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In the 1960s, she regularly wrote articles and columns for the NOI newspaper Muhammad Speaks. A former secretary to Elijah Muhammad, she became embroiled in the controversy over his sexual liaisons, when it was revealed that she had four children with him. After his death in 1975 she presented herself as his widow, though this claim is disputed.
Since the revival of the NOI under Louis Farrakhan she has written the weekly column of NOI theology and numerology, Unveiling the Number 19, in the NOI's official newspaper The Final Call. In the 1990s she repeatedly predicted in her writings that the apocalypse would occur in 2001. She is regularly referred to as "Mother Tynnetta" in the movement.
Early life and education
Born Tynnetta Nelson, she grew up in Detroit and after her conversion in 1958, worked as a secretary for Elijah Muhammad. Under the name Tynnetta Deanar she wrote for the Women in Islam column in Muhammad Speaks. In NOI publications her first name is sometimes spelled "Tynetta".
Alleged marriage and family
While working as Elijah Muhammad's secretary, she had children with him; Madia, Ishmael, Rasul, Ahmed, and Christopher Muhammad. After the death of Muhammad's wife Clara Muhammad. Tynnetta claimed to be the leader's second wife. However, Muhammad's biographer Claude Clegg says there is no evidence that Muhammad married any of the several women with whom he had children, apart from Clara. Though there is no evidence of a legal marriage, Tynnetta has been portrayed as one of Muhammad's "'Islamic' wives", in the words of scholar Mattias Gardell. She is given prominence at NOI events as the leader's widow.
In Muhammad Speaks
In the 1960s, during the life of Elijah Muhammad, Tynnetta wrote regularly in Muhammad Speaks on woman's issues, condemning the immodest dress of the era. She concentrated on the subjects of proper deportment, dress and behavior of a female Muslim. She emphasized modest attire and cautioned "the Black woman" to put away "the short western style of dress and social habits." She also stated that "the white woman" apparently "does not feel the sense of modesty in the strict manner of her darker associates".
In addition to her woman's column she wrote articles quoting Biblical and Quranic passages to affirm Muhammad's prophetic status. She defended black separatism on the grounds that "as all bona fide divine spokesmen of the past, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is carrying out the divine work of separating our people from the nation and people responsible for our captivity." She also attacked mainstream Muslim critics of the NOI, insisting that Elijah Muhammad was the "seal of the prophets", not the Arab prophet Muhammad.
In The Final Call
After the death of Muhammad, Tynnetta rejected the reforms of his son Warith Deen Muhammad, and sided with Louis Farrakhan's faction, becoming one of his earliest supporters. She praised Farrakhan as a great visionary and as the modern equivalent of John of Patmos. In her writings in the 1980s and 90s, she became increasingly preoccupied with UFO sightings and a supposed forthcoming apocalypse, predicted by Elijah Muhammad, in which a "Mother Plane" from space would destroy the white race. She predicted this event using numerological analyses based on the sacred number 19, an idea derived from Rashad Khalifa. She claimed that a UFO was seen after the 1986 bombing of Tripoli. She also argued that the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in the same year was divine punishment on the USA, because "The aim and purpose of America's Space Program beginning in the 1960's with the landing on the Moon in 1969, was to prepare for war against the Great Mother Ship and its companion wheels harnessing an entire New Civilization and an Advanced Technology that is not of this world." Her predictions were most fully communicated in her magnum opus entitled The Comer by Night in 1986, in which she asserts that Elijah Muhammad is still alive, living in a "space craft".
By the early 1990s she was arguing that it would be "the final decade" before the apocalypse, which would occur in 2001. The bombing of the World Trade Center in 2001 was presented as confirmation of her predictions, and she insisted that it was accompanied by UFO manifestations.
- Gardell, Mattias, In the name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, Duke University Press, 1996, page 125
- Unveiling the Number 19
- Lee, Paul, Welcome Home: A tribute to Thabiti Warren, Race Man, The Michigan Citizen, 2005
- referenced in a column The Final Call, awakening of Sleeping Beauty Part Three: Enter the Dragon, July 18, 2000
- Evanzz, Karl, The Messenger: The rise and fall of Elijah Muhammad, Pantheon Books, 1999, pages 222, 374, 420
- some columns are reprinted at: Nation of Islam's Women Committed to Preserving the Truth
- Jet, 8 March, 1982, p.12
- New York Magazine, 6 November 1995, p.95
- Mattias Gardell, In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam, p.126.
- Edward E. Curtis, Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975, University of North Carolina Press, 2006, p.110
- Tynnetta Deanar, "Muslim Woman is a Model Personality", Muhammad Speaks, June, 1962, p.16.
- Edward E. Curtis, Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975, University of North Carolina Press, 2006, p.55
- Edward E. Curtis, Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975, University of North Carolina Press, 2006, p.62
- Mattias Gardell, In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam, p.123.
- Finley, Stephen, "From Mistress to Mother: The Religious Life and Transformation of Tynetta Muhammad in the Nation of Islam" in Monica A. Coleman (ed) Ain't I a Womanist, Too?: Third-Wave Womanist Religious Thought, Fortress Press, 24 Apr 2013
- Mother Tynnetta Muhammad,"In Search of the Messiah - Fire in The Sky", The Final Call, Updated Mar 2, 2003
- Mattias Gardell, In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam, p.179.
- Michael Barkun, Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, University of California Press, 2003, p.217