‘If the conversion rate continues unchanged, Islam could become the dominant religion in Black urban areas by the year 2020,' according to researchers.
A demographic study of Black Muslims by C. Eric Lincoln revealed some startling insights into who responded to Elijah Muhammad's message. The majority of those who joined the Nation of Islam were young, economically disadvantaged, African-American males from Christian backgrounds. Up to 80% of a typical congregation were between the ages of 17 and 35. Traditionally, the church in the Black community has had difficulty attracting young males. In an article entitled, 'Why Most Black Men Won't Go to Church,' Reverend William Harris attributes the primary reason to economics.
'Many Black males won't go to church because today's church does not address their needs. The Black male needs money, job opportunities, business resources, and relevant skills training. The church collects money, but does little to create opportunities through which he can make more money. Jesus understood the need to feed people before preaching to them. Today's church must likewise set the table for the Black man before asking him to pay to have the dishes done.
Megachurch preacher Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Maryland, says the westernization of the church worship experience has resulted in the black church becoming a place that’s comfortable for women and “sanctified sissies.”
Pointing to a culture that’s increasingly paying attention to the needs of women, while marginalizing the importance of men in the family, Bryant explained in a recent message posted on YouTube that the same mindset has seeped into the church fostering a culture that makes it difficult for men to find their place in the church.
Elijah Muhammad's program for economic development played a crucial role in the rapid growth of the Nation of Islam. With the money donated by members, Muhammad purchased land for farms, store fronts, bakeries, apartment buildings and schools. The economic base of the organization grew in proportion to numerical growth. By owning businesses and land, Elijah Muhammad was able to provide both housing and employment for needy followers. Furthermore, the members had the added pride of sharing in the ownership of these various enterprises and being, to a great extent, independent of the broader society. Scarcity of employment for young Black males offers one explanation of why they were drawn to the Nation of Islam in such large numbers.