Learn From Malcolm X: 3 Principles Christians Should Know

Learn From Malcolm X: 3 Principles Christians Should Know May 19, 2024

Malcolm X waiting for a press conference to begin on March 26, 1964.
Image used to provide a visual for three Principles Christians can learn from Malcolm X. Photo Courtesy of U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-01274. Photo taken by Marion S. Trikosko on March 26, 1964.


What are three lessons Christians can learn from Malcolm X?  I pose this question since Mr. X is a Civil Rights leader I did not learn about in school. 

This may be because he was not passive about his stance on the injustices African Americans faced in the mid-1900s. His passion for the plight of black America and his Islamic background made him a polarizing figure in the eyes of white America. 

The mantra “by any means necessary” did not help his image. Opposers believe this phrase would incite violence among those experiencing injustice.

In reality, the manta means “examining obstacles, determining the vision, finding resolve, and exploring alternatives toward dissolving the obstacles” (Malcolm X and Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 1989, xiii).       

Similar to misconceptions about his mantra, Malcolm X‘s identity remains a mystery to those unaware of his autobiography and speeches. However, when you tear down the veil of public perception, you’ll see Malcolm X is a man worth emulating.

Background Check: Malcolm Little, X, and Malik El-Shabazz

Born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha Nebraska, Malcolm Little is the fifth of eleven children. Tragedy struck the Little family as Malcolm’s father Earl died after apparently committing suicide (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 10).

Tragedy continued as the hassle of raising several children as a widow caused his mother Linda to have a mental breakdown. Consequently, she was institutionalized and her children were placed in different group homes.

These trials along with the harsh realities of racism, drove Malcolm to a life of crime as a teenager. He was a hussler, gambler, drug dealer and burgler. While he alluded authorities for years, he was sentenced to seven years in prison at the age of 20.

Prison becomes a turning point as  X becomes an avid reader and joins the Nation of Islam (NOI). His conversion led to an identity change as he believed his last name did not honor his African heritage.

After irreconcilable differences with the NOI and joining Summi Islam in 1965, X became Malik El-Shabazz. With that being said, this work refers to him as Malcolm X since most details occur before 1965.


While X’s transformation is glourious, he has notable accolades highlighting how his rebirth impacted the world. These accomplishments include 

  • Becoming a minister in the NOI.
  • Beginning the NOI newspaper Muhammad Speaks in 1957.
  • Being named the second most sought-after speaker in 1963 by the New York Times.
  • Participating in debates on national television and at several academic institutions.
  • Leading one of the largest Civil Rights events (the Unity Rally in Harlem) in 1963.
  • Influencing Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) to convert to the NOI in 1964.
  • Working with Alex Haley for two years to create his autobiography in 1965. 

3 Principles Christians Can Learn from Malcolm X

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

There are three principles Christians can learn from Malcolm X. The first lesson mirrors the saying don’t judge a book by its cover. 

This lesson manifests as an individual living a life of crime, later becoming a NOI minister. This same person becomes a key leader in the fight for Civil Rights.

Malcolm X’s transformation proves God can change anybody. A similar transformation occurs in Acts 9:3-19 as a murderer of Christians becomes a leader within the faith.  

It is an important lesson since some believers judge others based on what they see, not who they can become. Consequently, they demean and overlook those God calls them to love the most.

Malcolm X admits he may have become a doctor if his teacher had supported his career aspiration (Autobiography of Malcolm X, 38). Thankfully, God looked at his heart and made ways for him to be the leader he was destined to be.

What should not be lost in Malcolm’s transformation is the persistence of his siblings (Autobiography of Malcolm X, 158-159). They knew Malcolm did not care for religion. However, they kept praying and discussing the NOI until Allah revealed the truth to him. 

X’s conversion process shows Christians the importance of persistent prayer and witnessing. If X’s siblings chose to stop sharing their faith, his life may have never changed for good.

As Christians, we must continue to pray for and witness to unbelievers around us. Rejection and unfruitfulness may be the results we yield for a season. However, we must trust God answers prayer and will save their souls according to his purpose (1 John 5:14-15; Romans 9:15-16).

Learn from Malcolm X by Dedicating Yourself to Your Faith

After receiving divine revelation from Allah and being mentored by Elijah Muhammad, X devotes his time to strengthening the NOI. 

According to his autobiography, he went “fishing” for individuals interested in joining the NOI by taking two steps. First, he would visit those in low-income areas and strive to help people realize they were not living the way Allah intended (Autobiography of Malcolm X, 205).

Next, he visited churches inviting young believers to attend one of his temple meetings. He would strive to convince young believers they were embracing a doctrine not beneficial to the betterment of African Americans (pgs. 223-224).

While I strongly disagree with his belief, his strategy was effective. Many Christians joined the NOI and one church was converted into an Islamic Temple (pg. 254).  

Similarly, the Great Commission instructs believers to share the Gospel (Mathew 28:19-20). I know some believers are doing their best to be evangelistic in their everyday lives.

But, how much more impactful would Christianity be if more believers went the extra mile to share their faith with zeal like Minister X? We should share the Gospel through words, tangible deeds, and enthusiasm, proving the sincerity of our faith (James 1:27; 2:14-17).

Malcolm’s dedication to his faith also contains a hidden secret for single Christians. Malcolm met his wife Betty while faithfully fulfilling his religious obligations (Autobiography of Malcolm X, 231).

For Christians desiring marriage, commit yourself to doing the Lord’s work and you will find love if it’s God’s will. Ruth proves this when meeting Boaz while working in the field to provide for Naomi (Ruth 2:1-9). 

With Praise Comes Persecution 

Malcolm’s devotion and success helped him earn the favor of his leader Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad gave him various assignments and had candid conversations with Malcolm proving his trust.

Unfortunately, other young ministers within the NOI became jealous of Malcolm. They would spread lies and a few desired to plan his assassination.

Sadly, on February 21, 1965, an unknown individual murdered Malcolm X as he was giving a speech at a Manhattan ballroom.

While Malcolm expected hatred from unbelievers who opposed his stance on Civil Rights, persecution from fellow believers hurt him deeply.

Malcolm’s pain echoes the heartache felt by Joseph and David who were hurt by those closest to them (Genesis 37:5-28; 1 Samuel 18:10-11). Jesus was also betrayed by two disciples and those who hailed him as Hosanna later shouted “crucify him” (Matthew 21:9; 27:22, New International Version). 

The agony that comes with adoration should teach Christians to avoid becoming prideful since people are fickle. Being puffed up with pride will also lead to a fall as yielding to temptation bursts one’s bubble.

Likewise, believers should not become discouraged when facing persecution from those close to them. Just focus on pleasing God and he will reward you in due time (Colossians  3:23-24; Galatians 6:9).

This time next year, I will revisit this work and highlight other key principles readers can learn from Malcolm X’s life.

Did you enjoy reading about the principles Christians can learn from Malcolm X? Do you have any questions or observations that may enhance this article? Feel free to leave a comment. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

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