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Like Taking A Walk With God - Khalil Muhammad celebrated as a ‘little messenger’ to a suffering people

By James G. Muhammad -Contributing Editor- | Last updated: Dec 12, 2018 - 7:00:29 AM

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CHICAGO—A top soldier in the Nation of Islam (NOI) was laid to rest Dec. 7 during funeral and burial services that testified to his tremendous impact on men and women in the movement to resurrect Black people.

Khalil Muhammad, a fixture at the corners of 79th Street and Stony Island Avenue where he sold Final Call newspapers and Nation of Islam bean pies, returned to Allah (God) peacefully in his sleep Nov. 24, surrounded by loved ones.


Born Johnny Moses Royster, Brother Khalil, 90, reigned for many years as the national top seller of the paper. Well-wishers from Chicago and other cities packed the A. R. Leak funeral home for a service that was both joyful and sad.

Offering words of comfort, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan noted the transformation of Johnny Royster into Khalil Muhammad and why he was so successful.

“He gave us a glimpse of what God looks like,” he said. “To walk with him was like taking a walk with God. Once you let God into your life like he let God into his life, then you’re no longer Mr. Royster.”

These are names of our former slave masters, he explained. White folks will give you a name of creatures, but you are from the Creator, he said.

The Holy Qur’an says God is the only life giver and He is the ultimate cause of death, the Minister said. Birth, life and death are the Will of God and human beings must seek to fulfill their purpose in life during the time that God gives them, he explained.

“God knows how difficult it is when death comes to separate us from one another. And there’s nothing that happens in life that you can’t win over if you go in the name of God,” he said. “That’s how you have peace and contentment over all the vicissitudes of life, when you can recognize the hand of God even in the darkest moments of your life.”

Each of us celebrating his life one day will be in the same stage ourselves, he said. As the hands and feet of Bro. Khalil are frozen in death, the hands of Black people are frozen in death because we are not producing for ourselves and our people what life demands that we produce, he said.

(l-r) Melissa Smith, Sylvester Doby, Jr., , James G. Muhammad, Barney Muhammad displays commemorative poster on behalf of the Elite50-Plus Squad.

(l-r) Student Min. Ishmael R. Muhammad, Beverly Doby-Bruce, Doris Dawson, Robin Doby-Pettiford, Lori Doby-Only

Bro. Khalil strived to overcome the mental and spiritual death of the Black community by consistently spreading a life-giving word that would move Black people to produce for themselves instead of relying on others, the Minister said.

A friend of God

Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad eulogized Bro. Khalil as “a little messenger” from God for a suffering people. The name Khalil means “friend of God,” he explained.

To be a friend of God you must have a heart akin to God’s heart, he said. As Prophet Abraham is honored as friend of God, we honor Bro. Khalil as a friend of God and what a friend he was to all of us, he said.

“Bro. Khalil didn’t just talk belief, he walked belief. He was a consummate soldier. His faith made him successful,” Min. Ishmael Muhammad said. “He loved his people and the cause of freedom, justice and equality to a degree that Bro. Khalil became an icon of this city, not behind the door but every day at 79th and Stony Island. With that Final Call newspaper, he was a little messenger from God to a suffering people,” he said.

Maxine Muhammad, wife of Bro. Khalil (left) and Linda McLaurin

Bro. Khalil’s wife of 34 years, Maxine, sat on the front row and smiled as family members expressed a range of experiences bringing Bro. Khalil into the family.

Melissa Smith paid tribute by expressing the culture of Islam so loved by her uncle. The religion of Islam expresses sympathy toward fellow human beings, it minimizes the pain of the afflicted and calls for patience, she said.

“Although I may follow a different culture, as a Christian my spirit is united with the Nation of Islam because it is the Nation (through Khalil) that has given rise to me as a woman and who my uncle Khalil would want us to continue to be,” she said.

Sister Maxine’s son Sylvester Doby, Jr., described refusing to acknowledge Bro. Khalil’s Muslim name, yet Bro. Khalil was patient with him and taught discipline and how to lead by example.

“I was probably one of the most difficult persons you could meet, but he would always say to me in a humble voice, wisdom will come,” he said.

“Johnny changed me,” he continued, referring to Bro. Khalil. “My only regret is I didn’t get to tell him before he went home to glory, so I’ll tell you mother. I love Khalil Muhammad. When I speak of Khalil Muhammad, I will remove the name of Johnny Royster from my memory.”

Daughter Robin Doby-Pettiford read a loving poem from Sis. Maxine to Bro. Khalil, followed by daughter Beverly Doby-Bruce who expressed appreciation for the love and treatment of the family by members of the Nation.

“I’ve seen many churches and organizations, but I’ve never seen anything like the Nation of Islam,” she said.

A nurse by profession, she asked Bro. Khalil in his last days what he’d want if he could have anything in this life.

“He said ‘I would want money. I would buy your mother a house.’ Even in his weakest state, he was thinking about others,” she said.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan shared words of comfort.

Elite 50-Plus lieutenant

Members of the Elite 50-Plus squad (male members of the Nation age 50 and over) stood while a resolution saluting their fallen lieutenant was read. The resolution called for a celebration every November in Bro. Khalil’s name. The Minister elevated that resolve by calling for an annual scholarship in Bro. Khalil’s name be given to a student at Muhammad University of Islam.

Bro. Khalil was appointed lieutenant over the squad in 1991. Under his leadership, the squad has held a community resource social gathering monthly to bring speakers and entrepreneurs to share resources available to elders and community members.

Bro. Barney Muhammad, an assistant to Bro. Khalil and owner of Watchman on the Wall Ministries, presented the family with Elite 50-Plus caps and a banner.

“Many will remember Bro. Khalil Muhammad as a strong soldier, husband, father, businessman, and staunch, consistent and powerful distributor of the program of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. But those of us who labored with him in the Elite 50-Plus squad learned of his great gifts, skills and talents as an administrator. He reproduced himself in others and then guided others in properly carrying out his instructions,” he said.

So familiar was Bro. Khalil’s smile, humility and words of wisdom that most everybody had a personal Khalil story, even the funeral home director.

“As far as I’m concerned, he was the king of 79th and Stony Island. He was there selling the paper, the bean pie, but most of all giving good will on behalf of the Nation of Islam,” said director Spencer R. Leak, Sr. “He was such a staple and a representative of what men ought to be like in their elder years. He would always let me know I was something special in his eyesight. He did that with everyone. When I saw him at 79th and Stony I knew my day would be alright.”

Shaka Barak, minister of education for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, said, “Khalil was steadfast to the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I always wondered as an elder how he was so vigorous and where he got it from. He looked like a clean bill of health to be as old as he allegedly was,” he added with a smile. “He looks like the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, too.”

“Brother Khalil was a great soldier and a great Muslim. His steadfastness helped establish The Final Call newspaper. Not only was he magnificent in his personal commitment and performance, he was so strong that his strength inspired strength in others,” said Final Call editor in chief Richard B. Muhammad. “He had a strong physical grip and a strong grip on the faith of Islam and our mission to resurrect our people. We will always honor him and his family for their sacrifice.”

Muslim men perform prayer at janazah service in memory of Khalil Muhammad.

Student Min. Ishmael Muhammad shares words at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

FOI (Fruit of Islam) salute

In 1994, the Fruit of Islam presented Bro. Khalil a new car in recognition of his paper sales.

“He said it was the best gift he’d ever received,” Final Call general manager Fontaine Muhammad said. “I remember he cried and Mustapha (Farrakhan, then assistant supreme captain, who presented the keys) almost cried. It was so funny because at that time he didn’t have a driver’s license. He had to go get one,” said Bro. Fontaine Muhammad.

“Brother Khalil epitomized what a soldier in the Nation of Islam should be, a servant of God,” Mustapha Farrakhan added. “I pray that all who come this way in the Nation of Islam would know that the sacrifice of a life well lived was in his submission to do the will of Allah. He never wavered and was always striving to make his word bond. I pray that when judgment day comes for myself that I’m as dutiful a servant to Allah as my brother Khalil was.”

From 1990 through 1996, Karimah Muhammad would give Bro. Khalil suits collected through donations to give to each new FOI who came into the ranks.

“He was a giving, loving brother, him and his wife Maxine. Allah blessed him to be a star who will never be forgotten,” she said.

 “He reminded me of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in his physical appearance,” said Zakiyyah Muhammad, who joined the Nation in 1973. “He was a hell of a soldier because that intersection he worked on I was afraid to even cross the street. He was an example of how the Messenger taught us to treat each other.”

Enoch Muhammad, founder of the youth empowerment group Hip Hop Detoxx, got his “X” in March 1991. He was 19 years old at the time and served in the same squad with Bro. Khalil then. He recalled being proud of selling 91 papers during an afternoon of  “soldiering” with Bro. Khalil only to be outdone as Bro. Khalil sold 121.

“I would always be on 79th Street watching him. He was my first example in selling papers and being consistent. He spoke with his actions much more than he spoke with words,” Bro. Enoch Muhammad said.

The funeral closed with the offering of the Janazah prayer by Min. Ishmael Muhammad. Bro. Lt. Khalil Muhammad was interred at Mt. Hope Cemetery.