Hundreds attend services for son of NOI founder

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VILLA PARK, Ill. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was among hundreds of Muslims attending a suburban Chicago service on Thursday to mourn the death of Imam W.D. Mohammed, the son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad.

VILLA PARK, Ill.     Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was among hundreds of Muslims attending a suburban Chicago service on Thursday to mourn the death of Imam W.D. Mohammed, the son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. W.D. Mohammed moved thousands of blacks into mainstream Islam after breaking with his father’s Chicago-based Nation of Islam organization. He was considered among the great Muslim leaders in North America and remembered Thursday as a man influenced by the divine as well as a loving husband and father. The 74-year-old Michigan native died Tuesday at his suburban Chicago home of heart disease and diabetes. "Imam Mohammed’s leadership was inspired by God," Khadija Mohammed, the late leader’s wife, told the crowd at the afternoon prayer service. "I love my husband, and I wish I could spend the rest of my life with him." She read excerpts from a notebook belonging to the late imam and recited verses from the Quran in Arabic at the afternoon prayer service at the Islamic Foundation of Villa Park. The crowd, an unusual mix of Nation of Islam and mainstream Islam followers, gathered on the lawn of the mosque periodically with chants of "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great." When Mohammed’s body was taken away in a silvery gray casket, mourners gathered around it reciting Quranic verses. Many snapped pictures with cell phone cameras. Some had traveled from around the country to pay their respects for the imam, who went by both Warith Deen Mohammed and Wallace Muhammad. "He taught us about human excellence and tried to do the right thing," said 60-year-old Jihad Shahid, who came from St. Louis. "People should read his literature and study it. People should live what he taught." Many speculated about whether anyone would take over for Mohammed, with some believing there won’t be a successor. "I’m upset but not deeply saddened," Ameenah Muhammad, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said about the leader’s death. "He did an amazing job. Humanity will lead itself." On Wednesday, family members said a successor had not been designated. The highly decentralized movement involves mosques and business endeavors around the country, as well as the Muslim Journal newspaper based in Homewood, Ill. "It’s a question of whether members of that movement want to have another leader," said Lawrence Mamiya, a religion professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "There are candidates around…The movement could also branch off." He said many mosques could also become independent. Some attendees, like 62-year-old Syed Raheem Ullah, of Naperville, had followed Mohammed’s teachings for more than two decades and said it would be hard to replace him. "He’s our leader," he said. "He will have a very important place in Muslim history in America," he said. Farrakhan — surrounded by tight security — delivered no public remarks but consoled Mohammed’s family members with hugs and handshakes. Farrakhan and Mohammed had a long, strained relationship. In 1975, Mohammed became the leader of Nation of Islam when his father died. The movement espoused black supremacy and self-reliance. But Mohammed soon broke with Nation of Islam and became a mainstream Muslim. Farrakhan revived the old Nation of Islam. The two publicly reconciled in 2000 at a prayer service, but Mohammed continued to criticize Nation of Islam leaders. ______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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