Elon University held its second annual Legacy Symposium Thursday, which celebrates the life and contributions of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed.
The symposium, hosted by the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society, the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education and Muslim Life, featured guest speakers Imam Salahuddin Muhammad and Imam Oliver Mohammed from As Salaam Islamic Center in Raleigh.
W.D. is known for leaving behind the un-Islamic teachings of his father, and instead, examining the American environment and finding a way for Islam to be practiced in the U.S. Today, different colleges and universities have begun to study his teachings and consider Muhammed a thought leader in Islam.
“He has done some things that some scholars have begun to label him one of the most prolific Muslim Thinkers,” Oliver said.
The university previously held this event for the first time last year with speakers Imam Abdul Hafeez Waheed, Imam Salahuddin Muhammad and multifaith scholar Joycelyn Bently ‘22.
Oliver discussed how W.D. managed to practice his religion in an age of racism which caused many people to stop practicing their faith. He discussed how W.D.’s father’s teachings involved Black superiority and how W.D. changed his father’s Nation of Islam into what is now Islam in America.
“God blessed him with the tools to really change this whole community. And he did it with stabling grace and he did it without losing too many people,” Oliver said.
Salhuddin discussed how W.D. emphasis on how important it was for different faiths to collaborate with one another. He spoke of how W.D. believed that there were too many labels keeping people divided, and called for interfaith cooperation and collective responsibility. He believed that at the core, the principles of religions are almost identical.
“He called people together and said, ‘Look, we all come from the same male and female. … We are all derived from Adam and Eve,” Salahuddin said.
Both said they believe that W.D. symbolizes the type of excellence that God intended for humans to be. They hope that by showing the work he had done during the Legacy Symposium, they can help discourage Islamophobia and show that muslims — like all other Americans — love the U.S. and wish to help the nation live up to the true meaning of its creed.
“All are equal before God,” Oliver said.
Both Imams say that it is thanks to W.D. that Islam is growing as a religion. They say that there are people now who are beginning to study him, take what he taught and archive it. They believe that W.D. has given birth to a legacy that has caused many people to turn to Islam and continue to do so today. However, they do not believe that the fullness of W.D. legacy will be seen until the next century.
“I think in the next 100 years, people — not just in America but around the world — are really going to look at him as a real social reformer for this century,” Oliver said.