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Ameenah Rasul, leader of women in the Nation of Islam, dies at 90

Leroy Baylor | 7/17/2014, 12:27 p.m.

The sight of large numbers of white-uniformed Nation of Islam women streaming into Lagree Baptist Church on West 125th Street in Harlem set off rumors of Minister Louis Farrakhan making an unannounced speaking engagement to the possible passing of an important Muslim.

Indeed, the passing of Captain Ameenah Rasul was the reason for more than 500 Muslim women, known as MGT, and men, FOI, to convene for the funeral rites of the person Elijah Muhammad made captain over the female members of Temple No. 7 in 1958, following the recommendation of Minister Malcolm X. Rasul’s birth name was Clotelle when she was born Oct. 8, 1923, in St. Matthews, S.C., to Joseph and Annie Mae Moses Larrymore. It was her higher education in tailoring, cosmetology and culinary arts at Brainerd Institute in Chester, S.C., that prepared her for Muhammad’s “do-for-self’ ideology she later embraced in 1957.

The women who received training and guidance under Rasul were the opposite of the myth that Black Muslim women were meant to be docile, and unlettered and to “just make babies.” Under her training, women were guided to see themselves as leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, property owners, informed mothers and wives. For example, said Helene Joyner, who was 12 when she came into the Nation with her mother in 1972, “I was a junior captain at the age of 15. I learned to sew doll clothes for fundraisers. Sister Lois was our teacher. She had a doll factory in her apartment in East Harlem, where we would put together doll parts and sew Muslim garments for them in the mornings before afternoon classes at the University of Islam. Today, I’m a designer, I teach sewing to young elementary school students in Fulton County, Ga.”

Bernice 2X, who became a Muslim in 1955, added that Rasul “was a mother figure. I was young and away from my family, and she taught me like a mother what a woman is supposed to be—upright, dignified and carrying oneself with confidence. My experience with her was critical in my successful raising of two boys and a girl. All three have master’s degrees in math or science and share their knowledge with others.”

Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, Farrakhan’s New York representative who officiated over the funeral service, pointed to her guidance and counsel of both women and men in the Nation of Islam. Hafeez’s insights were confirmed by Muslims who were present in the 1960s and 1970s.

George Khaldun cited Rasul’s humility, wisdom and caring personality. “What she shared with the women of Islam was reflected in my wife, which in turn impacted on our three wonderful children and me. All three of the children are successful today because Captain Rasul taught the women to be effective mothers and teachers in the home,” he said.

Imam Abu Karriem said that Rasul was a “pillar of gentleness, yet strong. Her demeanor showed you she was dedicated to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.”

Professor Takbir Muhammad stated, “Our family learned a lot from her. It was her wisdom that helped me and my wife celebrate our 50th anniversary. Captain Ameenah knew how to cement a family.”

The significance of Rasul to the Black community is that within the Nation of Islam, she trained, guided and motivated thousands of women to rise above the stereotypical images portrayed of Black women in this society. The formula was what fueled Malcolm X, Farrakhan, Captain Yusuf Shah and Muhammad Ali. They and Rasul were all taught directly by Elijah Muhammad himself.

Rasul, who died July 5 in Atlanta, was preceded in death by her husband, Minister Wali Rasul, who she married in 1943. She is survived by their two sons, Herman Scott and Willie Scott; daughter-in-law Margaret Scott; nieces and nephews; and the members of the Nation of Islam, who came to salute a mother figure who made a phenomenal difference in their lives.