Imam W.D. Mohammed, who succeeded his father as leader of the Nation of Islam but abandoned its teachings of black supremacy and moved thousands of its followers into mainstream Islam, died Tuesday. He was 74.
Mohammed died at his home in Markham, Ill., according to a family statement issued late Tuesday by his nephew, Sultan Muhammad. Details of his death were not immediately released.
"We ask that you pray for our father and leader," the statement said.
The Cook County Medical Examiner said 74-year-old Wallace Mohammed was pronounced dead Tuesday. Mohammed went by both Warith Deen Mohammed and Wallace Muhammad. An autopsy was planned for Wednesday.
"Obviously, it's a great loss for the entire Muslim community," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, where Mohammed led a convention last month. "He was encouraging his followers to accept the best of their humanity and to extend the moral and ethical values of Islam to the general American public."
When Mohammed's father, Elijah Muhammad, died in 1975, his son was named leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, which promoted self-reliance and black supremacy, a belief that mainstream Muslims consider heretical.
Mohammed quickly abandoned that teaching and led the Nation toward orthodox Islam, emphasizing the faith's message of racial tolerance. He had been a friend of Malcolm X, who abandoned the Nation to embrace mainstream Islam before he was assassinated in 1965.