By Munir D. Ahmed
“Nation of Islam” is the official name of the organization of the Black Muslims, which was created by a man whose whereabouts remain obscure to this day. We are mainly indebted to Elijah Muhmmad, who later on came to head this organization. There are few people besides him, who had known him so intimately. Still his narration about the man, whom he calls “Master W. D. Fard” or “Master Fard Muhammad” is sketchy and at times greatly disputable.
He is said to have been born in New Zealand on February 26, 1877 or 1893. His grand parents were from that part of India which later on was incorporated into Pakistan. They were probably indentured labourers, who had been brought to the colonies by the British Government. Their position resembled very much with that of the slaves in the USA. This being the key point in Master Fard Muhammad’s interest in the plight of the Blacks in the States.
Before we discuss his mission in any length, we may just look at his name, which got perverted in the later years. We don’t know, if this was intended by him or it just happened that his name, which was given as “Wallie Dood Fard” was written in innumerable fashions. I will not discuss them all, rather put down my own findings.
His name should have been “Wali-dad” which is in line with the names of the land of his ancestors. That he added “Fard” (in-fact “Fardh”) is also a common usage. He picked up this name as his nom-de-plume to emphasise his attachment to the obligatory service which a Muslim must perform. This is for example that part of the five daily prayers which a Muslim should perform along with the congregation.
But than we are told that he would add also “Muhammad” to his name or even “Muhammad Abdullah”. This part of his name created some controversy regarding his identity. Because a man with this name was years later to take up his mission and accomplish it as he must have dreamed of.
Leaving aside some of the most weired theories which he is said to have propounded to Elijah Muhammad in order to create a basis for the betterment of the black population, such as the racial superiority of the black over the white race, we must note that he was interested in education and social welfare of the community. This is why he emphasised the need of establishing schools or rather universities for the black people and trying to create jobs and stores for them.
That he was a Muslim is well-known. To this end he told the story of his birth in Mecca. It was thorough him that the black community was introduced to the translation of the Qur’an by Maulavi Muhammad Ali, who was the Head of the Lahore Branch of the Ahmadiyya. But this does not mean that he was a bona fide member of the Ahmadiyya Community or even its missionary. We also know that he also recommended a second translation of the Qur’an by Yusuf Ali, also an Indian but not a member of the Ahmadiyya Community.
But than in 1934 he bade good-bye to the members of the black congregation and allegedly returned to his native New Zealand. Some times it is said that he went to Fiji-Islands and was never heard of later on. What make him leave the USA is very much disputed. Some say that he was implicated in some kind of criminal cases and could no longer stay in the USA. Elijah Muhammad bade him farewell and some people think that they kept corresponding to each other in the coming years.
But than there appears another person with the name of Professor Muhammad Abdullah (born in 1905), who it is said to have gone to Fiji Islands soon after his marriage in Lahore in 1930 on behalf of the Lahore Branch of the Ahmadiyya as its missionary. Further we are told that the Ahmadiyya Mission was established in Fiji Islands in 1934. This is the same year when “W. D. Fard Muhammad” left the USA for his home-land New Zealand. But how comes that we hear about him that he was living in Fiji Islands?
We understand from different narrations that Elijah Muhammad kept lively correspondence with the Ahmadiyya Missionary Muhammad Abdullah in Fiji Islands for a prolonged period of time. In fact it was in 1959 that this gentleman migrated to the United States and built a close relationship with the “Nation of Islam”, so much so that he was entrusted the Islamic upbringing of Warith Deen Muhammad, who was going to lead the NOI after his father Elijah Muhammad. It was under the influence of this missionary of the Ahmadiyya that the Nation of Islam was brought nearer to the true Islam. Professor Muhammad Abdullah lived and performed his missionary work till his death in 1990.
It was through an obituary note in the March 2004 issue of monthly “International Lahore Ahmadiyya Newsletter” to pay tribute to Begum Hamida Abdullah, who had passed away on February 9th in Fremont, California at ninety-two years old that one learned that she was burried next to her husband, legendary missionary “Master Muhammad Abdullah” sahib, at Chapel of the Chinees Cemetery in Howard.
Michel Muhammad Knight the author of “Blue Eyed Devil. A road odyssey through Islamic America” (2006) writes in his book on Page 96:
“Fard or not, Muhammad Abdullah did his part. Despite the persecution that Ahmadis take from their brothers all over the world, and takfir declarations that they aren’t even Muslims at all, an Ahmadiyya professor did more for what you’d call “true” or “main-stream” Islam in America than any of these Wahhabi or any Salafi jerks, more than Siraj Wahhaj or any of ‘em, yeah that’s what I said”.