Imam Zaid Shakir on The Futility of The "Haram Police"

When Imam Zaid Shakir first became Muslim, he was a massive jazz fan. It was all he listened to.

“No one ever told me music was haram,” he says. “No one threatened to lynch me or burn me in a pile of melting LPs.”

So how did he give it all up? Find out in this brief video, courtesy of Al Madina Institute.

Resources for seekers

Cover photo by Alan Eng.

"Sunni and Shia Hatred: A Disease We Must Fight"

Sunni and Shia Hatred with Imam Zaid Shakir

This SeekersHub Study Circle will give you a deeper understanding of the centrality of love and mercy within Islam. Loneliness and isolation, Imam Zaid Shakir argues, have no place in an ummah of compassion and mercy. He also addresses Sunni-Shia aggression and hatred, which he describes as a disease we must fight.

Imam Zaid Shakir shia
Ambassadors of Goodness

Students will be empowered to be ambassadors of goodness through learning about the love of Allah, His Messenger ﷺ, the duties of brotherhood and sisterhood, and the signs of a healthy community in a world suffering from hatred and division, spreading love and respect is needed with the utmost urgency.

Setup Your Own SeekersHub Study Circle

Can’t attend these gatherings in person? We encourage you to set up SeekersHub Study Circle in your own community. It’s easy! Just email us or find more details online.

Blessed Is The Wealth That’s Given, and That Which Remains – Imam Zaid Shakir

imam_zaid_shakirimage18Imam Zaid Shakir gives a beautiful, brief explanation of zakah in this video. It’s a topic many of us hope to know well but you haven’t heard it until you’ve heard it from Imam Zaid!

May Allah bless our teachers and the National Zakat Foundation in the United Kingdom, ameen.


Why Halloween Should Be Off The Cards – Imam Zaid Shakir

When Imam Zaid Shakir wrote a Facebook Post on why Halloween practices and customs should be avoided by Muslim families, he caused quite a stir. In response, he wrote this lengthier explanation that is truly worth reading:

halloween-imagineMy recent post on Halloween has created quite a stir. That being the case, I would like to clarify a few issues. First of all, the intended audience of that original post was Muslims, some of whom had asked me to write something on the issue. It was not intended for “pagans,” nor was it intended to question their beliefs, per se. Rather, I was calling into question the actions of some Muslims who engage in practices informed by beliefs alien to our religion.

Secondly, the style and brevity of what I wrote was dictated to a large extent by the fact that it was a Facebook status, and not an academic dissertation. I say this in response to the complaint by some that the post was not rigorous enough, or that it did not display the full, nuanced complexity of the Muslim legal tradition. As our scholars say, “Every situation has an appropriate level of speech.”

Finally, relating to the final line of the original post, which stated, “Halaloween is Haram.” Many question such a bold declaration and ask for the reasoning behind it. That is what I intend to provide in the balance of this essay even though it will be very lengthy. I will admit from the outset that I meant Halloween is Haram, and carelessly used the term “Halaloween” metaphorically to indicate the actions Muslims may undertake imitating the practices of other communities around Halloween, i.e. Halloween parties, wearing costumes etc. This issue will be discussed later.

To begin with, Halloween began as a religious festival dedicated to Samhain, the Lord of Death in some ancient European belief systems. Various sources relate that on October 31st Samhain would dispatch spirits to attack and harass humans. As time passed, in those parts of the world celebrating this festival, this day and its night became increasingly darker, characterized by belief in wandering ghosts, goblins, zombies, vampires, black cats, bats, demons and other symbols of the occult and underworld. The day also gradually took on significance for Devil worshippers, some of whom came to believe that October 31st was a day the Devil’s help could be invoked for divinations (seeking knowledge of future events) concerning marriages, health issues, financial decisions, etc.

The first objective of the Divine Law (Maqasid al-Shari’ah) is the preservation of monotheism and the worship of Allah. Pursuant to this objective, idolatry in all of its manifestations has been forbidden in Islam, as well as actions and practices described by our scholars as constituting disbelief or those that are seen as leading to disbelief. Belief in a God of Death, Samhain, who has the power to act independently in creation, is idolatry and disbelief with Muslims, and therefore Haram, or forbidden.

Similarly, to invoke the Devil for any purpose, is also idolatry and disbelief.

Allah mentions in the Qur’an, “They call on none other than the rebellious Satan, Allah has cursed him (4:116-117).”

To specifically invoke Satan for purposes of divination is an even more egregious form of disbelief.

Our Prophet, peace be upon him, has mentioned in this regard, “Whoever affirms the truthfulness of a sorcerer, an astrologer or a fortune-teller has rejected faith in what has been revealed to Muhammad.”

Again, this rejection of faith is compounded when the one allegedly informing of the future is Satan.

Satan’s role in Halloween rituals and symbolism is also found in the tradition of the Jake o’ lantern. The candle in the Jack o’ lantern, symbolizes Irish Jack trapped in Purgatory between Heaven and Hell. The origin of the light in the Jack o’ lantern, now usually represented by a candle, began as a burning coal thrown by Satan to Jack after he was turned away from the gates of Hell. Jack placed the glowing coal into a turnip, which would become a pumpkin in North America, and used it as a lamp to illuminate his path as he wandered through the earth, trapped between Heaven and Hell. After Jack’s passing, for some, the candle came to represent the Jack himself. In any case, to adorn the interior or exterior of our homes with such a symbol is something forbidden in Islam, because it involves use of religious symbolism which has no relation to proper Muslim teachings.

An alternative explanation of the significance of the Jack o’ lantern, that it is used to ward off the evil spirits that abound on Halloween, is also idolatrous to Muslims, as it is attributing to the creation powers that are reserved by God. Namely, the Jack o’ lantern warding off evil. We affirm as one of the foundations of our creed that it is Allah, Almighty God, who is the sole source of all benefit or harm, not anyone or anything in the creation.

Almighty God mentions in the Qur’an, “If Allah tests you with something you deem harmful there is no one who can relieve you from it except He… (6:17).”

I mention this to say that a religious celebration infused with various layers of idolatry and Satanic influences is clearly forbidden in Islam. To reiterate, Halloween, in its original conception, practice and symbolism is forbidden in Islam. That being the case, it becomes incumbent on those advocating Muslim participation in the practices of Halloween to demonstrate, with evidence (Dalil), that the day and night are free of the idolatrous and Satanic influences that evolved around it.

If it can be shown that such influences continue to be present, then the ruling of those practices and the symbolism surrounding them being forbidden (Haram) stands. This line of reasoning is consistent with a legal concept known as the continuity of the original ruling (Istishab al-Asl). Again, if it can be shown that Halloween continues to involve idolatrous beliefs or practices which clearly constitute disbelief by the standards of Islam, then the original ruling of such practices being Haram or impermissible to partake in, stands.

We know that Halloween continues to be a religious holiday celebrated by those whose beliefs are antithetical to those of Muslims. Samhain, the festival which gave birth to Halloween, is currently celebrated October 31st each year by Wiccans and Satanists, and is the highest of all their holidays. A witch has been quoted in USA Today as saying, “Christians don’t realize it, but they’re celebrating our holiday with us. …We like it.” The symbols of darkness, evil and idolatry, as we Muslims understand them: ghosts, goblins, witches, demons, vampires, etc. continue to be associated with this day by those groups who celebrate it in ways consistent with its ancient origin. Hence, the original ruling concerning it, as mentioned above, stands.

As for the argument that one’s intention (niyya) is the determinant of whether Halloween is lawful or unlawful, this is a baseless. Specifically, a good intention cannot render an unlawful action, lawful. Our scholars have captured this concept in the following expression, an-niyyatu’l hasana la tubarriru al-Haram. Hence, a good intention, such as the desire that our children not feel out of place on this day among their peers who may not be Muslim, cannot justify involvement in practices and with symbolism that are forbidden in our religion.

Something unlawful can only be rendered temporarily lawful by absolute necessity and not by one’s whims or intentions. Hence, the legal maxim, “Absolute necessity renders the unlawful temporarily lawful (al-Darura tabihu’l Mahdhurat).” For example, if one is threatened with starvation and the only food available is pork, it is temporarily permissible to eat the pork, something normally forbidden, in order to sustain one’s life. Once the absolute necessity justifying the consumption of pork passes, it is no longer permissible. No one can claim that celebrating Halloween is an absolute necessity, which could, in their view, justify it being lawful. Furthermore, no one could claim that it is a need (Hajah), or beneath that, in terms of legal justification, an embellishment (Tahsiniyya).

Some claim that Halloween is an American custom and custom is a legal consideration (al-‘Ada Muhakkamah). This maxim has no relevance here. Custom is only a legal consideration when it does not contradict or conflict with established rulings or principles of Islam. This is clearly not the case with Halloween, which conflicts with many Islamic rulings and principles, as we have shown. Therefore, one cannot claim its permissibility based on custom.

A related idea is that the symbols of Halloween, some of which we have mentioned above, and all of which have been incorporated into the costumes commonly worn on the day and night of October 31st, no longer have any religious or idolatrous significance. Contrary to this claim, as we have mentioned above, these symbols continue to be part of active religious ceremonies undertaken as part of extant Wicca and Satanist rituals. This renders those symbols and the practices and costumes associated with them off limits for Muslims.

There is another legal principle that becomes relevant here, namely, “Being pleased with disbelief is itself disbelief (Al-Rida bi’l Kufr, Kufr).” In this area of legal thinking the crux of the ruling of disbelief is something that is intangible, namely, pleasure. This intangible quality is found in the concept, “Business is predicated on mutual pleasure (Taradin) between the contracting parties.” In areas such as this, the intangible quality has to have a tangible manifestation in order for the ruling to be meaningful. In the case of business, mutual pleasure is expressed by an offer and acceptance (Ijab wa qabul). Contemporarily, this is accomplished through offering money and accepting a receipt, signing a contract, a handshake or other tangible actions largely defined by custom.

Pleasure with disbelief is likewise expressed through tangible manifestations. In the case of Halloween, such actions as wearing costumes representing skeletons (dead spirits returning to life), witches, zombies, sorcerers, vampires or fairies, placing Jack o’ lanterns on one’s doorsteps, choosing October 31st for “Halaloween” parties, trick or treating and other actions can all be interpreted as expressions of pleasure with Kufr. That being the case, even if a Muslim disagrees with Halloween or “Halaloween” being Haram, it is something he or she should avoid out of fear of involvement in practices or accepting symbolism that can be viewed as expressions of pleasure with disbelief.

Were we to accept for the sake of argument that Halloween is an innocent, commercialized holiday (which opens an entirely different can of worms) an insightful scholar would still likely find it something to be forbidden, based on the concept of blocking lawful means to unlawful ends (Sadd al-Dhara’ia). This idea holds that if something that is lawful in and of itself will likely become a mean to something unlawful, then that otherwise lawful mean becomes unlawful.

In our society, which is becoming increasingly un-Godly, occult practices and symbolism are systematically becoming normalized as part of the socio-cultural landscape. Seemingly innocent and innocuous manifestations of Satanism and the occult are becoming recruitment tools into darker and more dangerous beliefs and practices. In my estimation, which is shared by many others, Halloween, as it is commonly practiced and understood, is one of those seemingly innocent and innocuous manifestations of the nefarious forces that are subtly leading many Muslims, as well as others, to engage in practices which would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Any door with the potential to lead to those dark spaces must be slammed shut.

Saying this is not to deny that there are many aspects of the cultural life of our society that Muslims should and actually do proudly embrace. However, in my view, Halloween must not be one of them. Furthermore, a “Halal” Halloween, or Halaloween, will not protect our children from Halloween’s pervasive influence. As George Lakoff explains in his seminal book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” if you tell a person to refuse to think of an elephant, the first thing he or she will do is to think of an elephant. If everything in our schools, mass media, theaters (it is not coincidental many of our darkest horror films are centered around Halloween) stores and billboards are bombarding us, and more significantly, our children, with images and messages filled with the traditional symbols of Halloween, having our children engage in a Halal version will not stop them from thinking about the “real thing,” especially when the “real thing” is so pervasive in our culture.”

We need to be honest with our children and tell them unambiguously that we are Muslims and there are some things we do not believe in or practice because they are antithetical to our religious teachings. The Jehovah’s Witness, Hasidic Jews, the Amish and others do so with great force and clarity. Tawhid, or upholding Divine Oneness, lies at the core of our religion. If it is compromised our religion will soon follow. We must assiduously guard our faith, especially during these perilous times.

In conclusion, neither this nor the original Halloween post are meant, as some have implied, to be dismissive of the position or opinions of others. Nor are they meant to be offensive. I am only trying to warn my Muslim brothers and sisters of a great danger that is creeping up on our community. I believe in open discussion and freedom of opinion, but I do have strong positions on many issues. That does not necessarily make me right, nor does it make someone holding an opposing position wrong. This is how I see this particular issue, as unambiguously Haram, at many different levels, however, I respect the position of those who may see it differently. I also do not wish for anyone to take my position on the issue of Halloween as a blanket condemnation of all western holidays. Each one has to be considered on a case-by-case basis, as each is unique and distinct. May Allah guide us all to what He loves and to His good pleasure.

Imam Zaid Shakir
New Islamic Directions

Imam Zaid Shakir on the Passing of “a Devout, Pious Man, True to God, Devoted to Family”

Salahud-DinAbdul-Razacq2“We belong to Allah, and unto Him we will all return…”

Death has an uncanny way of rearranging our priorities. Before an early morning text message yesterday from a dear friend, like many Muslims here in the United States, I was preoccupied with an easily recognizable laundry list of concerns. I could list among them the looming anti-Muslim hate rallies being planned today by the so-called Oath Keepers; the unsettling implications of the Russian bombing campaign for an already complicated and bloody conflagration in Syria; the perplexing, serious, but strangely amusing antics of the Republican party, both on the campaign trail and in Congress; and a wide array of similar concerns.

When that text arrived informing me that Salahud-Din Abdul-Razacq, husband of the highly respected teacher and Da’iya, Zaynab Ansari, had died, days after being struck by a drunk driver whose license had been suspended, all of the aforementioned concerns faded into the background. That is so because death, especially when it comes so suddenly and unexpectedly to someone so young, forces us to take stock of our own lives and to ask ourselves timeless questions. Should death visit me this moment, will I be prepared to meet my Lord? Am I proud of my record? What should I be doing with the time I have left in this world? Am I preparing for my death with passionate devotion and selfless service or am I merely marking time in the world? Do I treat every breath I am blessed to take as a gift from God, which I should fittingly honor by ensuring that the time accompanying it is filled with remembrance, praise and service, or do I take it for granted, thoughtlessly assuming it will be followed by another?

In this case, these questions and the reality of death itself, take on added significance owing to the close personal ties I have with Salahud-Din’s in-laws. I have known Mansour and Kafi Ansari, Ustadha Zaynab’s parents, since 1981, when I was a student at American University in Washington, DC. We were all members of an activist Muslim organization, filled with revolutionary fervor. Five-year-old Zaynab, and her younger sister, Sumayyah, were mainstays at the protests and demonstrations we frequently attended. They could be found scrambling along on their tiny feet or riding atop readily availed shoulders. We were all swept up, unbeknownst to them, in what I like to refer to as the heady days of the Islamic Revolution.

Inspired by their then passionate support for the Iranian Revolution, Mansour and Kafi would move to Iran, where Zaynab and Sumayyah would continue their education, eventually becoming fluent in Farsi. Many years later, our paths would cross again in Syria during the late-1990s. Disillusioned with Iran, they brought their two daughters, now beautiful young women, to Damascus to learn Arabic and study Islam more deeply. We would frequently visit each other and occasionally rummage through the shops of the old city in Damascus, as Mansour hustled up deals to support his import export business. In 2001, I moved my own family back to the States after graduating from Abi Nur College in Damascus. Mansour and his family would follow shortly thereafter.

Upon their return from Syria, we would frequently meet at various Islamic programs and conferences, and in 2003, I was called upon by the family to officiate Zaynab and Salahud-Din’s marriage. It was at that time I that I first met Salahud-Din, named after his father, a mild-mannered young man of exemplary character. The impactful nurturing provided him and his sister, Kamila, by their mother, Khadija, was clearly evident. In addition to her old school “home-training” she had the foresight to send him to Atlanta’s Dar ul-Uloom at the young age of 14 where he became one of the first African Americans in Atlanta, Georgia, to memorize the entire Qur’an.

In addition to this religious distinction he was also an accomplished martial artist, so accomplished that some referred to him as an African American Bruce Lee. However, like all truly accomplished and mature warriors, he did not wear his prowess in the arts “on his sleeve.” Instead, he quietly left an indelible imprint on the lives of many young people as a trainer and coach who taught martial arts, physical fitness, and, most importantly, the art of good living.

Salahud-Din, like his learned, wise, judicious and cultured wife, was a gem in every way. At a time when it is increasingly difficult to find young African American men who can avoid being chewed up and then spit out by America’s “Gangsta Factory” devout and pious men like him, true to God and dutifully devoted to family and community, stand out all the more. They are shining stars who should be celebrated by our community.

Now, the reckless action of a thoughtless individual has taken him from us. That is how we explain his passing in this world of effects. However, in the true causal realm, we know that the time of his passing had been decreed, and that sooner or later we will all follow him. Death after all, is an unavoidable inevitability. To his family, friends and loved ones, I say that he is still with us and whenever you are really missing him, go outside on a really clear night. Gaze into the vast firmament overhead and you will see that his star is still shining. Not only that, if you have lost your way, it will surely lead you home.

Originally published on Imam Zaid Shakir’s website, New Islamic Directions. 

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari is much loved at SeekersHub. Click here for the archive of her articles and fiqh answers.

The Tayseer Academy updates can be followed here:

Please keep Ustadh Salahud-Din Abdul-Razacq and his family in your heartfelt prayers and we encourage you to join others around the world in reciting Quran for him. Sign up to read a portion at this link. If you would like to send condolences via email, please do so at this email. Details on how and when to visit the family, and assist them in any way, will be posted later on this Tayseer Seminary page. May Allah most High forgive him, shower him with mercy, and grant him the highest station in Paradise with no accountability. Ameen. May Allah give his family patience, strength and ease as they deal with this great loss. Ameen.

Please consider contributing to a crowd-funding campaign to ease the financial burden of Coach Salah’s family.

ISIS, Sex Slaves and Islam – reflections from Imam Zaid Shakir

As-Salaamu Alaikum,

Today’s New York Times’ (NYT) article highlighting ISIS’ sexual enslavement of Yazidi women has cast a critical light on the issue of slavery and Islam. The ensuing implications should concern all Muslims. This is so owing to the fact that ISIS presents its practices as normative Islam and accuses the masses of Muslims who reject their draconian interpretation of the religion as ignoramuses or cowards who are afraid to identify with “real” Islam.

ISIS’ practices and fatwas are based on a type of literalism that has never been part of normative Islam, both during its formulation and after its maturation. Why is this so? Normative Islam is based on both rulings and interpretive principles. Those who, like ISIS, separate the rulings interpretive principles both misrepresent Islam and open the door to varieties and degrees of harm that the religion strictly forbids.

The idea of understanding rulings in light of interpretive principles is implied by the Prophet, peace be upon him, when he stated, “Whosoever Allah desires good for, He gives him a good understanding of the religion.” By implication, one Allah desires to ruin is left void of any understanding. The relevant point here is that merely knowing a particular ruling is not sufficient. One has to understand it.

The first thing we should understand about slavery is that it is not an integral part of Islam such as praying, fasting, the prohibition of interest, etc. As such, it is amenable to being rejected without any sin falling on the one rejecting it. For this reason, every Muslim nation has legally outlawed slavery and there have been no noticeable protests or accusations of sin or disbelief levied at the ministries and scholars who oversaw the drafting of the relevant legislation. We remind Bernard Haykel that these prohibitions occurred long before the advent of ISIS, so they were not motivated by embarrassment.

The fact that slavery is not an integral part of Islam also means that fatwas associated with it are amenable to change with changing circumstances, something that factored into the prohibitions mentioned above. We can cite the following as an example of an issue calling for a change in a fatwa associated with sexual slavery. For those who argue that Islam has retained sexual slavery as a deterrent to other nations from going to war against Muslims; in the current context, the actions of ISIS are being used to fan the flames of war against Muslims as hatred and fear of not just ISIS, but Muslims in general grows. In that the ruling to re-institute slavery has lost its deterrent power, the ruing itself collapses. The legal principle relevant here is the following: “A ruling is associated with its legal rationale, implemented when the latter is present, voided when it is absent.”

The widespread rejection of slavery among Muslims approaches the level of irreproachable consensus as it has become the ‘Urf or convention of the Muslim people. In this case, such convention has legal authority. One indication of this is that ISIS had to publish articles rebuking its hesitant minions who were repulsed by the idea of enslaving and raping Yazidi women and girls.

Another relevant legal principle is consideration of the future harm resulting from implementing a ruling. This principle is subordinate to the principle of removing the means that lead to an unlawful end, even if those means, in some cases, are themselves lawful. In the case of ISIS and slavery, one of the frightening implications of their actions is that it is turning people away from Islam in droves, including many Muslims. Combined with the rise of an organized and aggressive Atheist movement, the murderous and rapacious actions of ISIS are becoming the poster child used to highlight everything that is wrong with religion in general and Islam in particular, in the view those attacking Islam from this angle.

The first and highest objective of Islamic law is the preservation of religion itself. When an action, such as sexual slavery, which in no way, shape, or form could be described as an essential of the religion, is undermining the religion, that action is to be rejected. Hence, we reject these repugnant actions of ISIS and urge all Muslims to do the same.

Our religion is not this hideous Frankenstein-like creation being cobbled together by ISIS and their ilk and endorsed by some Islamic studies professors at Princeton University. It is a beautiful gift of a sophisticated civilization, however, that gift will not be understood or understandable when the principles that allow us to make sense of various rulings are cast aside. May Allah grant us all understanding.

This was originally published on Imam Zaid Shakir’s Facebook page.


Resources on ISIS, sex slaves and related issues for seekers:

On the Passing of Shaykh Dr. Wahba al-Zuhayli

A tribute to Shaykh Dr. Wahba al-Zuhayli (above) from Imam Zaid Shakir

During my time in Damascus, I lived in many different neighborhoods: Zahira Qadima, Mukhayyam Yarmuk, Saha Shahbandar, Muhajireen, Suq al-Jumu’ah and Khurshid. Like a desert nomad in search of greener pastures, I was ever in search of a cheaper rent.

My year in Saha Shahbandar was certainly challenging from one perspective. We lived in a one room Mulhaq (add-on) on the top of the roof of an apartment block. Our landlord was a retired Syrian army general. A committed secularist, he was amazed and astonished that an American who was not born into a Muslim family would actually become a Muslim.

The challenge of rooftop living manifested itself during the summer months. During that season, it was so hot on that roof that it was difficult to move from about 11:00am until around 5:00pm. On most days, I would leave around 1:30pm to attend class at the Dawah College at Abu Noor, hence, my wife was left to sweat it out alone. Mercifully, after 5:00pm, the gentle, refreshing breeze was a most welcome visitor. When I was home at that time, I would leave the door and windows open to make sure she did not pass us by.

Another delightful gift that made one forget the sweltering midday sun was the evening dance of the swallows as they darted to and fro gobbling up the seemingly invisible insects that constituted the staple of their diet. Starting about an hour before Maghrib, their rapid dips and ascensions, swoops, turns and incredible acceleration were mesmerizing. Additionally, one of our neighbors was a pigeon trainer and during the evening we would marvel as he stood on a nearby rooftop energetically sending out the flag signals, which called his dutiful troops home.

It was during this year that I got to know Dr. Wahba Zuhayli. Our neighborhood mosque was the beautiful Jami al-Kuwaiti, also known as Jami ‘Uthman. Dr. Zuhayli’s house was about one hundred meters north of the mosque and he frequently prayed his Fajr (morning) prayer there. Oftentimes, I would join a group of students for ask Dr. Zuhayli questions as we escorted him back to his house. Occasionally, if the brief walk provided insufficient time for answers, Dr. Zuhayli would invite us into his study to carry on the “dars.” Those walks reminded me of the Prophet’s, peace upon him, pedagogical method. He did not have Halaqas or formal lessons, per se. Being in his presence was the ultimate classroom.

Since becoming familiar with Dr. al-Zuhayli’s writings, especially his monumental works, al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu (Islamic Jurisprudence and Its Proofs) and al-Tafsir al-Munir (The Illuminating Commentary), I have maintained that Dr. Zuhayli was a living proof against those who argue that the likes of Abu Faraj Ibn al-Jawzi, Imam Nawawi, Imam Suyuti and the many other prolific authors of this Ummah could not have possibly penned all of the works attributed to them. What then do they say concerning Dr. Zuhayli, who within his lifetime has written enough volumes to fill several library shelves?

Yesterday evening, like so many others over the course of the past year, this great giant passed on. May Allah bless him and reward him immensely for the rich literary heritage he has vouchsafed us. May enough of us join his as the scholarly heirs of the Prophets, peace upon them, helping to keep the great heritage of our Ummah – knowledge – alive in the world.

“The World Has Lost A Giant” – Imam Zaid Shakir on the passing of Shaykh Shukri al-Luhafi

Shaykh Shukri Luhafi

Photo credit: Official Tweets from the Students of Shaykh Shukri al-Luhafi

The Muslim world has lost one of its giants with the passing of Shaykh Shukri Al-Luhafi. Despite his stature, it is unlikely that anyone reading these words who is not from Syria has ever heard of Shaykh Shukri. Before I arrived in Syria, in 1994, to begin my studies there, I too did not know who he was.

Upon arriving in Damascus, Shaykh Shukri was one of the first scholars I met. Our most generous host, Abu Munir Sha’ar, had arranged callighaphy lessons with the Shaykh. A motley gang of Americans made our way through the streets of Damascus to the Shaykh’s apartment for an introduction. Upon arriving at the building housing the Shaykh’s home, we descended down a tight stairwell into a dimly lit, cramped basement apartment. This was the Shaykh’s humble abode.

Only Musa Furber proved to be a consistent student of the Shaykh. I had become involved with other pursuits, although I would visit from time to time. I would also see the Shaykh at every public dhikr and the accompanying lessons that I was able to attend. The Shaykh had a very distinct way of arriving at the various masjids where the Dhikrs would occur. Specifically, on a rugged, Chinese-made black bicycle. He usually had a couple of children on the crossbar and two or three more on the makeshift backseat.

Shaykh Shukri Luhafi serving waterAs the attendees filtered into the venue, Shaykh Shukri, with the hint of a smile teasing his lips, would serve water. He was the waterman. This beautiful practice, like his home, like everything about him, spoke volumes about his humility. What exactly is humility? Some define it as assuming a station lower than that one could rightfully claim. By this definition, Shaykh Shukri was truly humble. Why? Because he could claim being a leading scholar in Damascus. He could claim that he was a renowned callighapher. He could claim being a master of the ten canonical readings of the Qur’an. We could add to the list of the things he could rightfully claim, however, he renounced all claims. He was the waterman.

When the great master, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Shaghuri, became too ill to continue commenting on the various texts read at the public dhikrs, that task fell upon my teacher, Shaykh Mustafa Turmani. One day Shaykh Mustafa was unable to make it to the dhikr, and hence, the lesson. The attendees, knowing Shaykh Shukri’s scholarly attainment, asked him to comment on the text. The Shaykh read the text, verbatim, not adding a single word of his own commentary, and then quietly closed the book. His respectful reverence, despite his qualifications, would not allow him to speak in the place of Shaykh Mustafa.

Shaykh Shukri Luhafi smilingUpon the passing of Shaykh Mustafa, the leadership of the Shadhuli Tariqa in Damascus was assumed by Shaykh Shukri. Now, at last, he spoke, and he guided the faithful with wisdom, courage and vision from that time until his demise.

I write these words with tears welling in my eyes as I remember this humble servant and as I reflect on how blessed I am to have had the honor of sitting in his home, eating his food, been served by his hand, listening to his silence, and benefiting from his state as well as his very parsimonious speech. May Allah grant him the highest ranks of Paradise and may He bless us to elevate ourselves to begin to carry even a small fraction of the load Shaykh Shukri has entrusted to us.

“There is no one who humbles himself for Allah’s sake, except Allah elevates him.” Prophetic Hadith.

This tribute was first published on Imam Zaid Shakir’s blog New Islamic Directions.

Service – A powerful khutbah from Imam Zaid Shakir

Service, with Imam Zaid Shakir

In this khutbah (Friday sermon) about service (khidmah), Imam Zaid Shakir advises is to ask ourselves what we can do for the state of Islam.

Imam Zaid Shakir, a gifted scholar, author and lecturer, is fast becoming one of the most influential voices for Islam in the West, as well as a compelling force for the improvement of race relations in America. Read his full biography here.


Resources for Seekers:
The Struggle and Strife Of A Believer’s Life
Giving to Humanity in Islam
Imam Zaid Shakir in conversation
Imam Zaid Shakir’s khutbah on the Chapel Hill shooting
Seven Counsels for Successful Service and Activism
Special Release: Purpose of Activism

Imam Zaid Shakir in conversation – Zaytuna and More.

“We now have a platform (Zaytuna) to bring our values into the mainstream…”

Diffused Congruence speak to Imam Zaid Shakir on “a founding member of Zaytuna College… on the school’s history and its mission. Then he shares the amazing story of his own journey to Islam, in the process helping to add yet more layers to the ongoing tapestry of the American Muslim experience that we’ve been weaving together ever since our very first show. It’s a fascinating conversation with one of the most prominent and preeminent Muslim minds in the world.”


Diffused Congruence is a podcast highlighting and focusing on unique and interesting personalities from within and without the Muslim community.


Resources for Seekers:

The War Within Our Hearts – Imam Zaid Shakir
On the mass murder of Coptic Christians by ISIS
Imam Zaid Shakir’s khutbah on the Chapel Hill shooting
Imam Zaid Shakir on the Chapel Hill shooting
Mockery by Imam Zaid Shakir
The Menace of So-called “Jihad” – Imam Zaid Shakir
Apologetics Versus Apologizing – Imam Zaid Shakir
Understanding Marriage – A conversation with Imam Zaid Shakir by Fahad Faruqui