In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
by Lester A. Knibbs aka Doctor Hakeem
I am working on a book, tentatively titled “Heterosexualism, Homosexuality, and Islam“. I expect my thoughts to offend nearly everyone — my Muslim Brothers and Sisters, my homosexual friends (“Gay” or “Same-Gender-Loving” or however they choose to identify themselves), and people in general. So be it. In some form or another, what follows should find its way into the book.
Elijah Muhammad died on February 25, 1975. The next day, the governing board chose Wallace D. Muhammad (as he was known at the time) to succeed his father as leader of the Nation of Islam. Over the next ten years, W.D. Mohammed (as he came to be known) changed the organization considerably, until finally dissolving it formally and legally in 1985. Its name had been changed to “The World Community of Al-Islam in the West” (which was its name when I served on the governing board from December 1976 to March 1977) and, finally, to “American Muslim Mission” (which was its name when it was dissolved).
I rejoiced at its dissolution. I saw it as the logical conclusion to all of the changes W.D. Mohammed (WDM) had made over the years.
The incident I recount here, however, took place early in WDM’s leadership, and before it had even started to become clear that he intended to make major changes.
At the time I joined the organization — the Nation of Islam (NOI) — Dr. Lonnie Shabazz (formerly Lonnie Cross, and later Abdulalim Shabazz) was the Minister of Temple #4 in Washington, DC. Dr. Shabazz, with a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Cornell University, had been the chairman of the Mathematics Department at Atlanta University and a consultant to NASA and to the Census Bureau. If Americans generally or African Americans in particular paid an appropriate amount of attention to mathematics and mathematicians, his decision to join the Nation of Islam would have been as startling and electrifying as Cassius Clay’s similar decision and his subsequent transformation into Muhammad Ali. Dr. Shabazz was one of the leading mathematicians in the United States. I did not know this about Dr. Shabazz at the time.
I had considered joining the NOI since 1971, but did not make my final decision until October or December 1973 (I can’t remember which month), when Temple #4 held a large public meeting in an auditorium at Howard University (where I was a Visiting Lecturer in the School of Music, at the time). Dr. Shabazz was an inspired and inspiring public speaker — not a great orator, by any means — but he was electrifying nonetheless. It was one word that grabbed me — “COURAGE!” — and I took the leap. I filled out a card they had handed out, and turned it in. Then I panicked, and didn’t go to the Temple until the following March.
A year later, WDM had assumed office and immediately began moving people around. Dr. Shabazz was called to Chicago to become the national director of the Nation’s educational program (“Muhammad’s University of Islam”). As a result, we had a new minister in Washington, DC. At this point, I should have realized that joining the NOI was a great mistake.
In March 1975, in one of his first public addresses, the new minister stated: “If you are not married or committing fornication, then you must be homosexual.” In his moral universe, marriage and fornication were on one side of the equation — the good side — and merely being homosexual was on the bad side of the equation. I call this moral conceptualization “heterosexualism”.
Growing up in Harlem, the other boys not only insulted and abused me for “talking too proper” and for being a “faggot” (whatever that was, I didn’t know), but they laughed at me for believing what people said. Well, for most of the 40 years between March 1974 and 2014, I believed that African American Muslims were truthful. I was offended when I read C. Eric Lincoln’s statement in “The Black Muslims in America” that, in effect, most of the NOI membership did not believe what they claimed to believe, that they just saw the NOI as an opportunity to fulfill their middle-class aspirations. I have been perplexed that after almost 40 years of claiming that they believe that the Qur’an is an authentic message to all human beings from Allah — the creator of all things — and acknowledging that it is in Arabic and cannot be translated, they have still not learned to read it. Now I have finally accepted as factual that they are lying. Most of them — because of their mental condition (which WDM said clearly was clinical mental illness in over 90% of them) — do not realize that what they are doing is lying. But they are lying nonetheless.
And that is just one of the reasons why joining the NOI was a profoundly stupid mistake.