Understanding Madhabs as Methodologies: An Interview with Dr. Umar Farook Abdullah

Dr. Umar Faruq Abdallah (formerly Wymann-Landgraf) is an American Muslim who was raised a Protestant Christian in Columbus, Nebraska. In 1969, he won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and entrance to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York to pursue a Ph.D. program in English literature. Shortly after coming to Cornell, Dr. Abdallah read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which inspired him to embrace Islam in early 1970. He taught at the Universities of Windsor (Ontario), Temple, and Michigan. He also taught Arabic in Spain, and at the Department of Islamic Studies at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.Since 2000, he has been working as the Chair and scholar in residence at the Nawawi Foundation, Chicago. He was recently in India for a short while during which time he agreed to an interview with Biju Abdul Qadir of the Young Muslim Digest. Presented below is the text of this interview which covers a wide cross section of subjects ranging from Dr. Abdallah’s first contact with Islam, his impressions of leading personalities in the Muslim world, discussions Tasawwuf, Sufism, Islam’s rise and fall in al-Andalus, the Christian Unitarian movement today, the political state of affairs in the United States and the cause of Islamic propagation in that country.


Q: The Autobiography of Malcolm X seems to have had a significant impact on you inasmuch as it inspired you to embrace Islam in 1970 when you were just 22. What was it most in Malcolm X’s story that left such a lasting impression in you?  

A: Yes, I could say that The Autobiography of Malcolm X was, indeed, the single most influential book that I have ever read. I have been reading it, studying it… It had me asking myself: what have you learnt from this book? And I could say to myself in reply that I learned two things: one is that Allah is God, and that was a very important moment from me. For, otherwise, I wouldn’t have intellectually known that Allah and God were the same. A lot of Westerners, particularly from the Protestant background where I come from, are brought up on the Church’s idea that the Allah of the Muslims is a different god. This concept is thus deeply ingrained in the Christian so much so that it becomes very, very difficult to accept the idea that Allah is God… The other thing about Malcolm X was his depth of conviction not just at the intellectual level, but more importantly at the personal level which is where faith is at its most intense, indeed, emotional. I understood then that our lack of orientation and faith could be cured only at that level. These were things that affected me greatly. In the end, Alhamdulillah, I did not hesitate to accept the religion of Malcolm X; I did not hesitate to accept Islam.

Before my reading of Malcolm X, I did know about Islam, but that was intellectually. I did study history and literature, and in the process knew about the history of the Ottoman Empire, about the history of Muslim Spain and Portugal; al-Andalus was that area which included both Spain and Portugal. I had, in fact, written a history paper on the Islamic roots of West African Muslims, knowing full well that most of the black African slaves brought to North America were actually brought from West Africa. This became my subject of research for a while. I also wrote about the kingdom of Mali and on the other great kingdoms of West Africa in a paper which was written probably about two years before I became a Muslim. By then I had seen the power of Islam and the greatness of Islam as a civilization. But, again, all of that was intellectual. The difference in the case of Malcolm X is that it becomes personal, it becomes emotional. At that point, all these ideas become a challenge to you: do you believe that or not, are you willing to take this step or not, and that was what Malcolm did.

Usually, a conversion to Islam involves a direct or indirect contact with a great individual. That is what makes all the difference. This was most certainly the case with me, Malcolm X being like my spiritual father. I still think that he was the greatest American who ever lived, and a great human being in general.

Q. Malcolm X was with the Nation of Islam initially, as was Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay), but both came to have differing views. Your comments?

A: Malcolm X was in the Nation of Islam until a year before his assassination. He broke away from the Nation of Islam in the last year of his life, adopting Sunni Islam instead. It was also in that year that he made the pilgrimage to Makkah as a Sunni Muslim.Thus the belief he identified with was Sunni Islam – a fact clearly borne out by his biography. Muhammad Ali himself was affected greatly by Malcolm X. In fact, I met him shortly after he became a Muslim. I virtually ran into him on a street in Philadelphia and told him that he should follow Malcolm in his practice of Sunni Islam. However, Ali would adopt Sunni Islam only later in 1975 after the death of Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam. It was then that Warithudeen Muhammad (also called W D Muhammad) took over most of the Nation of Islam and brought in the practice of Sunni Islam for the organization. Most of the African-Americans who worked for the Nation of Islam thus became Sunni Muslims after 1975. This was a major transformation, in fact. Muhammad Ali himself has remained a Sunni Muslim ever since.

Q: What are your impressions on Alex Haley’s book, Roots?

A: Alex Haley’s Roots is one of the greatest works of the twentieth century. It is a book which opens up a vista of history which is now becoming clearer and clearer. And that is the profound connection of black Americans, African Americans to West African Islam. Haley’s book is in a way an autobiography inasmuch as he goes back to Mandingo in the Gambian river basin, as do many black Americans, many Carribean Americans, many south American blacks and others.

Alex Haley’s book is a really valuable work, particularly in the present context wherein the study of the roots of Islam in America is becoming an independent science, in fact, a subject of serious research.

Q: Almost as soon as you embraced Islam in 1970, you shifted your focus of study from getting a doctorate in the English language to Arabic and Islamic studies under Dr Fazlur Rahman. Having studied under him what did you see as his most outstanding qualities?

A: My conversion to Islam coincided with another serious preoccupation which was dodging the draft [or avoiding the signing up process] for the war in Vietnam. During the 1960s I had joined the anti-war movement, having been on the left wing of the American student movement all along. I was strongly opposed to American involvement in Vietnam and I had no intention to take part in the war in Vietnam in any way. It was about the same time I became Muslim, that I was also called up for the draft, and although I would have refused it anyway, I refused the draft in that spring of 1970 based on my Islamic beliefs. I wrote a statement of conscientious objection to the war in Vietnam based on Islam.

I had to fight the associated legal battle for two years, and I almost went to prison for that, but, fortunately, Allah blessed me and I was able to win my case and stay out of prison. But for the first two years of my Islam I was very much preoccupied with fighting my case of conscientious objection. I also had to take a leave of absence from Cornell University. It was during this period that I began to study Islam very seriously. Then, in 1972, Alhamdulillah, I won my case, with the government giving me very favourable terms wherein I need not even have to make a statement of conscientious objection: I was simply free to go.

It was then that I went to the University of Chicago where I was accepted with a full scholarship. Here, I met with Fazlur Rahman and read his book on Islam, which was one of the best on the subject available at that time. However, I never agreed with Fazlur Rahman on certain issues; for example, I always believed in the complete integrity of Hadith transmission. At the University of Chicago, we had a great scholar named Nabea Abid who wrote one of the best books defending the integrity of Hadith transmission. There was also another work that came out at that time – in German – on the history of Arabic writing by the great Turkish scholar, Fuad Taskin, who also establishes the integrity of Hadith transmission.

Fazlur Rahman was a very tolerant man. He was extremely good to me and loved me and gave me all the time that I needed. He was very good in Arabic, his command over that language – as also Persian – being excellent. Although we read texts together, and I wrote my papers with his help, I always had my own opinion, and he always respected my opinion. He is the one who directed me, often subtly, to focus on the origins of Islamic law, instead of Hadith. I am very glad that I did that and wrote my dissertation on the origins of Islamic law, in the process overturning many paradigms that the orientalists foisted erroneously on to Islam.

Q: You had received your PhD for your dissertation on Malik’s Concept of Amal in the Light of Maliki Legal Theory. You are also in the process of updating this document. Can you briefly discuss the contents of your thesis?

A: I have updated that dissertation now, and it will be coming out next year, by Allah’s will, published through Brill which is an academic publisher, and it will be called Malik at Madinah: Islamic Legal Reasoning in the Formative Period. This will be much bigger and better than the dissertation. The dissertation itself was written in 1978, and so this book will be coming out 32 years later, taking on all the Western orientalist literature that has come up on the subject in the last 30 years. The book works with the material much better particularly due to the access to primary sources which I did not have access to when I first wrote the book. This makes the research more exact. And so, Alhamdulillah, I am very happy with that book.

Even though Malik’s Concept of Amal was primarily focused on the concept of praxis – or Amal – it was also a comparative study in which Malik was compared with the Kufans, with Abu Hanifah, with Imam Shafi, Ahmed bin Hanbal and other early jurists. Malik at Madinah too does that a lot: it makes a more exact comparative analysis of the different methodologies. In fact, this is what we must understand the different schools of thought as – as methodologies.

Q: You have also taught at Temple University for a while in the late 70s and early 80s. Dr Ismail Raji al Faruqi could have been one eminent personality with whom you must have been well-acquainted during this period. How have you viewed his life and works, particularly his Islamization of Knowledge project?

A: Dr Ismail Raji al-Faruqi was another person who was very good to me, who loved me very much and whom I, in turn, loved and respected greatly. In fact, I was very close to his family. I got a position at Temple University in 1977, but I was there only for one year because in 1978 the University of Michigan offered me a very attractive position. So I joined the University of Michigan in 1978 and remained there until 1982. But the year I spent with Dr Faruqi at Temple University was an extremely rich year since I was very close to him and his wife, may Allah have mercy upon her. As you probably know, they were brutally killed in 1986 – an extremely shocking and unfortunate event.

In many ways, the lives and careers of Dr Faruqi and Fazlur Rahman overlapped. Dr Faruqi, like Fazlur Rahman, was a person of a very good liberal education. A master of Philosophy, Dr Faruqi was also a master of the English language. In fact, both Faruqi and Fazlur Rahman were that way: they both spoke English perfectly and both knew exactly how to use words. They knew how to reason in English, and Dr Faruqi, may Allah have mercy upon him, in particular, was an extremely courageous person. Although the influence of certain anti-Islamic elements like the Zionists is very powerful in the United States today, they might have been even more powerful then.

Dr Faruqi was the master of defending Islam in a dynamic way, which was not always an easy thing to do. I remember being with him at an interfaith conference where our opponents were not very polite in those days. In it, the Jews and the Christians talked of how backward the Muslims were and how pathetic the condition of the Muslim countries were as a whole. Dr Faruqi, when he got up to speak, smiled and maintained his sense of humour, while yet powerfully countering the criticism by first saying that it was true that Muslims are backward, are not good in organizing themselves and have political tyrannies in their countries, but that none of the Jewish or Christian participants at the meeting knew anything about these people. Dr Faruqi would then pose the searching questions: Have they ever been with common Muslims when there was a death in the family? Have they been with them when they were faced with a major catastrophe like famine, or when they were driven out of their lands and rendered refugees? Dr Faruqi would then name a number of such trying circumstances and suggest eloquently to his co-religionists at the programme that it was then that they would know who a Muslim was. For, it is only in response to such catastrophes that the real human element in people are brought to the fore, and the Muslims in such a context reveal themselves to be the true human beings that they are. In that response, they prove stronger than any other people on the face of the earth. This was the way that Dr Faruqi spoke for Islam and the Muslims everywhere and, therefore, his enemies regarded him as a very serious threat. May Allah have mercy on him.

Q: You are suggesting then that Dr Faruqi’s death was pre-meditated?

A: Well, you have the person who pulls the trigger, and in his case it was a knife. As for Malcolm X, may Allah be pleased with him, we know who killed him: they came from the Nation of Islam. In the case of Dr Faruqi, the psychopath who knifed him, his wife and other members of the family apart, the fact remains that there are often other people involved behind the scenes. In Malcolm X’s case too, we know very well that there were powerful interests in the United States who knew that Malcolm had to be removed.

Dr Faruqi’s case too, I strongly believe, was on similar lines, for he had powerful enemies who wanted him dead. Muslims in the West are always faced with the difficulty of finding a spokesperson. Dr Faruqi had proved himself to be just that spokesperson: you could put him on any television show, any radio talk show and he would easily dominate the conversation. If he were alive today, he would have been on television probably every week. He would have been able to refute the people on Fox News and other very, very, gender-oriented broadcast stations.

He was a good man, may Allah have mercy on him. His wife, Lois Lamya al-Faruqi, too was a wonderful woman. They were a very generous family. I remember how they would host my family – my wife and little daughter – at their house on several occasions. Even as I remember how they would organize Iftar gatherings at their house for many community members around them.

Q: Is the Islamization of Knowledge project still alive in the Muslim world? If not, how will a revival be possible?

A:Well, that’s a very big topic, and it might not be good to talk about it in general terms. In any case, he did understand the importance of education; my own approach to that differed somewhat. And I had difference of opinions with him on several points, even when I was at Temple University. In my own feeling, the important thing is what historically we Muslims purview as rooting knowledge. That’s not the same as Islamization of Knowledge. Rooting knowledge is a different thing, a complex topic which, we will discuss some other time.

Q: Having taught Arabic in Spain for a while, how do you view the state of Islam and the Muslim community in that country today?

A: I taught Arabic in Spain for two years. The two years I spent in Spain were very important years of my life. They were also a somewhat difficult phase of my life. There was, at that time, a promising community of Muslims that was developing in Spain, and I had gone there to be with that community. I do not ever regret having made that choice although it was one of the most difficult choices that I have ever made in my life. But the time I spent in Muslim Spain and Portugal were really interesting years wherein I was witness to the great potential for Islam to come back in those countries. The community went through a very difficult time following that in 1982, but today – in 2011- there are really hopeful signs that the community in Spain and Portugal will be back on track, and that, in the years ahead, they will accomplish what we could only dream of back in those days.

While I do not have much to point to, I am still involved with Spain and Portugal – and I always like to say Spain and Portugal because both these nations together formed the al-Andalus, with Islam as deeply rooted in Portugal as it was in Spain. They are extremely dear to my heart, and I do think that we may be seeing some very remarkable developments there over the next year. We do have some amazing things going on there. The proclivity of the Spanish and the Portugese people to Islam is just amazing; it’s as if it’s in their blood.

Q: The Christian Reconquista of 1492 in Spain was a watershed event for Islam during its turbulent history. Do you think that such a program is possible again in Muslim history, particularly where Muslims reside as minorities in non-Muslim majority areas of the world?

A: Well, 1492 is definitely a pivotal year in our history. It certainly is not one of the brighter years; in fact, it was an ominous year in our history. It was also a time when the Spanish and the Portugese were learning how to cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach the Americas. I am very sure that Muslims themselves had crossed over and reached the Americas before Columbus step foot there. This is actually part of the very interesting Roots of Islam in America story. There is a lot of research being done on that.

The Crusading movement reached its culmination in 1492, although its history goes back, of course, a long time before that. There is a concerted attempt today in some countries to create the Crusading spirit again. In the United States, the Christian Right is, I think, one of the greatest dangers to not just Muslims, but to American Democracy in general. They are very anti-Islamic, very prejudicial, very close-minded and with no awareness of what Islam really stands for. Even where they do know of the strengths of Islamic civilization, they try to conceal that from the people. They see their real enemy, however, in the liberal Americans against whom they work ceaselessly. In fact, Muslims are just part of that bigger picture.

American politics is today going through a period of great crisis. Some would even say that American Democracy is, in fact, ‘Democracy Incorporated.’ In other words, American Democracy is that Democracy in which the international corporations dominate, and their interests are the ones the US government serves and upholds. While other significant groups like the Zionists also form part of that picture, the real power lies with the major corporations. You will be shocked at the extent to which these corporations control America, and the Christian Right happens to be very, very, closely allied with them.

So I think that the situation in America is such that people concerned with human rights have to keep an eye on it at all times. Similar things are afoot in Europe as well, but it would not be for me to discuss those in any detail. What concerns me most, however, is the situation in America.

Q: Is a Christian movement to Unitarianism – if not to Islam – a possibility in the development of that religion today, particularly after the pope went out of his way in recent years to apologize, on behalf of the Church, for the wrongs it committed against science and scientists like Galileo Galilee?

A: The Unitarian movement was very strong during the Renaissance i.e., during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. At that time, the Unitarian movement was a distinctive Christian theology which is one of the best Christian theologies ever produced, and one that was extremely compatible with Islam. Joseph Priestly is one of the best representatives of the Unitarian movement at its height. He is a man who is very much worthy of study.

Around the nineteenth century, the Unitarian movement converged with the Universalism movement, and when it did that, Unitarianism’s own nature went through a marked transformation. Instead of being a distinctive Christian theology that teaches the oneness of God and the humanity of Christ – as against the divinity of Christ – it became a Church that caters to just about everything: you can read the Bhagwad Gita there, you can read the Qur’an there, you can read different religious poetry there, and so on and so forth.

As for the Unitarians today, I think, they are a very decent and open-minded people. But the early Unitarians were a people very, very similar to Muslims. Further, they had a distinct moral and ethical code quite unlike that which Unitarians practice in the present times.

Q: What has been your experience with Global Islamic movements like Jamaat-e-Islami, Ikhwanul Muslimoon, Tableeghi Jamaat, the Sufi movements etc.? How do you evaluate their contributions to the global Islamic revival in recent times?

A: Well, I have been associated with such movements in the United States and I have some idea of what they do in the US, but as to how these movements are faring on the global level, I would not be in a position to explain in detail.

In any case, I think the situation in the Muslim world today is very complex and, hopefully, things there are changing for the good. I really have great hopes that the changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria – may Allah give the Syrian Muslims victory – and in Yemen will allow them to have freedom of expression. It is very important for the Muslim world to have freedom of expression. We will have to pray and hope that whatever develops, we will not have groups or governments come in which would impose their particular ideologies on all and sundry. It is very important for Islam to have an atmosphere of freedom to grow and develop in. We must allow Islam to roll again as in the earliest centuries of freedom and civilization.

Q: You have worked in Saudi Arabia for many years. In the context of this discussion, how do you see the system being practiced in that country today?

A: Yes, having been in Saudi Arabia for several years, I can say that there is very little of that freedom of expression we are talking about in that country.

Q: What is your opinion of Tasawwuf? How has this suffered during the course of Sufism’s historical journey down the centuries?

A: Tasawwuf is an essential part of Islam. The Prophet, on whom be peace, has taught us that Deen has three components: Islam, the outer Prophetic law, the science of which is Fiqh (understanding), and it has Iman which is the inner theology of understanding about God, His creation, the Prophets, and about the unseen – all of which may be appreciated intellectually. Then there is Ihsan i.e., moral perfection, or a state of being wherein you worship God as if you see Him or just to know that even if you do not see Him, He sees you. The science of Ihsan is Sufism, and Sufism is, I would say, the pinnacle of Islamic history.

However, wherever there are real doctors there are also quacks; wherever there is gold, there is also fool’s gold. In everything that has an Amanah, in everything that has in it a trust, we must always ensure that the trust is kept. In the Sufi tradition, we are told who the best people and the worst people are. In this tradition, the worst of all people are the Sufi charlatans, and there are many of those in the world today. They are not Sufis, although they have big turbans, lots of followers and their own Zawiyahs, their Khankhas. They are people who are self-serving and are people who often harm others greatly. So the Sufi charlatan is the greatest harm to people everywhere. On the other hand, the real Sufis too like Sheikh Abd al-Qadir Jeelani, Sheikh Moinuddeen Chisti and others – these were great human beings, and these are they who represent the legacy of the Prophet in life, and they bring people into Islam in thousands, they revive the Shariah and Iman and usher in civilization and culture. So the real Sufi is the best, and the false Sufi is the worst. The Muslim must be able to distinguish between the two.

Similarly, if the scholar who learns and memorizes the Qur’an and Hadith and Fiqh, is arrogant, self-serving and proud, and is indifferent to the plight of the poor, the weak and the oppressed; everywhere he goes he is in his car with darkened windows put up, or he is in his airplane and is thus in his own world, then he too is one of the worst people because these are the people who, instead of being transformed by their knowledge and becoming humble, become proud and arrogant. So their knowledge is not beneficial to them. Whereas, the true scholars – and we have many of those too – who love Allah, who love the Prophet, who love the Qur’an and Hadith and Fiqh, who are merciful, who give wise and intelligent Fatwas, these are the best of people.

So what we see here is that the best can become the worst. The scholar, just because he memorizes the Qur’an, or just because he knows the seven recitations of the Qur’an or the four Madhabs, does not become a good person. Rather, the real criterion is his behaviour. Does he exploit the people? Does he care about the poor? Does he know about the situation of the Muslim masses? These criteria are important, because they constitute his responsibility. So the good scholar is among the best of people and the bad scholar is among the worst of people. Similar too is the case of the Hafiz of the Qur’an: the Hafiz who loves the Qur’an, who lives the Qur’an and who is the very embodiment of the Qur’an walking on the earth – he is the best of people. Whereas the Hafiz who is a hypocrite, who expects to be served and treated like a king – he is among the worst of people. Then there are the rulers – the good and the bad. The great rulers like Tippu Sultan, like Salahuddin Ayyubi and Nooruddeen Zangi and the Caliph Umar b.  al-Khattab, these were the best of people. This is while the bad ruler, like those pathetic ones in the Muslim world today, who tyrannize over their people – these are the worst of people.

The Sufi tradition is thus an important part of Islam. But like everything else that tradition must be kept and followed in its purity. To be sure, Islam is a big trust – a trust which we ask Allah to help us keep and maintain.

Q: You have recently written A Muslim in Victorian America: The Story of Alexander Russell Webb which is a biography of Mohammed Webb (d. 1916), one of the most significant early American converts to Islam… You were also writing on Roots of Islam in America: A Survey of Muslim Presence in the New World from Earliest Evidence until 1965. Can you briefly describe for us your findings in this second book?

 A: Actually, the book, A Muslim in Victorian America: The Story of Alexander Russell Webb, is a part ofthe second book, Roots of Islam in America. I really recommend everybody to study that book because it’s a book of an amazing American. It shows you the openness of Western people to Islam. There’s also the amazing story of Lord Headley, Abdullah Quilliam, and Lady Cobble. It is really important to study that book.

Webb’s life is centrally associated with United States history and in writing which I have tried to give a really good insight into United States history – how it was formed and the contradictions that went with it. This book was a labour of five years, and I have loved every moment of it, Alhamdulillah. I could also say that the book was about 70% original, since I have used primary sources which few others would have seen earlier.

The book, Roots of Islam in America, however, was planned to be done in installments. I’ve this article titled Turks, Moors and Moriscoes in Early Colonial America posted on the internet and which will go into the making of another installment in Roots of Islam in America. The next thing I would like to have in Roots of Islam in America is the Mandingo crossing which is to establish, as an historical fact, that the great Mandingo king of Mali, Mantekankan Abu Bakr, crossed the Atlantic in 1312 with 2000 boats. This is mentioned in Arabic sources, and there is absolutely no doubt that this happened. Today, we have real archeological proof in America to show that this happened. This changes the whole picture of pre-Columbian America. This shows that Muslims, in general, and the Mandingos, in particular, had crossed the Atlantic well before Columbus. This is what I intend to publish in the next installment of Roots of Islam in America. However, I do have several other writing projects, particularly in theology which we do have to widen up a bit. These projects will take priority as of now.

Q: How do you see the work and contribution of Hamza Yusuf and the Zaituniya Institute with reference to Da’wah efforts in the US?

A: Hamza Yusuf, may Allah bless and protect him, is like my blood brother. We have been together now for 30 years; know each other really well, have had the same teachers and work together with great mutual respect and affection.

Last year, the Zaytuna Institute – which Hamza Yusuf heads – launched a major initiative with the Zaytuna College. I have been there and have lectured there and I can say that their first year was very successful; I think their vision is a very broad and beneficial one, and I really hope that they do turn out successful because this is exactly the approach that we need: a balanced and sophisticated approach to Islamic learning which is rooted in an Islamic tradition that knows history, literature, sociology, anthropology, economics and the like.

Another interesting part of the training at Zaytuna College is that the students have to go out on to the streets on social service drives to help and feed the poor and the needy. Many people who do not know America might be surprised to know that there are many thousands of the homeless and the poor who live out on the streets of that country. People tend to imagine that every American has a big house with two or three cars, but that is not the case in reality. Just as there are people living on the streets in Bombay, so too are there the homeless and the poor among Americans. The students at Zaytuna have to go out there and help out in feeding these poor people. This should be a central part of the Islamic education. If the students are to be trained in Islam, they have to go out into the street in the service of the poor. They have to learn to love the poor; if you can’t love the poor then what kind of a Muslim are you? The Prophet, on whom be peace, himself loved the poor.

One of the problems of the Muslim world today is that their elite intellectuals and scholars and those in the madrasas and the students therein are completely isolated from the people; they do not know how the average Muslim lives and, worse, they do not care. We need to change that: we have to help these people; we have to enlighten them, to take Islam to the masses at large. Surely, Islam is meant not just for the old-timers, but also for all men from the Dalits, the Shudras, the Buddhists in Buddhist lands, the Christians, the Jews and even to the atheists.

Q: What has been the public response to the efforts made through the Zaytuna Institute?

A: My understanding is that Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zayd Shafi at the Zaytuna Institute have great public support. It is important that they continue to have that support. We need many more of such institutions for the Muslim community. 

Q: What message would you like to give our readers?

A: Well, I would like the people here to pray for us.

I am really happy to be here in India, this amazing country. I definitely would like to come back and really hope that the future of Islam in India will be very bright, Inshallah. While one has to be careful in pit one people or group against the other, I do believe that southern India is a very dynamic part of the Muslim world. Indeed, some have even said that if southern India was a separate country, it would have emerged as an industrial power like Japan.

Of course, what we are talking about is something much more than just the economy and the software industry. Indeed, what we are looking for is the cultural and civilizational role of Islam that the Muslims of the region have to strive to impart. I do hope that the Muslims of south India too will be part of the region’s dynamics in the coming years.