Wallace Fard Muhammad
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2011)|
|Wallace Fard Muhammad|
|Nation of Islam portrait|
|Leader of the Nation of Islam|
|Succeeded by||Elijah Muhammad|
|Born||26 February 1893[a]|
|Religion||Nation of Islam|
|^ a. Birth date from public records. The Nation of Islam celebrates 26 February 1877.|
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Wallace Fard Muhammad (26 February 1893 - ?) was the founder of the Nation of Islam. He arrived in Detroit in 1930 with an obscure background and several aliases, where he taught a distinctive form of Islam among the city's African-American population. He disappeared in 1934 after several disputes with local authorities.
Wallace D. Fard
Historians have used public records to identify Fard as Wallace Dodd Ford, a former restaurateur and Moorish Science Temple leader.
In 2001, Nation of Islam chronicler Karl Evanzz stated that Fard was the son of Zared Fard, a New Zealander of East Indian extraction, and his wife Beatrice, part of New Zealand's British population. However, recent research has indicated that the Department for Internal Affairs in New Zealand has no record of Fard's birth or the birth or death of these alleged parents.
Dodd/Fard left his family in 1916 and moved to Los Angeles using the name Wallie Dodd Fard. A World War I draft registration card for Wallace Dodd Ford, from 1917, indicated he was living in Los Angeles, California, unmarried, as a restaurant owner, and reported that he was born in Shinka, Afghanistan on February 26, 1893. He was described as being of medium height and build with brown eyes and black hair.
As of 1920, he was still living in Los Angeles, as 26 year-old Wallie D. Ford, with his 25 year-old wife, Hazel. In the 1920 United States Census he reported his race as white, his occupation as a proprietor of a restaurant, and gave his place of birth as New Zealand. He provided no known place of birth for his parents, nor his date of immigration. On June 5, 1924, one Wallie Dodd Ford was wed to Carmen Frevino (or Trevino) in Orange County, California. Ford reported he was a cook, age 26, born in Oregon, but living in Los Angeles. He reported he was of "Spanish" race. His parents names are given as Zaradodd Ford of "Madrad, Span" (presumably Madrid, Spain) and Babbjie. In 1926, Ford was arrested and imprisoned for bootlegging alcohol to an undercover police officer, serving three years in San Quentin State Prison. After he was released in 1929, he disappeared from the public record until "Wallace Fard" was arrested in 1932. He was identified as Wallace Dodd Ford on the basis of photographs and matching fingerprints.
Involvement with the Moorish Science Temple
According to several authors, in spring 1929, after his release from prison, Ford joined the Moorish Science Temple of America where he was renamed David Ford-el. Temple founder Noble Drew Ali needed someone capable of overseeing his organization while he was awaiting a trial on suspicion of accessory to the murder of his rival Sheik Claude Green and Ford-el was put in charge of the Chicago Temple's finances.
On July 20, 1929, less than a month after he named Ford-el to manage the Chicago temple finances, Drew Ali was found dead in his home. Ford-el claimed Drew Ali had left him in charge and declared himself the founder's reincarnation. Arguments erupted over the issue of a successor. Those who had been loyal to Green argued that Ford-el had not been with the Temple long enough to succeed Drew Ali, and insisted that Charles Kirkman Bey, one of Green’s closest allies, had the authority to assume the mantle of leadership. Another faction, headed by Ira Johnson Bey, claimed that Kirkman Bey was unfit. On September 25, 1929 four of Johnson Bey’s lieutenants went to Kirkman Bey’s home and kidnapped him. Police were summoned, resulting in a shootout leaving one Moor and one policeman dead. A second policeman died later of his wounds.
One month after the shootout, the stock market crashed. Ford-el allegedly claimed that the crash proved he was the reincarnation of Noble Drew Ali. Some of Drew Ali’s followers swore allegiance to him. However, Ford-el was not in a strong enough position to assume control of the Moorish Science Temple and, perhaps fearing for his life, left Chicago for Detroit.
Nation of Islam position on Ford/Fard Muhammad identification
The Nation of Islam rejects this identification of Wallace Dodd Ford as Wallace Fard Muhammad, interpreting it as part of a smear campaign. They also say that he was born in 1877 (which would put him in his 50s when photographed), and that he came from Mecca. Elijah Muhammad, Fard Muhammad's student and successor as Nation of Islam leader, wrote in his 1965 book Message to the Blackman in America:
Allah came to us from the Holy City Mecca, Arabia, in 1930. He used the name Wallace D. Fard, often signing it W. D. Fard, in the third year (1933). He signed his name W. F. Muhammad which stands for Wallace Fard Muhammad. He came alone. He began teaching us the knowledge of ourselves, of God and the devil, of the measurement of the earth, of other planets, and of the civilizations of some of the planets other than earth.
Elijah Muhammad also challenged the Hearst press, which had publicized the story, and offered US$100,000 to anyone who could prove W. F. Muhammad was an alias of Wallace Dodd Ford. Soon enough, Ford's former alleged common-law wife, Hazel Ford, stepped forward with what she claimed was proof that W. F. Muhammad (alias Wallace D. Fard) and Wallace D. Ford were indeed the same person. She also claimed to have a child fathered by Ford. These accusations were not considered credible enough, so the money was never placed in escrow and Ford was never paid the money.
While the question of W. F. Muhammad's identity is controversial, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan does accept that Fard was imprisoned, but only after the events of 1932. He insists that this was because W.F. Muhammad's preaching threatened the racial status quo, and not because of any criminal acts.
The Nation of Islam has also denied that its founder, Fard was involved with the Moorish Science Temple, insisting that he was never a member and that Ford-el and the Nation of Islam's Fard were two different people.
Founding of the Nation of Islam
In July 1930, Fard arrived in Detroit, where he sold coats, fine silks and trinkets under the names Wali Fard, Wallace D. Fard and Wallace D. Fard Muhammad. He made friends in the local black community, telling them that the silks he sold were similar to the fabrics worn in their ancestral homeland. When his customers inquired about his experiences in his homeland, he responded with stories that combined theosophy, traditional Islam, and ideas similar to Moorish Science. After he developed a following, he declared that he had come from Mecca and that he would soon appear in his "royal robes." He organized his movement as the Allah Temple of Islam, establishing the University of Islam, which was not a university but a "school" that taught black students from grades one through twelve. He also established a group of male security guards called the Fruit of Islam.
However, Fard's activities were brought to wider public notice after a major scandal erupted involving an apparent ritual murder in November 1932, allegedly committed by one of Fard's early followers, Robert Karriem, who later said he had committed the murder "to bring himself closer to Allah." Karriem had quoted from Fard's booklet titled Secret Rituals of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam: "The unbeliever must be stabbed through the heart." This quotation, as well as the statement that "every son of Islam must gain a victory from the devil. Four victories and the son will attain his reward," convinced the Detroit police to seek out Fard in connection with the murder. 
Although not charged with any crime, Fard was asked to leave town in early 1933 and not to return. Fard left, but returned secretly to Detroit the next year. Fard was arrested and again asked to leave.
One of Fard's first followers had been Elijah Poole, who later changed his name to Elijah Muhammad. Elijah began preaching that Wallace Fard Muhammad was the Mahdi and that it was God directly intervening in the world through Fard. He taught his followers that Allah appeared in the person of Master Fard Muhammad. He taught, as his followers believe today, that The True and Living God operated in Fard's person. Shortly before he departed Detroit for the last time, Fard had conferred leadership of the Nation of Islam on Elijah Muhammad.
In June 1934, Fard left Detroit for Chicago and disappeared without a trace. When nothing further was heard from him, some rumored that he had been killed by police. Others asserted that he had returned to Mecca to prepare for his eventual return. The later official view of the Nation of Islam was that he was in Mecca. Today, the Nation of Islam teaches that he boarded the Mother Plane and is still alive.
There is some evidence that Fard lived at least until the 1960s; his alleged lover stated that he had returned to New Zealand. The FBI maintained an open file on Fard Muhammad up until as late as 1960, according to documents published through the Freedom of Information Act.
In 1981, Pakistani scholar Zafar Ishaq Ansari researched Fard's life and claimed that Fard was identical with Muhammad Abdullah, a Pakistani Ahmadiyya Muslim. He was an adviser of Elijah Muhammad since the late 1950s and was the tutor of his son and successor Warith Deen Mohammed. After Elijah's death, Warith Deen appointed Abdullah imam of Mosque #77 in Oakland, California. The 26 November 1976 issue of the Nation of Islam journal Bilalian News reports Muhammad Abdullah's first khutbah at the mosque and shows a photo. Abdullah himself denied that he was Fard, saying, "It is all right to say I am Fard Muhammad for Wallace [Warith] D. Muhammad. I taught him some lessons. But I am not the same person who taught Elijah Muhammad and I am not God."
In popular culture
A reinterpretation of the historical mantle exists in Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel Middlesex, which won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In the story, Fard's real name is Jimmy Zizmo, and he is a small time bootlegger of rumored Greek-Turkish-Pontian descent who fakes his death upon suspecting that his wife is having an affair and that he is not the father to their daughter. Having convinced everyone that he is dead, he assumes the Fard identity, apparently out of a desire to reaffirm his Turkish roots. Just as in real life, the Fard-Zizmo character disappears after the ritual murder scandal.
- Evanzz, Karl (2001) The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad, Random House/Vintage, ISBN 978-0-679-77406-8, p. 399.
- Gibson, Dawn-Marie (2012) A History of the Nation of Islam: Race, Islam, and the Quest for Freedom, Praeger, ISBN 978-0-313-39807-0, p. 24-25.
- Ancestry.com database, Registration Location: Los Angeles County, California; Roll: 1530899; Draft Board: 17
- 1920 Federal U.S. Census, Los Angeles City, Enumeration District 206, Sheet 10B
- California State Board of Health, County of Orange, Certificate of Marriage, Local Registered No. 1768, as located in "California, County Marriages, 1850-1952," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K8FM-5FP : accessed 05 Jan 2013), Wallie Dodd Ford and Carmen Frevino, 1924.
- E. U. Essien-Udom, Black Nationalism: The Search for an Identity, University of Chicago Press, 1995, p.35.
- Note that Turner (p. 92) states that in 1914 "Abdul Wali Farad Muhammad Ali" unsuccessfully challenged Drew Ali's leadership of the Newark Moorish Science Temple.
- "Green" is often spelled "Greene" and sometimes "Green-Bey".
- Peele, Thomas (2012) Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist, Crown, ISBN 978-0-307-71755-9, p. 55.
- The Nation of Islam's account of Wallace Fard Muhammad's biography can be found on the Final Call website. See Muhammad, Wesley (January 4, 2010). "Master W. Fard Muhammad and FBI COINTELPRO". The Final Call.
- Brown, Nikki L. (2008). The Jim Crow Encyclopedia: Greenwood Milestones in African American History. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 566.
- Richard Brent Turner, Islam in the African-American Experience, Indiana University Press, 2003, p.167.
- Turner, R.B, Islam in the African-American Experience, Indiana University Press, 2003, p.165