W. Deen Mohammed (Warithuddin Mohammed) ‘RAA’

Imam W. Deen Mohammed (raa)

Imam W. Deen Mohammed (born Wallace D. Muhammad; October 30, 1933 – September 9, 2008), also known as W. Deen Mohammed, Imam W. Deen Muhammad and Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, was an African-American Muslim leader, theologian, philosopher, Muslim revivalist, and Islamic thinker (1975–2008) who disbanded the original Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1976 and transformed it into an ostensibly orthodox mainstream Islamic movement.

He was a son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam from 1933 to 1975. He became the national leader (Supreme Minister) of the Nation of Islam in 1975 after his father’s death. He rejected the previous deification of Wallace Fard Muhammad, accepted whites as fellow-worshippers, forged closer ties with mainstream Muslim communities, and introduced the Five Pillars of Islam to the then Lost Found Nation of Islam in the West.

The community was known by various names the Nation of Islam (1975), World Community of Al-Islam in the West (1976–77), the American Muslim Mission (1978–85,) which later became the American Society of Muslims. He is the leader of the largest identifiable constituency of Muslim Americans and is recognized worldwide as a Muslim scholar. Imam Mohammed was a frequent participant in countless national gatherings, international gatherings, and meeting with other important world leaders for the purpose of improving the global human condition.

Imam Mohammed conducted public forums and individual classroom presentations at the following institutions of higher learning: Yale’s Divinity School, Harvard, Duke, Howard, Emory, Georgetown, Fordham, Jackson State, Washington University and many others. His diverse topics included Religion, Government, Education, Business, History, World Issues, Psychology, Science, Social Values and topics to address the sponsors specific concerns.

Imam Mohammed was a champion of intellectual freedom and independent thinking. He desired for the human being to have peace in the soul and peace in the community. Imam Mohammed’s life works resonate and reflect the ideals of peace, universal human acceptance, establishing interfaith relationships and a cherished appreciation for America and her guarantee of Freedom, Justice and Equality. His relationship with the Focolare Movement of the Catholic Church and Lady Chiara Lubrich is unprecedented. 

His tributes include the Cup of Compassion Award from Hartford Seminary; Honorary Doctorate Degrees and numerous other prestigious awards.  His portrait, commissioned by Morehouse College, hangs in the MLK, Jr. International Chapel with President Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Dalai Lama.

He was awarded the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Award and inducted into the MLK, Jr. International Board of Preachers. His emphasis on the Revival of Religion included the Muslim world which in 1975 was dormant, mired in global polemical issues and not living up to the historical excellence of the traditions of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).  As such, Imam Mohammed refused to align the new community of Muslims in America with any foreign government but said, “We only support the good they do”. 

He rejected the language of Orientalists, such as the term orthodox Islam, and avoided sectarian labels of Sunni and Shia preferring to define his followers as seeking to demonstrate the Uswah (character) of the Holy Prophet Mohammed, (pbuh).  

Imam Mohammed was particularly sensitive to the relationship between Muslim African Americans and the larger African American community stating, “African American Muslims are not to separate from African American Christians.  We cannot separate ourselves from the Christian leaders who got us as far as we have gotten before we [re]connected with The Qur’an and the life of Prophet Muhammed (prayers and peace be upon him).”  “They are our brothers and sisters in humanity, in our life as people descended from African parents and as people oppressed in these United States.”

From the beginning of his leadership, Imam W. Deen Mohammed championed the cause of women, as did his father.  He dismantled the male and female classes the FOI and the MGT-GCC without bloodshed or conflict.  Muslim Girls Training became Muslim Women’s Development Class which encouraged women to pursue their G-d-given talents in the home and the society. 

CERWIS (Committee to Enhance the Role of Women in Society) was established to address the larger social issues that hindered the elevation of women in society.  He supported the equality of male and female with the Qur’an and brought women into leadership positions while continually stressing the importance of moral behavior and family life.  To Imam Mohammed education was the number one priority of the Muslim community. He renamed the University of Islam schools, Clara Muhammad Elementary and Secondary Schools in honor of the dedication and sacrifices of his mother.  The schools have been lauded by government and civic leaders as a contribution to educational excellence.

1977: Was responsible for leading the largest delegation of Muslim Americans in history to Hajj, the Pilgrimage to Mecca. Imam W. Deen Mohammed introduced the Qur’an as the verifiable authority that human identity comes from G-d and human beings were created in excellence.  This was the basis for his initiation of CRAID, (The Committee to Remove All Racial Images of Divine) in 1978. 

In July he held up the American flag told his supporters to vote and established New World Patriotism Day; parades were held throughout Chicago and other major cities.  He advised his supporters to claim their share of life in America.

Imam Mohammed believed that with The Qur’an, skin color – Black – was no longer an organizing principle for African Americans, that the Nation of Islam’s focus on Blackness had sufficiently served its purpose.  He said that Muslim African Americans were a new people born out of Revelation (The Qur’an) and he introduced the community to the Muslim African Ancestor, Bilal ibn Rabah, who provides dignity and direction. Bilal who was a slave to one of the Arabs, was liberated by Al-Islam and became the first Treasurer and Muezzin to the first Muslim community.  Bilal called Believers to prayer five times a day.  Imam W. Deen Mohammed coined the term Bilalian in his honor to replace Black which did not have the depth of dignity required for a new people.  Imam W. Deen Mohammed said, just as Bilal stood on top of the Ka’ba and called the faithful to prayer, “It is the prophetic destiny [of Muslim African Americans] to call all of humanity back from the seeds of destruction to the straight path of the true worship of G-d” to an audience addressing “The Earth – Our Home” promoting responsibility to the earth and the environment.

1978: Established CRAID which energized significant dialogue among Christians and Muslims around the topic of the effects of racial images in worship.  This dialogue resulted in the attenuation of inferiority among African Americans and the removal of the Caucasian image of G-d from numerous church premises.

1980’s; Imam W. Deen Mohammed introduced the concept of New Africa and said, “There are two things I will never give up, Al-Islam and my African American identity”.  He envisioned model communities that reflect the best of African, Muslim and African American identities and continued to stress economic development, do-for-self ownership and collective economics to provide economic stability. 

1984: On August 23rd for the first time in American history, Imam W. Deen Mohammed took a delegation of 10,000 Muslims to the Nation’s capital for the first ever Muslim Political Convention.  Centered around the Washington Monument on the National Mall he addressed the theme “Building Political Responsibility. He later spoke to an audience addressing “The Earth – Our Home” promoting responsibility to the earth and the environment.

1988: On June 25, he was a Signatory to the Williamsburg Charter Foundation “First Liberty” Reaffirmation Ceremony for the Freedom of Religion. He also Represented Muslims at the World Parliament of Religious Leaders for the Survival of the Earth in 1988.

1992: He earned the distinction of being the first Muslim to offer the Invocation in the United States Senate and this was punctuated by the accolades offered by the three Senators that sponsored him and the 500-guest reception which followed. He also delivered the first address by a Muslim on the floor of the Georgia State Legislature (the state of his father’s birth).

1993: He participated in the inaugural Interfaith Prayer Service established by then President Bill Clinton.

1995: Imam Mohammed Recognized as one of the most significant religious leaders of the twentieth century, served as leader of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He was selected as president of the World Conference on Religion and Peace. He addressed the Governing Board of the World Conference on Religion and Peace in Copenhagen, Denmark. In March of the same year, he was the keynote speaker at the Muslim-Jewish Convocation in Glencoe, IL. the first serious public dialogue between top leaders of Islam and Reform Judaism. That year He also attended the “Acts of Kindness Week” along with Martin Luther King III and Rosa Parks in Dallas.

1996: established the Collective Purchase Conference (CPC). Also this year he met Pope John Paul, II, at the Vatican, at the invitation of Archbishop William Cardinal Keeler and the Focolare Movement.

1997: As a special guest of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) in Tehran he worked to erase distinctions between those called Sunni and Shia and reminded them that those descriptions did not exist during the life of Mohammed, the Prophet (pbuh). also, in this year he was presented by the Focolare Movement with the “Luminosa Award”, for promoting Interfaith dialogue, peace, and understanding in the U.S.

1997:1997/8: He sent a delegation of students for two years for exchange through dialogue and travel to Malaysia to foster understanding and leadership.

1998: He addressed the Indiana House of Representatives and delivered the invocation for the Indiana Senate.

1999: He became the only African American and Muslim to have spoken from the pulpit of the Vatican – addressing over one hundred thousand – at the invitation of Pope John Paul II. on October 28, 1999, on the “eve of the New Millennium” in St. Peter‟s Basilica with many other world religious leaders. He also Visited Israel and Jordan as a guest of Yasser Arafat that year. He also sent a delegation of students with scholarships to study at the Abu Nour University in Damascus under the direction of the Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro. Also, in 1999 he served on the Advisory Panel for Religious Freedom Abroad, formed by Secretary of State Madeline Albright. He assisted in promoting religious freedom in the United States and Abroad. He participated in the Conference on Religion and Peace hosted by the Center for Christian and Jewish understanding. And he participated in the World Conference on Religion and Peace Assembly VII in Amman, Jordan. He was elected international president.

2000: was appointed to the Executive Committee of Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP). He also held an interfaith program in Washington, D.C. with the Focolare Movement and the American Society of Muslims.

2001 — Sept. 11: Imam Mohammed, in the strongest terms denounced the terrorist attacks on the United States as Un Islamic and evil.

2002: He was inducted as a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Imam Mohammed was honored with his portrait in the International Chapel of Morehouse University.  

2005: He sent a delegation of Imams to a Muslim Christian in Dialogue First Symposium given by the Catholic based Focolare Movement. The focus was, “Who is G­d for us? “This program occurred after the recent inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI. He also Participated in a program that featured, “A Conversation with Imam W. Deen Mohammed and Cardinal George of the Catholic Archdiocese.”

There are many more accolades, achievements, and accomplishments made by Imam W. Deen Mohammed that dignify African American Muslims as well as all Muslims in North America. His honorary doctorates, mayoral, and gubernatorial proclamations give testament to his recognized voice and the benefit of his leadership to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. He was appointed to the World Supreme Council of Mosques because of the value of his work and leadership in America. Imam Warith Deen Mohammed was one of the foremost leaders of Muslims throughout America and in many other parts of the world. He was known for his depth in thinking, insight, and faith. His perspectives were clearly Qur’anic based with applications that crossed scriptural, religious, political, cultural and ethnic lines. He was at the forefront of interfaith dialogue and cooperation. He led the call towards human excellence.

Circa 1978
IWDM and Dr. Betty Shabazz
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IWDM in Palestine with Yasir Arafat
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Imam W. Deen Mohammed and Imam E. Pasha at Public Address in NYC
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IWDM and Minister Louis Farrakhan
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Imam Mohammed with Chiara Lubich and Cardinal Keeler
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IWDM with Pope John Paul II
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IWDM with dignitaries from the Muslim World

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Imam W. Deen Mohammed and Imam E. Pasha at Public Address in NYC
IWDM and Minister Louis Farrakhan
IWDM with Pope John Paul II
IWDM with dignitaries from the Muslim World
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