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Reclaiming Malcolm X’s Legacy

Imam Omar Suleiman

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The following is an excerpt from a speech Sh. Omar Suleiman made at the Audobon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated.

Martyrdom at the Audobon

The martyr has eternal life. Malcolm may have died here, but as Muslims we believe that he was also received by his Lord, at this very spot, into a much better place. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that when a person dies, either they are relieved from this world, or this world is relieved from them. I believe we can safely say that Malcolm was relieved from this world as he transitioned to his rightful place.

But where does that leave us? The world, and this country specifically, needs Malcolm’s message now more than ever. With the deliberate attempts to erase him from history, we must push back. In his own words, “History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.” Multiple forces have tried, and continue to try, to silence Malcolm, but his voice is too powerful. He knew how he would be portrayed. As his autobiography was coming to a close, he said to Alex Haley, “When I am dead – I say it that way because from the things I know, I do not expect to live long enough to read this book in its finished form – I want you to just watch and see if I’m not right when I say that the white man, in his press, is going to identify me with ‘hate.’”

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Caption: 2/22/1965-New York, NY: Crowds jammed the sidewalks outside the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem hours before the fatal shooting.

He also said, “I know that societies often have killed people who have helped to change those societies. And if I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help destroy the racist cancer that is malignant in the body of America then all of the credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine.”

Malcolm had the courage to challenge everyone to do better. He challenged white America to reckon with its pathology of racism, and black America to strive for self-empowerment. He challenged Muslims globally to live up to the anti-racism scriptures of Islam, and to practice its doctrine of equality and striving for the oppressed. He challenged every human being to see their fellow man as a full human being. Finally, he showed us what it looks like to constantly challenge one’s own judgments and evolve with revealed truths. This was not only a sign of his integrity, but the mark of his undisputed sincerity.

“Despite my firm convictions,” he stated, “I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds. I have always kept an open mind, a flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of the intelligent search for truth.”

He continued, “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost and, as such, I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

El Hajj Malik El Shabazz

Malcolm never stopped growing. He was too great to stay little, too global to stay Detroit, and too defined to stay X.  He continued to grow until he became El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, our black shining prince. Yet, he was always critical of himself, and true to what he believed in. In March 1964, as he formally moved on from the Nation of Islam, he wrote in his letter to Elijah Muhammad, “I am and always will be a Muslim.”

He never took the more convenient route, only the route of truth. And he displayed, more than anything else, what it looked like when you had the courage to match your convictions. As Don Will said, “Change is revolutionary by nature and Malcolm’s transformation serves a lasting testament that we, as people, are not resigned to our character flaws or personal misfortunes. Your world is a microcosm of our world and they shift accordingly as well.”

Despite the fact that he was a minister in the Nation of Islam, the founder of Muslim Mosque Inc., and one of the greatest Muslims in the world, he rejected the term “honorable” for himself, choosing instead to be referred to simply as “Brother Malcolm.” However, as the eulogist said, “When we honor him, we honor the best of ourselves. Malcolm was a political, cultural, and religious revolutionary.”

The last words Malcolm was introduced with were from this spot, “The one who loves you so much that he would give his life for you.”

Malcolm loved the unloved because he knew what it was like to be abandoned.

Malcolm loved Ali before he shook up the world, when he was just a teenage Cassius Clay.

Malcolm was of the first to recognize what true intersectionality looked like when he became the first prominent black leader in America to speak out against the Vietnam War, and to recognize the injustices against the Palestinian people, whom he visited in Gaza in 1964.

Well before Wakanda, Malcolm knew that a strong Africa was essential to the plight of black people in America and around the world. Before the “Black Is Beautiful” or “Black Power” movements, before Ali said, “I’m beautiful,” and James Brown, “I’m black and I’m proud,”  Malcolm said, “Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair and the color of your skin?”

Malcolm unapologetically put global white supremacy on trial, and was willing to stand alone as its most vocal prosecutor. He boldly wrote from Africa, “I WANT TO DISMANTLE THE ENTIRE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM OF RACIAL EXPLOITATION.”

We all owe him so much

When Ali shakes up the world, we owe Malcolm.

When Chris Jackson, who became Mahmoud AbdulRauf after reading Malcolm’s autobiography, takes a stand against militarism, we owe Malcolm.

When Colin Kaepernick kneels in protest of police brutality, we owe Malcolm.

When young black children find beauty in themselves and refuse to internalize toxic bigotry, we owe Malcolm.

When a prisoner in America’s modern system of slavery starts to liberate his mind by reading, and finds hope in faith, refusing to succumb to what the system has tried to permanently reduce him to, we owe Malcolm.

When activists rise to defy seemingly unconquerable systems of exploitation, we owe Malcolm.

When young Muslims exercise their right to not only live with dignity in this country, but also challenge the country to be more dignified, we owe Malcolm.

Malcolm was and is our strength. He gave us shoulders to stand on and an intellectual foundation to build on. And he showed us how sincere faith can push us through any fear.


The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center is the site where Malcolm X was assassinated 53 years ago. The goal of this Campaign is to not only revive the Center but to ensure that it serves as a world class memorial site documenting the legacy of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz for the benefit of future generations.  Launch Good Campaign

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Imam Dr. Omar Suleiman is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, and an Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at SMU (Southern Methodist University). He is also the Resident Scholar at Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square. He holds a Bachelor's in Accounting, a Bachelor's in Islamic Law, a Masters in Islamic Finance, a Masters in Political History, and a Phd. in Islamic Thought and Civilization from the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    aronno anindo

    June 1, 2018 at 10:33 AM

    Masha Allah, what a speech! Love it!

  2. Avatar

    Alonzo Gardner

    June 1, 2018 at 7:30 PM

    Elijah Muhammad made Malcolm x.and Malcolm would tell you so.

  3. Avatar

    Alonzo Gardner

    June 1, 2018 at 7:34 PM

    Elijah made Muhammad Ali and made Farrakhan Muhammad they will all tell you so.

    • Avatar

      Jena Deen

      June 1, 2018 at 9:57 PM

      Allah, The Creator, made Malcolm, Ali, & You. Humble yourself.

  4. Avatar

    Kirkland S Haywood

    June 1, 2018 at 10:28 PM

    Malcolm did not have the luxury of protection afforded to Elijah Muhammad or Louis Farrakhan, but yet had no fear of death. I have respect for all three men, but the HONORABLE El Hajj Malik El Shabazz was/is the epitome of black manhood, our shinning prince. Remember, he was going to take America to the world court for atrocities against black Americans and they killed him. Nuff said.

  5. Avatar

    Robert Hemingway jr

    June 2, 2018 at 12:34 AM

    Everyone knows who was behind the cowardly act that took Malcolms life

  6. Avatar

    Robert Hemingway jr

    June 2, 2018 at 12:38 AM

    I know this article is not about the assassination, but to read comments saying Elijah Muhammad made Malcolm? What y’all smokin

  7. Avatar

    Sheldon X

    June 2, 2018 at 6:59 AM

    The Most Honerable Elijah Muhammad made Malcolm X and he would tell you so. Elijah is who the Prophets prophesied would come. Check Malachi. Join the Nation of Islam. ☮️

  8. Avatar

    Mustafa Bey

    June 2, 2018 at 7:03 AM

    Malcolm X!!!

  9. Avatar

    Abdullah Brown

    June 3, 2018 at 6:03 AM

    I would like to see more attention and research regarding the life of the woman behind Malcolm: Ella Little-Collins. His older sister, she helped raise Malcolm, stood by him through his wild years, followed him into the NOI, and preceded him in leaving NOI for Sunni Islam. She paid for his Hajj, identified his remains, and paid for his funeral, taking care to assure that he was buried as a Sunni Muslim. This was an extraordinary person whose role in the modern history of Islam is terribly underappreciated.

  10. Avatar

    SpecialKinNJ

    June 3, 2018 at 6:21 PM

    As one who is not a fan of Malcolm, re “when” all the behavioral consequences of his tenure will be realized, I’m inclined to agree with what Wayne and Holly had to say: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc-PfdqKPiQ

  11. Avatar

    Henry

    June 6, 2018 at 11:12 AM

    When Malcolm X visited Gaza in 1964 is was occupied by Egypt and Gamal Abdel Nasser…..

  12. Avatar

    Javon Roye

    June 28, 2018 at 11:07 PM

    The power in the last section of this article where you state how much we owe Brother Malcolm is chilling! Great read.

  13. Avatar

    Ekram

    July 1, 2018 at 3:18 PM

    Mash Allah
    Barekelahufik for the great writing .

  14. Avatar

    Tadar Wazir

    February 25, 2019 at 10:01 AM

    Everyone is born a Muslim – research the meaning of the word? Then one’s environment causes one to become what one later on becomes. One’s environment may have enough influence to cause a person to become a non-Muslim or range from an ignorant – one with little knowledge of what a Muslim is – Muslim or a saint; and with the right pressures and frequencies – we are all composed of all of the elements that make up the physical matrix of the universe – for the right amount of time one can change from one form of physical, intellectual, and spiritual existence into another based on our individual faith. One of the ways that we are molded into the shape that we are sent here to be is by being taught by another human being. Elijah Muhammad with his 3rd grade southern farmer education did all that he could to inspire Bros.: Malcolm X aka Al Hajj Malik Shabazz, Muhammad Ali, and his son Wallace, aka Warith Deen Mohammed – whom he exclaimed the last time when his distractors within the Nation of Islam wanted to get him put out of the NOI “This is what I’ve been looking for!” And asked his wife Sis. Clara Muhammad if what he just stated was true, to which she replied yes. Afterwards he told Wallace in front of all of his ministers who were present at that meeting that he could teach what he was teaching anywhere. – Being their teacher who was placed their by Allah for their benefit to get His recipe for them to turn out right he the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is the man behind these men who all acknowledged him for the good that he taught them to their dying days. Bro. Al Hajj Malik Shabazz made it known that he would be murdered but the NOI would not be the one’s who would do so, because he knew how he was being shadowed all over the world, and different things that happened in his travels let him know that there were forces at work to stop him and his influence. He said that the FBI were writing letters to both him and Elijah Muhammad to keep them at odds with each other. The ones apprehended for his assassination were members of the NOI – according to the one who later became a “Sunni” Muslim while incarcerated; and having visited with Bro. Al Hajj Imam W. Deen Mohammed – with no knowledge of who in the NOI chain of command originated the note they got to take out Malcolm X. Bro. Al Hajj Malik Shabazz said that he had no animosity towards Elijah Muhammad and doubts that any of his letters were reaching him due to the way things were being played out in the media and life. The Hon. Elijah Muhammad became disillusioned by what his teacher Bro. W. D. Fard Muhammad had taught him when he went to Mecca and saw that the streets were not paved in gold, he found out that Muslims – like the people of the Bible – are allowed to have more than one (1) wife, and a couple of other things were not as he had been taught to teach. In a 1961 radio broadcast, I have a copy of it which can become available for those who want it, The Hon. Elijah Muhammad made it clear that he was not teaching us religion, due to the religion being too big and the time too short. But he did say that he knows that “Allah is G-d” without the usual who came in the person of statement attached to it, and that we need to get into Islam as soon as possible. With the former FBI Director’s mandate to not allow any savior to arise who would unite the Negro all one has to do is connect the dots.

  15. Avatar

    Yes I said it

    June 16, 2019 at 7:02 PM

    Great article but Muslims in America predominantly know nothing of this great man or don’t care to. Specially black, African Americans in this country paved the way for all immigrants who came thereafter yet are marginalized by their Muslim peers and maligned as if the first and second generation immigrant Muslims they paved the way for are the racists who enslaved the African Americans to begin with. I am not African American but I am black and I can say that if Islam wasn’t the truth I would’ve left if because of the nationalism and racism of Muslims in America who would never let you marry their daughters, befriend them, or share genuine salaams. In short most Muslims are just as racist as the whites of the civil rights era in terms of stereotyping blacks.

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