Video: “The Irony of Democracy” – Zaytuna Faculty Lecture by Imam Zaid Shakir

“The Irony of Democracy”, a Zaytuna Faculty Lecture by Imam Zaid Shakir

The Irony of Democracy, can it be resolved? A Zaytuna Faculty Lecture by Imam Zaid Shakir.
The Zaytuna Faculty Lecture Series presents lectures by Zaytuna College faculty members exploring a variety of contemporary topics.

Video: Imam Zaid – A Legacy of Pride – Radical Middle Way

Video: Imam Zaid – A Legacy of Pride – Radical Middle Way

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Imam Zaid Shakir outlines the importance of making connections with our Islamic history and why it is important to be aware of how their steadfast nature and upright character serve as examples to Muslims across the world today.

The history of enslaved Muslims in the West is well documented. What is less well know is the influence they had and the impact they left in the communities that they were enslaved in. In a captivating speech, Imam Zaid Shakir talks about the legacy that great individuals such as Ayuba Suleiman Diallo and Abdu-l-Rahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori played during the time of slavery in the United States. He outlines the importance of making connections with our Islamic history and why it is important to be aware of how their steadfast nature and upright character serve as examples to Muslims across the world today.

Introduction on Habib Umar by Imam Zaid Shakir

Introduction on Habib Umar by Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid giving an introduction to Habib Umar for his upcoming tour to Canada and US. Habib Umar bin Hafiz is the Director of Dar Al Mustafa, a seminary in Tarim, Yemen which is regarded as one of the foremost contemporary centres of Islamic education in the world. Habib Umar bin Hafiz is well known for his Prophetic lineage and status as one of the most important scholars alive today. Habib Umar was ranked 33rd in this year’s list of the 500 Most Influential Muslims published by an international group of experts lead by Dr John Esposito under the auspices of the Royal Institute for Strategic Studies in Amman, Jordan.
For Information on his tour and schedule visit

What Went Wrong? Funny You Should Ask – Imam Zaid Shakir

What Went Wrong? Funny You Should Ask – Imam Zaid Shakir

[Imam Zaid Shakir discusses the interplay between wealth and communal well-being in the Muslim world and in the West]

The refrain from an old popular song goes as follows, “What the world needs now is love sweet love, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…” According to Nicholas Kristof, in his recent New York Times editorial, Is Islam The Problem?, the Muslim world doesn’t need more love. It needs more banks, corporations and massive concentrations of wealth.

Referencing Dr. Timur Kumar’s study of Muslim economic stagnation, Kristof concludes that it is not Islam as such that is responsible for the economic stagnation of the Muslim world, rather certain stultifying Muslim business laws that have stifled the creation of the gargantuan financial institutions that are responsible for the economic prowess of the West.

It is interesting that Kristof would deliver this particular broadside at Islam at time when the Western nations are reeling from the debilitating influences of an ill-conceived financial system that is spiraling wildly out of control. Banks and the related financial “services” industry have orchestrated the greatest upward shift of wealth in human history. Ordinary citizens have had their pension accounts raided, their savings looted (remember the S&L scandal of the 1980s), and the equity sucked out of their homes by a set of business practices that would have led to the mass incarceration of the perpetrators in a just society.

Entire countries like Iceland have been rendered financially insolvent, while thieves in suits and ties walk out of national treasuries with billions of dollars in tax-payers money. Perhaps Kristof has not taken time to watch the Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job, a brilliant expose on the current fiscal crisis. If he had, I think he might realize that this is not the ideal historical moment to be pontificating about the virtue of the banking industry, monopolies and corporations.

Speaking of corporations, Kristof argues that in the Muslim world they did not assume the colossal size they have reached in the West owing to the nature of the laws governing business partnerships in Islam. What he fails to mention is that that the huge dimensions of western corporations have allowed them to orchestrate a de facto take over of our political system, to plunder the world’s resources and despoil the natural environment.

In terms of environmental degradation, consider another documentary, Gasland, which was nominated for an Oscar. It shows just how nefarious the resource extraction corporations can be. Led by that exemplar of the virtue of western corporate ethics, Haliburton, those industries are in the process of destroying aquifers all over this country through the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This film documents the influence of corporations, not only on our environment, but also on the political system as their lobbyists buy off politicians and manipulate the media to serve their sole interest -profits. Is this what the Muslim world needs more of if it is to prosper and create the just and equitable societies protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere are dreaming of? I would think not.

Kristof concludes with his hope that the current uprisings in the Middle East can address the issue of “what went wrong” in the Muslim world by creating the conditions for a new beginning. In light of the destructive impact of the banking industry, corporations and the huge concentration of wealth in the hands of an ever-shrinking few here in the West, the question of “what went wrong” is indeed appropriate. However, it is being hurled in the wrong direction.

We need to be asking what went wrong in the West, generally, and here in America, specifically. How is it that billionaires are not proportionately taxed and poor people end up having services they have paid for such as social security threatened, while those same billionaires are paid interest on the money they have “loaned” the government with tax dollars taken from the poor? How is it that private, corporate military contractors with a vested economic interest in the perpetuation of war are being paid billions of dollars to do things the military used to do for free, or at a fraction of the cost? How is it that a nation with 5% of the world’s population has half all its incarcerated individuals and corporate prisons are paying millions of dollars to judges to sentence teenagers to jail?

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what has gone wrong in this country, and role of the banks and corporations in those developments. Yet the best Kristof can do is to point a patronizing finger at the Muslims and tell them their countries need more of what is destroying ours. As the Qur’an rhetorically asks, “What is wrong with you? How is it that you judge?”

Kristof is right about one thing in his article. Namely, that a new day is indeed dawning in the Muslim world and that new day gives the Muslims a chance to do things differently. However, that new day also gives America a chance to do things differently in the Muslim world. She can open a new era in her relations with the Muslim world, an era based on mutual cooperation, mutual respect and a collective effort to work towards the betterment of world for all of its inhabitants. She can also choose to continue to walk clumsily and to carry a big stick. Kristof seems to prefer the latter choice as the big stick approach has always been one that has sought to bludgeon the natives into submission in order to clear the way for the banks, corporations and filthy concentrations of wealth that Kristof seems so enthralled by. Kristof’s time in Cairo should alert him to a very sobering reality. The big stick approach does not command the fear it once did.

To return to the song, “What the world needs now is love sweet love, no not just for some but for everyone…”

Video: Youth, Islam & Politics – Imam Zaid Shakir

Youth, Islam & Politics – Imam Zaid Shakir

Youth, Politics & Islam – Imam Zaid Shakir from Tariq Subhani on Vimeo.

Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work. He is a frequent speaker at local and national Muslim events and has emerged as one of the nation’s top Islamic scholars and a voice of conscience for American Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Imam Zaid has served as an advisor to many organizations, and influential leaders. Recently, Imam Zaid was ranked as “one of America’s most influential Scholars” in the West; by The 500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, (2009).

Biography from New Islamic Directions

Attend Zaytuna College Online Open House with Imam Zaid | Thursday, Dec. 2 at 5:30pm

Attend Zaytuna College Online Open House with Imam Zaid | Thursday, Dec. 2 at 5:30pm

Zaytuna College’s Online Open Houses are a series of informational sessions designed as an opportunity for parents, students, and educators to learn more details about the Bachelor’s degree programs offered by Zaytuna and pose their questions to college administrators.

Each hour-long Online Open House is free of cost and includes a college presentation and ample time for questions and answers. High schools, community centers, mosques, and student organizations are encouraged to sign up as groups, but participants may also sign up as individuals.

Online Open House Schedule

  • Monday, November 15: 5pm – 6pm PST
  • Tuesday, November 23: 6pm – 7pm PST
  • Thursday, December 2: 5:30pm – 6:30pm PST WITH IMAM ZAID SHAKIR!
  • Monday, December 6: 6pm – 7pm PST
  • Tuesday, December 14: 12 Noon PST

Event URL and other details will be emailed to registered participants. Sign up for your session here. More Online Open Houses will be announced shortly.

Race to the Top – Imam Zaid Shakir

Race to the Top – Imam Zaid Shakir – Emel Magazine

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The fight against racism is not over; we must redouble our efforts.

As the level of racially-charged exclusionary politics grows throughout the Western world, Muslims will have to contribute to the developing discourse to counter this problem. Doing so will require a plunge into the murky waters of racial politics. We should not shy away from the challenge. We readily acknowledge that Islam opposes all forms of racism and bigotry. However, sometimes we deny the need for any involvement in a racially defined political arena fearing that by involving ourselves on such a basis, we are somehow implicitly legitimising racial distinctions.

Racial and ethnic distinctions are real, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. One of the greatest factors working to perpetuate the negative manifestations of such distinctions lies in a failure to acknowledge their existence. By failing to acknowledge the existence of a problem, we are robbed of any realistic basis to help eradicate it.

Such denial was not the way of our Prophet. He acknowledged the reality of racial prejudice and took concrete steps to eliminate it. For example, a companion insulted Bilal, one of the first appointed muezzins (callers to prayer), by derisively referring to him as the “son of a black woman.” The Prophet rebuked that companion by reminding him that his attitude displayed the influences of pre-Islamic incivility.

The Prophet took concrete measures to insure that social practices that displayed racist attitudes were broken down by public policy. One of the largely unmentioned examples is his active work to undermine the stigma that many aristocratic Arabs in his time attached to marrying black men: he ordered several Arab families to allow the marriage of their daughters to black companions.

Zayd ibn Haritha, the beloved companion, is described by Ibn Jawzi in his work Tanwir al-Ghabash, as being of very dark complexion. The Prophet ordered the family of Zaynab bint Jahsh to marry her to Zayd. Perhaps Zayd’s dark complexion was one of the reasons for the well-known resistance of Zaynab’s family to the marriage. Another marriage of this type involved Julaybib, a black companion. The Prophet asked an Ansar family to marry their daughter to Julaybib. The mother vehemently refused. However, the daughter, owing to her piety insisted that the marriage proceed. The couple would go on to enjoy a happy and blessed union.

An especially moving story, in this regard, involved a companion known as S’ad al-Aswad. Sa’d was a black man of pure Arab lineage from Bani Sulaym. He came to the Prophet and asked him if his dark complexion would prevent him from entering Paradise. The Prophet responded that it would not, as long as he was mindful of his Lord and believed in Him. Sa’d immediately accepted Islam. Sa’d later complained to the Prophet that he had searched persistently for a wife, but had been rejected because of his dark complexion. The Prophet sent Sa’d to marry the daughter of ‘Amr bin Wahhab, a recent convert from Bani Thaqif who retained many pre-Islamic prejudices.

Sa’d went to ‘Amr’s door and informed him that the Prophet asked that he marry his daughter to him. ‘Amr flatly refused. His daughter, overhearing the conversation between her father and the stranger, interceded telling her father to relent lest he be disgraced by Revelation. ‘Amr went to the Prophet and was strongly rebuked for refusing Sa’d. Hearing this, ‘Amr promptly married his daughter to him.

Shortly after, as Sa’d was in the market purchasing provisions for his new wife, he heard a caller rallying the faithful for a military campaign. He decided to first answer this call and purchased arms and a steed to set out for the battlefield, where he fought valiantly until he was slain. Learning of his death, the Prophet went to his body and placed his head in his lap until his grave was prepared. He then ordered that his arms and mount be sent to his wife’s family.

As we can see from these brief examples, the blessed Prophet acknowledged race and its implications in society. He then took steps to reform society to be less accommodating to racially-based prejudices and attitudes. This must be part of our duty as citizens in the West. We cannot sit silently aside as political forces organise themselves along racial lines and attempt to implement policies that are essentially racist, even though many of them are framed in anti-Muslim language. Those policies will have devastating consequences not only for Muslims, but for all racial and ethnic minorities. For example, here in the US, the most draconian measures of the Patriot Act have been enacted to ostensibly fight “Muslim” terrorism. However, it is the Latin American community that has suffered most severely as a result of the arbitrary arrests, summary detentions and deportations that those policies facilitate.

At a deeper level, the rise in racist politics and policies in Western democracies not only threaten racial minorities, it threatens the very nature of our countries. A monumental and heroic struggle has been waged in the West to create open societies that extend civil and human rights to all. This struggle was especially significant in the US which has had large numbers of non-white people among its population since its inception – the native Indians and the imported African slaves.

Because of that struggle, we have moved closer to societies – to paraphrase the words of the great American civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. – where people are judged based on the content of their character and not on the colour of their skin.

The full realisation of Dr King’s dream is now threatened. Those voices that continue to advocate the politics of inclusion are drowned out by those calling for the politics of exclusion. Those voices calling for co-operation and understanding are marginalised by the advocates of conflict and obscurantism.

Muslims must become a part of this raging discourse. We have to break free from the chains many of us have imposed on ourselves through self-censorship and a lack of self-confidence. When we censor ourselves, we assume that if we remain silent all of the controversies currently involving Islam and Muslims will simply go away. They will not. When we lack confidence in ourselves we assume we have nothing meaningful to contribute to the conversation. There is indeed much we can contribute as individuals and as
a community.

Ultimately, and ironically, in light of the growing negativity surrounding Islam and Muslims here in the West, Islam can help to create a social consciousness that works against a re-entrenchment of racist or white supremacist politics. The power of Islam to create such a social consciousness was grasped by Malcolm X, during his Pilgrimage to Makkah. From there he penned the following words: “During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blonde, and whose skins were the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana. We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the ‘white’ from their minds, the ‘white’ from their behaviour, and the ‘white’ from their attitude. I could see from this that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in colour.”

This optimism that society could be reformed, which Islam kindled in Malcolm X, can be contrasted to the pessimism that seized Dr King after a lifetime of struggle in the arena of civil rights. He would conclude shortly before his assassination, “Yet the largest portion of white America is still poisoned by racism, which is as native to our soil as pine trees, sagebrush, and buffalo grass.”

Let us follow the lead of Malcolm X. Let us believe that Islam can indeed help to repulse the rising racism that threatens the future of these western lands most of us call home. Let us then work to translate that belief into effective action. Let us rid our own lives of any vestiges of racialised thinking and racist actions. Let us open our hearts to our neighbours and fellow citizens who may be of other racial or ethnic backgrounds. Let us join or work to help build coalitions that work towards the advancement of ideals that foster peace, reconciliation and harmony in our societies. Now is our time. Let us seize it!

United for Change Conference Photos

United for Change Conference Photos

Dr. Zainab Alwani, Dr. Mohammed Beshir, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Dr. Omer Abdelkafy, Mohammed Ashour

Dr. Zainab Alwani, Dr. Mohamed Bashir, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Dr. Omar Abdelkafy, Br. Mohammed Ashour

Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Navaid Aziz

Imam Zaid speaking

Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah

Sr. Rabia Iqbal, Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Br. Amadou Shakur

Islamic conference aims to build stronger families, communities – CTV news

With an aim to build stronger families and better communities, about 2,000 people took part Saturday in the largest Islamic conference Montreal has ever seen.

Taking place at the Palais des congres, the United for Change conference set out to thank the community and talk about often-shushed issues like parenting concerns, domestic violence and divorce.

“Divorces are going up, which is alarming. Historically in the Muslim society, divorces were almost unheard of,” said Tariq Subhani from United for Change.

Experts say happiness is about choosing love over faith and finding common ground.

“Human relations are based on love, mercy and just being a decent human being. And if you get that right, you’ll get the religious part right,” said prominent Imam Zaid Shakir.

Muslim activist Dr. Raiba Khedr said couples have to share common values.

“You have to have a foundation. If you don’t share a common bond through common values, there’s always a great struggle in a relationship,” said Khedr.

Beyond marriage, there’s parenting, where children have good role models. Good parents need to give their children the freedom to be who they want to be, said panelists.

Stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam will always exist, said Imam Dr. Yasir Qadhi, but Muslim parents need to send a clear message that being different is okay.

“Parents need to understand that their children who are born in this land, they are Canadian, and they better be proud of being Canadians, along with other identities,” said Qadhi.

Special thanks Br. Tariq Subhani for photo coverage