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Women of the Nation

Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam

Dawn-Marie Gibson
Jamillah Karim
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Women of the Nation
    Book Description:

    With vocal public figures such as Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam often appears to be a male-centric religious movement, and over 60 years of scholarship have perpetuated that notion. Yet, women have been pivotal in the NOI's development, playing a major role in creating the public image that made it appealing and captivating.Women of the Nationdraws on oral histories and interviews with approximately 100 women across several cities to provide an overview of women's historical contributions and their varied experiences of the NOI, including both its continuing community under Farrakhan and its offshoot into Sunni Islam under Imam W.D. Mohammed. The authors examine how women have interpreted and navigated the NOI's gender ideologies and practices, illuminating the experiences of African-American, Latina, and Native American women within the NOI and their changing roles within this patriarchal movement. The book argues that the Nation of Islam experience for women has been characterized by an expression of Islam sensitive to American cultural messages about race and gender, but also by gender and race ideals in the Islamic tradition. It offers the first exhaustive study of womens experiences in both the NOI and the W.D. Mohammed community.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7124-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-38)

    Both popular media and scholarly accounts of the Nation of Islam (NOI) tend to focus on dominant male figures such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Louis Farrakhan. In the rarer cases in which literature on the Nation features women’s experiences, Nation women are often presented in relation to these dominant men, as in the case of Sonji Clay, whose comments at the start of this Introduction were included in a biography of Muhammad Ali.¹ Or they tend to be accounts of ex-Nation women who describe the NOI as controlling and repressive, as also mentioned in Clay’s comments. Missing have...

  5. 1 “Our Nation”: Women and the NOI, Pre-1975
    (pp. 39-74)

    Jessica arrived at the Nation of Islam’s Temple No. 15 in Atlanta in 1974 while struggling to overcome low self-esteem, homelessness, drug use, and fractured family relationships. Prior to attending the NOI, Jessica had been a promising student at Spelman, a historically Black college for women. Jessica’s experiences of race, gender, and class discrimination made the NOI’s critique of the U.S. racial hierarchy and castigation of Caucasians as “blue-eyed devils” particularly attractive. Elijah Muhammad’s NOI provided a framework and structure that enabled women like Jessica to transform their lives, relying almost exclusively on their isolated community via the creation of...

  6. 2 “Thank God It Changed!”: Women’s Transition to Sunni Islam, 1975–80
    (pp. 75-129)

    Imam W.D. Mohammed is most known for bringing the NOI community into the fold of Sunni Islam. He assumed leadership of the NOI upon the death of his father, Elijah Muhammad, in 1975 and immediately taught from the Qur’an, replacing the Nation’s concept of “God in the Person” with the universal Islamic understanding of a transcendent God. In the first year, he invited whites to join his following, instructed his community to participate in the Sunni Ramadan fast and five daily prayers, began dismantling the Fruit of Islam and the Muslim Girls Training, and changed the name of the community’s...

  7. 3 Resurrecting the Nation: Women in Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam
    (pp. 130-179)

    Khaleelah is a passionate community activist who negotiates her working day between the NOI and managing a community project at St. Sabina’s Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago. Khaleelah’s journey to the NOI is atypical in that she left Sunni Islam for the NOI. She took hershahadah(confession of faith) while in college and practiced Sunni Islam for just over a year at the Central Illinois Mosque before joining the NOI at the age of nineteen. Khaleelah comments that while at the mosque she often felt like a “third wheel” and was kept at arm’s length by...

  8. 4 Women in the Nation of Islam and the Warith Deen Mohammed Community: Crafting a Dialogue
    (pp. 180-226)

    It was a “historic meeting,” Robert Franklin, then-president of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), averred in describing the panel featuring Imam Mohammed and Minister Ava Muhammad. Titled “The Spiritual State of Black America,” the meeting occurred in 2000 in Atlanta at the ITC, a historically Black consortium of seminaries. The audience consisted of members of the ITC community, as well as of members of both the NOI and the WDM community. HoldingThe Final Call, the moderator, Reverend Gerald Durley, further attested to the significance of the occasion:

    The Final Call,only a few days ago . . . [states],...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 227-242)

    Feminist and womanist scholars have described Nation women as guilty of reproducing their own oppression because they accept traditional gender roles, including men as providers and women as homemakers. Yet Nation women have strategically embraced these gender roles in the context of the broader struggle for racial equality. As we have seen, women joined Elijah Muhammad’s NOI for its racial uplift message and its community-building activities. When former members describe what attracted them to the Nation, the gender ideology is often secondary or not mentioned at all. Rarely did Muslim Girls Training attract them in the first place. Nonetheless, it...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 243-258)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 259-264)
    (pp. 265-265)