Two years ago, a shining star in the America Muslim community passed away, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed (RA), who was the son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad that led the Nation of Islam from 1934 to 1975.
Since Imam Mohammed’s death as with most leaders, there have been internal divisions and conflicts among his students. An internal family conflict immediately after his death led to a courtroom confrontation over his estate. Furthermore, some have claimed authority in certain matters because of their personal relationships with him or that they were told “something special” that he didn’t tell anyone else. The “something special” comments reminds me of the old “ancient Chinese secret” adage that I used to hear as a kid.
Such shenanigans took place after the death of Prophet Muhammad (SAAS), so such was to be expected. The real shame is that there is a void of leadership within this circle of knowledge as taught by Imam Mohammed to advance his perspective in an authoritative, , systematic and recognized manner both domestically and internationally.
I believe that over the years, however, an organic process will evolve in which a religious office and a socio-political office with recognized, legitimate leaders will come into being. This leadership, G-d willing, will not hold Imam Mohammed (RA) up as an infallible leader, who gave timeless fatwas (as some speak of him today), but will advance and exemplify his methodology regarding the overall practical application of Islam in America.
Imam Mohammed was very adamant that he should not be compared to Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) and that he would give examples of the mistakes that he made or when not to come to him for counseling or advice. Running business enterprises and the issue of marriage are two such instances.
Nonetheless, he was the greatest American Muslim leader to date in my analysis though many who were not his students would rank Malcolm X over him. In these days of mosque protests and proposed Qur’an burnings, I miss a voice such as Imam Mohammed’s advising the community and weighing in on the public discourse.