Former Head of Nation of Islam Dies

Posted: 09/11/2008 06:51 AM EDT

Posted Sept. 11, 2008 – Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, who for many years led the nation’s largest contingent of Muslims and steered Islam away from the more separatist doctrine of his father, the late Elijah Muhammad, died Tuesday at his home near Chicago, The Washington Post reported.

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A spokesman for the Cook County Medical Examiners Office in Illinois told The Associated Press that the 74-year-old former head of the American Society of Muslims died of heart disease.

In 1975, following the death of his renowned father, Mohammed took the helm of the Nation of Islam. Almost immediately, he began transforming the Nation, which had produced the likes of Malcolm X and Minister Louis Farrakhan, into one of racial tolerance and adherence to the fundamental tenants of Islam. Although the alterations won favor among many Sunni Muslims throughout the world, some longtime members of the Nation were not so enthusiastic about the newly reformed American Society of Muslims. Among the disgruntled Muslims was Farrakhan, who in 1977, brought back the Nation of Islam – both its original name and its fiery message of Black pride and protestations about White supremacy.

Farrakhan issued a statement late Tuesday, saying, "Our prayers and our thoughts are with the Mohammed family, with the followers and all those who feel our great loss. We thank Allah for him ... and his work of helping create a better understanding and image of Islam in America and throughout the world."

In 2000, the two Muslim leaders shared a stage together in Chicago. “I know your father would have wanted this,” Farrakhan said at the time, JET magazine reported. “I know it in my heart.”

In the United States today, the Nation of Islam, under the direction of Farrakhan, is the most high-profile American Muslim organization, but, according to an article published in Wilson Quarterly three years ago and cited by The Washington Post, Mohammed’s group is far larger. Born Wallace D. Mohammed, Warith was the seventh of the eight children of Elijah and Clara Muhammad.

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