Before prison, Malcolm X was raised as a Christian but became an ardent atheist during his teenage years. After dropping out of school in 9th grade, he led a life full of crime. However, during one of his burglaries, Malcolm X was caught and given a lengthy sentence in prison.
In prison, Malcolm was nicknamed “Satan” because he cursed out God and the Bible so much, he would often end up in solitary confinement because of it.
During his time in prison, Malcolm’s brother Reginald came to him and told him about a man named Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. Not long after, Malcolm and Elijah started exchanging letters and then Malcolm converted to the Nation of Islam, aka “The Black Muslims.” Elijah Muhammad referred to himself as a messenger of Allah. Many of the beliefs of the Nation of Islam didn’t coincide with the beliefs of real Islam. (i.e. Believing “Allah came in the person of Fard Muhammad.”)
His exchange with Elijah Muhammad caused Malcolm X to start reading books on philosophy and genetics. He then started teaching the religion of “The Black Muslims”, to the other inmates and pretty soon he gathered a large following.
Upon his release from prison, Malcolm served Elijah Muhammad for a long time. Malcolm was his best assistant. Malcolm was now an ardent believer in the religion and often went on to the streets to try to get other people to convert to the Nation of Islam.
While serving Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X started hearing rumors that Elijah Muhammad had gotten multiple of his secretaries pregnant. At first, Malcolm didn’t believe the rumors. Later, Elijah Muhammad’s son came to Malcolm and confirmed the rumors. Malcolm was devastated, he couldn’t take in the fact that his idol, a proclaimed “messenger of God” had broken the very same rules that he preached, so he left the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm was now at an identity crisis, he was still a Muslim, just not a “Black Muslim” anymore.
So in April 1964, Malcolm decided to go on “Hajj”, the mandatory requirement for a Muslim to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. When he was there, Malcolm said in a letter back to his friends:
“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in theMuslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white – but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color, You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”
Upon returning from Hajj, Malcolm converted to Sunni Islam due to his experience at the Hajj. Malcolm started to learn about the rules and the prayers of a Muslim and was starting to practice “real Islam.” At the same time, Malcolm started speaking out against Elijah Muhammad. This drew a lot of anger and criticism from followers of the Nation of Islam.
On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot just after saying “Assalamualikum” to a room full of his followers.