The Moorish Science Temple of America is a religious organization founded in 1913 by Noble Drew Ali. Its main tenet was that African Americans were descended from the Moors and thus were originally Islamic.
Timothy Drew was born on January 8 1886 in North Carolina, USA. The accounts of Timothy Drew's ancestry variously describe his being the son of two former slaves who was adopted by a tribe of Cherokee Native Americans, to his being the son of a Moroccan Muslim father and a Cherokee mother. He is recorded, perhaps apocryphally, as saying, “When I was born, it turned black dark in the daytime. The people put their hoes down and came out of the fields.”
His mother apparently died while Drew was a young boy, and left him to an abusive aunt. According to the Moorish Science account, at the age of 16 he befriended a band of Roma ("gypsies") with whom he traveled the world, although other accounts state he shipped out on a merchant seaman, became a railway expressman, or joined a circus and became a stage magician. Some researchers wonder whether Drew actually left the States at all.
It was supposedly during these travels that he met the high priest of an Egyptian cult of magic. In one version of Drew's biography, the leader saw him as a reincarnation of the founder of the cult, while in others he considered him a reincarnation of Jesus. According to the biography, the cult trained him in mysticism and bestowed upon him a lost version of the life of Jesus.
This text came to be known as the Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America (note that this text is never spelled Qur'an). It is also known, somewhat more informally, as the Circle Seven Koran due to its cover, which features a red "7" surrounded by a blue circle.
Drew was anointed the Noble Drew Ali, the Prophet, and launched into his career as founder of the Moorish Science Temple.
In 1913 Drew Ali formed the Canaanite Temple in Newark, New Jersey. Forced to flee town for his views on race, Drew Ali and his followers settled in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Detroit. He settled in Chicago in 1925, ostensibly because the Midwest was "closer to Islam", and the following year he officially registered Temple No. 9.
In the late 1920s it was estimated that the Moorish Temple had 15,000 members in 17 temples, despite scrutiny, and possibly harassment, by the Chicago police.
Following a conflict over funds the business manager of the Chicago Temple, Claude Green Bey, splintered off, declaring himself Grand Sheik and taking a number of members with him. On March 15 Green-Bey was stabbed to death at the Unity mosque, 3640 Indiana Avenue, Chicago. Although out of town at the time, Drew was arrested as an instigator along with other members of the community. Allegedly beaten by police, Drew was released on bond pending an indictment.
Shortly after his release, Drew Ali died at his home in Chicago on July 20, 1929. Although the exact circumstances of his death are unknown, speculation was that it was due to injuries received at the hands of the police or from being beaten by other members of the Moorish community, or even pneumonia. However, one Moor told the Chicago Defender that "The Prophet was not ill; his work was done and he laid his head upon the lap of one of his followers and passed out".
At the Unity Conference later that year, the governors declared C. Kirkman Bey as the successor to Drew Ali, naming him Grand Sheik. However, John Givens El, Drew's chauffeur, declared that he was Drew reincarnated, leading to a division within the temples.
In the 1930s the community was further split when Wallace Fard Muhammad, known within the church as David Ford-El, also claimed to be the reincarnation of Drew Ali. When his claims were rejected he broke away from the Moorish Science Temple and moved to Detroit to form his group, which would eventually become the Nation of Islam.
Despite the turmoil and defections the church grew. It is estimated that church membership in the 1930s reached 30,000, with major congregations in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Chicago, a community large enough to support two publications: the Moorish Guide National and Moorish Science Monitor.
During World War II, the Science Temple (specifically the Kirkman Bey faction) got the attention of the FBI, who falsely suspected the Moors of collaborating with Japan. The FBI was alarmed by doctrines and prophecies that the world order would one day invert and put the Asiatics of the world back in charge, as the Temple taught was the original order of things. The FBI created a file on the organization which grew to 3,117 pages, but produced no evidence of any connection or even much sympathy between the Empire of Japan and the temple.
It is estimated that in the 1950s the community had 10,000 members in 15 temples.
Bro C. Kirkman-Bey , the Prophet’s translator, became the head of what would eventually be the largest group, and which currently claims the name "Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc". This came about over him splitting away from the Grand Body in 1934, in disagreement with the head E Mealy El over the usage of a self-proclaimed title "Supreme Grand Advisor and Moderator" which did not exist within the group. Currently, this faction of the Moorish Science Temple of America has been particularly successful in the prisons.
Another faction developed into the so-called Reincarnated Temples, led by the Prophet’s former chauffeur, Bro. John Givens El, who thereafter called himself "Noble Drew Ali, Reincarnated". Givens El, and the brothers Richardson Dingle-El and Timothy Dingle El who succeeded him, taught that the Prophethood of Noble Drew Ali remained intact and passed on to them at the death of each before them, similar to the succession of authority from father to son or grandson in Shia Isma’ili Islam. From the work of the Dingle El brothers came the splits of the Temple No. 13, and the creation of a faction headed in Baltimore, MD, called the Noble Order of Moorish Sufis  in Baltimore. Founded by the former Grand Mufti Sultan Rafi Sharif Bey on July 7, 1957, this group later led to the founding of the Moorish Orthodox Church and the Moorish League. The Order of the Resurrection with its Second Heaven Order of four degrees was co-written by Sheik Rafi Sharif Bey and Sheik Timothy Dingle El.
The smallest faction continued their faithfulness to the original teachings of Noble Drew Ali and his successor whom he appointed Bro. E. Mealy El as the Grand Sheik/Supreme Grand Sheik. This faction is still in existence, but with probably the fewest adherents out of the three; this group claims true lineage to the Prophet, and has various followings by a few separate factions formerly held together by Mealy El's step-grandson D. Bailey El (ex Grand Governor, now expelled for embezzlement), succeeded by Sheiks in Chicago that he appointed prior to his official termination as Grand Governor and Sheik; that particular grand body has a few temples throughout the country and are continuing the works of Noble Drew Ali.
Members of the Temple wear fezes, and a turban (including Drew, who wore a Cherokee feather in his) and add the suffixes Bey or El to their names to signify their Moorish heritage. The ushers of the Temple wore black fezzes, and the leader of a particular temple was known as a Grand Sheik, or Governor. Drew began to teach the Moorish Americans how to become better citizens, and make more impassioned speeches, urging Moors to reject the derogatory labels such as Black, colored, and Negro—and for Americans of all races to reject hate and embrace love. He believed that Chicago would become a second Mecca, and the temple began selling remedies such as Moorish Tea and issuing members of the church membership cards that authorized them as Moslems and declared that they were citizens of the United States.
The Moorish Science Temple Of America, Inc; [www.MoorishScienceTempleOfAmericaInc.com]
This faction continues their faithfulness to the original teachings of Prophet Noble Drew Ali. The so-called 1928 portion is a group made and put in place by Mealy El's step-grandson D. Bailey El (ex Grand Governor, who was expelled for embezzlement by his followers) NOTE: The Prophet Incorporated the Moorish Science Temple Of America in 1928 and remains incorporated by the official MSTA, INC