Elijah Muhammad’s Millions Belong to Black Muslim Group, Court Rules
CHICAGO (AP) _ The multimillion-dollar bank account of the late Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad belongs to the religious organization he founded, not his heirs, an Illinois appellate court has decided.
″Where funds are solicited to benefit a religious organization, we believe that basic principles of equity and fair dealing should preclude the use of those funds to benefit the personal estate of the religious leader,″ wrote Appellate Court Justice Mel Jiganti in the court’s opinion.
The bank account at the Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank Ltd.’s Chicago branch, formerly the First Pacific Bank of Chicago, totaled $3.3 million shortly after Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975, and because of accrued interest has increased to $5.7 million.
The dispute over the funds has been in the courts since Muhammad’s death and has pitted two of his sons against each other.
Emmanuel Muhammad, administrator of his father’s estate, argued that the money belonged to Elijah Muhammad’s 22 children.
Warith Deen Muhammad, Muhammad’s eldest son and the new leader of the religious group, which is now called the American Muslim Mission, maintained that the money belonged to the organization.
Following Elijah Muhammad’s death, the bank turned over the $3.3 million account to the Black Muslim movement, called the Nation of Islam, then headed by Warith Deen Muhammad.
However, in 1982, Cook County Judge Henry Budzinski ruled that the money was given to Elijah Muhammad for his personal use and should be turned over to his children with the interest accrued.
After an appeal, Budzinski ruled again in favor of the children in July 1986. The appellate court overturned that ruling Thursday.
The heirs have two weeks to ask the appellate court for a rehearing and 21 days to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Elijah Muhammad was born Elijah Poole, the son of a Georgia sharecropper. He moved to Detroit in the 1920s, where he met Wali Farad, founder of the movement there. He changed his name, became leader of the movement and moved its headquarters to Chicago in 1934.
He called himself a prophet and lived like a king in a fortress-like building on the South Side.
When he died at 77, the group had 100,000 members and Muhammad had amassed a fortune of as much as $20 million, much of it collected in small sums from followers.
Muhammad’s branch of the Nation of Islam took on the name American Muslim Mission after Louis Farrakhan split with the group in 1977.