[Editor’s note: The following article is based on excerpts from an address delivered by Minister Farrakhan at a tribute to Minister Don Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 11 in Boston and a longtime follower of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and pioneer in the Nation of Islam. Minister Don served as a powerful community leader in Boston, Mass., and statewide and as a regional minister and a national consultant to student ministers of the Nation of Islam. He remains a longtime helper, friend and companion of Min. Farrakhan. Tribute was paid to Min. Don on Sept. 10, 2016 at the Lantana banquet facility in Randolph, Mass., outside of the city of Boston.]


In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

I am here to honor a great servant of Allah (God) and his wife and his children. So this will be the Don and Shirley Muhammad Show. There is no way in heaven or in hell that I could honor Brother Don and not honor his life companion Sister Shirley Muhammad.


Every man that becomes great in life has a partner. The Scriptures (Bible) say that when Allah (God) created Adam, it was not good for a man to be alone. That’s a great Scripture. Why is it not good for a man to be alone? Because no man is complete by himself.


As a student of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad all that I know and all that I’m sharing with the world is because I tried to be a good student of a Master Teacher. It hurts me that the people honor the students and cover the great teacher of us all. There would be no Don Muhammad if there were no Elijah Muhammad. There would be no Malcolm X if there were no Elijah Muhammad. There would be no Muhammad Ali if there were no Elijah Muhammad. There would be no Imam Warith Deen Muhammad if there were no Elijah Muhammad. There would not be a Louis Farrakhan if I had not met and fell in love with and determined to follow the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Thank you all for standing in recognition of the Master Teacher.

Every man that becomes great in life has a partner. The Scriptures (Bible) say that when Allah (God) created Adam, it was not good for a man to be alone. That’s a great Scripture. Why is it not good for a man to be alone? Because no man is complete by himself. Allah created the Woman from the same essence the Qur’an teaches as He created the Man. He gave these two, two natures that complement each other that’s why this is the Don and Shirley Show.

No man who finds his purpose in life can really fulfill that purpose without the proper mate. The Bible calls Eve a help, not mate, but a helpmeet. Not m-e-a-t. But help m-e-e-t. Meet what? Every man that is a man has been given an obligation by God to become a producer—every man; not some men. God didn’t see that Adam could accomplish his assignment to multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it; he already had a garden but it needed dressing. So He gave Adam a command. “You dress this garden but I have to give you a woman to help you meet the obligation that I have put on you.”

When I met my brother, my companion in struggle; my friend in a mission bigger than ourselves, I met a man. I never met Don the boy and I met him when he was seventeen years of age. Why do I say I met a man? Now at 17 you’re supposed to be a boy but when I met Brother Don, I met a man. He was whole from the time I met him. I didn’t understand at that time the tremendous relationship that he had with the queen of his life, Sister Shirley. When I met her, she was nineteen. I was a little older than both of them but not by much. But I was a minister.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Minister Don Muhammad.

This coming year will be my 60th year as an accepted, ordained minister of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I’m not tired and neither is my brother. This is not a retirement party and I didn’t bring a gold watch to give my brother. This is a step away from public life but never a step away from the mission of his life. Brother Don has become wise … now wait, wait, wait, let me say become but when I met him he was wise. What you mean Farrakhan? I met him working. That was wise. He was married. That was wise.


Now watch the progression of his life. He was 17 when I met him; I was maybe seven years his senior. Because when I met him I was Minister Louis or I met him when I was a Fruit of Islam captain. But we were soldiers, that’s the thing I want to get to. You have to be a soldier for God in order to become great in His service.

To my Christian family; you can’t be a real true follower of Jesus the Christ and you’re not a soldier. Soldiers are disciplined in the study of the craft of the master teacher (the Commander in Chief). Jesus needs some good soldiers. You say, “wait a minute now I feel I’m a good soldier.” But you can tell when you have a good soldier because a good soldier knows how to follow the orders of his commander.

Being a good Christian doesn’t mean you have a cross around your neck. Being a good Muslim doesn’t mean you declare ashadu-ilaha-illallah (there is no God but Allah). Are you following the commands of the Commander in Chief of the Army of Allah? Most of us follow our own will until our own will causes us to stumble and fall, and then we think about doing the Will of God.

My teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, says a man doesn’t even learn how to live until he’s 75. Because when you reach 75, you’ve tried all your stupidness and you are just about broken at that time—if you’re still around. You start regretting your rebelliousness against the God that you claim to serve. So you begin to break down and some of us don’t even make it to 75. So you retire? Jesus never retired, even in death he leads. The grave can never hold a righteous man down.

When I was a young fresh boy I wasn’t blessed like Brother Don to have a father that Don could reflect on. Have a mother that inspired him and a father that inspired and gave him an example of what a man is. I’m talking about Don’s father, his grandchildren’s great grandfather. That man, Brother Don told me, came to Boston to find out what his son had accepted. Brother Don had just gotten married and he was ga-ga over Shirley. Who wouldn’t be? (Smile). But Shirley was a no nonsense woman. You didn’t play with Shirley.

We had a private meeting in the living room of the home that the Believers had acquired at 37 Intervale Street in Boston. She sat in a chair and I sat distant from her but I could tell she was a beautiful sister. I believe, I don’t know because I never asked her, that she came to check me out. Shirley, if you know her, wasn’t going to let her husband join something stupid.

I want to talk to you about a beautiful man and a beautiful woman who produced a beautiful family. Now when I saw Brother Don I always saw him with a lot of clothes going to the cleaners to put it in the machine. He was always busy that’s why we never had much real conversation at that time. Every time I saw him he was doing something. Nobody had to teach Don Muhammad how to be a man. He was always working for his wife and his family. But he was not by himself. Sister Shirley was his “help who”? Meet. Not meat. But meet. She was committed to the man she married.


Sister Shirley Muhammad, wife of Minister Don Muhammad. Photos: Hassan Muhammad

Now listen brothers when you’re in a house and got two competing disciplines—the husband is a doctor the wife is a lawyer. They don’t have a certain kind of life together because she’s always taking care of lawyer business, he’s always taking care of doctor business. It’s like two trains that never really meet; they’re on parallel lines—not Don and Shirley. She was committed to what he was committed to. He was in business, she was by his side. I never saw Sister Shirley away from the work of her husband because the work of her husband was her work.


When I would walk up Blue Hill Avenue as a young minister I would pass by his cleaning establishment, Nova Sheen. I would look in the glass and there was Shirley pressing shirts. All of us as Muslims wore a white shirt and tie. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad wanted to dress us up like businessmen because he was introducing us to a style of life and a lifestyle that would make us the future businessmen of our people; there was Shirley. And I looked: Oh wow there’s Yvette, I look again there’s Gerald. This was really a family business. These children grew up under two working parents. But they were of one singular objective.

I wish you had a husband that you could be a helpmeet too. Poor sisters getting married to men that don’t have no idea of what a productive life is. How can you ask a woman to be your helpmeet to do nothing? He’s so handsome, he’s so cute. Yes. But you know you better listen to mother Shirley because Don was handsome. Don was cute. But he was a BMW; he was a Black Man Working.

Then he became a minister. He was a lieutenant first. When I met Brother Don and saw him grow as we both were growing. He became not only a brother, a soldier, a lieutenant, a warrior— he was really a soldier’s soldier, a lieutenant’s lieutenant, a minister’s minister. He was special all the way through to this very moment.

Of all of the things that Brother Don has accomplished, I loved what my brother, Dr. Errol Williams, the forensic psychology master, had to say and the beautiful words he spoke about the man that took him in. So that great brother said to Brother Don as he was walking past, “You don’t even know how many people you have affected.” Because he has corrected and helped hundreds but he would not have had that ability to do it except that he had a father in Don Muhammad. That’s what Minister Don was taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and he exemplified it.

I’m surprised that you didn’t have sisters up here saying something about the effect that Brother Don had on Black women that came under his direction. It’s a male dominated affair and I really sat there and I said, “Wow. You mean to tell me you couldn’t find a sister that this great teacher had affected?” His wife was a teacher of women and a soldier and a lieutenant. So that’s a relationship made on a higher level.

I want to say to Don and Shirley, death can never touch you and death can never touch her. The physical flesh will wear away because that’s the nature of the flesh. But as they sing in the church, it’s what you do for Christ that lives. I’m not talking just about singing in the choir. I’m talking about transforming human life by the power of the word of God. So personally Brother Don, I’m really honored to be here today to pay respect to you and Sister Shirley.

My wife, Khadijah, wanted to be here but honestly she was ill and we thought that she would regain her strength. My daughters stayed home with her to help her regain her strength. So our sons came with their father to pay respect to Brother Don and Shirley and this family.

Now I haven’t gotten any degree. I’m not bragging. I thank God for all of you who have achieved a degree. But I have students all over the world that have doctorate degrees, though I am learned but I don’t have letters. No B.S. degree. No more of the same, M.S. degree. No Ph.D. that says I’m a doctor but cannot heal the corruption in my discipline. You don’t need a degree in the educational system rooted in White supremacy to qualify you to be a good servant of your people. Most of us who get a degree want to make it in the world of our former slave masters and their children and sometimes we run away from the work of transforming the lives of our people who are less fortunate than we are.

Don and Shirley never forgot the little man, the little woman. I thank God for all their children and the impact that they have had in their various fields of human endeavor. I hope Don Jr., and Brian will find women in their lives that will be to you like your mother was to and is to your father. I hope that my children will be fortunate like their father and their grandfather to have a woman whose only desire was to help her husband be the man that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad desired me to be and to take care of me in the best manner.

Brother Don has done things in this life that saved the lives of hundreds and thousands of men and women. Brother Don made a friend out of Chief William Bratton, the former police commissioner or superintendent in Boston. When Mr. Bratton was elevated to chief of police in New York under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, they had a negative view of Muslims. They came to our mosque and sometimes when you come in a disrespectful manner to us we can’t respect your authority. A fight ensued and we whipped the police. That doesn’t mean that we’re an enemy of the police but we’re not the lay-down Negro. We are not the group that you can walk on and spit on and mistreat and then think that you’re going to take us out and we don’t fight like hell to defend the life that God has given us.

We need good police but notice I described police with an adjective “good.” Police who are there, not as an occupying army, but as men and women there who serve and protect what they are policing. Don was the kind of minister that stood against police brutality. Don was the type of minister that he would go where he needed to go to correct an injustice. His shoes are gargantuan and these two young men are trying to continue his work. But I urge them to be humble because his shoes keep growing. He may be sitting down but his shoes are still growing. How you going to fit in a shoe that keeps growing unless your foot is growing too?

When I stood up to rebuild the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, I came to Boston and I came seeking my brother. We met in a little coffee shop on Massachusetts Avenue just before you go over the bridge to Cambridge. We talked in the morning. I said, “Brother Don could you help me.” He said, “Oh yes, brother I’d like you to stop by the house, we’ll have dinner this evening and we’ll talk to Sister Shirley.”

That’s why this is the Don and Sister Shirley Show—make no mistake about it.

When I got to the house that evening she had laid out a dinner with the help of her beautiful children. She came to me in a very nice respectful way but she was stern. She was firm. She said, “Brother are you serious about what you say you want to do?” I said, “yes ma’am.” She said, “Because if you’re not serious you don’t need to bother with me and us.” I said, “Yes ma’am. I am serious.” There were many that didn’t think I was serious. But this is my 40th year since my teacher departed that I have kept the light of his teaching alive all over the world. That night Sister Shirley committed herself, her family and affirmed the commitment of her husband to help me in this work. And there was not a moment that Brother Minister Don didn’t stand and soldier hard to help me in the most difficult time of our Islamic life, trying to rebuild the work of a man that was buried under garbage. People came to me and said, “you don’t need to carry his baggage you’re a leader on your own right.” See how people try to pump you up and make you think you’re more than what you are?

I told them I cannot use his teachings and not give him the credit for teaching. I’ll carry the baggage whatever it is. A lot of people fell out with me because I was not going to violate his teaching. It proved to be the right thing to do, listen to me now, because he never wanted us to follow the Islamic world that had deviated from the Prophet Muhammad. When you follow a deviant you are a deviant yourself. That’s why you do not go out to do dawah work like you should. We stay inside the mosque or the temple and become bourgeois Christians.

Here your people are dying in the street and you got the word in your head but nothing in your heart of love for your suffering people?

Don and Shirley are a marvelous example. The only thing that disturbs me is who will write their history? Who will recognize the value of their contribution to the development of Black people not only in Boston but in the State and in the country?


Honor the work that Brother Don has done; encourage the two young men that are trying to complete his assignment. When you go from this place try to do the best that you can to make your life worthy of honor and respect. Thank you for inviting me and I’m happy that I didn’t break down talking about my brother and the greatness of my brother.

I pray that God will grant him long life and his dear wife Sister Shirley as her health is diminishing. When you got a life-long companion, when they’re in pain you feel it. When their life is diminished by the ravages of time, you feel it. If we don’t uphold our brother with the strength of our love as the ravages of time take us all away, God will not forgive us for not being faithful to a soldier who was faithful to all of us.

Thank you to all my student ministers for their kind words. Thank you to all who worked to fill this hall. Thank you for choosing Lantana as the venue because it’s a beautiful venue worthy of the honor that we are showering upon our brother, his wife and his family. Thank you to all of those in the labor in Mosque No. 11 and all of those who came to make this evening a memorable one for Don Muhammad, Shirley Muhammad and the family.

The Holy Qur’an says to Muslims “die not unless we die the death of a Muslim.” And those of us who live during the Janazah funeral service for departed Muslims, we ask Allah to cause us to live in submission to His will. We ask God to allow us to die in submission to His will and then there’s something for the children and the grandchildren. It says, “Oh Allah let us not fall into trial after the person that is deceased and deprive us not of their reward.” Don and Shirley have earned a great reward and nothing we give is enough for what they have earned. But Allah is the Best Rewarder. These children will share in the reward of their grandfather, grandmother and their mothers and their fathers. In fact paradise is opened to all because of the work of Brother Don and Sister Shirley. I love you my brother.