Yakub (sometimes spelled Yacub or Yaqub) is, according to the Nation of Islam (NOI), a black scientist who lived “6,600 years ago” and was responsible for creating the white race to be a “race of devils”. He is said to have done this through a form of selective breeding referred to as “grafting”, while living on the island of Patmos.
The Nation of Islam theology claims that Yakub is the biblical Jacob. Mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims do not have this belief, or anything similar to it. The story has caused disputes within the NOI during its history. Under its current leader Louis Farrakhan, the NOI continues to assert that the story of Yakub is true, stating that modern science is consistent with it.
The doctrine of Yakub was one of the reasons for splits in the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X in his Autobiography notes that, in his travels in the Middle East, many Muslims reacted with shock upon hearing about the doctrine of Yakub, which, while present in NOI theology, does not appear in mainstream Islam. He rejected the story in his later statements, asserting that anyone of any race who intentionally deprives others of basic human rights is a “devil”. Warith Deen Mohammed, who took over the Nation of Islam after his father Elijah’s death rejected it almost immediately, and tried to re-invent the Nation as a mainstream Sunni Islam movement.
Louis Farrakhan reinstated the original Nation of Islam, and has reasserted his belief in the literal truth of the story of Yakub. In a 1996 interview, Henry Louis Gates, Chairman of Harvard University’s Afro-American Studies Department, asked him whether the story was a metaphor or literal. Farrakhan claimed that aspects of the story had been proven accurate by modern genetic science and insisted that “Personally, I believe that Yakub is not a mythical figure — he is a very real scientist. Not a big-head silly thing, as they would like to say.” Farrakhan’s periodical The Final Call continues to publish articles arguing that modern science supports the accuracy of Elijah Muhammad’s account of Yakub.