In the mid-1930s, Elijah Muhammad was just one of several competing leaders of the embryonic movement begun by the mysterious Wali Fard Muhammad, who claimed to be a prophet of Islam and who had recently disappeared. By the time of his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad led a movement that may have numbered a few hundred thousand, making him the most powerful Muslim in the United States of America. Even before his death he was overshadowed by the growing legend of Malcolm X, and after his death by the activities of Louis Farrakhan and his own son Warith Deen Mohammed. Each of these men, however, was brought to Islam by Elijah Muhammad. And although Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad’s son came to reject his idiosyncratic and racial formulation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad was responsible for introducing hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of African Americans to Islam. Almost four decades after his death, he remains by far the most influential American Muslim.
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