National News

Muslims mark history of first mosque built by Nation of Islam, celebrate unity

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Apr 24, 2013 - 4:12:42 PM

What's your opinion on this article?

A special anniversary for Masjid Muhammad

WASHINGTON ( - In 1935 after the establishment of Temple No. 1 in Detroit, Temple No. 2 in Chicago and Temple No. 3 in Milwaukee, the newly appointed leader of the Lost Found Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, followed his teacher Master Fard Muhammad’s instructions and moved his family to Washington, D.C.

There he continued to study Islam by reading 104 books at the Library of Congress and continued his mission to teach Islam to Black people. That work led to the establishment of Temple No. 4, his first without the direct involvement of his teacher. Elijah Muhammad found a willing group of men and women interested in learning more about Islam.

The beginning of Temple No. 4 and its 75 years of history making service were celebrated earlier this year and is known as Masjid Muhammad.

“This is the Nation’s Masjid,” Imam Talib Sharif told The Final Call.  He is the first elected imam at Masjid Muhammad. “Our success comes from work, come to prayer, come to success. I’ve built on the success of the seniors who came before me.”

That success includes the building of the first mosque in the country from the ground up by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1960. The newly erected place of worship was the brainchild of then Minister Lucius Bey, sent to the city in 1954 as the minister for D.C. and New York City.

Lucius Bey

“We needed a decent place to worship.  Whenever it rained we had to have buckets to catch the water, the toilet overflowed, it was just bad. I knew if we were going to be anything, we needed a decent place to worship. I asked permission from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to build. He said, ‘If you think you can, go ahead,’ ” Nation of Islam pioneer Lucius Bey said.

“I borrowed $50,000 from a bank.  It cost $95,000 to build. I had the largest attendance in the Nation at the time with 400-500 people on Sunday. It wasn’t easy though. I had a problem with the builder.  He wanted to embarrass the Nation by not finishing. He would dig and then stop. I understood his tricknology and was able to overcome it,” he told The Final Call.

Those challenges forced Minister Bey, now 99 years old, to seek legal protection.

“I hired two Black lawyers but I could tell they weren’t for me. I then hired a Jewish lawyer from downtown who got the builder to finish.”

The builder wasn’t the only problem.

“The bricks were stolen and the community didn’t want the masjid built. The brothers had to sleep at the masjid to save the bricks,” explained Imam Talib.

“Brothers and sisters mortgaged their homes to get the cash to build the masjid. Who would do that today? Today we’re sitting here all different nationalities. Then we only let African Americans in because we had some homework to do on ourselves. This is the only masjid in D.C. built by the Believers (in the Nation of Islam.) Allah brings out the best in us through struggle.  You need resistance to build muscle.”

The grand celebration of 75 years of struggle and resistance brought congratulatory remarks from Congress, including the Muslim congressmen Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.), local government officials including Mayor Vincent Gray and remarks from the Muslim community. 

(L-R) Imam Talib Shareef, Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad, Shareef Abdul-Malik NASIM Conference Organizer, and Farah Shakour, NASIM Conference Organizer. Photo: Hamid Saahir
“I bring greetings as the imam of Mosque Maryam of the Nation of Islam and bring greetings and support on behalf of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and his national assistant Minister Ishmael Muhammad. The Nation of Islam congratulates the community of Imam W.D. Muhammad on this occasion which represents a benchmark in the history of our community of Islam in America,” said Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad.

“This celebration of the 75th anniversary of Masjid Muhammad for me sits close to my heart as the son of the late Imam Sultan Muhammad who served as the imam of Masjid Muhammad from 1982-1990, may Allah have mercy on him,” he said. “We are a family, we are one. We are joined in a history that will unfold and show us a true example of Islam for the world.”

The anniversary celebration was a part of the first annual New Africa Students of Imam Mohammed conference that took place earlier on Feb. 2. Workshops included presentations on Bridging the Scholarship of Imam W.D. Mohammed and Intergenerational Leadership.

“You see the love the Minister (Farrakhan) has for the imam (W.D. Mohammed),” said Imam Talib after Imam Sultan’s presentation on Bridging the Scholarship.  “He’s bringing the scholarship of Imam W.D. Mohammed to the Nation of Islam.  Things are happening and we have to keep moving. Destiny is a collective destiny.”

The weekend concluded with a public address that featured many pioneers of the Nation of Islam speaking about their love and admiration for the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

Dr. Hibbi Omar, of the Noor Foundation, presented Imam Sultan Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan with special copies of his Dictionary of the Holy Qu’ran.

“In memory of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, in memory of Honorable Fard Muhammad, in memory of Imam W.D. Mohammed and if it’s not politically incorrect to say the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Honorable Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad get ready. The storms have past and the time has come for unity.  The time is here for the unity. No unity, forget about your future,” said Dr. Omar.