Right smack in the middle of this economic melee appears Mr. W.D. Fard also known as “Master Fard Muhammad”. In 1930, he worked as a door to door seller of silks and African artifacts. Mr. Fard must have had tremendous faith in the viability of his products to attempt selling them to the poorest people in the most deprived neighborhoods during a major economic depression. W. D. Fard also had another agenda. As he would go from poor home to poorer home, he would also tell the people stories relating to what he called the black man’s “true” history and culture.
Mr. Fard was a member of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman community of Muslims that were popular throughout the African American communities of cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Newark at that time. Although there were “Sunni” Muslims in these cities also, many of them feared deportation or even death at the hands of the U.S. government for espousing the religion of Islam in public.
Although most traditional Muslims consider Ahmadiyya Muslims to be outside the fold of “true” Islam, it was Ahmadiyya Muslims, on the most part, who were bold enough to set up shop and teach throughout the ghettos of America back then. In any case, Mr. Fard’s goals for the African American community were obviously bigger than even his interest in Ahmadiyya ideology because, except for the English language translation of the Qur’an by the popular Ahmadiyya translator Maulana Muhammad Ali, he chose not to leave any noticeable vestiges of Ahmadiyyah thought in the teachings passed on to the man who would later become Elijah Muhammad.
Although Elijah’s father, William Poole, was a popular Baptist preacher, Elijah had serious problems with the way Christianity was being presented and accepted in the black community. There were so many unanswered questions in Elijah’s mind, when it came to Christianity’s explanations of events in history among other things. Although he was a very poor reader, Elijah struggled through the pages of the Bible for himself (with help from his older sister, Annie) and was at odds with many of the interpretations that were given of people and concepts in his Holy Book. Oft-times he would verbally disagree with and challenge his father’s Biblical analysis, but never in a disrespectful or insulting way.
Clara Poole was the first to hear the enigmatic teachings of Mr. Fard when she was invited by a girlfriend of hers to hear him at a local residence. Clara enthusiastically brought the message back to her husband. The things that she shared with Elijah from Mr. Fard’s presentation actually gelled with some of the conclusions Elijah had drawn from his study of the Bible. He immediately decided to attend the very next meeting. After attending, Elijah became a devout student of Mr. Fard’s and was under his direct tutelage for the next 3 ½ years. Mr. Fard changed Elijah’s surname to “Kareem” and Elijah himself changed it finally to “Mohammed” (later to be spelt “Muhammad”). The rest would become history.
Mr. Fard taught from information that he had compiled into a series of booklets called “English Lessons”. However, he told Elijah Muhammad and his wife Clara Muhammad, that they were to produce children who would be taught from the Muslim Holy Book called the Qur’an and that those children would be taught that Book in its original language of Arabic (Arabiyya). He asked specifically that they name the child whom Clara was pregnant with at the time (in 1933), after his first name and initial which was “Wallace D.” This child grew to be our leader, Imam Wallace (Warith) D. Mohammed. He was the first child born in his family with the name “Mohammed” on his birth certificate. Only Elijah and Clara’s next and youngest child, Akbar, shares that same distinction.