“The history of Muslims in this area dates back to the 1730's. That was when the first person I found came through the Annapolis area. His name was Ayyub Bin Sulaiman Jallon. He was a scholar and could recite the Koran by memory. He got his freedom after three years of slavery. Another Muslim who came through this area in the 1770’s was Kunta Kinte. Many people don’t recognize that he was a Muslim.
“In the 1930’s, Elijah Muhammad moved into the DC area. There is a plaque on 9th Street that honors his presence in DC. He came here and built this mosque. In fact, this mosque was the fourth one built by the Nation of Islam and called Mosque Number Four, the first three were in Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee. Before this mosque, people in the area practiced in homes. This place was built by donations. Even Malcolm X went around the country raising money for the mosque. Mosque Number Four played a crucial role in the growth of the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad used this place as a springboard to carry his message up and down the eastern seaboard. Many of the members here became leaders of mosques around the country in Baltimore, New York, Richmond and Philadelphia.
"We have had a number of prominent members in our community including the first openly Muslim woman to work in the White House. She worked with the Johnson, Nixon and Carter administrations. Out of this Community also comes the first Muslim chaplain to the U.S. Army. We also have one of the earliest judges, Judge Hassan, who is out in Prince George's County. Our imam, Imam Yusuf, was the only imam to open both the House and the Senate with prayer. He is also a police chaplain. We also have a lot members involved in civic duties like police officers, firemen, and doctors.
"In the early days, we, as members of the Nation of Islam, did not want to participate in America. But, since 1975, awareness opened for us and by us to get involved in all facets of America. The mosque does a lot of interfaith work to create a dialogue with other religious communities. We were actually one of the first to do that. We also do outreach to boy scouts, girl scouts and cub scouts. We reach out to youth to get them involved and develop a sense of worth and identity. Another program is working with Muslim veterans. We have a prison service program to help people with reentry into society after incarceration. We also do outreach programs to the community and events to share the history of Muslims in America. DC is a great place because of the diversity. As Elijah Muhammad said, 'We have friendships in all walks of life.' That is a reality here."
Brother Amir is a historian and author and president of Collections and Stories of American Muslims. Learn more about Masjid Muhammad (Mosque Number Four) here.