Wallace Fard is a cypher.

He had some two dozen or so known aliases, often with the last name changed to Ford early on, and later Farad. To his followers, he is Master W. Fard Muhammad. He is, to them, Allah incarnate.

Police reports and FBI files show him as having been born in 1891, either in Portland, Oregon (confirmed by his ex-wife), Hawaii, or New Zealand. Nation of Islam hagiography says his nativity was 1877 in Mecca. Both agree (essentially) that the date was February 26 (now celebrated by members of the Nation of islam and some schismatic groups as Savior's Day). His race is invariably listed as white in the FBI files (and, alarmingly, his eyes as "maroon"!), sometimes with his mother listed as having been Polynesian. His wife was white, as was the mother of his child, on whose birth certificate the father's race is also listed as white. In short, Fard's credentials as a black man are seriously in doubt. The party line apologetics in the Nation of Islam state that Fard was half white in order to live in (but not of) the world of the Cave Man.

After the dissolution of his marriage about 1913, Fard drifted south from Oregon to Los Angeles. He had his first known run-in with the law when he nearly beat a customer at the restaurant he owned to death. By June 1926, Fard was in San Quentin, doing time for bootlegging and violation of the Poisons Act (i.e., pushing dope.)

When Fard emerged from San Quentin in 1930, he made a beeline for Detroit. He arrived (again, according to the official story) on July 4. He took to peddling silks door to door in the poorest black neighborhoods, slums crammed with migrants fresh from the rural South come to make a fortune; or at least a decent life.

They found neither.

Fard had an effective pitch for parting impoverished housewives from scarce cash. I come from your original homeland, he told them. There, your people are princes, and these fine silks are what princes wear.

Soon people would invite others to their houses to hear what the peddler had to say. You are the Original People, he'd say. Islam is the "Old Time Religion" you sing about in the White Man's church. That selfsame White Man stole you from your home, enslaved and oppressed you in this Wilderness of North America. That White Man is a degenerate creature, made 6,800 years ago by an evil scientist named Yakob. He did this on the island of Patmos, whence he had been banished for his hubris by the rulers of Mecca, by "grafting" weaker members of your race, generation after generation. Even after Yakob died, his minions went on with his plan, creating as they went the Brown Man, the Red Man and the Yellow Man. These transitional races, while inferior, retain color, and therefore at least some of the original virtues of the Black Man. The White Man is completely lacking in virtue, and, thus, they are devils.

Eventually, the White Devils, naked savages all, escaped from Patmos and immediately began causing trouble in Mecca. What had once been a peaceful place was now a charnel house of war and strife. The people of Mecca -- your people -- got tired of this pack of devils and chained them up, drove them across the Arabian Desert and deposited them in Europe. They lived there in caves, clad in skins, and even Moses himself was unable to civilize them.

As long as they stayed in Europe, the rest of the world was fine. Well, except for the Wilderness of North America, where the Red Man was doing penance for some sin or another.

The little groups that met at the homes of Fard's customers soon grew to such a size that they had to rent halls. It was at this stage, it seems, that Fard began to instruct his followers in the science and mathematics that the "cavies" had kept from them all this time. He began to decode for them the truths hidden in the White Man's history books, his Bible, and the radio broadcasts of the Jehova's Witness and Baptist preachers. All this material had to be interpreted because it came from the White Man, who was constitutionally incapable of telling the straight truth.

In the teachings of the Jehova's Witnesses, Fard said, it is clear that the time of the White Man ended in 1917, with the turning of the tides of the Great War. In 1986, the Black Man would take his rightful place as ruler. This time between is an interregnum, a time of grace, he told his flock. It is a time for you to learn all that has been kept from you so that you have the mental wherewithal to rule as you should. Fard set up a literacy program, so that all could read along and interpret the words of the Cave Man and learn the science and mathematics that had been denied them. Toward that end, the University of Islam was founded to teach the flock's children free of the influence of the white devils and their "tricknology." Attempts by the authorities in Detroit to exert their rightful educational hegemony over the cult led to full scale riots, including the storming of at least one police station. The City backed down.

In 1931, soon after the newly named Nation of Islam in the Wilderness of North America moved into bigger digs, an unemployed auto worker named Elijah Poole heard the Word of Allah.

One of the truths revealed by Fard was that God (Allah) was a living man. Indeed, the universe itself had been created by a committee of scientists, living Original Men all, sixty-six trillion -- that's right, trillion -- years ago. Poole took this immediately to heart. He made his way that first night through the throng to speak to Fard.

You, he said to Fard, are God, aren't you?

Fard looked at him sternly, then smiled and whispered to him, "Yes, I am." However, Fard continued, no one is to know.

Fard had a successful congregation going, but it was not without dissension. One follower was offended by the anti-Americanism in Fard's teachings, and founded a schismatic group of his own swearing allegence to the United States Constitution. Other members were coopted by outside influences. The communists got some. A Japanese fifth columnist convinced another of Fard's lieutenants to bring some followers into the fold of the Mikado.

Finally, there was the "Voodoo" killing.

In November 1932, a member of the Nation of Islam set up an altar in his home upon which he sacrificed his roommate, a man by the unlikely name of John Smith. He had convinced Smith that by allowing himself to be sacrificed thus, Smith would become a "savior." He had a list of others who were to be so sacrificed, including two social welfare agents who were assigned to his case.

There was more than one such incident involving what the police and press dubbed the "Voodoo Cult." Fard, you see, added another pillar to the foundation of Islam. He taught that four "white devils" were to be killed as a sin offering by each Muslim.

Fard was arrested. During interrogation he admitted that it had all been a con. Fard made a bundle charging ten dollars apiece to his followers to reveal their true names. (They would drop the names of the white devils who had owned their grandparents and go by the quasi-surname "X" until Fard provided them with their true names. Presumably, Malcolm X was too cheap.)

The Detroit PD had nothing on him really. They cut Fard loose with the proviso that he leave town. Poole, now Minister Elijah Karriem and Fard's controversial chief lieutenant, was leading the Temple of the Nation of Islam in Chicago. Fard went there to join Elijah.

Elijah's entire local family, including his two brothers had converted to Islam. Apparently Allah's attributes did not include omniscience. When the Poole brothers applied for their true names, they each got a different one. Fard explained this by insulting their mother. Obviously, Fard said, I just saw that your common paternity is illusory. Eventually, this gaffe was corrected and they all became surnamed Muhammad.

Finally, Fard announced he would be taking less of a role running things in the Nation of Islam. He left the Temple one day and was never seen again. Upon his departure, Elijah Muhammad revealed that Fard had been Allah, and he (Elijah) was his Prophet.

There are rumors of a man in a long flowing robe showing up in a Cadillac at the home of the mother of Fard's child in California.

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