The History of Masjid Jihad at a Glance - The “Time-Line” Methodology
Masjid Jihad is an affiliate of those Masaajid, both within and outside of the United States of America, that identify with Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed’s leadership. It has been established from information provided to our present masjid’s administration, communicated via the “oral tradition,” that the efforts to start what was to later become Masjid Jihad, began circa 1968. The initial attempts to organize a local movement that would be an affiliate of the then Nation of Islam, that was led, at that time, by the late Honorable Elijah Mohammed, experienced humble beginnings. Holding meetings either in members’ homes, or in rented store-fronts was a part of these organizing community-building efforts. Inclusive in these store-front, rented facilities, that symbolized the embryonic stage of Masjid Jihad, i.e. Mohammed’s Temple of Islam, were two locations on Barnard Street [initially in the 1200 block of Barnard’s Northeast side (this building still exists though the exact space has been eliminated); thereafter, 509 Barnard Street (this structure exists today, as it did when it was used as a Mohammed’s Temple)]. The years in which the two Barnard Street facilities were utilized were; 1970-74 and January 1974-August 1974, respectively.
Moreover, the early leaders (ministers) of the local temple were: Ministers Charles XCuspert, Carlton XWoods, Samuel 2XFranklin, Grant XEllison, and Ahmad Kareem. Though the ministers of the Nation of Islam (nationally and locally) were elevated to a status of preeminence; their efforts, however, would not have been as successful as they were without their respective, sincere and dedicated, staff members (referred to as “laborers”); and, the “rank-and-file” organization’s members, referred to as: Fruit of Islam or F. O.I (male members), and Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization Class or M.G.T.-G.C.C. (female members). The names and the official capacities, if any, of these unsung heroes and heroines are too voluminous to list; on the one hand. Then, on the other hand, not withstanding this brief narrative, the methodology employed in this effort is that of identifying those historical events that happened, chronologically, as Mohammed’s Temple of Islam was metamorphosed to Masjid Jihad.
The following represents the “time-line methodology” of presenting the history of Masjid Jihad. Hence, persons’ names will be mentioned ONLY in the context of their relationship with the historic event that occurred on that date. This humble effort is, by no means presented as the final version of Masjid Jihad’s history. Neither is it presented as a “comprehensive picture” of every historical event that occurred. Rather, it is a “beginning,” a “genesis”—if you will—of our masjid’s existence, in Savannah, Georgia. It is, therefore, our du’a that Allah—The Almighty—will Forgive us for any and all oversights, omissions, and inadvertent mistakes; that have been made, and , we Implore Him for His All-Encompassing Mercy, as we engage ourselves with this monumental task-Aameen. We, moreover, ask of those who were/have been a part of this (r)evolutionary movement to assist this effort by bringing to us, documentation (written or pictures) that can be included in this account of the history of Masjid Jihad.
1970: Mohammed’s Temple of Islam began holding its public meetings with Samuel 2XFranklin serving in the capacity of “minister,” in the 1200 block of Barnard Street. Meeting days and times were: Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
Spring 1971: Reginald XToby, who ultimately worked through the local temple’s fruit of Islam (F. O. I.) members to become the temple’s “captain,” the position that he held until the F. O. I. was dismantled by Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed, received a personal, signed letter, from the Nation of Islam’s National leader, The Honorable Elijah Mohammed, thanking him for this extraordinary efforts of charity; to both the national and the local organization’s efforts.
February 1972: In collaboration with the Freshman class at Savannah State College (University), Mohammed’s Temple of Islam hosts a “Black History Month” lecture, delivered by Southern Regional Minister of the Nation of Islam— Minister ‘Abdul Rahman of Atlanta, Georgia—in “Meldrim Auditorium,” at Savannah Stare College (University). April 4, 1972: Mohammed’s Temple of Islam, Fruit of Islam (F. O. I.) members: Ezekial XWalker, Eric XWalker, Ronald XFlagg, and Reedy XCooper were involved in; and, were subsequently arrested for a physical confrontation with members of the Savannah Police Department, on Broughton Street, in downtown Savannah. This incident served as the catalyst for a public forum, held a Savannah State College (University) in Meldrim Auditorium, which included local speakers and featured Southern Regional Minister ‘Abdul Rahman, who delivered the keynote speech against “police brutality.”
December 1973: Mohammed’s Temple of Islam moves from the 1200 block of Barnard to 509 Barnard Street. With this move in location, Grant XEllison was commissioned by the Regional Minster, ‘Abdur Rahman-of Atlanta, Georgia to serve as the local organization’s “minister.” This change of the “minister’s” post occurred in January of 1974.
1974: The national, radio broadcast of the then Nation of Islam’s leader, The Honorable Elijah Mohammed featuring Elijah Mohammed’s National Representative, Minister Louis Farrakahn, began to air on radio station WSOK. With the passing of Elijah Mohammed in February 1975, this national, radio broadcast continued to air until the early 1980’s, with Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed delivering the weekly lectures. 1974: With charitable work efforts and monetary donations of the temple’s members, Mohammed’s Temple opened two businesses; namely the “Steak and Take” restaurant (located at 1015 West 50th Street), which evolved to become “Shabazz Restaurant” (located at what is now 1820 Montgomery Street); and, “Your Fish Market” (located at 619 Harmon Street). These “Temple” operated businesses were managed with volunteer labor, from the temple’s membership. They continued to exist as “temple businesses” until they were given to businessmen, within the local membership. The restaurant and fish market were managed by Tommy XKeys and Moses XSlaughter, respectively.
August 1974: Mohammed’s Temple of Islam experiences an historic relocation effort, transitioning from renting facilities to accommodate its weekly meetings and other temple activities, to buying a “Victorian Era” house, located 117 East 34th Street. This “house,” (“bayt” in the Arabic language, being descriptive of humans’ “social life,”) has had various renovation efforts designed to accommodate our community’s needs. With the charitable donations of individuals belonging to the “financial class” referred to as “the striving poor,” this property was paid for, in toto, in February 1983, Al-hamdu-lillah!! It is in this structure that “Masjid Jihad” is presently located.
December 1974: Mohammed’s Temple of Islam local officials: Minister Grant XEllison, Captain Reginald XToby (a/k/a Omar Abuwi), and Secretary Marvin XCastle travelled to a Southern Regional Meeting, at Mohammed’s Temple #15 in Atlanta, GA, where, with other regional officials, they were privy to what was to become an historic transitional lecture given by the then, Minister Wallace D. Mohammed, the formerly excommunicated son of Elijah Mohammed.
1975: Because of the exceptional local support provided to the national office in Chicago, Illinois, the local “Mohammed’s Temple of Islam” was renamed, by the national authority, to “Mohammed Mosque No. 81.”
February 1975: The largest delegation of Nation of Islam members from Savannah, travelled to Chicago, Illinois for the annual, national convention, “Saviour’s Day.” It was the day before this February 25 convention that Elijah Mohammed passed. The following day, during the national convention itself, the Savannah delegation members witnessed the transition of the national leadership, with pledges of support from each of the “Regional Ministers,” to Minister Wallace D. Mohammed.
May 1975: The then President of Savannah State College (University) Prince Jackson, Jr. PhD, proclaimed “The Honorable Elijah Mohammed’s Day” on Savannah State’s campus; providing to the local Muslims complete accommodations, on the campus, for various programs.
November 1975: Minister Grant XEllison (a/k/a Ahmed Atai) was transferred to New Orleans, LA, to serve in the capacity of Minister; and, his local ministerial responsibility was assumed by Minister Ahmad Kareem originally from Atlanta, Georgia. Minister Kareem continued to function as minister until November 1976, when he resigned to pursue personal, business interests.
March 1976: Began conducting the Friday Prayers (Salaatul Jumu’ah) at the masjid.
November 30, 1976: By means of a unanimous “vote of confidence” that was given during an “emergency, call meeting” of the mosques’s members; upon the resignation of Minister Ahmad Kareem, Maajid Faheem ‘Ali (f/k/a Marvin XCastle) was chosen to serve as “imam” of Mohammed Mosque No. 81. The mosque’s name was later modified, by directives given by Imam Wallace D. Mohammed, to become “Masjid Mohammed No. 81.”
February 1977: A local “prison ministry” was incorporated into the responsibilities of the “office of imam,” with chaplaincy services being provided to the inmate populations of Georgia State Prison at Reidsville (Reidsville State Penitentiary) and Chatham County Correctional Institute. This “prison ministry” would later expand to include state facilities in both Mt. Vernon and Jesup, Georgia. With brief “pauses” in between, this “prison ministry,” being performed from the “office of imam,” evolved to become “contract chaplaincy” services provided at Georgia State Prison at Reidsville and Rogers Prison; ultimately concluding, from the “office of imam” in 1991. Thereafter, in coordination with Colonel McArthur Holmes of the Chatham County Detention Center an historic, first, “Muslim dormitory,” was established in November 2000. The “office of Imam” continued to provide chaplaincy services to the Chatham County Detention Center, until February 2006.
Summer 1977: The initial “Islamic Educational” efforts that evolved to become a Clara Mohammed Weekend School were implemented. Please refer to the “History of the Clara Mohammed Weekend School” for more information.
November 1977: Masjid Mohammed No. 81’s local efforts, in cooperation with the national efforts of Imam Wallace D. Mohammed, established a chapter of C.R.A.I.D. (Committee for the Removal of Images that Attempt to Portray Divine). Initially, through dialogue with various Christian ministers; ultimately, with peaceful, “walks” (carrying signs with various messages written upon them) efforts were made to call to the general public’s attention, the psychological harm/damage that is caused by having “racial icons” depicted as Almighty G-d’s manifestation/incarnation. The C.R.A.I.D. effort culminated with a national convention held in Dallas, Texas, in August 1982. A delegation from our masjid attended this convention.
Summer and Fall 1978: Subsequent to the conducting of a survey/questionnaire titled: “Be Your Brothers ‘Keeper,” and addressing the “neighborhood crime problems,” male members of the masjid went into the “high crime” communities and openly challenged the “criminal element” to abandon their criminal behavior; whilst, simultaneously, encouraged these communities residents, respectively; to stand with us, in taking back their neighborhoods/communities. Because of the risk of corporal retaliation being directed against, us , by the criminal element; and, because of the “news worthiness” of these “anti-crime” efforts, local NBC affiliate, WSAV (reporter Ms. Roz Harper), and local owner and general manager of radio station WSOK, Mr. Benjamin Tucker, provided extensive media coverage of these “crime prevention” efforts.
September 25-October 8, 1978: Invitation accepted by Maajid Faheem ‘Ali, Imam; and, Samuel Muhammad, Assistant Imam, to participate in a two week intensive, “imam’s training course,” sponsored by The Muslim World League of North America. Subjects taught during this course included: Quraan, Hadith, Islamic Jurisprudence, Islamic Doctrines, Arabic Language, and lectures covering Islamic culture and ethics. Certificates were awarded, during a graduation ceremony, upon the successful completion of this course. This “imam’s training course” was held in Atlanta, Georgia.
November 1978: ‘Abdullah El-Amin, is the first person, among the individuals of the local membership, to perform the pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudia Arabia (hajj).
1979-1981: The local masjid, in compliance with other masaajid and centers, experienced national affiliate name changes including: “The World Community of Al-Islam in the West—Savannah Masjid,” “The American Muslim Mission-Savannah Center,” and “The American Muslim Mission-Savannah Masjid.”
October 1981: Proclamations are issued by The City of Savannah and Chatham County, recognizing October as: “Get to Know Al-Islam Month.” Various activities are sponsored by the masjid to educate the local, non Muslim population concerning the religion of Al-Islam.
January 1982: Attorney Lester B. Johnson, III (a/k/a Hakeem ‘Abdul Ahad) is appointed as an “Assistant City Attorney” for the city of Savannah. He is the first and the only Muslim to hold this position. Attorney Johnson has held this position for 31 years. Attorney Hakeem is a personal friend of Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.
January 23, 1982: Members of Masjid Jihad recognized Imam Maajid Faheem ‘Ali’s fifth year of service as imam with a banquet at the Regency Downtowner Motor Inn. The theme was “A Night of Appreciation for Imam Maajid F. ‘Ali.” Muslims from other communities and several prominent local community leaders were present to share in this momentous occasion.
August 1982: At the urging of the owner and general manager of radio station WSOK, Mr. Benjamin Tucker, Maajid Faheem ‘Ali, through the “office of Imam,” accepted the responsibility to host a “live,” radio talk show named “Rebirth of America.” This program addressed the then current issues, utilizing the “socio-religious” perspective of Al-Islam. It aired weekly (Sundays), initially, until February 1984. “Rebirth of America,” subsequently, returned to WSOK in June 1986 and aired until January 1991.
October 1983: An historic banquet, honoring the achievements of Mr. Benjamin Tucker and Attorney Lester B. Johnson III, is hosted by the masjid, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, in downtown Savannah.
At a regional imam’s meeting, held subsequent to the masjid dedication ceremony of Masjid Nakettah Muhammed in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; local imam, Maajid Faheem ‘Ali, upon the resignation of Imam Ibrahim Pasha, of Atlanta, Georgia, is elected, to serve as the “Regional Convener” of the “Southern Region’s Majlis-Ash-Shura.” In this capacity, along with the other “Regional Conveners,” he participated with the organizing and planning of the “10 Year Commemoration of Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed’sLeadership.” Imam ‘Ali held this position until September 1985, whereupon he recommended (and the recommendation was accepted) that the “Regional Convener’s” position should be an elected position, that would, therefore, rotate among the imams and the masaajid in the Southern Region. This process continues to be practiced, within the region.
July 4, 1987: Under the coordinated efforts of ‘Abdul Hafeez(th) El-Amin, members of Masjid Jihad organized, sponsored, and implemented the first and only (in the more recent history of this city) fourth of July parade held in Savannah. Following in the tradition of Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed’s leadership; and, corresponding with the parade held in Chicago, Illinois, the local parade was called: “The New World’s Patriotism Day Parade.” The theme for the occasion of this historic, local, July 4th celebration was: “Equality ofOpportunity For All People.”
January 1988: With continuous encouragement of ‘Abdul Hafeez(th) El-Amin (f/k/a Vernon Williams), Maajid Faheem ‘Ali, through the “office of imam,” began hosting a weekly (Saturdays), cable access, television program; through the then Jones Communications, Corp: on cable, Channel 7. This television program was, too, named “Rebirth of America” (as was the radio program). Though it was a prerecorded program; its format was, nevertheless, comparable to the radio program’s format. “Rebirth of America,” television, aired until May 2001. Omar Abuwi served as cameraman for these prerecorded programs. However, once again, with ‘Abdul Hafeez(th) El-Amin managing the administrative aspect with “Comcast Cable,” another weekly (Saturdays) cable access, television program titled: “Renaissance and Reformation: Issues and Answers,” began to air on cable, channel 7. From its hosting to its format, it was comparable to the previous; “Rebirth of America.” “Renaissance and Reformation…”aired from November 2006 until October 2012.
April 1990: A “Proclamation” was issued by Mayor John P. Rousakis of the City of Savannah, emphasizing the “Jewish- Christian-Muslim Code of Ethics” upon which our nation is built; thereby urging the citizens of Savannah to express mutual respect for its Muslim citizens.
"Please see history updates in our archives in Masjid Jihad's Ni'mat Abuwi Library/ Museum"