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This Far by Faith

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Witnesses to Faith Ni'Mat Abdus-Sam'ad

Ni'Mat Abdus-Sam'ad Ingrid Askew Cornelia Bailey Horace Clarence Boyer Sister Clare Carter Cain Hope Felder Rachel Harding W.W. Law James Lawson Lena McLin Abiodun Oyewole Charles Sherrod Zohara Simmons Cornel West


Ni'Mat Abdus-Sam'ad

Photo of Ni'Mat Abdus-Sam'ad "The difference between the Muslim I was under Elijah Mohammed, and the Muslim I am today, is oh — it's really an overwhelming difference. Um, the Muslim I was under Elijah Mohammed was timid, um, a lot of, um, fears and concerns, practically no self-esteem... the Muslim I am today is a Muslim who has no doubt that there's no God but Allah. The Muslim I am today is one who is, um, firm in the belief, strong in my practice. Um, in the Nation of Islam, I would barely touch the Quran. Today, by the grace of Allah... I not only touch it; I am in it." --Ni'Mat Abduss-Sam'ad, 2000

Ni'Mat Abdus-Sam'ad was living in Washington, DC and working for the CIA as a cable reader when her fiancé first took her to a Nation of Islam temple. Ni'mat had grown up in a family that was both Methodist and Baptist, and she had converted to Catholicism because it was her fiancé's religion. But the heavy feelings of guilt and the fact that one was not supposed to talk directly to God kept Ni'mat from feeling totally connected to Catholicism. Although she knew nothing about the Nation at the time, she joined the temple with her husband-to-be in December of 1963.

Ni'mat quickly grew to respect the way the Nation elevated black men and taught black people not to be afraid to speak out. She liked the Nation's discipline, sense of loyalty, and emphasis on family. Through her involvement with the Nation, she came to believe that black people could come together and accomplish anything.

When Elijah Muhammed died and his son Wallace was named leader in 1975, Ni'mat felt the changes he brought to the Nation were very liberating. Wallace took away the women's uniforms, fired corrupt leaders, and gave long teachings on the Quran and the meaning of orthodox Islam. For Ni'Mat, Wallace's leadership was like "opening the door of a cage and - and I'm free!"

Despite these positive changes, Ni'mat was angry enough over tales of Elijah Muhammed's infidelities and corruption to leave the Nation in 1976. She moved away from Islam and went through six difficult years during which she separated from her husband, raised her daughter alone, and felt deep spiritual dissatisfaction. In the early 1980s, a Muslim woman was hired as a nurse at her office. Ni'mat began talking regularly with her about Islam, until one morning she woke up, put on her head scarf and long skirt, and told her boss that she would be taking Fridays off to go to the mosque. Since then, Ni'mat has been a practicing Sunni Muslim. In 1993, she started studying Arabic and writing for her mosque's newsletter. Ni'Mat feels that being a Sunni Muslim, studying the Quran, and learning Arabic have caused her to have greater self-esteem and to grow mentally and spiritually.