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Ascending rapidly through the ranks, he had proved to be a superb speaker and organizer, managing to win over the congregation left behind by his charismatic predecessor.
He faced a firestorm after Malcolm X's 1965 assassination, for which many blamed NOI.
Founded by a mysterious clothing salesman in the ghettoes of Detroit in 1930, NOI was considered an insignificant, if highly media-worthy, "‘voodoo sect" throughout much of the 1930s and 1940s. Fard (alternately, Farad Muhammad) and his "messenger" and successor Elijah Muhammad preached a hybrid creed with its own myths and doctrines.
These held that over 6,000 years ago, the black race lived in a paradise on earth that was destroyed by the evil wizard Yacub, who created the white "devil" through a scientific process called "grafting." Fard and his disciple preached of a coming apocalyptic overthrow of white domination, insisting that the dominion of evil was to end with God's appearance on earth in the person of Fard.
When Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, Farrakhan initially remained faithful to his son, Wallace Deen Muhammad (later Imam Warithuddin Muhammad) who succeeded him.
But the younger Muhammad's dismantling of the Nation's material empire and his attempts to bring NOI into the fold of mainstream Islam ultimately alienated Farrakhan.
New members, including Malcolm X and heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay before joining NOI), added visibility to the group and, in the case of the former, contributed directly to a meteoric membership increase.
Appointed to the prestigious leadership of Harlem's Temple No.
7 in New York City just two years after his 1952 release from prison, Malcolm X was wildly popular and his years as a prominent member of NOI (1952-1964) saw membership skyrocket from around 400 to between 100,000 and 300,000.
But the Nation's vituperative language and its advocacy of self-defense in place of nonviolence alienated it from mainstream civil rights groups.
Following this, NOI predicts an epic struggle in which the Nation of Islam will play a key role in preparing and educating the Original People, who ruled the earth in peace and prosperity until Yacub's "blue-eyed devils" came along to gum things up.