Wallace Dodd Fard, also known as Wallace Fard Muhammad or Master Fard Muhammad[3] (/fəˈrɑːd/; reportedly born February 26, c. 1877[6] – disappeared c. 1934), was the founder of the Nation of Islam. He arrived in Detroit in 1930 with an obscure background and several aliases, and taught an idiosyncratic form of Islam to members of the city’s black population. In 1934, he disappeared from public record, and Elijah Muhammad succeeded him as leader of the Nation of Islam.


Wallace Fard Muhammad
Official portrait from the Nation of Islam
Leader of the Nation of Islam
In office
Succeeded byElijah Muhammad
Personal details
BornUncertain, tradition claims February 26, c. 1877[a][1][2]
OccupationReligious and political activist
^ a. Birth dates attributed to Fard include 1877, 1891, and 1893; the Nation of Islam celebrates February 26, 1877.

Wallace Fard Muhammad, also known as W. F. Muhammad, Wallace D. Fard or Master Fard Muhammad[3] (/fəˈrɑːd/;[citation needed] reportedly born February 26, c. 1877[4][a] – disappeared c. 1934), was the founder of the Nation of Islam. He arrived in Detroit in 1930 with an ambiguous background and several aliases, and proselytized idiosyncratic Islamic teachings to the city's black population. In 1934, he disappeared from public record, and Elijah Muhammad succeeded him as leader of the Nation of Islam.[7]

Fard in Detroit (1930–34)

Fard first appeared in Detroit in 1930; his followers cite July 4, 1930, as the date of his arrival. Acting as a door-to-door salesman, Fard spread his religious teachings throughout Detroit, and within three years grew the movement to a reported 25,000 members in Detroit, Chicago, and other cities.

Clothing peddler

Fard began by selling Oriental silks door-to-door in Detroit's black section. Fard visited the homes of black families who had recently migrated to Detroit from the rural South.[8] Fard told black residents that his silks were the same kind that their ancestors in Mecca used and claimed to be a traveler from that land. When offered food, Fard reportedly ate what was provided but would advise residents to avoid certain foods, promising health benefits would follow. At his suggestion, he came back to teach the residents, along with guests.[9]

Bible study leader at house churches

In the early stage of his ministry, Fard used the Bible as his textbook, since it was the only religious book with which the majority of his audience were familiar. Bowen similarly argues that in the early Nation of Islam, "ministers regularly referenced passages from the Bible to prove their claims".[10] Fard's successor Elijah Muhammad would later claim Fard "knew the Bible better than any of the Christian-bred Negroes". Lomax wrote that Fard was "well-versed" in the Bible, used it as a textbook and taught in the style of a Southern Baptist preacher.[11]

Beynon writes that "With growing prestige over a constantly increasing group, [Fard] became bolder in his denunciation of white people and began to attack the teachings of the Bible in such a way as to shock his hearers and bring them to an emotional crisis."[9]

Fard taught a form of black exceptionalism and self-pride to poor Southern blacks during the Great Northward Migration at a time when old ideas of scientific racism were prevalent. He advocated that community members establish and own their own businesses,[12] eat healthy, raise families, and refrain from drugs and alcohol.[13] In 1938, sociologist Erdmann Doane Beynon published in the American Journal of Sociology a firsthand account of several interviews he conducted with followers of Fard in Michigan.[14] From those interviews, Beynon wrote that Fard lived and taught in Detroit from 1930 to 1934.[15]

Giver of new names

Fard taught his followers to reject surnames inherited from white slaveowners. As part of their initiation into the group, Fard bestowed new Muslim names upon his converts. He taught that this practice restored their original and true identities, while also revealing the lies that cloaked the origins of the so-called Asiatic Blackman.[16] Such names included Muhammad, Ali, Karriem,[17] and Fardan.[18] Scholars note that new names had previously been given by Noble Drew Ali of the Moorish Science Temple of America, who assigned surnames El and Bey; the term "slave name" was used by the MSTA.[19]

After Fard's death, Elijah Muhammad continued this practice within the Nation of Islam and added the letter X, symbolizing the unknown, instead of a name.[20]

Both during and after his life, some charged that Fard was a conman who used mystery and charisma to swindle poor blacks, selling them new Muslim names and stirring up racial animosity[21] by copying selected elements of other Muslim religious sects and ideologies that fit his racial supremacist narrative.[22]

Leader of the Allah Temple of Islam

Beynon's interviewees told him that reports of Fard's message spread throughout the black community. Attendance at the house meetings grew until the listeners were divided into groups and taught in shifts. Finally, the community contributed money and rented a hall to serve as a temple where meetings were conducted.[15] The Quran was soon introduced as the most authoritative of all texts for the study of the faith.[23] Fard prepared texts that served as authoritative manuals of the faith and were memorized verbatim by his followers.[23]

According to Beynon, Fard's followers grew to approximately eight thousand,[24] and "[w]ithin three years the prophet not only began the movement but organized it so well that he himself was able to recede into the background, appearing almost never to his followers during the final months of his residence in Detroit."[25]

During this time, Clara Poole, later renamed Clara Muhammad, was introduced to W.D. Fard and his teachings through her in-laws.[26] His teachings gave Poole hope and presented her life with new possibilities and new memories.[clarification needed][26] After one of Fard's services, during which he asked if someone knew Elijah Poole, Clara, introduced him and his teachings to her husband, Elijah Poole, who later became Elijah Muhammad.[26] His guidance and teachings eventually changed and reformed Elijah Poole into a responsible and ideal husband, who would later become the face and leader of the Nation Of Islam.[26]

From interviews with approximately two hundred families who followed Fard, Beynon concluded:

Although the prophet lived in Detroit from July 4, 1930 until June 30, 1934, virtually nothing is known about him, save that he 'came from the East' and that he 'called' the Negroes of North America to enter the Nation of Islam. His very name is uncertain. He was known usually as Mr. Wali Farrad or Mr. W. D. Fard, though he used also the following names: Professor Ford, Mr. Farrad Mohammed, Mr. F. Mohammed Ali. One of the few survivors who heard his first addresses states that he himself said: 'My name is W. D. Fard and I came from the Holy City of Mecca. More about myself I will not tell you yet, for the time has not yet come. I am your brother. You have not yet seen me in my royal robes.' Legends soon sprang up about this mysterious personality.

In 1933, he began signing his name "W. F. Muhammad", which stood for Wallace Fard Muhammad, and used it on several lessons written in 1933 and 1934.[27][28]


Beynon described the substance of Fard's teaching as follows:

The black men in North America are not Negroes, but members of the lost tribe of Shabazz, stolen by traders from the Holy City of Mecca 379 years ago. The prophet came to America to find and to bring back to life his long lost brethren, from whom the Caucasians had taken away their language, their nation and their religion. Here in America they were living other than themselves. They must learn that they are the original people, noblest of the nations of the earth. The Caucasians are the colored people, since they have lost their original color. The original people must regain their religion, which is Islam, their language, which is Arabic, and their culture, which is astronomy and higher mathematics, especially calculus. They must live according to the law of Allah, avoiding all meat of 'poison animals', hogs, ducks, geese, possums and catfish. They must give up completely the use of stimulants, especially liquor. They must clean themselves up – both their bodies and their houses. If in this way they obeyed Allah, he would take them back to the Paradise from which they had been stolen – the Holy City of Mecca.[29]

Fard's lessons themselves state that the "traders" referenced by Beynon came to Africa, not Mecca.[30]

Modern Nation of Islam theology is based upon the belief that Fard's teaching of Elijah Muhammad was fulfillment of scripture regarding God's teaching of an Apostle, where Fard is described as "God in Person", the "Messiah", and the "Mahdi".[31][32] Fard wrote the following for his followers:

[T]he LESSONS that OUR SAVIOUR (ALLAH) gave us to Study and Learn is the Fulfillment of the Prophecies of All the Former Prophets concerning the Beginning of the Devils, and the Ending of the Civilization, and of our Enslavement by the Devils, and Present Time of our Delivery from the Devils by OUR SAVIOUR (ALLAH). PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME! There is No God but ALLAH. How that ALLAH would separate us from the Devils and, then destroy them; and Change us into a New and Perfect People; and Fill the Earth with FREEDOM, JUSTICE and EQUALITY as it was filled with wickedness; and Making we, the Poor Lost-Founds, the Perfect RULERS.[27]

In Elijah Muhammad's 1965 book Message to the Blackman in America, which is a compilation of articles written for newspapers throughout the early part of his ministry, Muhammad summarized what Fard taught him as follows:

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 civilization of some of the planets other than earth. ... He measured and weighed the earth and its water; the history of the moon; the history of the two nations, black and white, that dominate the earth. He gave the exact birth of the white race; the name of their God who made them and how; and the end of their time, the judgment, how it will begin and end. ... He taught us the truth of how we were made 'slaves' and how we are kept in slavery by the 'slave-masters' children. He declared the doom of America, for her evils to us was past due. And that she is number one to be destroyed. Her judgment could not take place until we hear the truth. ... He declared that we were without the knowledge of self or anyone else. How we had been made blind, deaf and dumb by this white race of people and how we must return to our people, our God and His religion of peace (Islam), the religion of the prophets. We must give up the slave names of our slave-masters and accept the name of Allah (God) or one of His divine attributes. He also taught us to give up all evil doings and practices and do righteousness or be destroyed from the face of the earth. He taught us that the slave-masters had taught us to eat the wrong food and that this is the cause of our sickness and short span of life. He declared that he would heal us and set us in heaven at once, if we would submit to Him. Otherwise he would chastise us with a severe chastisement until we did submit. And that He was able to force the whole world into submission to his will. He said that he loved us (the so-called Negroes), his lost and found, so well that he would eat rattlesnakes to free us if necessary, for he has power over all things.[28]

Part of Fard's teaching also involved admiration for Japan.[33] Fard was known to teach from what outsiders described as "The Bible of Islam"; In 2023, the book was identified as Deliverance! by Charles Taze Russell, of the Watch Tower Society or Jehovah's Witnesses.[34]

"Voodoo Murder" drives Fard from Detroit (1932)

Fard, left, showing a book to police detectives. The photo was published by the Detroit Free Press on November 24, 1932, four days after the Harris murder.[35]

On November 20, 1932, Robert Harris (who had received the name Robert Karriem from Fard) escorted James J. Smith into a room with a makeshift altar. In the audience were twelve adult witnesses and Harris's wife and children. Smith, who believed he was being inducted into the Allah Temple of Islam, was asked if he would sacrifice his life for Islam, and Smith nodded his assent. Harris then stabbed Smith in the chest, and proceeded to bludgeon him to death with an axle rod.[36][37][b]

After neighbors called the police, Harris was arrested. Under questioning, he confessed to the murder: "I had to kill somebody, I could not forsake my gods". Police initiated a manhunt for Fard and another leader, Ugan Ali, who were arrested and questioned. Harris was deemed insane and committed to a mental hospital. "The society cannot be blamed for anything he did," Ali was quoted as saying in the Detroit News.[38] Fard and Ugan Ali, who acknowledged leadership of the Allah Temple of Islam but vehemently denied any teaching of human sacrifice, were examined by psychiatrist David Clark, who recommended they be committed for further observation. A judge agreed, and both Fard and Ugan Ali were placed in straitjackets and confined in padded cells.[39]

With Fard and Ugan Ali still in custody five days after the murder, Elijah Muhammad, at the time known as Elijah Karriem, led over two hundred members into the court building and staged a protest on the main floor. The police spent a full day expelling the protesters.[39]

Fard Muhammad (center) showing a book to police detectives (left) while Fard's chief aide Ugan Ali (right) sits nearby.

On November 25, Harris was arraigned on charges of first-degree murder; he pleaded guilty, but his bizarre courtroom behavior convinced witnesses of his insanity. On December 6, three psychiatrists testified that Harris was legally insane, and he was committed to the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminal Insane; he died there on June 19, 1935. Faced with criminal charges, Ugan Ali was released after promising to help disband the Allah Temple of Islam, while Fard agreed to forever leave Detroit as a condition of release.[39][40]

On December 7, 1932, police put Fard on a train bound for Chicago. The Allah Temple of Islam was officially disbanded, though soon replaced by a new organization called the Nation of Islam. Former leader Ugan Ali was replaced by Elijah Muhammad.[39]

Fard in exile and the Nation of Islam (1932–34)

In January 1933, Fard snuck back into Detroit and held secret meetings with followers. Fard left Detroit for a few weeks but returned to Detroit and resumed preaching on street corners. Recognized by police, he was arrested on May 25, booked, and photographed. He was again released and ordered to depart the city.[41]

W. D. Fard mugshot on May 25, 1933, after he was arrested for returning to Detroit.

Fard renamed his community the "Nation of Islam".[24] Following the rapid increase in membership, he instituted a formal organizational structure. He established the Moslem Girls' Training and General Civilization Class, where women were taught how to keep their houses, clean, and cook. The men of the organization were drilled by captains and referred to as the Fruit of Islam. The entire movement was placed under a Minister of Islam.[25]

On September 25, Fard was arrested in Chicago by local police while addressing an audience in a rented hall. The following morning, the Chicago judge[who?] dismissed charges of disturbing the peace and released Fard.[citation needed] Fard made a third surreptitious visit to Detroit, this time preaching that the white man would soon be destroyed by poison bombs.[42]

Fard established the University of Islam, where school-aged children were taught, as an alternative to Detroit public schools.[25][43] By January 1934, local truant officers had noticed the pattern of dropouts and alerted authorities. On March 27, the Detroit Free Press proclaimed that the "voodoo cult" had been revived, and the city initiated legal action against the school.[44] The school was raided by police, and Elijah Muhammad was arrested.

Press reported that at trial, fifteen-year-old Sally Ali, who had attended the University of Islam, testified that she had been taught "in the Islamic New Deal that if she cut off the heads of four devils—devils being unrighteous people—she would win a free trip to Mecca and a button of some sort." She further testified that she had been taught that Caucasians would be destroyed in the year 1934 by poison gas and fighting.[45] Elijah Muhammad was found guilty for his role in establishing an unlicensed school, but he was released on probation. Amid rumors that police wanted both Fard and his chief aide dead, Elijah Muhammad fled for Chicago, and Fard was never again seen by most residents of Detroit.[43]

On November 24, 1932, the Escanaba Daily Press reported that "Wallace Fard, said by police to be a leader of the Order of Islam religious cult, is awaiting an immigration hearing. Officials say he came to the United States from Asia." Fard was later released, but he may have been forced to accept voluntary deportation.[citation needed] After Fard's departure, he initially maintained communication with Elijah Muhammad, sending him a letter from the Mexican border.[46]


Fard influenced his successor Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and many other Black nationalist thinkers. The annual Saviours' Day event is held in honor of Fard's birth.[47] In 2020, it attracted an estimated 14,000 participants.[48]

Continued deification under Elijah Muhammad

Elijah Muhammad in 1964.

With regard to Elijah Muhammad, Beynon's article stated: "From among the larger group of Muslims there has sprung recently an even more militant branch than the Nation of Islam itself. This new movement, known as the Temple People. To Mr. Fard alone do they offer prayer and sacrifice. Since Mr. Fard has been deified, the Temple People raise the former Minister of Islam, now a resident of Chicago."[49] This reference is in conflict with the first hand accounts of Malcolm X, such as his appearance in 1963 on the news program City Desk. Malcom X states that Elijah Mohammed was neither Allah nor a Prophet, but rather that he was a Messenger. Elijah Muhammad, who led the Nation of Islam from 1934 to 1975, heard Fard teach for the first time in 1931.[50] Elijah Muhammad stated that he and Fard became inseparable between 1931 and 1934, where he felt "jailed almost" due to the amount of time that they spent together with Fard teaching him day and night.[50]

A handwritten lesson written by Fard states:

Twelve Leaders of Islam from all over the Planet have conferred in the Root of Civilization concerning the Lost-Found Nation of Islam – must return to their original Land. One of the Conference Members by the name of Mr. Osman Sharrieff said to the Eleven Members of the Conference: 'The Lost-Found Nation of Islam will not return to their original Land unless they, first, have a thorough Knowledge of their own.' So they sent a Messenger to them of their own. Now, the Messenger and his Laborers worked day and night for the last three and one-half years, and their accomplishments are approximately twenty-five thousand...[27]

In this lesson, Fard places the number of converts obtained in Detroit at 25,000, and he describes a "Messenger" sent to the "Lost-Found Nation of Islam" who is "of their own".[27] Nation of Islam theology states that this "Messenger" is Elijah Muhammad.[51] Fard wrote, in his instructions to the leaders of his community, that they should "copy the Answers of Lesson of Minister Elijah Muhammad."[27] He went on to state: "Why is Stress made to the Muslims to Copy, the Minister, Elijah Muhammad's Answers? The past History shows that the ALMIGHTY ALLAH sends Prophets and Apostles for the people's Guide and Example, and through them HIS Mystery was Revealed. And those who follow the Apostle would see the Light."[27]

Fard wrote several lessons which are read and committed to memory by members of the Nation of Islam.[27][c] Some of the lessons are in the form of questions asked by Fard to Elijah Muhammad.[27] One such lesson concludes with the text: "This Lesson No. 2 was given by our Prophet, W.D. Fard, which contains 40 questions answered by Elijah Muhammad, one of the lost found in the wilderness of North America February 20th, 1934."[27]

While some scholars argue that Fard's divinity was a creation of Elijah Muhammad, Morrow points out that Fard did identify himself as God to Detroit police and that the psychiatrists who examined Fard after his arrest reported that Fard had delusions of Godhood. Morrow argues that under Elijah Muhammad, the doctrine of whites as devils was emphasized, while Fard had taught that "devils" were unbelievers of all races.[46]

Demotion by Warith Deen Mohammed

Upon Elijah Muhammad's death in February 1975, his son Wallace (later Warith) was named successor and instituted sweeping reforms. Where his father has regarded Fard as a physical manifestation of Allah, Wallace denounced Fard as a human who "had his own designs on the black community".[52] The group discontinued the annual Savior's Day celebration in honor of Fard.[citation needed]

Wallace brought the group closer to mainstream Sunni Islam, restyling their 'temples' as mosques while 'ministers' became known as imams. Wallace rejected black nationalism in favor of Islamic anti-racism and disbanded the militaristic "Fruit of Islam" group.[52]

In a 2000s interview alongside Louis Farrakhan, Warith Deen Muhammad described breaking with his father Elijah Muhammad over the issue of Fard's divinity:

I differed with my father, and I didn't want to differ with him. In fact I never differed with him directly, he was told that someone heard me saying something different. So he called me to question me about it.

And I told him that I could more readily believe he was God, than I could believe that his teacher was God. Because his teacher was a white man and he said white people were devils.

My mother, when I was leaving the home one day, after my father had insisted that I accept God the way he presented God, or I was gonna be cut off from all communication, he told me he knew it would hurt me to know that I wouldn't be able to see my mother. He said - "you won't be able to talk to your mother or see her". So... I didn't change, and as I was leaving my mother was hurt, and it hurt me to see her hurting like that.

She said, she walked me to the door, which she didn't do, that wasn't normal for her. And she stood on the porch at the door and she said - 'Wallace, why don't you go back there and accept it? Just say you believe.'

I said - 'Mama, tell me what Mr. Fard told you all. Did he tell you he was God?'

And she looked like her face went blank, and looked like she didn't know what to say, and in a few seconds she said - 'No, he did not. In fact he told us to not even call him Prophet, said that was too big a title for him.'

Then I said to my mother - 'How can you ask your son now, to accept a man as God, who said Prophet was too big a title for him?'.[53]

Restoration under Louis Farrakhan

Louis Farrakhan in 2018

In 1978, Farrakhan and a small number of supporters decided to rebuild what they considered the original Nation of Islam upon the foundations established by Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad.

In 1979, Farrakhan's group founded a weekly newspaper entitled The Final Call, which was intended to be similar to the original Muhammad Speaks newspaper that Malcolm X claimed to have started,[54] Farrakhan had a weekly column in The Final Call. In 1981, Farrakhan and his supporters held their first Saviours' Day convention in Chicago, Illinois, and took back the name of the Nation of Islam. The event was similar to the earlier Nation's celebrations, last held in Chicago on February 26, 1975. At the convention's keynote address, Farrakhan announced his attempt to restore the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad's teachings.[55]

In a 2000s interview featuring both Louis Farrakhan and Warith Deen Muhammad, Farrakhan argued that "Master Fard Muhammad taught us to accept our own and to be ourselves. We know that he, a man born February 26, 1877, is not the originator of the Heavens and Earth... Fard Muhammad developed a methodology, strange as it seems, unorthodox as it seems, even poisonous as it may seem, yet it was a prescription that started bringing balance to the system, and that we would evolve from a Nationalist Black-thinking people into the universal message of Islam."[53][additional citation(s) needed]

In 2007, the Nation of Islam had an estimated membership of 20,000–50,000.[56][better source needed]

Fard appears in the novel Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides, in which Fard's Detroit Temple No. 1 is the setting for several scenes.[citation needed]

Fard and his teachings are also referenced in many hip-hop songs. Artists who have made references within their music include Jay-Z and Jay Electronica in the song "We Made It",[57][58] Brand Nubian in the song "Wake Up",[59] and Ras Kass in the song "Riiiot!"[60]

Efforts to trace Fard's origin and fate

Efforts to trace the origins and life story of Fard have been extensive but have yielded only fragmentary results, and not even his date of death is known; further complicating any efforts is the fact that only a handful of pictures of Fard are known to exist, including four mugshots taken after various arrests and one being the official portrait by the Nation of Islam.[61] Additionally, Fard is alleged to have used up to 58 different aliases during his life.[7][62]

In the 1960s, authors Arna Bontemps and Jack Conroy speculated that Fard may have been an African-American from the U.S. South.[63][d] Karl Evanzz of The Washington Post submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI in 1978 requesting its file on Fard.[64] Evanzz based his account of Fard's life on the declassified portion of the FBI file that he received about a decade after his request. Evanzz detailed the experience of several other authors who also based their accounts of Fard's life on the FBI file.[65]

Multiple scholars have suggested that Master Fard's teaching of the Tribe of Shabazz may have been tied to the Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Pakistan.[66][67]

Arian has asserted that W.D. Fard was the person known as Alam Khan. Morrow argues "we know, for a fact, that the man known as Alam Khan and Khanialam Khan used the name Fred Dadd as early as 1904".[68][page needed][additional citation(s) needed]

A 1904 manifest stated that Johnges Khan, Rahim Ullah, Drabas Khan, Hamif Ulla, Khanialam Khan and Sher Khan, from British India, were traveling aboard the SS Tremont to join their brother in Tacoma. A 1904 manifest listed Johnges and Sher Khan as rejoining their mother Sar Bulano of 717 Riverside Ave in Spokane, corroborated by Sher Khan's record of landing. In 1907, a directory listed Jongie, Kaliaham, and Zendad Khan as tamale manufacturers who were living together at 36 McBroom Ave in Spokane. In 1910, Sher Khan was listed in the census as a Persian residing in Portland. Jangger Khan died on August 6, 1910, in Butte, Montana, where he had been a tamale vendor. In 1911, Sher Khan of Portland applied for citizenship, reporting a birthplace in Balochistan.[69] On February 23, 1917, press reported a court had denied Sher Khan's application for citizenship on the ground that his stated birthplace, Balochistan, was "not of the white race".[69] Sher Khan's World War draft registration listed him as residing in Eugene, Oregon, working as a tamale maker. He listed his nearest relative as Fardes Khan of Balochistan, Afghanistan. In 1921, the marriage certificate of Joe Mobine Khan lists his birthplace as Afghanistan, his father as Madie Khan and his mother as Mary Gee.[70][additional citation(s) needed]

In 1930, Sher Khan was listed in the census, identified as Persian, and reported the ability to speak Arabic. In World War II, Sher Khan listed his place of birth as Karamel, Balochistan. He died on December 22, 1966.[70][additional citation(s) needed]

Fred Walldad, Eugene tamale vendor

An immigration record dated May 26, 1909 for Wali Fred Dad, restaurateur operating in Eugene, Oregon.

On March 23, 1908, papers announced that Turkish tamale vendor Fred Walldad had received a small house on wheels.[71] On September 8, 1908, Eugene newspapers announced a new lunchcart that would be opening adjacent to the cart owned by Fred the Turk.[72] Four days later, press reported that Fred had been ordered to move his hot-tamale cart to a new location.[73][74] By September 15, it was reported that Fred the Turk had to abandon his cart due to the order and was now operating out of the back of a cigar store.[75] On September 18, "Fred the Greek", tamale vendor, was reported to have paid a license fee, and it was announced that his stand would resume operation at a new location.[76]

In October, newspapers announced that Fred the Turk was traveling to Portland for a visit.[77] On November 3, newspapers reported on a "Halloween prank" in which local boys took the wheels off Fred the Turk's tamale wagon and dropped it, breaking Fred's dishes and eggs, as well as injuring Fred himself; the wheel was stolen.[78] On December 7, newspapers reported on Fred's petition to have his cart operating during the day as well as at night.[79]

On February 3, 1909, newspapers reported that Fred the Turk had sold his lunchwagon and gone to Cottage Grove, Oregon, where he had leased a restaurant and lodging house.[80]

On May 26, 1909, Wali Fred Dad, restaurateur of Eugene, applied for citizenship in the United States; he reported being a white man born in Hong Kong, China on February 14, 1882, who arrived in San Francisco in January 1904. In the document, he renounced allegiance to King Alphonso XII of Spain. The next day, Eugene newspapers reported that Fred Mali Dad, a Spaniard, had filed citizenship papers.[81]

Fred Dodd/Dadd, Salem tamale vendor

From the FBI's response to the Freedom of Information Act request, Evanzz claimed that Fard was Fred Dodd, an Oregonian tamale vendor. A 1905 directory lists Fred Dadd as tamale vendor in Salem, as does the 1911 directory.[82][83][84]

On July 28, 1912, newspapers reported that a house occupied by lunchwagon operator Fred Dadd had caught fire.[85]

On August 9, 1912, the Salem, Oregon newspapers reported on Fred Dadd, local tamale vendor and naturalized American originally from New Zealand, attending his first baseball game.[86] On April 8, 1913, the Salem, Oregon city council reported unfavorably on Dodd's request to sell fruit without acquiring an additional license.[87] On April 29, Dodd penned an announcement in the newspaper, complaining about police harassment for fruit sales.[88] In June, it was reported that Dodd's complaint of police harassment would be investigated by the police committee.[89] After the committee reported and the report was adopted, the mayor instructed the chief of police to allow Dodd to sell his wares.[90]

In September 1913, Dodd filed a criminal complaint alleging that Frank Day had embezzled funds from him; Day was fined $25 and given a suspended sentence.[91]

On March 5, 1914, Dodd was arrested for allegedly inducing Laura E. Swanson to leave her spouse for him; he was released on $1,000 bond.[92] A March 23 report cited Dodd's charge as "assaulting a married woman".[93] On April 21, a jury acquitted Dodd.[94] The Capital Journal explained the verdict by saying "It was brought out in the cross examination of the complaining witness that there was another person in the house at the time of the alleged assault and that she did not cry for help as a person in her circumstances would be aroused."[95]

On May 9, 1914, Dodd married Pearl Allen in Multnomah County, Oregon. However, by August 30, newspapers reported on divorce proceedings between the two.[96] On November 14, 1914, Fred Dodd was arrested for larceny after allegedly stealing from his wife Pearl, whom he was suing for divorce.[97] Their divorce was announced on December 27.[98] Pearl gave birth to a son the following year.[99][100] A 2024 DNA test may suggest that this son was not biologically descended from Dodd.[101]

On November 22, 1915, local newspapers announced that Dodd planned a vacation to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, noting that it was his "first vacation in six years".[97] Papers described him as "the genial Turkish lad" who planned to go travel to New Orleans, New York, and Chicago.[102] On December 19, 1915, it was reported that Fred Dodd's night lunchwagon had been purchased at an attachment sale to satisfy a judgment of $132.07 held against Fred by a resident of Billings, Montana.[103]

Wallie Dodd Ford, Los Angeles restaurateur

Wallie Dodd Ford mugshot in 1926

Dodd moved to Los Angeles, using the name Wallie Dodd Ford. A World War I draft registration card for Wallie Dodd Fard[4] from 1917 indicated that he was living in Los Angeles, unmarried, as a restaurant owner, and reported that he was born in Shinka, Afghanistan, on February 26, 1893. He further reported that he was a resident alien and citizen of Afghanistan. He was described as being of medium height and build with brown eyes and black hair. On the draft card, "Ford" is written in parentheses in a different hand. At the bottom of the card, he signed his name as "Wallie Dodd Ford".[104][better source needed]

Ford was arrested by Los Angeles police on November 17, 1918, on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.[105]

As of 1920, Ford was still living in Los Angeles as 26-year-old Wallie D. Ford, with his 25-year-old wife, Hazel E. Ford. In the 1920 United States Census, his race was reported as white, his occupation as a proprietor of a restaurant, and his place of birth as New Zealand. He provided no known place of birth for his parents nor his date of immigration.[106]

A marriage certificate dated June 5, 1924, was issued to Wallie Dodd Ford and Carmen Trevino (or Treviño) in Santa Ana, California. Ford reported that he was a cook, age 26, born in Oregon and living in Los Angeles. Trevino was a 22-year-old native of Mexico also living in Los Angeles. Both provided their race as "Spanish"; Ford claimed that his parents, "Zaradodd" and "Babbjie", were natives of Madrid, Spain.[107][better source needed]

Wallie D. Ford at San Quentin on June 12, 1926.

Ford was arrested again on January 20, 1926, for violation of the California Woolwine Possession Act,[105] and on February 15, 1926, for violation of the State Poison Act. After this second arrest, a Spanish-language paper in Los Angeles described him as a "street politician".[108] Ford was a sentenced to six months to six years at San Quentin State Prison on June 12, 1926.[109] According to San Quentin records, Wallie D. Ford was born in Portland, Oregon, on February 25, 1891, the white son of Zared and Beatrice Ford, who were both born in Hawaii.[110] Ford was paroled from San Quentin on May 27, 1929.[111]

In 1934, after Fard Muhammad had departed Detroit, Wallie Ford visited Hazel Barton, the mother of his child, in Los Angeles; she recalled him only eating one meal per day as part of his new lifestyle.[citation needed]

The Nation of Islam contests the claim that Wallace Fard Muhammad and Wallie Dodd Ford were the same person.[112]

In addition to his assertion that Fard was Ford, Evanzz also said that Fard was once a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America,[113][114] citing as a primary source the 1945 publication by Arna Bontemps and Jack Conroy titled They Seek A City.[115] Authors have also cited E. U. Essien-Udom for this proposition as well.[116] In his 1962 book Black Nationalism: The Search for an Identity, Essien-Udom wrote:

Noble Drew Ali was shot and stabbed in his offices at the Unity Club in Chicago on the night of March 15, 1929. … He was eventually released on bond, but a few weeks later, he died under mysterious circumstances. Some people claim that he died from injuries inflicted by the police while he was in jail. Others, however, suggest that he was killed by [Sheik Claude] Greene's partisans. For some time, one W. D. Fard assumed leadership of the Moorish movement. According to Bontemps and Conroy, Fard claimed that he was the reincarnation of Noble Drew Ali. By 1930 a permanent split developed in the movement. One faction, the Moors, remains faithful to Noble Drew Ali, and the other, which is now led by Elijah Muhammad, remains faithful to Prophet Fard (Master Wallace Fard Muhammad). However, Minister Malcolm X and other leaders of the Nation of Islam have emphatically denied any past connection whatsoever of Elijah Muhammad, Master Wallace Fard Muhammad, or their movement with Nobel Drew Ali's Moorish American Science Temple.[117]

On the question of a connection between the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple of America, Beynon wrote:

Awakened already to a consciousness of race discrimination, these migrants from the South came into contact with militant movements among northern Negroes. Practically none of them had been in the North prior to the collapse of the Marcus Garvey movement. A few of them had come under the influence of the Moorish-American cult which succeeded it. The effect of both these movements upon the future members of the Nation of Islam was largely indirect. Garvey taught the Negroes that their homeland was Ethiopia. The Noble Drew Ali, the prophet of the Moorish-Americans, proclaimed that these people were 'descendants of Morrocans [Moroccans]'.[118]

Beynon further wrote: "The prophet's message was characterized by his ability to utilize to the fullest measure the environment of his followers. Their physical and economic difficulties alike were used to illustrate the new teaching. Similarly, biblical prophecies and the teachings of Marcus Garvey and Noble Drew Ali were cited as foretelling the coming of the new prophet."[23] Bowen rejects claims that Fard was a member of the MSTA as unsubstantiated.[citation needed]

FBI's public claims about Fard

A declassified Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) memorandum dated May 16, 1957, states: "From a review of instant file it does not appear that there has been a concerted effort to locate and fully identify W. D. Fard. In as much as Elijah Muhammad recognizes W.D. Fard as being Allah (God) and claims that Fard is the source of all of his teachings, it is suggested that an exhaustive effort be made to fully identify and locate W. D. Fard and/or members of his family."[119] The FBI took note of the article written by Erdmann Doane Beynon, and it conducted a search for Fard using various aliases including the name "Ford".[120] On October 17, 1957, the FBI located and interviewed Hazel Barton-Ford, Wallie Ford's common-law wife, with whom he had a son named Wallace Dodd Ford, born on September 1, 1920.[121] This son, later also known as Wallace Max Ford, died in 1942. He was serving for the United States Coast Guard, during World War II, at the time of his death.[122] Barton-Ford gave a description of Wallie Ford, and described him as a Caucasian New Zealander.[121] The FBI's search for Fard was officially closed the following year on April 15, 1958.[123] Immigration records did not match any of his aliases. His true identity remains unknown,[124] but there is strong evidence that the Nation of Islam founder Wallace D. Fard was the same man as Wallace Dodd Ford, an inmate in San Quentin Prison. According to Patrick D. Bowen, a PhD candidate at the University of Denver's Iliff School of Theology, fingerprints and photographs taken from San Quentin Prison matched those of Fard taken during the 1930s in Detroit; furthermore, in San Quentin he almost certainly came in contact with African American Muslim preachers and converts also incarcerated there.[4]

On August 15, 1959, the FBI sent a story to the Chicago New Crusader newspaper, stating that Fard was a "Turkish-born Nazi agent who worked for Hitler in World War II". According to the FBI story, Fard was a "Muslim from Turkey who had come to the United States in the early 1900s. He had met Muhammad in prison … where the two men plotted a confidence game in which followers were charged a fee to become Muslims."[125]

After the story was published, Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X subsequently charged black media outlets, which reprinted the accusation in large numbers, with running the story without requesting a response from the Nation of Islam.[125]

According to the FBI, Fard was linked to the Pacific Movement of the Eastern World and Japanese agitators, such as Satokata Takahashi and Ashima Takis.[126] The FBI charged that Takahashi had been an influential presence in the Nation of Islam. He spoke as a guest at the NOI temples in Detroit and Chicago.[127][better source needed] A February 19, 1963, FBI memorandum states: "In connection with efforts to disrupt and curb growth of the NOI, extensive research has been conducted into various files maintained by this office. Among the files reviewed was that of Wallace Dodd Ford."[128] Five months later, in July 1963, the FBI told the Los Angeles Evening Herald-Examiner that Fard was actually Wallace Dodd Ford.[129] The paper published the story in an article titled "Black Muslim Founder Exposed As White."[130][dubiousdiscuss] An FBI memorandum dated August 1963 states that the FBI had not been able to verify his birthdate or birthplace, and "he was last heard from in 1934."[131]

Theories of origin

Karl Evanzz, in his book The Messenger, postulates that Fard was the son of a Pakistani Muslim, then known as East Indians. He bases this theory on several indications:[64]

  1. Fard spent time at the Ahmadiyya Mosque, a movement prominent in Pakistan and used translations of the Quran from Pakistanis.
  2. The name Fard is a common surname in Pakistan, as are other names that he bestowed upon his followers, such as Shabazz, Ghulam, and Kallatt.
  3. Interviews with long-time Nation figures who met him or saw original photos of him, such as Ozier Muhammad, Rodnell Collins (nephew of Malcolm X) and Wilfred Little, indicate that Fard had Pakistani features.
  4. Early teachings from Fard indicated a distrust and disdain for Hinduism.

The 2017 book Chameleon: The True Story of W.D. Fard by A. K. Arian studies the origin of the Nation of Islam founder.[132] One theory postulated is that Fard was of Afghan heritage. The 2019 book Finding W.D. Fard: Unveiling the Identity of the Founder of the Nation of Islam investigates a variety of theories about Fard's ethnic and religious origins, writing: "The people who actually met him, and the scholars who have studied him, have suggested that he was variously an African American, an Arab from Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco or Saudi Arabia ... a Turk, an Afghan, an Indo-Pakistani ... a Greek ... In an attempt to determine the origins of W.D. Fard, most scholars have relied on his teachings as passed down, and perhaps modified, by Elijah Muhammad. Some have suggested that he was a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America or the Ahmadiyyah Movement. Others have suggested that he was a Druze or a Shiite."[133] Morrow suggests that a background of Ghulat or extremist Shia Islam best fits with what is known of Fard.[citation needed]

Muhammad Abdullah

For decades after Fard's disappearance, Elijah Muhammad maintained that Fard was alive and well. After the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, his son and new Nation of Islam leader Wallace D. Muhammad suggested that his newly appointed Oakland California Imam Muhammad Abdullah was Fard, though Abdullah himself later retracted this claim.[134][135] Scholar Fatimah Fanusie has argued that Abdullah was, in fact, Fard.[135] Abdullah was reportedly introduced as Fard to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.[46][better source needed]

Source Name Reported Place of Birth Reported Date of Birth Comments
1909 naturalization Wali Fred Dad Hong Kong Feb 14, 1882 Claimed to be "Subject of Alphonso xiii King of Spain" and have arrived in San Francisco via Hong Kong. Was living in Eugene, Oregon. Nation of Islam teaches that Fard's father was named Alphonso.
April 20, 1914 Marriage Certificate to Pearl Allen Fred Dodd Europe Age 23 (c. 1891) Allen was a Native American teenager, Fred Dodd identified as a salesman who was born in Europe along with both his parents. Marriage in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon.
1917 draft card Wallie Dodd Fard Shinka, Afghanistan Feb 26, 1893 Restaurant owner in Los Angeles.
1920 census Wallie D. Ford New Zealand Age 26 (c. 1894) Living in Los Angeles.
1920 birth certificate of child with Hazel Wallace Dodd Ford New Zealand Age 26 (c. 1894) Father identifies as white.
1924 marriage certificate to Carmen Trevino Wallie Dodd Ford Native of Oregon Age 26 (c. 1898) Claimed his parents "Zaradodd Ford" and "Babbjie" were natives of Madrid, Spain.
1926 prison records Wallie D. Ford Portland, Oregon Age 31 (c. 1895) Claimed his parents were Zared and Beatrice Ford of Hawaii
1930 census William D. Fard Oregon Age 32 (c. 1898) Claimed father from Argentina, mother from Oregon. Listed occupation is salesman in clothing industry. Listed as veteran of World War I.
NOI tradition Master Fard Muhammad Mecca February 26, 1877 Son of a black father and white mother. Father named Alphonso and termed the Mahdi, mother named Bibi Ji (Baby Gee).[136] Alphonso was also the name of the monarch renounced by Wali Fred Dad in his 1909 naturalization.

See also


  1. ^ The years 1891 and 1893 have both been cited by sources relying upon FBI records primarily. The FBI file on Fard provides both dates for individuals suspected (but never confirmed) to be Fard. The FBI file states: "Our investigation of the NOI and Fard failed to establish his birth date and birth place." Fard reportedly claimed to have been born in 1877. Most sources in the Nation of Islam claim that he hailed from Mecca in Saudi Arabia.[4][5][6]
  2. ^ Beynon stated that Fard's position on human sacrifice "was never made clear."
  3. ^ Beynon refers to some of the lessons by Fard as an "oral tradition" that was recorded at the University of Islam as the "Secret Ritual of the Nation of Islam." See Beynon (1938), p. 898. Authors have subsequently attributed a text of this title to Fard. See Evanzz, supra at 81. However, Fard's lessons were individually written lessons later compiled in a single publication. See Muhammad (1993). Language attributed to Fard by author Karl Evanzz does not appear in any of the individually written lessons.
  4. ^ For example, it has been suggested that Wallace Fard of Jasper, Texas, who is listed as "mulatto" in the 1910 census, might be connected to Wallace Fard Muhammad of 1930s Detroit.



  1. ^ "N.O.I. Founder, Wallace D. Fard born". African American Registry.
  2. ^ "Wallace D. Fard – American religious leader". Encyclopedia Britannica. March 2024.
  3. ^ Knight, Michael Muhammad (February 26, 2013). Dubuc, Nancy; Smith, Shane (eds.). "Remembering Master Fard Muhammad". Vice News. New York City, New York, United States: Vice Media. Archived from the original on April 17, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d Bowen, Patrick D. (March 21, 2013). "'The Colored Genius': Lucius Lehman and the Californian Roots of Modern African-American Islam". The Graduate Journal of Harvard Divinity School. Boston, Massachusetts, United States: Harvard University. Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  5. ^ Fanusie, Fatimah Abdul-Tawwab (2008). Fard Muhammad in historical context: An Islamic thread in the American religious and cultural quilt (PhD). Washington, D.C., United States: Howard University. OCLC 488985857.
  6. ^ Morrow 2019, pp. 1–35, Chapter 1. Issues of Origin.
  7. ^ a b Kavanaugh, Kelli B. (March 5, 2003). Williams, Ron; Heron, W. Kim (eds.). "Mystery man". Detroit Metro Times. Detroit, Michigan, United States: Euclid Media Group, LLC. ISSN 0746-4045. OCLC 10024235. Archived from the original on January 10, 2022. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  8. ^ Beynon 1938, pp. 894–95
  9. ^ a b Beynon 1938, p. 895
  10. ^ Bowen 2017, p. 297.
  11. ^ Andrew Morrow, John (June 20, 2023). "W.D. Fard's Bible of Islamism Identified: A Century-Old Mystery is Solved". Berkeley Institute for Islamic Studies. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  12. ^ Warikoo, Niraj (February 23, 2020). Bhatia, Peter; Delgado, Anjanette; Hill, James G. (eds.). "Nation of Islam resonates in Detroit as it returns home for convention". Detroit Free Press. Detroit, Michigan, United States: Gannett. ISSN 1055-2758. OCLC 474189830. Archived from the original on April 22, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  13. ^ Williams, Armstrong (October 5, 2015). Cusack, Bob; Swanson, Ian; McCafferty, Rory (eds.). "The Nation of Islam could be Chicago's savior". The Hill. Washington, D.C., United States: Nexstar Media Group. ISSN 1521-1568. OCLC 31153202. Archived from the original on April 18, 2021.
  14. ^ Beynon 1938, pp. 893–907
  15. ^ a b Beynon 1938, p. 896
  16. ^ Taylor, Ula Yvette (2017). Patriarchy: Women and the Nation of Islam. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 22–26. ISBN 978-1-4696-3395-4.
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  18. ^ Taylor, Ula Yvette (2017). The Promise of Patriarchy: Women and the Nation of Islam. North-Carolina, United States: University of North Carolina Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-4696-3395-4.
  19. ^ Bowen 2017, pp. 241, 256.
  20. ^ Taylor, Ula Yvette (2017). The Promise of Patriarchy: Women and the Nation of Islam. North-Carolina, United States: University of North Carolina Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-4696-3395-4. JSTOR 10.5149/9781469633947_taylor.
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  23. ^ a b c Beynon 1938, p. 900
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  133. ^ Morrow 2019, pp. 1–35, Chapter 1: Issues of Origin.
  134. ^ Morrow 2019, pp. 54–55.
  135. ^ a b Aysha Khan (2022). 'A Seed of Truth': Ahmadiyya Muslim Propagation Networks and the Development of Islam in America (MA thesis). Harvard University.
  136. ^ Bowen 2017, p. 247.


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