Wallace Muhammad, son and spiritual heir of Elijah Muhammad, the late Black Muslim leader, has formaly changed his name to Warith Deen Muhammad to be more in harmony with the Muslim religion, a spokesman said.

According to a statement from Muhammad's Chicago headquarters, the name Wallace has "no un-Islamic meaning as it was interpreted in the Nation of Islam. After learning this [Muhammad] decided that the name would have to be changed."

His new name, which a spokesman said he has been using for the past five years when dealing with Muslim groups in other countries, means "inheritor of the faith of Muhammad," the founder of the Islamic religion.

"I find Warith Deen Muhammad a very good name to have in American society because it helps to introduce the [Muslim] religion in the right way," Muhammad said, commenting on the name change.

The 46-year-old Muhammad became head of the World Community of Islam in the West, as the group is now known, when his father died five years ago, despite bitter disputes with his father and a period of exile from his family and faith.

The younger Muhammad had been marked from birth to succeed to his father. He received the name Wallace from Wallace D. Ford, who founded the movement in Detroit in 1930 and whose followers believes him to be the human representation of Allah.

In the five years of the younger Muhammad's leadership, the movement has survived factional battles and financial problems.

One of the major changes since the era of Elijah Muhammad has been the group's attitudes toward whites, whom he frequently called "white devils."

Under the younger Muhammad, whites are welcomed to religious activities and to positions in the group's various economic enterprises.

Warith Muhammad also has encouraged dialogue and cooperation with both Christian and Jewish communities.