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Nation of Islam (NOI)

Orientation/Classification: Islam/Political-Religious Movement

Adherents Consider Themselves: Muslim

House of Worship: Mosque or Temple

Religious Leader: Leader is called a minister and often the term “honorable” is used alongside his name.

Population: The membership of NOI is estimated at roughly 35,000 in the United States.


Physical touch between genders is strongly discouraged. Do not touch a member of the opposite sex without asking first.


NOI members abstain for consuming alcohol and do not eat pork. They also fast from sunrise to sunset during the observance of Ramadan. The NOI is known for selling bean pies to supplement income from the sale of their newspaper, The Final Call. The Nation of Islam is also known for restrictive eating. Members are encouraged to eat only one meal a day, if not less, and are careful to consume only prescribed foods, such as navy beans and certain types of fish, and to avoid starch, fried foods and baked goods.


NOI members are known for their distinctive formal dress, which includes a bow tie and head covering for men and neutral colors for women, who wear long skirts and long-sleeved shirts along with a head covering.


NOI celebrates a month-long fast called Ramadan (see above) during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Alternatively, NOI members are allowed to fast during the month of December instead of Ramadan. They have two feast days, Eid al-Udha and Eid al-Fitr. Alongside these holidays, NOI members celebrate Saviors Day, observed in the last weekend of February.


The governing body of NOI is called the Ministry and is run by a centralized leadership under the Minister. The current Minister is the Honorable Louis Farrakhan.


The Nation of Islam or NOI is an African-American political and religious movement, founded in Detroit by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad on July 4, 1930. Its stated goals are to improve the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of African-Americans in the United States and all of humanity. After Fard disappeared in June 1934, the Nation of Islam was led by Elijah Muhammad, who established places of worship (called temples or mosques), a school named Muhammad University of Islam, farms and real estate holdings in the United States and abroad. The Nation has long been a strong advocate of African-American businesses.

There were a number of splits and splinter groups during the period of Elijah Muhammad’s leadership, most notably the departure of senior leader Malcolm X to become a Sunni Muslim. After Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975, his son, Warith Deen Mohammed, changed the name of the organization to “World Community of Islam in the West” (the name changed twice more after that) and attempted to convert the movement to a mainstream Sunni Muslim ideology.

In 1977, Louis Farrakhan rejected Warith Deen Mohammed’s leadership and re-established the Nation of Islam on the original organizational model. He took over the Nation of Islam’s headquarters temple, Mosque Maryam (Mosque #2) in Chicago.

In 1995, the Nation of Islam sponsored the Million Man March in Washington, DC to promote African-American unity and family values. Estimates of the number of marchers were between 400,000 and 840,000. Under Farrakhan’s leadership, the Nation of Islam tried to redefine the standard “Black male stereotype” of drug use and gang violence. Meanwhile, the Nation continued to promote social reform in African-American communities according to its traditional goals of selfreliance and economic independence.