How was Malcolm Little's pre- prison life different from his life post- NOI?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One distinct difference between Malcolm's life before prison and after it was the sense of purpose.  Prior to prison, Malcolm lacked direction and purpose.  He was without a spiritual identity, refusing to identify himself with anything larger than himself.  This self- interested and manipulative sense of being was replaced with a commitment to something transcendental and beyond him with his conversion to Islam.  For Malcolm, the transformation into a person who embraced Islam and made it his purpose to spread the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was the critical difference between his life before prison and his life afterwards.  This sense of purpose was the difference from which all other differences flowed.

When Malcolm leaves the Nation of Islam, a more intense sense of purpose is embraced.  Malcolm seeks to understand Islam in a wider sense.  It was a sense that sought to embrace a more universal vision of Islam.  This construction was even more wide ranging than what was featured when he was a minister of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm's pre- prison life still featured him as rootless and without purpose. It becomes clear how much he becomes wedded to Islam when he leaves the Nation of Islam. In a way, Malcolm's time in the Nation of Islam was another and more subtle form of rootlessness because he was unable to understand Islam for itself.  It is the first time that he experiences the power of the religion for himself, without an intermediate interpreting it for him.  Malcolm undertakes the Hajj, and establishes himself as a pilgrim devoted to the religious exploration that Islam asks of all its devotees.  One sees this distinct difference between Malcolm's life before entering prison and how his sees his being upon leaving the Nation of Islam. 
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