuse to be called anything but Asiatics, Moors, or Moorish Americans. He also taught that Jesus was a Black man killed by Whites.
After Noble Drew Ali died, Wallace Fard broke with the Moorish Science Temple and founded a group called the Temple of Islam. Although he was not a Black American himself, Fard took his religion door-to-door to Blacks in Detroit, claiming to be Ali's reincarnation, but born in Mecca. Fard's mission to America was to set the "captives" (Black Americans) free from "Caucasian devils" and the "White man's religion" (Christianity). This lead Black historians and apologists like Dr. Colin Akridge, Dr. Jerry Buckner, and Carl Ellis to pose an interesting question. Since Fard was not a Black man, they ask, how can Islam be exclusively a Black man's religion?
ELIJAH MUHAMMAD AND MALCOLM X
Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole) was a disciple of Fard and became a leader in the Temple of Islam. When Fard left the organization in 1935, Elijah Muhammad assumed leadership and changed the name of the sect to the Nation of Islam, which he led until his death in 1975.
One of the young men who embraced the religion during that time was Malcolm Little. Like Elijah Muhammad before him, Little was born into the home of a Baptist preacher. But as a young man in prison for theft, Little adopted Elijah Muhammad's teachings through an intensive discipleship program. When released in 1952, Little went to Detroit, took the name Malcolm X, and eventually became one of the chief disciples of Elijah Muhammad. Most of the growth of NOI during that time -- to an estimated 40,000 members -- is attributed to the efforts of Malcolm X.
In 1964 a division arose within the Nation. Malcolm X was suspended and eventually resigned. After his famous pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm broke with Elijah Muhammad, denounced his teachings and questioned his character. On February 22, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated. Years later Malcolm's former disciple, Louis Farrakhan, publicly condemned Malcolm for having questioned Muhammad's character (L.A. Sentinel, March 24, 1994, p. A3).
A NEW DIRECTION WITH FARRAKHAN
Louis Farrakhan (born Louis Eugene Walcott) left college to pursue a career as "Calypso Gene," a nightclub entertainer. However, his life changed in 1955 when he met Malcolm X. He assisted Malcolm at the Harlem mosque for about a year before he was sent to be the minister of the Boston mosque. After Malcolm's death, Farrakhan returned to Harlem to replace Malcolm and remained there until Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975.
Wallace Deen Muhammad (Imam Warithuddin Muhammad), the son of Elijah, then assumed leadership of the Nation. He began to transform the sect into a Sunni (orthodox) Muslim community and took it through a series of name changes. He also began letting Whites join and denounced his father's teachings as racist and not truly Islamic. A dissatisfied Farrakhan broke away from Wallace's group in 1977 and found the "Original Nation of Islam" (now simply known as the "Nation of Islam") and based it on a revised version of Elijah Muhammad's traditional teachings.
Today at least seven distinct Black Nationalist groups call themselves "Nation of Islam." Louis Farrakhan has succeeded in making his "Nation" the most well-known of the NOI groups, often challenging Christian churches in order to gain converts to his version of Islam. Surprisingly though, this group is not as large as it seems. Some experts estimate the total membership of Farrakhan's NOI sect at no more than 20,000 members.
This number may seem surprising in light of the great amount of publicity Farrakhan often creates. In fact, according to Rev. Carl Ellis, at Farrakhan's most celebrated event, the Million Man March, 60% of the attendees were Christians! Out of 100 Black men interviewed by Rev. Ellis at the rally, not one was a follower of Farrakhan. These men had come together -- not to support Louis Farrakhan, the NOI, nor even the Islamic faith -- but to stand together to make a positive statement that Black men can unite!
Some Christian churches still invite and/or allow Minister Farrakhan to preach his "survival of Blacks" message from their pulpits. They do this to allow their church members to hear about the "self-empowerment" of Black Americans. Although Farrakhan's message focuses primarily on the economic issues of the Black community, his underlying theology differs radically from the biblical Christianity. In fact, the Nation of Islam denies the very foundation of the Christian faith -- that Jesus Christ is God.
OFFICIAL BELIEFS OF THE NOI
Although the NOI is separate and distinct from Orthodox Islam, it still borrows freely from Islamic teaching. In every Final Call, the newspaper of Minister Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, you'll find "What the Muslims Believe." Here are eight (of the list of twelve) of those beliefs, with theological implications, compared with what the Bible teaches.
NOI: "1. WE BELIEVE in the One God Whose proper Name is Allah."
BIBLE: There is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), but three distinct Persons in the Godhead -- the Father (Romans 1:7; 15:6), Jesus Christ the Son (Matthew 3:13-17), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3, 4, 9).
"Allah" is not found in the Bible because he is exclusively Arabic (in Arabic al means "the," and lah means "god"). Allah was the chief idol god of the Quraysh -- Muhammad's tribe -- long before Muhammad ever began Islam. "At the Ka'ba Meccans worshipped not only Allah, the supreme Arabic God, but also a number of female deities whom they regarded as daughters of Allah" (Introduction to The Koran, page 9, Penguin Classics, 1988, 4th Revised Edition). Muhammad would later narrow the worship of God to Allah alone.
NOI: "2. WE BELIEVE in the Holy Qur'an and in the Scriptures of all the Prophets of God."
BIBLE: The Bible is "inspired" by God (2 Timothy 3:16), it is "inerrant" -- without error (John 10:35; 17:17) and "infallible" -- incapable of being in error (Mark 12:24; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; 2 Peter 1:20, 21). The Bible is the final revelation from God to mankind. The Qur'an mentions the Bible (Surah 2:136), but the Bible does not mention the Qur'an.
NOI: "3. WE BELIEVE in the truth of the Bible, but we believe that it has been tampered with and must be reinterpreted so that mankind will not be snared by the falsehoods that have been added to it."
BIBLE: God is the originator of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), God superintended the writing of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21), and God protects and preserves Scripture (Matthew 5:18). Since God went to so much effort to make sure we got the Bible, it also makes sense that He would make sure His words are preserved for all generations of readers.
NOI: "4. WE BELIEVE in Allah's Prophets and the Scriptures they brought to the people."
BIBLE: "All Scripture (the Bible) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). God has also spoken to us through His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1,2).
NOI: "5 WE BELIEVE in the resurrection of the dead -- not in physical resurrection -- but in mental resurrection. We believe that the so-called Negroes are most in need of mental resurrection; therefore, they will be resurrected first."
BIBLE: The Bible teaches a literal, physical resurrection from the dead for all who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. (Matthew 28: 1-6; Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-7, 36-48; John 2:19-22; 20:1-9; 1 Corinthians 15:35-44).
NOI: "6. WE BELIEVE in the judgment; we believe this first judgment will take place as God revealed, in America...."
BIBLE: Jesus Christ alone has been given authority to judge the world (John 5:25-29). Those who trust Christ as their Savior will not be condemned, but will be examined based on their works (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). For the followers of Jesus, heaven is not about salvation, but rewards (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Those who do not trust Christ will be condemned and judged (Revelation 20:11-15). The world is already under God's general judgment, and the only way to escape is through Jesus Christ (John 3:16-19, 36).
NOI: "8. WE BELIEVE in justice for all, whether in God or not; we believe, as others, that we are due equal justice as human beings. We believe in equality -- as a nation -- of equals."
BIBLE: The Bible teaches freedom, justice, and equality for all (Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:17-21; Luke 10:25-37; John 8:32-36).
NOI: "12. WE BELIEVE that Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July, 1930; the long-awaited 'Messiah' of the Christians and the 'Mahdi' of the Muslims."
BIBLE: Jesus Christ alone is God and the true Messiah (John 8:24, 58; 10:30; 14:6-9; 20:26-28; Titus 2:13).
THE QUR'AN VS. THE BIBLE...CONFLICTING CLAIMS ABOUT JESUS CHRIST
JESUS AS THE SON OF GOD.
Qur'an: "Jesus the Son of Mary, was no more than God's apostle" (Surah 4:171). "Those who say 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood" (19:88-92).
Bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son..." (John 3:16-18). Also Matthew 17:5; John 17:1-5; Galatians 4:4, 5.
JESUS AS CRUCIFIED ON THE CROSS AND RESURRECTED FROM DEATH.
Qur'an: "They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him...They did not slay him for certain. God lifted him up Himself" (Surah 4:157, 158).
Bible: "Christ died for our sins...was buried and ...rose again on the third..." (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Also Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19, 20.
JESUS AS A MEMBER OF THE TRINITY.
Qur'an: "Unbelievers are those that say: 'God is the Messiah, the son of Mary...He that worships other gods besides God, God will deny him paradise" (Surah 5:72,73). Also 5:116.
Bible: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image...." (Genesis 1:26). Also Matthew 3:16, 17; 17:1-5; Acts 1:1,2; 10:38.
JESUS AS THE SAVIOR.
Qur'an: "Warn those who dread to be assembled before their Lord that they have no guardian or intercessor besides God..." (Surah 6:51) Also 5:75; 6:70; 10:3.
BIBLE: "And thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Also Luke 19:10; John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 5:8; 6:23; 10:9, 10.
JESUS AS GOD.
Qur'an "The Jews say Ezra is the son of God, while the Christians say the Messiah is the son of God. Such are their assertions, by which they imitate the infidels of old. God confound them! How perverse they are! The make...the Messiah, the son of Mary, Lord besides God; though they were ordered to serve one God only..." (Surah 9:30-31).
Bible: (Jesus said) "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Also John 1:1-3; 8:24-58; 20:28; Titus 2:13.
WHAT THE QUR'AN TEACHES ABOUT "SIN" AND "SALVATION:"
According to the Qur'an, the "Sin" of Adam was merely a slip. "Satan removed them (Adam and Eve) and brought about their banishment (from the garden)...Then Adam received commandments from his Lord, and his Lord relented towards him..." (Surah 2:36-38). Muslims believe Adam's sin affected only himself and did not result in the Fall of mankind. Thus, there is no "Sin," only "sins."
Salvation to the Muslim is associated with works and fate. Every Muslim who hopes to escape the judgment of Allah must fulfill the works of the Five Pillars of the Faith (Qur'an: Surah 10:108, 109)."
FIVE PILLARS OF THE FAITH:
1. Shehada: A recitation. "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah." (Shehada means "to bear witness.")
2. Salat: Ritual daily prayer five times a day --- before sunrise, at noon, afternoon, at sunset, and at night. This involves kneeling on the floor and bowing in the direction of the holy city of Mecca. On Friday at noon, Muslims are required to gather at the mosque to pray.
3. Zakat: Paying alms, giving 1/40th of personal income to charitable causes.
4. Sawm: Fasting between dawn and sunset throughout the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year, or late January).
5. Hajj: Pilgrimage to Ka'ba in Mecca. This involves circling around the Ka'ba seven times, kissing the black stone, then going about a mile to the Wadi to throw stones at the devil.
*Note: Christianity only has one "Pillar of Faith" --- Jesus Christ.
ISSUES AND ANSWERS
No matter how subtle the approach may be, the arguments (against Christianity) of the Nation of Islam are built on four bedrock beliefs. Being aware of them will help you understand an NOI member's beliefs, and how to respond.
"CHRISTIANITY IS THE WHITE MAN'S RELIGION."
Answer: The first Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament was done in Alexandria, Egypt, between 250 BC and 150 BC. Since Egypt is in north Africa, a major portion of the Bible was first translated in Africa. It was not the work of White men. Also, the 66 books that make up the Old and New Testaments of the Bible were agreed upon by AD 300. Some scholars believe that many of the church fathers who helped make those historic decisions were black men, or certainly not Anglo. Black church historian Dr. C. Eric Lincoln claims that at least nine of the twenty most prominent early church leaders were Black: Clement, Origen, Athanasius, and Cyril (all from Alexandria), Augustine, Tertullion, Cyprian, Dionysus, and Didymus.
According to Dr. Norman Geisler (A General Introduction of the Bible, pp. 284, 285, 543-547), the first "Anglo-Saxon" Bible was not published until about AD 700-1000 at least 400 years after the books of the Bible had already been decided. The King James Bible was not published until 1611, and it was published by a group of scholars, not by King James of England. His name was attached to the translation to make sure that the project would be "protected" and that the new version would be printed.
"THE BIBLE HAS BEEN CORRUPTED."
Answer: Was the Bible corrupted--changed by enemies of the truth in critical places--before Muhammad was born or after he died? If it was corrupted before his birth, then that would also make Muhammad a false prophet, because in the Qur'an he clearly stated that the Bible was the Word of God, "revealed to you from your Lord" (Surah 3:48; 5:68; 6:114,115; 10:64), and that "the Torah...enshrines God's own judgments" (5:43). If the Bible was already corrupted before Islam was established, then Muhammad was sadly mistaken about its value.
If the Bible was corrupted after Muhammad's death, it would be easy to prove such changes had been made. Since the Bible had been distributed in many languages long before Muhammad's time, any later corruptions could be easily found by simply comparing ancient translations. No such disagreements exist.
And just when would the White man have changed the Bible? The church councils did not rewrite the Bible, instead they met to formulate beliefs based on the bible as it was already written. The fact that there are many versions of the Bible does not prove its corruption either. After all, there are also different versions of the Qur'an--the Dawood, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Pickthall, and Al-Madinah, to name a few--plus various translations into many languages, yet Muslims do not claim that it has been corrupted as a result.
"JESUS WAS ONLY A PROPHET."
Answer: Both the Bible and the Qur'an testify to the miraculous, virgin birth of Jesus (Bible: Isaiah 7:14; 9-6; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:30-35. Qur'an: 3:45-47). No more prophet, including Muhammad, ever claimed to be born of a virgin, but old testament prophets spoke of one who would be born of a virgin who would be able to save people from their sins (Acts 10:42, 43).
"CHRISTIANITY IS A SLAVE RELIGION."
Answer: According to the Hadith (the Muslims' second holiest book) Muhammad was a slave owner. Islamic nations were some of the first nations to enslave Blacks. Muhammad showed a racist attitude in the Hadith...he said that to think of a Black woman was an evil omen, and he referred to Blacks as "raisin heads."
According to a UN Commission, many Islamic nations still hold slaves today. Even now in Sudan and Mauritania, Muslims take Blacks as slaves and ship them to nations like Saudi Arabia. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, U. S. Black soldiers complained that Saudi Arabians owned Black slaves.
Author Dr. Robert C. Smith pastors Calvary Baptist Church in Compton, California where he moved in 1992 to help establish holistic ministries in the inner city, including the Save America's Youth Development Center. Previously he served as Dr. E.V. Hill's Director of Discipleship and on staff with Dr. John Perkins' Urban Family Magazine.
Dr. Smith holds an MDiv from the International School of Theology and a ThD from Evangel Christian University of America. He served in Vietnam as a US Marine Sergeant.
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