Imam W. Deen Mohammed, the rebellious son of the late Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad who broke from black nationalism and moved thousands of African-Americans to mainstream Islam, died Tuesday, according to family members.
"Brother Imam," as he was known by his followers, was pronounced dead at his home in Markham, said a spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner. He was 74.
As Muslims marked the holy month of Ramadan, Mohammed was scheduled to speak Tuesday in Chicago, but many grew concerned when he did not appear. His last speaking engagement was at his regular monthly address delivered Sunday in Homewood and aired live to a radio audience.
"He was a pioneer in the Muslim-American community and was one of the first leaders to get Muslims to think about their faith in context of the larger society," said Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, which worked closely with Mohammed. "He was also a pioneer in getting Muslims to embrace their religious identity at a time when that wasn't very popular."
On Tuesday night, his family issued a brief statement announcing his death. "We ask that you pray for our father and leader," the statement said. . .
He achieved historic milestones for Muslim-Americans. In 1992, he became the first Muslim to deliver an invocation to the U.S. Senate. In 1993 and 1997, he recited from the Holy Quran at President Bill Clinton's two inaugural interfaith prayer services.
On Tuesday, as Muslims of all racial identities mourned his death, it seemed his vision of Muslim unity was momentarily fulfilled.
"He was America's imam," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (MORE)