Imam W. Deen Mohammed, one of the most prominent African-AmericanMuslim leaders in the nation and the son of the late Nation of Islamleader Elijah Muhammad, died Monday, sources told the Tribune.Remember this scene in the film Malcolm X. Malcolm ordered a member of his entourage to never come around him again. He said that he didn't want to get between the young man and his father. I didn't understand what this meant at the time. I realized this young man might have been W. Deen Mohammed whom Malcolm was talking to.
"Brother Imam," as he was affectionately known, was 74. There was noimmediate confirmation of his death by his family. The Cook Countymedical examiner confirmed that a Wallace Mohammed was pronounced deadat his home in the 16100 block of Cambridge Drive in Markham, aspokesman said.
Muslim community leaders said Mohammed was scheduled to speak Tuesdayin Chicago, and many grew concerned when he did not appear. His lastspeaking engagement was at Navy Pier on Saturday at an event sponsoredby the Inner-City Muslim Action Network.
Mohammed inherited from his father the Nation of Islam, a religiousmovement crafted out of black nationalism and bits and pieces of Muslimpractice. He immediately tried to move its followers toward mainstreamIslam, eventually leading to a split between those who agreed withMohammed's approach and those who joined a revived Nation of Islamunder Louis Farrakhan.
Mohammed was a spiritual wanderer who was banished several times by hisfather for filial impiety—once for remaining close to Malcolm X,Muhammad's prized disciple who turned into a critical voice within theNation of Islam before he was slain.
In 1976, Mohammed made a public appearance carrying an American flag.He proclaimed the time had come for black Americans to celebrate America. The following year, Farrakhan broke away to revive the Nation of Islam and its traditional teachings.Can I declare this man's legacy a positive one? Unfortunately he's not as well known, at least in my mind, as Louis Farrakhan.
Mohammed's lifestyle was markedly different from that of his father,who presided over a religious empire from a family compound he constructed amid the historic mansions of the Kenwood neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Muhammad was surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards, dubbed the Fruit of Islam.
Mohammed also rejected his father's sometimes overtly anti-white preaching—a rhetorical style continued by the fiery Farrakhan,Mohammed's rival for leadership of African-American Muslims. Farrakhan and Mohammed long traded barbs and theological jabs before publicly reconciling at a joint worship service in 2000.
"For me, [Islam] is too big a cause for our personal problems and differences to stand in the way," Mohammed said.
Mohammed was also deeply committed to building bridges between African-American Muslims and the increasing numbers of immigrants from the Middle East and Asia.