In the Shadow of Death

A Mystery Virus Triggers Rumors of a Murder Plot Against the Cancer-Stricken Louis Farrakhan and Talk of a Power Struggle Inside His Nation Of Islam

Donna Farrakhan, one of the minister's daughters, who is the sister captain of the FOI.

Leonard F. Muhammad, the minister's taciturn chief of staff and chair of the National Board of Laborers, who is married to Donna. Considered a diplomat and a conciliator, Leonard, according to one source, is "not the power-hungry type."

Ishmael Muhammad, Farrakhan's assistant minister at Mosque Maryam in Chicago, and the son of the late Elijah Muhammad. Some say that Ishmael is destined to fulfill Elijah's prophecy that one day he would rise up to continue the work of his father. "Farrakhan has been grooming him," a source says. "Even though people were angry, he just pushed him out there and he made him grow and grow and grow. People are saying, 'This is a boy, he can't counsel me.' "

Will to live: Minister Farrakhan at last month's Saviours' Day celebration
Eric Ture Muhammad
Will to live: Minister Farrakhan at last month's Saviours' Day celebration

Rasul Muhammad, Ishmael's brother, who is the seventh regional minister, based in Miami, and the former head of Detroit's prestigious Mosque Number 1. Some say the brothers don't get along. ("You can feel the tension sometimes between Rasul and Ishmael," a source says.) Rasul allegedly fell into disrepute after he shunned a number of black Muslim women he had been dating and took, as one insider put it, a "white-looking Mexican girl" as his wife. After black women in the mosque nearly revolted, Farrakhan reassigned Rasul to Miami.

Jabril Muhammad, the former Bernard Cushmere, is a trusted Farrakhan adviser, whom the minister credits with "removing the scales" from his eyes and guiding him back to Elijah Muhammad's original teachings. Jabril writes a weekly column entitled "Farrakhan: The Traveler," in The Final Call, the NOI's newspaper. He is the author of several studies on Black Muslim prophecy, including The Jesus Book and This Is The One, which features a historical interview with Elijah.

When the Nation of Islam split following Elijah's death, and Elijah's son Wallace assumed control, Jabril reportedly threatened to expose Wallace as a hypocrite for denouncing his father as a racist. Jabril claimed that he had sensitive predictions about Wallace's future based on interviews he'd conducted with the prophetic Elijah.

According to a popular Nation legend, shortly before Jabril and Silis Muhammad— who now heads a splinter group called the Lost-Found Nation of Islam— were to confront Wallace, Jabril was arrested on trumped-up charges in Arizona. "He didn't get the chance to foil Wallace's takeover," a source says. To this day, Farrakhan's followers still hold Wallace's camp responsible. (Wallace has consistently refused to respond to these charges.)

Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, the NOI's minister of health and one of Farrakhan's personal physicians. Alim attracted national attention in the early '90s for advocating Kemron, low-dosage alpha interferon, as a cure for AIDS.

Benjamin F. Muhammad, Farrakhan's chief representative in New York— the former Ben Chavis, who was forced to resign from the NAACP in 1994 after he was charged with secretly diverting $250,000 of the organization's funds to settle a sex-discrimination suit. Farrakhan came to Benjamin's rescue, first appointing the Christian minister co-convener of the historic Million Youth March and later converting him to Islam. Benjamin has since become one of Farrakhan's most trusted advisers. Not fully accepted within the Nation by some because they fear he may take the group mainstream, Benjamin has opened doors previously closed to the allegdly anti-Semitic Farrakhan. Although the cloud of scandal has not yet lifted from this militant former member of the Wilmington 10, Benjamin is considered a formidable potential successor to Farrakhan. — Peter Noel & Karen Mahabir

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