When Did Malcolm X Learn to Pray?

Posted: November 16, 2008 in Uncategorized
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As I have commented elsewhere, many of the cherished beliefs held by Muslims regarding the life and legacy of Malcolm X amount to little more than sacred myths. And for however much we may have invested in these myths, if we are honest, we’ll have to concede that just as a house built on sand must surely crumble, so too will these myths.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, from which most of the conventional views and beliefs about Malcolm X are drawn, has in recent years come under an exacting level of scrutiny and criticism conforming to the most rigorous standards of scholarship. This new study compels us to reexamine all that we thought we knew about the man American Muslims simply call “the Martyr”.

Did Malcolm X Know How to Pray
(salah) Before 1964?

Malcolm in the Autobiography laments quite pitifully the fact that in Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam (that’s an important point) the prayers were not made in Arabic, and that he was in fact completely ignorant of how to perform the Sunni Muslim prayer (called salah) until he traveled to Mecca on Hajj in April of 1964. I quote him:

An old Russian Muslim and his wife were not asleep. They stared frankly at me. Two Egyptian Muslims and a Persian roused and also stared as my guide moved us over into a corner. With gestures, he indicated that he would demonstrate to me the proper prayer postures. Imagine, being a Muslim minister in Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, and not knowing how to pray.

I was angry with myself for not having taken the time to learn more of the orthodox prayer rituals before leaving America. In Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, we hadn’t prayed in Arabic

From “Mecca” Chapter, Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley

Historically speaking, some senior followers of the late Imam W. Deen Mohammed, especially those who knew and worked with Malcolm X, have always taken great exception to these passages in the Autobiography. For while they’ll readily admit that as followers of Elijah Muhammad they didn’t as a rule make congregational salat, that does not mean they were ignorant of it or did not perform it individually. And they’re in full agreement that if anyone in the Nation of Islam knew how to perform the Islamic prayers correctly, it was Malcolm X. From the day the book was published in November of 1965 they have resisted Malcolm X on this point. The evidence they mount in countering Malcolm is not only compelling but seems to be conclusive.

First there is the Muslim Daily Prayers book, alleged to be written by Elijah Muhammad, which was published by the Nation of Islam in 1956, and can still be purchased from the NOI’s book catalogue. It describes the Muslim prayer from start to finish, illustrating all of the positions along with the Arabic transliterations. Is it possible, they argue, that as National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X would not have learned the contents of this book? Not likely, but assuming he didn’t, they have other evidence on their side.

They point to the history of their own leader, Wallace D. Mohammed, and the Islamic education he received at the NOI’s University of Islam, an eduction directed and overseen by his father, Elijah Muhammad. Wallace, his younger brother Akbar, and all the students they taught, knew the correct performance of the prayer, and this is well known in the their community. That’s why Malcolm’s statements are so especially galling, because he wants to suggest that the NOI was so Islamically impoverished that he had to travel half way around the world to learn something as rudimentary as prayer.

How could Malcolm say the NOI didn’t teach salat when Minister Wallace lectured on it at Malcolm’s own Temple Number 7 in Harlem, which he apparently forgot was recorded. That is exactly what you will hear on this link, but it requires a little background first.

Recorded in 1959, this NOI program was a response to the media firestorm that had erupted over Mike Wallace’s menacing documentary on the group entitled The Hate That Hate Produced.  The entire country had only then learned of the organization and its teachings, and the NOI had to answer charges of promulgating hate. Malcolm had just returned to the United States from his three-week trip to Africa and the Middle East after making preparations there for Elijah Muhammad’s Hajj visit.

One hears on the tape:

  1. Minister Malcolm X
  2. Wallace Mohammed
  3. Raymond Sharrieff, Supreme Captain of the Fruit of Islam and son-in-law of Elijah Muhammad
  4. Sister Hortense, who taught public speaking at the temple, reading a letter from Elijah Muhammad denying that he teaches hate.

After Wallace demonstrates the prayer, Malcolm thanks him and informs his congregants that the future Imam learned ALL of his Arabic at the University of Islam. Malcolm’s assertions quoted above are interpreted by older followers of Imam Mohammed as a direct swipe at him and them.

But returning to Malcolm’s 1959 diplomatic mission overseas, a journey given extremely short shrift in his Autobiography- only one paragraph – where we’re told he visited Egypt, Arabia (Jedda, not Mecca), Sudan, Nigeria, and Ghana (three Muslim countries with the other two having a sizable Muslim minority) is it plausible to think that as the most famous “Muslim” emissary from America Malcolm never once made salat? How could that ever be possible? And why does he give this particular trip to Arabia such scant treatment while devoting over forty pages to his Hajj visit to the gulf, where it is there (if we are to believe him) that HE FIRST LEARNS TO PRAY?

In so doing, not only did Malcolm X subtlety imply that “Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam” did not teach the salaah, but he also unwittingly created the pernicious and debilitating myth amongst black American Muslims that religious authenticity can be secured only “overseas” at the feet of foreigners!

I have discussed this issue of Malcolm’s 1959 trip (while he was still a member of the NOI) at length with Professor Manning Marable of Columbia, University and director of the Malcolm X Project, who wrote extensively about it in his 2006 book, Living Black History.<—READ THIS LINK!!!

I will share some of the insights of those discussions as well as extensive research on his 1964 Hajj trip in my own forthcoming book, From the Back of the Bus to the Back of the Camel (early spring of 09).

The Smoking Gun

Malcolm X Making Salat (Muslim Prayer) circa 1963

Malcolm X Making Salat (Muslim Prayer) circa 1963

The photograph above, which was never seen by the public until May of 2005, was taken while he was still a member of the NOI and offers conclusive proof that the account contained in the Autobiography of Malcolm X, that of his not knowing how to pray the Muslim prayer until the1964 Hajj trip, is not accurate. It is part of the Malcolm X papers held at the Schomburg Center in New York, and is owned by the Shabazz family (Malcolm’s Muslim name). This stunning image, which was displayed at the Schomburg’s 2005 tribune to Malcolm X, shows the Muslim leader in the upper room of his home reverentially and CORRECTLY performing the salah!

The scholars at the Schomburg have dated the picture to be some time in 1963, at least one year before the Hajj. How do they reach that conclusion? It is simply this; Malcolm was one of the most photographed persons of his era, in fact he had his own personal photographer (who probably took the shot). Of the last eleven months of his life, six were spent overseas. For the five months he was here in the United States, there is not even one picture of him clean shaven or wearing the nearly bald head style of the NOI. To my knowledge, he never wore anything less than a mustache, but for the vast majority of that time, he sported a full goatee and kept his hair long, at least compared to his days in the NOI. These changes in his appearance were immediately noticed by reporters, and he was questioned about them at a press conference he held upon returning from Mecca. Because the Malcolm X in this photograph is close cropped and clean shaven, it must mean it was taken before he went on Hajj, proving he already knew how to pray.

Much more to come…

Comments
  1. IBN ABDUL HAQQ says:

    ASA Abdur Rahman its post like this one, where you show the potential I love to see. As a quote old head, remember that like during times of old a lot of things are oral traditions.
    Please continue to use that great intellect that Allah has blessed you with to build. To the chagrin of many there were truths taught in N.O.I.( I was never a member).

    Sincere brothers must establish the tools to discern truth from falsehood, but please remember the times. I don’t believe everyone was trying to forge tradition, Yes emotions were high many of us risked our lives to establish deen in America. Not to get you young lions mad, but in the future someone will demystify Obama. We pray he leads well, however he is not the Messiah.

    Were there those who bought into the myth of Malcolm of course, but he never asked us to Worship him , and he died A Martyr. You also bear the weight of those who hang on your every post. Unlike SOME other scholars of this history, You are blessed to know We all will be judged by Allah .

    I leave you with some advice from one whose reputation is the soundest.

    Allah’s Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said,

    “All of you are shepherds and each one is responsible for his flock. A leader of a people is a shepherd and responsible for them. A man is a shepherd over his family and is responsible for them. A woman is a shepherd over her husband’s house and his children and she is responsible for them. And a servant is a guardian over his master’s property and is responsible for it. So all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges.” (Bukhari)

    So, how do we become good shepherds? The first step is to make a self-evaluation. We need to ask ourselves, are my feelings about Islam in accordance to what Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, requires of me? Does my action match my speech? How much of my time do I spend learning about Islam and/or worshiping Allah? Only after affirming the strengths and weaknesses of our own Islam and constantly striving in our practice of Islam, can we begin to guide our flock(blog) on the path that is pleasing to Allah.

  2. attendingtheworld says:

    This seems nothing more than an attack on Malcolm X – and for what purpose, I don’t know. However, I see that you may be a follower of Elijah Muhammad and trying to justify the existence of the movement called Nation of Islam.

    I personally saw on a documentary years ago – and was literally shocked – on how the Nation of Islam’s followers prayed in their “temples.” This is what differentiates them from proper and correct Islam: the prayers seem to be taken place in a church-like “temple” and with women dressed in white but not properly covered! They were sitting on benches just as one would find in a church. That is NOT in a Masjid.

    Then there was a discussion of Elijah Muhammad’s appearing to people in their sleep or even while awake and so on. The man apparently sought no more of a status equivalent to a priest’s! He wanted to be considered holy and divine. Subhan-Allah, this, if true, leads one to believe that such a person is no more than a “false prophet.”

    And why now? After all these years, why the attack on Malcolm X now? Usually, when people attack Islam or Muslims, it’s because they are either paid to do so or expect that such “controversial” topics will take them to fame and fortune.

    ATW

  3. Abdul-Kareem says:

    @ attending the world

    I didn’t take it that way at all. Malcolm X is not infallible and if there has been a “myth” created around him, then we need to know the truth of the matter

  4. Khalil Abu Jamal says:

    I too thought that Malcolm learned to pray when he went overseas. Professor Muhammad are you saying that he made this up and why would he do such a thing?

  5. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    ASA, Abdur-Rahman,

    Again what is your rationale for this misinterpretation fact? Your question is leading as if there was something nefarious.

    Though you pride youself on being knowlegable on Islam in America this susposed “bombshell” betrays an indepth understanding of what had taken place in cities like Detroit, Chicago, Newark, NY and Philly up to 1964 with regards to American Muslims. I suppose next you will be reveiling for the first time that al-Hajj Malik tried to assume an Arabic name prior to receiving his X?

    The bottom line is that many NOI members had been “introduced” or “exposed” to certain aspects of teachings of al-Islam, that were not apart the NOI teachings

    Being exposed to something, that doesn’t mean they would have known it well enough to ward off correction when traveling abroad, for example in that photo (which looks really similar to a photo of Drew Ali hint hint) which appears to be of qiyam, his hands are closer to a “Hanafi” position, yet you and I both know that there are Masjids here in America were people would attempt to correct it, let alone in Saudi

    The fact that many in the NOI had been “introduced” to Arabic and salaat does not mean that others would not have attempted to correct him.

  6. Abu Usamah al Aswad,

    I understand that when certain myths are shattered it is very emotional. Many of us have been invested in these myths for decades, but simply put, no one has ever done the scholarship to verify Malcolm’s claims. We just took them at face value because we loved him as a powerful orator and strong voice for our race.

    This does not mean however that he was not a man, with the same faults and failings that we all have. The truth is that the Malcolm X we know and love is a romantic myth that comes out of the Autobiography of Malcolm X. The Malcolm X of history is much more complicated and complex.

    If Malcolm was, as you say “introduced” to the prayer only to ward off critics, then he certainly failed to mention that in the Autobiography. If you read that entire chapter called “Mecca”, you will see that he denies even knowing the positions of the prayer, and that his body was literally unable to perform the rituals. Brother I’m sorry to tell you, but this is all fiction.

    I do not want to get into an emotional thing with people. Most Muslims know very little about the historical Malcolm X, and are totally unprepared to learn certain unflattering truths about his character. We all know of his contributions to the struggle, and no one can take that from him, but it is time to deal with reality and not myths.

    I have been presenting the results of years of research in order to demystify this man, and anyone is free to challenage it if they so desire, but it must be based on facts.

    Gird up your loins, more is coming.

  7. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    @Abdur-Rahman

    Yes I believe that al-hajj Malik couldn’t sit in jelslah in the proscribed manner, most who were not raised as Muslims don’t perform raku with their backs straight nor perform jelslah with all their right toes pointing forward. …..And?

  8. attendingtheworld says:

    Most Muslims know very little about the historical Malcolm X, and are totally unprepared to learn certain unflattering truths about his character.

    Maybe so and many so-called Muslims are also biased and want nothing but to discredit honorable men. Have you considered that you may be doing just that? Or, are you really looking for fame and fortune and want a name in history?

    ATW

  9. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    I am not “emotional” about the issue No where in his autobiography did say he was NEVER introduced to al-Islam, basically whatever he was introduced to he rejected due to his love for Elijah Muhammad not unlike the followers of Farakhan today. Though many of Farakhan’s follwers have been making salaat for years, they still reject tawhid.

    I think I understand your motive, I guess (emphasis guess) you want create a bulkward against any narrative whereby Blackamericans have to shed their “Americaness” and look to foreigners to legitimize their Al-Islam, especially nowadays when al-qeida is trying the use the legacy of al-hajj Malik to recruit. So, since many identitify al-hajj Malik what better way to debunk the notion of required foreign legitimacy. However, throwing al-hajj under the bus is not the correct approach. The better approach would be to proffer the question as to why the leadership of the NOI rejected al-Islam as a social solution for the ills which Blackamericans faced 1930-1964, and still do today in the age of Obama

    Elijah had travel the Muslim world and consider their life styles backward and cities unclean. He didn’t think that would be helpful to Blacks nor was he willing to ease any control as knew Blacks were prone to follow anyone due to a lack of self-confidense. Al-hajj Malik only followed his lead.

  10. sister muhammad says:

    ..who said obama was the messiah?

  11. Khadija says:

    Bro. Abdur-Rahman,

    I am not an academic, nor have I done any scholarly study of Malcolm X. However, I have always had my doubts about aspects of his autobiography. I had these doubts even when I hero-worshipped Malcolm X as a younger woman. I still greatly respect and admire him; it’s just that I’m an adult now and I can see his failings more clearly.

    The first reason for doubt is the less than journalistic truthfulness standards of Alex Haley (which undermined the value of his book “Roots”). Second, there is the all-too human tendency to remember things differently and shade the truth after falling out with somebody. Given the number of years that Malcolm had invested in Elijah Muhammad, I wouldn’t be surprised if he started shading the truth and remembering his past life in the NOI differently after the split.

    I would compare Malcolm’s thoughts/memories about his time in the NOI after the split to a person’s memories of a marriage AFTER their divorce. These memories are bound to be somewhat tainted by bitterness and anger.

    Wa Salaam.

  12. Khadija,

    Yes, I think you are entirely correct about that. Malcolm was very, very bitter at the end of his life, not only about his fall out with the NOI, but also about some serious things going on in his marriage.

  13. Shibli Zaman says:

    as-salamu `alaykum,

    Brother Abdur-Rahman, you said:

    “but also about some serious things going on in his marriage”

    Please refrain from mentioning such things about a deceased brother, and above all, a Shahid (insha’ Allah). Jazakumullahu khayran.

  14. I highly recommend that everyone read the chapter on Malcolm X in the link to Dr. Marable’s book Living Black History, contained in this post. It is quite informative. It is not the entire chapter but it is enough to get a sense of the difficulties unearthing the historical Malcolm X. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ IT. I think eveyone should purchase this book and keep it in their library.

  15. ASA,
    The question of weather Bro Malcolm learned to pray here or there is so meaningless, it surprises me that people of such scholarly potential would waste valuable time discussing these kinds of non-issues. Al hamdulilah, the brother did learn to pray, and I pray that Allah will give him the Jannah, and forgive him his sins. (should I have said forgive sins first, and then the Jannah? Please don’t use this as a point of discussion). The broader picture that we all should be thankful for is that without the NOI, many of us would have known nothing of Al Islam. It was only through the grace and mercy of Allah swt who allowed the NOI to exist to be used as a vehicle to bring us to this level of growth and development.
    Some of us who followed the Honorable Elijah Mohammed continued to follow Imam Mohammed, some left to follow a more eastern style, and those who didn’t follow either, got it from the influence of the Muslims who came from these origins. The fact is, is that we’re all Muslims, and there are thousands of issues worth discussing other than where did Brother Malcolm learn to mak salat.
    Right now we’re fighting this war against same sex marrige here in California where the gay community is trying to equate their cause with that of the African American community. They’re trying to present their cause as a “rights” issue. To paraphase the words of El Hajj Malik Shabazz, Our struggle is not for seperation or integration. Our struggle is to be recognized as humans in this society. Many of you who know African American history know that our people were considered to be less than human by the slave master, so our babies could be taken away and sold without even a prick to the conscience, because we were only animals anyway.
    As Muslims, we should join other people of faith and lead this great nation back to morality. In turn, this would bring much more respect to us and our faith from those whom we live among.
    Brother Shabazz

    • goldnsilver says:

      Right now we’re fighting this war against same sex marrige here in California where the gay community is trying to equate their cause with that of the African American community. They’re trying to present their cause as a “rights” issue. To paraphase the words of El Hajj Malik Shabazz, Our struggle is not for seperation or integration. Our struggle is to be recognized as humans in this society. Many of you who know African American history know that our people were considered to be less than human by the slave master, so our babies could be taken away and sold without even a prick to the conscience, because we were only animals anyway.

      You do realise the irony of this paragraph? I guess gays are to be considered ‘less than human by the slave master’.

  16. Yahya Shabazz,

    I disagree with you and I agree with you. I disagree on the issue of where Malcolm X learned to pray, because it makes me question some of his other assertions. He should be held to the same standards of veracity as anyone else. To my mind, he clearly was taking a shot at the NOI for his own reasons which I”ll discuss in my book.

    On the same-sex marriage issue I am with you 100%, especially since those people are trying to dump on Black folks for the defeat of that hideous measure. Keep up the good work on that front. I still plan on weighing in on that issue.

  17. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    @Brother Shabazz,

    While I agree with you that there are countless other things that have greater importance than when al-Hajj Malik learned to pray, it is wrong to characterize the issue as “meaningless”. The true facts and accurate history of our Muslim leaders and the developement of Islam in America as a whole has to be preserved. For example take the hadith that preserve our deen many hadith cover things non-Muslims consider meaningless, such as which hand to eat with. Yet, haddith are indispensable in implementing the Islamic way of life.

    Though Abdur-Rahman and I disagree on his misinterpretation of fact, one point which I wholehearthly agree with my brother Abdur-Rahman is that whether not something fits a particular narrative we like must always seek to record the truth.

    As for the other things you mentioned off-topic, why is it that “WE” repeatedly end up juxtaposing our concerns against each other, creating false dichotomies as to whose concerns are MORE important.

    I say that since al-Hajj Malik (shaheed inshaAllah) is such a pivotal person in Al-Islam in America, not only when he learned to pray but any fact about his PUBLIC life should be recorded accurately. Thereby ending the myth making and preventing the revisionists.

    Yet, the accurate recording of his life in no way deminishes the issues you brought forth. Why can’t we multitask? So with all due respect my brother the broader picture is the Muslims tackling ALL of the issues we face, not solely focusing on some arbitrary subset of issues.

  18. As Salaamu Alaikum,

    Hmmmmm. I am reading some of the author’s “Top Posts.” Am I the only one who notices the blatant contradictions between the implications of the author’s statements about the NOI in the current blog and those in the blog entitled “Siraj and Mana Should Repent?” I quote from both:

    WHEN DID MALCOLM LEARN TO PRAY (November 16, 2008)
    “That’s why Malcolm’s statements are so especially galling, because he wants to suggest that the NOI was so Islamically impoverished that he had to travel half way around the world to learn something as rudimentary as prayer.”

    “In so doing, not only did Malcolm X subtlety imply that “Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam” did not teach the salaah, but he also unwittingly created the pernicious and debilitating myth amongst black American Muslims that religious authenticity can be secured only ”overseas” at the feet of foreigners!”

    SIRAJ AND MANA SHOULD REPENT (February 26, 2007)
    “The charade that took place in Detroit not only confused and distorted the message, but empowered the advocates of falsehood. By adopting a disingenuous, wrong-headed strategy of feigning a kind of “Muslim Unity” with the N.O.I – i.e., making salat (congregational prayer) with them and essentially pretending to enjoy fellowship with”Muslim brothers and sisters” (when we all know of course that they’re kuffar and mushrikeen)”

    So I would like some straight answers: Does the author wish to imply that the NOI “Islamically impoverished” or not? Does he wish to imply that “religious authenticity” can be learned from the NOI or not? Are the NOI “advocates of falsehood,” “kuffar and mushrikeen” –or is that “a pernicious and debilitating myth?” In answering this query please do not resort to hair spliting about beliefs/akidah (orthodoxy) on the one hand and performing prayer/salat (orthopraxy) on the other hand! Nor any hairspliting between the NOI under Elijah’ Muhammad’s leadership and the NOI under Louis Farrakhan’s leadership.

    I’m not invested in what the author thinks about the NOI one way or another. However I am concerned that the author seems to flip-flop on major issues whenever it is convenient for him to score a point. If he wants to score a point against Malcolm, then he defends NOI for its religious autheticity. If he wants to score a point against Siraj and Mana, then he bashes the NOI as advocates of falshood. Those tactics seem to me to be totally disingenuous and oppotunistic.

    Yusuf Nuruddin

  19. Yusuf Nurrudden,

    No, it called BEING HONEST, something that I find Muslims have a serious problem with. We’re taught in Islam that even if we hate a people we are suppose to give them justice, and that is what I did! I am trying to tell the truth of what happened, and if it means that Elijah Muhammad gets credit for teaching his son Wallace, through instrutors in their school, how to make salat correctly then I don’t deny him his credit.

    Also, talking about the NOI 45 years ago and talking about it today are two entirely different things in terms of our growth and developement. In the piece I was not talking about the NOI BELIEFS. The post only discussed the salat. Why, 45 years later, Siraj Wahhaj openly embaces people like Larry4x who still clings to those old, crazy, and extremey sinful beliefs you’ll have to ask him.

    Your comment just illustrates again how shallow Muslim thinking has become these days. To give someone credit for something they did is considered a flip-flop.

  20. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    @Abdur-Rahman

    It is your habit of hyperbole which leaves you open to the charges of flip-floping since your indignation waxes and wanes to the extreme

    Bottom line is Elijah Muhammad may have taught something that approximated salaat as something extra, but “proper postures” of salaat wasn’t established as part of the NOI teachings that’s a fact and the burden of proof is on you and those speculate as you do to prove otherwise.

    Those who wrong-headly claim that al-Hajj Malik was angry and bitter at the NOI then they have to prove it. If he was so angry and bitter why didn’t he just work with government to bring the NOI down? Even after it was known that the NOI and the government were trying to kill him, he still didn’t try to bring the NOI down.

    Many of the names in the released FBI documents have been redacted yet there are still people who know who really worked with government and al-Hajj wasn’t one of them.

    Though your accusations may have traction with those who hate on al-Hajj Malik, I simply don’t believe he was a liar. So you will have to prove it

  21. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    @Yusuf
    LOL – I wasn’t even going to bring up his past posts about the NOI simply because he doesn’t even have a strong point with the evidense as presented

    @Abdur-Rahman

    It is your habit of hyperbole which leaves you open to the charges of flip-floping since your indignation waxes and wanes to the extreme

    Bottom line is Elijah Muhammad may have taught something that approximated salaat as something extra, but “proper postures” of salaat wasn’t established as part of the NOI teachings that’s a fact and the burden of proof is on you and those who speculate as you do to prove otherwise.

    Those who wrong-headly claim that al-Hajj Malik was angry and bitter at the NOI then they have to prove it.

    Even after it was known that the NOI and the government were trying to kill him, he still didn’t try to bring the NOI down.
    If he was so angry and bitter why didn’t he just work with government to bring the NOI down?

    Many of the names in the released FBI documents have been redacted yet there are still people who know who really worked with government and al-Hajj wasn’t one of them.

    Though your accusations may have traction with those who hate on al-Hajj Malik, I simply don’t believe he was a liar. So you will have to prove it

  22. Re your statement “No, it called BEING HONEST,”

    No, you are being intellectually DISHONEST. You did not simply stick to the issue of salat, instead you utized the NOI’s practice of salat to build a larger case.

    This is line of argument you constructed in the November 16 article
    1. The NOI taught its members salat.
    2. Malcolm X implied that the NOI did not teach salat
    3. Therefore Malcolm suggested that the NOI was Islamically impoverished and he “unwittingly created a pernicious and debilitating myth that
    that religious authenticity can only be secured overseas from foreigners
    4. Hence you imply — or lead the reader to infer — that contrary to such a myth, that religious authenticity could be secured domestically from indigenous Muslims — presumably NOI Muslims.

  23. Amirudeen says:

    El Hajj Malik Al Shabaaz is the greatest and most well known Muslim from the West. He is our pride and joy and did a ton to build up the Muslim community even in his death. He is a model for ALL Western Muslims to follow in his family life and the way he sought the truth. Your entire article was a pointless exercise sir. You will NEVER be able to take down the martyr and is great legacy.

  24. Re my own statement: “instead you utized the NOI’s practice of salat to build a larger case.”

    TYPO: instead you utilized

  25. “Even after it was known that the NOI and the government were trying to kill him, he still didn’t try to bring the NOI down.
    If he was so angry and bitter why didn’t he just work with government to bring the NOI down?”

    Abu Usamah al Aswad

    Don’t ask me for something if you are not prepared to accept it. Go ahead brother, keep pulling at that piece of thread in the sweater and pretty soon you might find yourself with nothing but a ball of yarn.

  26. Amirudeen says:

    Don’t ask me for something if you are not prepared to accept it. Go ahead brother, keep pulling at that piece of thread in the sweater and pretty soon you might find yourself with nothing but a ball of yarn.

    Brother you keep alluding to things and not backing it up with any facts. EVERYONE ELSE AGREES that Malcolm is a great man except for you. The burden of proof is on YOU. you are looking like a fool here

  27. By the way, none of this is about “hating” on anyone. It people choose to believe myths over hard evidence, then what can I do? If that is what gives you peace and comfort you are free to live in the world of unreality. I choose not to do so.

    An entire intellectual edifice has been build on taking the Autobiography at face value, and now some people are frightened if everything in it may not be entirely accurate or even true.

    Again, read the link to Marable’s book and you’ll understand the problems that all memoirs and autobiographies have.

  28. Amiruddeen,

    When did I say he wasn’t a great man? That is a red herring in and of itself. The article stands on its own despite the apologetics and straw men that others are trying to throw out there. A person must sincerely ask himself; after the Autobiography what do I really know about Malcolm X? And the answer will come back, not much.

    I also understand that once a belief takes on the status of legendary myth, people will fight to the death to defend it.

    If what I’m writing is that disturbing to you now, then you’re really going to be hurt when Marable’s massive biography comes out.

  29. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    Abdur-Rahman,

    A long ago I learned to accept heartbreak when it comes to the “enterprise of al-Islam in America” though you may not believe so there are those of us “die-hards” who are committed to Islamic leadership yet retain an inquiring mind and thirst for truth and accuracy with regards to our history.

    I too have my own theories about certain events, the difference between you and I is that I follow factual evidense and don’t proffer my theories as factual evidense, while you rely on your own “theories” in the absense of evidense to prove your points. As Br. Yusuf proved by deconstructing your shaky argument.

    Also, I don’t traffic in scandal, I’ve spoken face to face or corresponded with many elders in the course of my own research, and I have felt beyond heartbreak when learning of some of the details of the fissures between brothers that have stymied the collective progress of Blackamerican Muslims.

    More than some academic pursuit or some self-rightous need to be right, some of us actually give a damn about stablizing our community and respecting leadership past and present. Just because I don’t jump into reckless character assination doesn’t mean I uphold myth making. Also, I’ve researched enough to know that this is chess not checkers and that there a forces at work against the stability of Blackamerican institutions and one can unwittingly become a pawn.

    While I do believe that we should understand our history EVERYTHING is not required public consumption to be posted on the internet.

    And since blog postings can’t always convey accurately a persons tone, feelings or nuance, I will be clear I have no acrimony towards you. And I wasn’t aiming my “hater” comment at you, but rather those who you know will try to use this blog to prove Elijah Muhammad some how was teaching Islam and al-Hajj Malik lied to slight him of his due.

    On THIS issue thus far your argument and ascertions are not convincing, I already took the “red pill”, so yes I’m still pulling the piece of thread and as we used to say in the hood in Detroit “I still don’t believe you, you need more people”

  30. Blakoak777 says:

    ASA Brogther Abdur Rahman,

    Just a point of clarification on the issue of the method of prayer in the NOI:
    While it is true that the method of salat was known to some degree to the members of the NOI, it was not the “practice” of the members of the NOI. The method of prayer consisted of facing the east and the cupping of the hands or what we would demonstrate as a dua’. That was THE method of prayer in the NOI under the leadership of The Honorable Elijah Muhammed. We were not taught the method of Salat until we were under the leadership of Imam Warithudeen Mohammed (Rahmatullahi Alaihi). We the congregation would be on live telephone hookups around the country and Imam Mohammed would patiently and painstakingly take us step by step through each position of the Salat. I invite you to talk to anyone who was present during those transition years to corrborate my assertion. This includes those who were former regional “ministers” of those “temples” of the NOI who held regional and national leadership positions at that time. Take it from one who was there during that time.

  31. Amirudeen says:

    after the Autobiography what do I really know about Malcolm X? And the answer will come back, not much.

    We know that he is THE pillar of the establishment of Sunni Islam amongst Blackamericans PERIOD. Even WD is not the titan that Malcolm is in this regard.

    I’ve spoken face to face or corresponded with many elders in the course of my own research, and I have felt beyond heartbreak when learning of some of the details of the fissures between brothers that have stymied the collective progress of Blackamerican Muslims.

    @ Abu Usamah

    I too have done likewise and much of it is very ugly and this is why it is dangerous for AR to throw Malcolm in with the likes of the scandalous charlatans that we have seen in the past 25 years. That is in itself scandalous. He is putting slime on the last honest Blackamerican Muslim icon that we have and we can not allow him or Marable or whoever else to tarnish this legacy. I have been Muslim since 1977 and am sitting here watching our hard fought legacy in this country come under assault by immigrant Muslims and now by black Muslims themselves! This is extremely heartbreaking.

  32. Mr. Lee X SLAVE says:

    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. ALL PRAISES DUE TO ALLAH FOR THE MOST HONORABLE ELIJAH MUHAMMAD. I ALSO PRAISE ALLAH FOR THE HONORABLE MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN. I ESPECIALLY THANK THESE TWO GIANTS FOR RAISING UP STRONG BLACK DEFENDERS OF TRUTH LIKE THE AUTHOR OF THIS VERY INFORMATIVE BLOG.

    AS SALAM ALAKIUM

  33. Saalakhan says:

    Assalaamu Alaikum:

    I stumbled upon this discussion by accident (well, more appropriately stated, by ALLAH’s will.) This will probably be my only comment – not because I don’t consider the issue, or the respondents worthy – but simply because I already have too much on my plate, and my time is extremly limited.

    That said, as someone who became a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) as a teenager, and was one of the youngest members on the east coast to assume certain responsibilities within the FOI during that period of my youth, I can, perhaps, add a little food for thought (insha’Allah).

    Point #1: No one knows with absolute certainty (except for ALLAH, swt, and whoever took the photo) when that photograph of the NOI-looking Malcolm on the prayer rug was made, nor what the circumstance was. (Bear in mind, his appearance didn’t change until AFTER he made his life-changing pilgramage to Makkah in 1964.)

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that the photo was taken in 1963; given the fact that Malcolm was a master propagandist, it is quite possible the photo was taken as part of a propaganda initiative that Malcolm was undertaking (for a certain audience) at that particular time. (Surely ALLAH knows best.) Clearly it did NOT receive wide circulation in 1963, nor in the years since.

    What is known beyond a shadow of a doubt is that members of the NOI (generally speaking, throughout America) DID NOT observe traditional salat in the way of our beloved Prophet (saw). NOI members in the Chicago area, and specifically those connected to certain families accorded a “special” status within the NOI, were not like “believers” in other areas of the country. Generally speaking, we (the general body) had no knowledge of “salat,” the significance of salat – nor of many of the other foundational beliefs and practices of Al-Islam.

    To the extent that Malcolm had more AWARENESS of such things than others (and I make a distinction here between Awareness and Knowledge), he was clearly committed to the program of the NOI. Despite the obvious exposure that he received to certain practices in “the Muslim world” – especially after he paved the way for Mr. Muhammad’s overseas trip in 1959 – the NOI program was what he believed in and taught (until the permanent split occurred in 1964).

    ALLAH (swt), through the Prophet Mohammed (saw), speaks of the veils that cover the hearts of those who reject truth; and how for some blessed souls, the veils are lifted before they pass away from this life. The Prophet (saw) said:

    “…and one of you behaves like the people of Hellfire, until there is but an arm’s length between him and it, and what has been written overtakes him, and he behaves like the people of Paradise and thus he enters it.”

    I truly believe in my heart of hearts that this was the blessed fate of Malcolm. Was he a perfect man? No. Did he make mistakes? Yes. Did he make HEAVY errors in judgement that weighed heavily on his heart in the months, weeks, days before his soul was taken? Absolutely.

    But with all that being said, if there is any man in my lifetime (in my humble estimation) who ALLAH (swt) permitted to make Tauba in a very public and magnificent way before his death, that man is El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, aka Malcolm X! And the sacred blood of his martyrdom is still impacting hearts and minds the world over to this very day! (“And do not say of those who are slain in the way of ALLAH, that they are dead. They are alive, receiving sustenance from their Lord, though you perceive it not.”)

    Irrespective of what any of our opinions or positions happen to be on Malcolm, Elijah, WD, or anyone else who has already passed on, their affair is solely with ALLAH (swt) now. And as we all [should] know, ALLAH Ta’ala is The All-Knowing, and The Most Just of Judges.

    Such awareness protects me from getting bogged down in what can often end up being counter-productive debates, over issues that none, except The Almighty, has any control. May ALLAH (swt) have mercy on us all. Ameen.

    El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

    A final thought: While some of our brothers have the tendency to look down there noses at the NOI (because of the LEGITIMATE differences we have with traditional NOI beliefs), there is an important question that really needs to be explored. How is that an organization/community existing in the TWILIGHT OF ISLAM (in light mixed with darkness), was able to accomplish so much more (in its heyday) than other communities and/or movements of Muslims in America who boast of being in the full light of Qur’an and Sunnah? Something to think about.

  34. lived says:

    Brother Malcolm said in his autobiography that in the NOI, they did not perform the Prayers PROPERLY, he did not fully deny that he didn’t know how to pray salaat. He mentions his toes aching and body not used to the Salaat he learned in Mecca. I think it’s clear what he means, that in mecca Malcolm learned to pray his Salaat with all the sunnats and Mustahabs such as the facing of the toes towards qiblah during Jalsah and the Back being levelled with the head during Ruku. It is easily understandable that the NOI’s version of Salaat did not take into account all these little Details of Salaat and therefore it felt very new to Malcolm when he experienced proper Salaat in Mecca.

    Also what does it matter if Malcolm X did know how to pray salaat in his pre-hajj days, That Salaat would not have counted as the reciting was not done in Arabic and the prayers included testifying Elijah as a messanger. Isn’t this article pointless to a degree??

  35. MY FATHER, AND I AS A YOUNG MAN FROM 1957-TILL THE BOMBING OF TEMPLE #7 OPENED THE DOORS AND CLOSED IT 7 DAYS A WEEK. MY FATHER IS RICHARD 8X. I WAS TRAPPED IN THAT DEBRIE FOR 6 HOURS…TEMPLE #7 LIKE ALL TEMPLES WERE A CLOSED SOCIETY. AT THAT TIME IN HISTORY IF YOU SAID YOU WERE A MUSLIM YOU WERE VISITED BY THE FBI AND THE STATE DEPT. THE CURRICCULEM AND
    TEACHING AGENDA WERE MUTIPLE. AMONG THE * MANY* CLASSES THAT WERE TAUGHT WERE ARABIC AND ISLAM…DR. FARADS APPROACH TO HISTORY AND RELIGION WERE NOT TRADITIONAL.. BUT RATHER THE ORIGIONS OF THESE TR.ADITIONS…THAT INCLUDED THE ORIGIONS AND TRADITIONS OF JUDAISIM, BUDDAHISM, AND CHRISTIANITY. AND ISLAM.. ALL THE FORMS WERE TAUGHT…BUT THEY WERE TAUGHT AS AN ORIENTATION…BEC THE FORMS ARE NOT ORIGIONAL..THE ORIGINAL FORM OF PRAYER WAS A MANS WAY OF LIFE, WHERE INCULCATION AND REPETITION WAS NOT A NECESSARY. THAT THE HIGHEST TESTIMONY …THAT ANY PERSON CAN GIVE TO ANY FAITH IS TO LIVE IT..HENCE ISLAM IS A WAY OF LIFE. ISLAM IS NOT A TRADITIONAL PRACTICE…IT IS THE ORIGINAL WAY OF LIFE OF THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE WHO WAS ONE WITH THE ORIGINAL IDEA. EMPHASIS WAS PLACED ON BEING A MUSLIM NOT JUST LOOKING LIKE ONE. HOWEVER I HAVE ALL THE EVIDENCE YOU NEED. AGAIN WE WERE THE OFFICIALS THERE. AND HAVE RECORDED THE HISTORY. THOUSANDS OF PICTURES OF TRADITIONAL PRAYER BEING OBSERVED AND MORE.

  36. BY THE WAY THIS WAS AN FBI INSPIRED ARGUMENT AS PART OF A DIRTY TRICK CAMPAIGN..AT THAT TIME IN HISTORY THERE WAS NO MAINSTREAM **TRADITIONALIST**ISLAMIC MOVEMENT AMONG BLACK PEOPLE IN NORTH AMERICA. FIQUE… SHARIOT AND ISLAMIC JURIPRUDENCE WAS AS FOREIGN AS EVERYTHING ELSE THAT WAS ROBBED FROM US BY THE SLAVEMASTER. WHEN IT WAS HAPPENING THE ONLY ONE THAT REALLY KNEW THE ARGUMENT WAS THE FBI BECAUSE THEY CREATED IT. THE EVIDENCE WILL BE DONATED TO PROFFESOR ABDUR RAHMAN BY OPERATION THINK TANK FOR EVIDENCE REFERENCE.

  37. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    what arguement are you reffering to

  38. Response…THE ORIGINAL IDEA V/S THE TRADITIONAL IDEA.. DR FARAD STEPPED OUT OF THE BOX OF TRADITIONAL THINKING. ALL TRADITIONS HAVE THEIR ROOTS IN TRADE- ADDITIOINS AND THE ADDITIONS OF NECESSARY. AS SUCH THE ORIGINAL IDEA OF ***HOW TO ENTIRELY SUBMIT TO THE WILL*** HAS BEEN GRAFTED INTO A TRADITIONAL RITUAL. HISTORY HAS RECORDED THIS MIGRATION AWAY FROM THE ORIGINAL IDEAS UNCONCIOUSLY AND MOST TIMES CONCIOUSLY AWAY THE ORIGINAL IDEA. THE HISTORICAL INTENT WAS TO CONCIOUSLY HIDE THE CULTURAL CONTEX OF THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE AND THE SECRET KEYS TO MASTERING THE ORIGINAL IDEAS WHICH WERE CONCIOUSLY STOLEN FROM THE BLACK MAN.. IT IS A SENSITIVE ISSUE…BECAUSE THE TRADITION OF SALAT AND ISLAM WAS THE ONLY WINDOW TO THE ANCIENT OR ORIGINAL THAT HAD NOT BEEN TOTALLY ERASED. THE INTELLIGENCE COMPANIES MANIPULATED THE NATURE OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE ***ORIGINAL***AS INTOLERANT,,SHIRK
    OR ANYTHING THAT WOULD STOP YOU FROM GOING FURTHER THAN 1400 YEARS.
    PRAYER AND IT PRACTICE WERE NOT ***ORIGINALLY****THIS SUBTRACTED DEFINITION.. BUT NECESSARY…

  39. Benjamin Jones says:

    Salaamu Alaikum , Brother Rahman. I read the same paragraph in the Autobiography. The point you make is partially correct. However, the following statement from Al Hajj Malik after your excerpt clarifies the issue somewhat:”About a dozen or more years before, when I was in prison, a member of the orthodox Muslim movement in Boston, named Abdul Hameed, had visited me and had later sent me prayers in Arabic. At that time, i had learned those prayers phonetically. But I hadn’t used them since.”

  40. goldnsilver says:

    Thank you for this article, it was an interesting read.

    I would compare Malcolm’s thoughts/memories about his time in the NOI after the split to a person’s memories of a marriage AFTER their divorce. These memories are bound to be somewhat tainted by bitterness and anger.

    I think you should keep in mind that biographies by their nature are an excercise in shades of grey. They blur the lines between truth and fiction, memory and imagination. Autobiographies (even if quoted to someone else, such as Alex Haley) are especially susceptible.

    I really enjoyed Malcolm X’s biography, but I always kept in mind that it was a representation of his point of view of the events, which doesn’t mean its the full truth (or a lie either).

  41. Richard says:

    Salaam alaikum for all,

    thanks for that article, this issue was very important for me, i was always thinking how prayer was performed among the members of NOI. Also, i always remember some picture of black muslims where they are kneeling and hold their hands like it supposed to be “duaa”, but under the picture was written ” black muslims at prayer”
    For those who felt hurt and took as a assault on bro Malcolm, i would´t say that, we have to be very cricital and face the truth, that´s what Islam is about. Brother Malcolm will always be the hero for us, no matter the color of skin, even the relegion. Just like he said “NO SELL OUT” we have to be The True to the game and know when is the time for emotions and when is time for facts.

    Very good job, jazak´allahu ghayran!!

    Richard (East Europe)

  42. Anna Henry says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for the article. I’m curious as to where you found the black and white photograph of Malcolm X Making Salat? I am working on a project about Cosmology in the African Diaspora and would very much like to include this image, giving credit to its creator of course. Any information would be a great help.

  43. matt says:

    a photo doesnt mean anything! if they didnt read in arabic the salah is invalid. also the NOI are kaffirs so the salah is invalid?

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