The Founder and Formation of the Movement
July 4, 1930, is the day Wallace Fard (Master W. Fard Muhammad, or “the Savior”) announced, “God is One, and it is now time for Blacks to return to the religion of their ancestors, Islam.” His pronouncement led to the affirmation of black ethnicity, a core tenet of his doctrine. In 1934, before Fard’s disappearance or “departure” in a mysterious rapture-like way, his disciple Elijah Muhammad started the Final Call to Islam, which serves as the periodical of the Nation of Islam (NOI). After a battle with the state of Michigan regarding the Muslims self-educating their children rather than placing them under white Christian teachers, Fard and Elijah Muhammad relocated the movement to Chicago. Shortly before Fard departed, he gave Muhammad instructions to relocate to Washington, D.C., and study how to resurrect black men and women and lead the NOI.
Between 1954 and 1962, membership in the NOI leapt from 400 to more than 300,000. The popularity of Malcolm X and the conversion of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali attributed much to the growth and acceptance of Fard’s teachings through Elijah Muhammad. Fard’s mission sought to “restore and resurrect His lost and found people, who were identified as the original members of the Tribe of Shabazz from the Lost Nation of Asia” brought to America on slave ships to be dehumanized, forced into slavery.
According to Elijah Muhammad, Fard was who the “world had been expecting for the past 2,000 years under the names Messiah, the second coming of Jesus, the Christ, Jehovah, God, and the Son of Man.” Muhammad claimed Fard was both God the Father and Jesus Christ simultaneously.
When Muhammad asked Fard to identify himself, Fard claimed he was the Mahdi, the one who “had come in the Early Morning Dawn of the New Millennium to lay the base for a New World Order of Peace and Righteousness on the foundation of Truth and Justice; to put down tyrants and to change the world into a Heaven on Earth.” The claim of Mahdi is echoed in The Supreme Wisdom Lessons, the grounding doctrine of NOI developed by Fard himself. 
The Friction of NOI Teachings with Christianity
The NOI and the Bible (Bibliology)
When engaging the NOI, it’s vital to understand Elijah Muhammad declared the Bible was neither holy nor God’s Word. He supported his claim by saying the enemy tampered with the Bible, and the only rightful interpretation belonged to Fard, who passed it on to Muhammad. In Lost-Found Muslim Lesson No. 2, the 1st degree claims the Bible and the Koran are the same text, made by the ‘original people’, who are Allah, and will expire in the year Twenty-Five Thousand. In The Supreme Wisdom, Muhammad uses selected biblical passages to support teachings like abstaining from pork (Deuteronomy 14:8), the 144,000 being the black race that will be saved in whole (Revelation 13–14), and Jesus’s rejection of the white race, calling them children of the devil (John 8:42–44).
Deuteronomy 14:8 does speak to refraining from eating swine, yet through the finished work of Jesus, God no longer holds his people to the same dietary restrictions as under the Mosaic law (Acts 10). The contextual understanding of the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation describes the complete salvation of the church that is multiethnic, not just one racial category.
A plain reading demonstrates those redeemed by God’s plan of salvation found in Christ includes people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Revelation 7:9, 21:24-26). In Jesus’s rejection of the Pharisees in John 8, He addressed their lack of a relationship to God because of their rejection of Him being Messiah—nothing relevant to their ethnicity. Historically the term “white” was not commonly used until European immigrants arrived in America. Therefore, Jesus’ rebuke in the ancient near east was not fixed inside the American racial paradigm that was realized a couple millennia later.
Who is God and Jesus? (Theology Proper and Christology)
The primary source shaping the NOI view on God’s nature is The Supreme Wisdom Lessons by Fard, which Muhammed further interpreted and provided supplemental teaching in his book Message to the Blackman in America. In the book, Muhammad says God is a man, not a spirit. This is in direct conflict with John 4:24, where Jesus says, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (NKJV). This verse highlights Jesus explaining how spiritual regeneration is necessary for acceptable worship to God the Father, who is Spirit, yet this content is communicated by God Incarnate.
In addition to identifying Allah as man, Muhammad also says he is black. This also is contradictory to what the Bible teaches. Since God the Father is Spirit, He has no ethnicity let alone a racial category. In Scripture, God the Father never claims to have shared ethnic roots with any one people group and includes in His plan of salvation a message of hope for all nations (Genesis 18:18; Psalms 67:5; Isaiah 49:6; Matthew 28:19–20). The NOI understanding of God being a black man is also in stark contrast to orthodox Islam, which teaches Allah to be distant from creation and humans, let alone aligned with a single ethnicity/race.
Muhammad rejected the triune nature of God, specifically the co-equalness of Jesus and God the Father, yet he took liberty to instruct the NOI that Allah lives in community with twenty-three others like him. Muhammad claims there is only one God at one time, with a succession of “Supreme Gods” taking place every twenty-five thousand years, which is the time of renewal for the earth, where God rules through the ministry of twenty-four black scientists every cycle. Not only does this teaching fail to find support in the Bible, it’s also not substantiated by the Quran, where Allah is known to be one, separated from all, not sitting with or in the circumference of any counsel. This is one of many instances where orthodox Islam and the Nation of Islam disagree vehemently on the nature of Allah.
Muhammad rejected the biblical revelation of Jesus and God the Father being co-equal. He writes it’s “foolish to say Jesus the Son, is the equal of his Father” and cites Matthew 27:46 as a proof text. The context of Matthew 27:46 reveals one of seven statements Jesus made while bearing God’s wrath for humanity’s sinMatthew 9:1-8) yet Luke records Jesus forgiving the sins of one of the criminals crucified next to Him and granting the request of this newly repentant man to enter Jesus’ kingdom (Luke 24:32-43). Jesus’ forgiveness of sin was not isolated to His crucifixion, He did this publicly during His during His incarnational ministry as demonstration of His deity (Luke 5:17-26; 7:36-50). Scripture also identifies there can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood (Leviticus 16, 17:10-12; Hebrews 9:15-28) and Jesus’ atoning work on the cross is the sole location for humanity to find forgiveness of our sins (Romans 3:25, 5:6-8; Ephesians 1:7).
Muhammad also reduced Jesus to a Muslim prophet who is dead and cannot hear the prayers of anyone any more than Moses, who is dead, can. This denial of the eternal nature of Jesus (John 1:1, 8:58; Colossians 1:15–20) and His literal and physical resurrection (Matthew 28:1–7; Mark 16:1–7; Luke 24:1–7; John 20:1–10) is full of error.
The NOI on Salvation (Soteriology)
The NOI view of salvation is grounded in the acceptance of the teachings of Islam, often identified in the triad of freedom, justice, and equality. Muhammad claims these three elements are obtained when blacks are delivered from the oppression of whites, their religion, and when the “white devils” meet their inevitable destruction.
The Bible focuses salvation on the person and work Jesus including His incarnation (Matthew 1:22–23; John 1:1-14) motivated by Him giving His life as the only acceptable ransom to redeem sinners (Mark 10:45) from all ethnicities. Also, Jesus’s perfect life (Hebrews 7:26), death, literal burial, and resurrection provides the only means for salvation from the penalty for sin (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 15:1–8). The gospel expresses salvation not based on obedience to traditions, sacraments, or the commands of any deity outside of the triune Godhead.
God determined that salvation and the process of sanctification leading to glorification, belongs to those who have embraced Jesus Christ as Savior (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:1–10; Romans 6-8). The indwelling of God the Holy Spirit is evidence of God’s sanctifying work in and through the believer (Romans 8:9–13; Ephesians 1:13–14). Salvation is not determined by one’s ethnicity, gender, or social class (Galatians 3:28) rather, the work of the triune God who made salvation a reality to all who embrace Jesus (John 3:16-18; Romans 1:16-17, 10:9-17, Ephesians 1:3-14). Judgement by Jesus at the end of time is not based upon ethnic or Western racial categories as shared by the NOI. Instead, it is the accurate assessment one’s embrace or rejection of Jesus by Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:19-29; Revelation 20:11-15).
 “Historic Look.”
 “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 6, 2016, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/nation-of-islam,
 Mother Tynetta Muhammad, “Brief History on Origin of the Nation of Islam,” The Nation of Islam, March 28, 1996, http://www.noi.org/about.shtmlhttp://www.noi.org/about.shtml.
 The Mahdi in Islam is the “spiritual and temporal leader who will rule before the end of the world and restore religion and justice.” Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), Logos ed.
 Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Black Man, 89.
 “Ibid., 94–95.
 Prophet W.D. Fard, “Lost-Found Muslim Lesson No. 2”, https://www.scribd.com/document/238923324/Lost-found-Muslim-Lesson-No-2, accessed on October 10, 2020.
 See Working Towards Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White. David R. Roediger puts forth an argument refuting the belief eastern and southern European immigrants were ‘white on arrival’ but instead affiliated with the demography of their homeland (e.g. Italian, Jewish, Polish, et al). Through the process of assimilation of immigrant parents under the term white, the U.S. born children being classified as white, the ethnic ‘in-between’ purgatory dissolved by the third generation brought about an understanding that 100% whiteness equated with being 100% American
 Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America (Phoenix, AZ: Secretarius Memps, 1997), 27.
 Mattias Gardell, In the Name of Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 144.
 Ibid., In the Name, 145.
 For further examination into the differences between Islam and the Nation of Islam, see Dwi Hesti Yuliani-Sato, “A Comparative Study of the Nation of Islam and Islam” (2007).
 Ibid., In the Name, 27.
 Ibid., In the Name, 22–32.
 Ibid., 527 of 1667.
 Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, 33, 100.
Published August 8, 2022