A ‘family affair’ at The Salaam RestaurantBy Anisah Muhammad, Contributing Writer
- May 16, 2023
CHICAGO—OnMay 11, The Salaam Restaurant in Chicago was brimming with good energy, laughter, jazz music, and singing reminiscent of the women who sang smooth soul songs of past eras. Family, friends, and helpers of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan gathered in the joyous atmosphere in commemoration of the Minister’s 90th birth anniversary.
Minister Farrakhan has offered his life to his teacher, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and he has lived his life in service to humanity. Two years into the Nation of Islam, in 1957, he wrote the song “This is the One” and sang it for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s 60th birth anniversary, on October 7, 1957. The song provides an inner look into Minister Farrakhan’s heart then and now. As the song played at The Salaam Restaurant, a reflective look came over Minister Farrakhan’s face.
“They tell me he (the Honorable Elijah Muhammad) cried when he heard that song. It’s so easy when you love to write about what you love and who you love, and I love Elijah,” Minister Farrakhan shared at the conclusion of the song. “A lot of people say stuff, but they don’t back it up. But my word is my bond. I love that man, and I will give my life for him and for the God that taught him and for the people who they came to save,” the Minister expressed. “May Allah bless you all. Thank you so much.”
Minister Farrakhan’s friends, family and helpers sang happy birthday to him and gathered around him for pictures, as he soaked in the moment. The Minister had touched everyone in the room in some way.
“All I can remember back in the day is just him being in love with the people, and the people always came first,” shared Minister Farrakhan’s son, Abnar Farrakhan. “And he made sure that he reminded us as a family about the believers and those who sacrifice for us to have the things that we have. We’re so grateful for the believers, and we’re so grateful to have him in our midst still. It’s a family affair.”
One of his fondest memories of his father is the talent shows that used to be held at The Final Call Administration Building which is located next door to The Salaam. “He would sit there and listen to us sing and do things at the talent show. He was always supportive of the youth and us doing things at the mosque,” Abnar Farrakhan said.
Atlanta resident Rosemary Lee shares grandchildren with Minister Farrakhan and his wife of nearly 70 years, Mother Khadijah Farrakhan.
“I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife some years ago right after they married, and I can say that I’ve never met any better people, any kinder people and who always had something good to say. I’ve loved them. They accepted me into the family, and they treated me like family,” she shared.
Her daughter, the Minister’s daughter-in-law, Toni Farrakhan, described the Minister as supportive and a role model who set the standard for her children. “Words can’t even express what he means to me,” she said. She commended him for the wisdom and the nuggets he has dropped in helping to shape her life and her role as a wife and mother.
“He’s incredible. I love him, I love him and I love him,” she said. She also cherishes the personal moments and conversations she has had with him. “Those moments are more precious to me than anything,” she added.
Friendships, love and gratitude
Those in attendance at Salaam were treated to a stunning atmosphere of beauty inside the upper and lower floors of the South Side edifice. A delicious buffet-style dinner was served which included: eggplant parmesan, baked salmon, herb-baked chicken, green beans, navy bean soup, rice, garden salad, curried lamb, carrot fluff, and of course bean pie for dessert. Birthday cake also was distributed to guests. People greeted one another, smiled, hugged, laughed, took pictures and enjoyed the fellowship of being in the presence of a divine man who has impacted so many.
The Minister and Father Michael Pfleger, senior pastor at St. Sabina Church on Chicago’s South Side, have cultivated a 30-year relationship of friendship and brotherhood.
“He is my brother and my friend. I see him as a messenger of love and a messenger of truth and as the physical witness of what it means to be free, and to teach us all to be as free, as loving and as truth-seeking as he is,” Father Pfleger expressed.
“The biggest challenge I think for all of us is not just to admire the Minister, but to try to emulate him in our own lives. And I just thank God for keeping him all these years, and we’re here tonight to celebrate his birth anniversary but also his life, his testimony.”
The longtime activist priest cherishes the moments when he would go to Minister Farrakhan’s Michigan farm and the two of them would ride on a golf cart to the far end and just sit and talk.
“Just two brothers sharing their heart, their tears, their laughter and totally free. I never have to worry about holding back from the Minister, nor he with I. And those moments of just brother to brother, not at an event, not something at the mosque, not at St. Sabina, but just to be able to sit down as a brother and just share … and be encouraged and listen to his wisdom,” Father Pfleger shared.
Frank J. Williams, a Chicago housing advocate and realtor, longtime neighbor of the Minister and a friend to the Minister’s family, expressed his love and gratitude.
“We used to have morning walks together. He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. And we were dealing with different religions. And I really didn’t know about the Nation. So, he was able to share, as we deal with our morning walks, so that I’d understand a lot better the dynamics of the religion. Because as you know, the press has always attempted to throw a cast upon (him), you understand? But I love him. I love his family,” he stated.
Ina Carter’s father was a follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, though he wasn’t a registered Muslim. He would buy and bring home copies of the Muhammad Speaks newspaper. As a young woman in her 20s, Ms. Carter started attending the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day events.
She recognized the Minister as one of the great Black leaders highly respected in the Black community. “There are the few people in the Black community that listen to the rhetoric from the White media that don’t care for Minister Farrakhan. But I tell you, he’s highly—if you mention his name in any circle that you’re in—people just, they respect him highly. I have never heard anyone not respect him,” she said. “It’s been a pleasure just to see him turn 90. I just pray I get there.”
Ms. Carter described how the Minister helped her daughter on a college tour. “I said, what do you give a man that’s 90? What do you give a man that has everything?” she questioned. She decided to gift the Minister a reading of her daughter’s background, as her daughter graduated from college the day after the Minister’s birth anniversary.
“None of us can predict where life would be without him and I would not wish to know,” said Student Minister Abdul Arif Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s General Counsel and member of the N.O.I. Executive Shura Council.
One of the most touching moments in Student Min. Arif Muhammad’s Islamic life was when the Minister invited his parents to a private dinner in Baltimore, the city where he was born and raised. “That event of meeting with my mom and my dad lifted them to make them feel that they were special and that their life had meaning, because to meet such a great man as the Minister and have him sit with them in a dinner, a private dinner, was a magnificent, magnificent gift to me and to them, and they never forgot it,” he shared.
Student Minister Abdul Waliullah Muhammad of Mosque No. 8 and his wife, Waliyyah Muhammad, traveled from San Diego, California, to be with the Minister on his birth anniversary.
Student Minister Waliullah Muhammad first heard Minister Farrakhan at 20 years old on a college campus in 1982. He credits the Minister with giving him life and purpose. “My mother gave birth to me, but the Minister gave me life; life being to know God and to work to live according to His laws and His statutes,” he said.
He noted how Minister Farrakhan gives life to those in business, politics, on the streets, in the pool room and in the boardroom.
As a little girl, Waliyyah Muhammad would always say she would help Jesus. She found him in the Minister, she explained. “I pray to Allah that He writes me down in history as a helper of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” she expressed.
One of her fondest memories is having Minister Farrakhan over for dinner at her home in San Diego in 2012 and hosting him for five days. Her husband recalled the moment the Minister gave the two of them their holy names, during the late rapper Nipsey Hussle’s funeral service in 2019.
The Biblical Jesus was a giver of names, a role Minister Farrakhan has been fulfilling, in giving Black people back their original names of Arabic. He named Sister Qamar Muhammad after Surah 54 of the Holy Qur’an, Al-Qamar: The Moon.
When he gave her the name, he read a few verses from the Surah, gave her the purpose of the name and spoke on a woman he had met in Libya with the name. She described the moment as very special and one she reflects on whenever she’s going through something.
“I don’t know any aspect of my life where he has not impacted me. He has really shown me how to have life and how to live life just to the utmost and the path that I’m supposed to be on,” she said. “It’s crazy because when stuff happens, he has already given us the examples, the stories, of how to overcome everything there is. Not that there won’t be troubles and issues and trials and tribulations, but to keep our focus on Allah. And he has just given me life.”
Nneka Muhammad expressed the debt of gratitude she owes the Minister for her almost 25 years of marriage to Michael A. Muhammad and for her 21-year-old daughter. She had lost her first child during pregnancy, and there was a time when she questioned if she would be able to have children.
“We have that one daughter because of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan,” she said. “When I became pregnant with my daughter, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, within that week of me finding out, announced that he was going to pray for all of the wombs of the women at the Million Family March, and I was in that number.”
The Minister’s prayer carried her through her pregnancy.
Her husband, Michael A. Muhammad, shook the Minister’s hand the day before he entered the Nation of Islam’s processing class. After exchanging greetings, he said to the Minister, “Thank you for showing me what a free man looks like. I hope to be that way one day.”
“He shook my hand and looked me in my eyes, looked at me doubting myself, and said, ‘Don’t worry, brother. you will,’” Michael Muhammad recalled. “And so, this was prior to even coming into the Nation.
And through the Nation and through my learning the whole process of doing for self, things of that nature, we have become a successful business partner, striving towards that freedom of doing for self. And so his word is bond in every way, shape, or form. I just love him for that, just for giving me the heart, showing me the heart, the spirit, the courage to be free.”
A servant to humanity
While most people expect to receive gifts marking the day they were born, Minister Farrakhan spent his birth anniversary giving to and in the service of others. He sponsored and gifted 1,000 meals to be freely distributed in Chicago on his birth anniversary. The meals were cooked and prepared by the M.G.T. (Muslim Girls’ Training), the Muslim women of the Nation, and distributed to the community by the F.O.I. (Fruit of Islam), the Muslim men.
Michael Muhammad was one of the men who helped in the effort. He described going into a warehouse full of migrants—men, women and children who were in need.
“To see the joy that was in those immigrants receiving the food from the Minister. They were so joyful. They were so peaceful. They were so happy. And it also leveled me and humbled me to say, whatever we think we’re going through, somebody else is worse off,” he shared. “But to reflect on who he (the Minister) is and what he does for all of humanity; that’s big; that’s priceless.”
Memphis-based Nation of Islam Student Minister Demetric Muhammad, who is a member of the N.O.I. Research Group, grew up in the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta. He cannot imagine what his life would have been like if his journey did not intersect with Minister Farrakhan’s ministry.
“There was no other leader, movement or any type of Islam that was in my area,” he said, thanking Allah for Minister Farrakhan and those the Minister commissioned to spread his work across America. “My life really begins from that moment until now,” he added.
Ilia Rashad Muhammad, also based in Memphis and a member of the Nation’s research team, described how his life is tied to him listening to and following Minister Farrakhan.
“He is that beacon of light that gives life. So as long as I am connected to him and follow that guidance, that light, it has blessed me with life. I’m indebted to Allah for this beautiful human being,” he shared. “He represents the life, the mercy and the grace of God.
He represents that clock that lets us measure the time that we’re living in. Our lives, our livelihoods and the quality of our life is all tied into how we respond to him.”
The Minister has inspired Saaudiah Muhammad, a licensed clinical social worker, to be more hands-on when helping people. The Minister’s words to her in or around the year 1997 in a meeting with the lieutenants have stuck with her. “He gave me the most beautiful blessing of saying I was beautiful. And I’m like, ‘Awww,’” she recalled. “That will forever be etched in my mind.”
Robert Muhammad, who works in the Nation’s national secretary office in Chicago, stated that the Minister’s direction and guidance have allowed him to maximize his potential as a human being. He also described Minister Farrakhan as a model of what’s needed to resurrect Black people.
“If it weren’t for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, we wouldn’t have any type of model at all to present to the people in a way that would help liberate them and bring them out of mental death that our open enemies have put them in,” he said. “He represents that beacon of light in the world not only for Black people, but for humanity as a whole.”
Dr. Larry Muhammad, former director of Muhammad University of Islam, described Minister Farrakhan as a friend and brother. “I cherish and hold on to those moments and opportunities where I’ve been able to be with him and spend time and learn from him. Have some humorous times, because the Minister is very humorous and always lifting people up,” he said.
Khaleelah Muhammad learned from the Minister what it means to fully submit to the Will of Allah and to sacrifice everything for the overall good of humanity. “I am a justice advocate, and it is because of him that I know what justice is. And it is through him that I have friendship in all walks of life. I am grateful!” she expressed.
Minister Farrakhan had been a good friend to the late Lafayette Gatling Sr., a renowned funeral director on the South Side of Chicago, and his wife Marguerite Gatling. Their daughter, Marquita Gatling, described the Minister as a man of stature, regal, always down to earth and always welcoming.
To sum up the voices of the people, Minister Farrakhan is a 90-year personification of love and service. He has reached into the hearts of the multitudes and has pulled them out from under Satan’s filth. This article offers just a small glimpse into the lives he has touched over 90 years.