Saturday, September 13, 2008

Islamic scholar, leader Warith Deen Mohammed passes away

With the demise of Imam Warith Deen Mohammad, Islamic world has lost a great leader and thinker.

When he had taken over as head of the Nation of Islam (NOI) after the death of Elijah Mohammad in 1975, it was still an organisation known for racism against Whites (and Jews) and aggressive black nationalism apart from the unique doctrine of Master Fard that spoke of UFO and an evil scientist's failed experiment leading to birth of Whites.

But Imam Warith Deen Mohammad showed great spirit of reconciliation and oversaw the transformation of the organisation from a radical separatist group to an accommodating group and its merger into mainstream American society. All this he accomplishes in his lifetime.

Many who live outside America and aren't much aware of the Black nationalism and the Nation of Islam (NOI). Some of us came to know about these historical struggles through the Autobiography of Malcolm X and the stories of Mohammad Ali. In 1975, Warith Deen Mohammad became the Supreme Minister of NOI.

It was not an easy task to give a new direction to the movement but he succeeded in it. Soon after taking charge he dissolved the militaristic security wing of the NOI, and later the NOI itself. An inter-faith activist, a humanist and a widely respected man who led the African-American Muslim community, he was the first Muslim to address the American Senate and also address 100,000 persons at Vatican along side Pope John Paul II.

As a spiritual and religious statesman, he attended conferences and worked for building bridges with other communities. In his role as a leader for Black Muslims, he built institutions & schools, worked for their economic independence and also held workshops and organised seminars of inter-faith dialoague.

Imam Waris was born as Wallace D Mohammad in 1933.Throughout his life, he indefatigably worked for forging harmonious relations within Muslim communities and outside. Despite the fact that he headed American Muslim Society, he avoided any show of stregnth. Just a few years back, he had embraced Louis Farrakhan, who now heads the NOI.

Though his mainstream media didn't give proper coverage to his death (September 9, 2008) and his legacy, tributes and mourning messages poured from across the world. International Jewish Committee recalled him as 'Champion of Interfaith Understanding'. Jewish and Christian groups mourned his death and so does the Islamic world.