About New Islamic Directions

This website is dedicated to bringing to visitors a fair and balanced presentation of Islam and its basic teachings. We are a balanced nation whose historical advance has only been possible when that balance created the spiritual and intellectual space for some of the most brilliant minds known to humanity to flourish. That flourishing resulted in the legal genius displayed by the likes of Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ash-Shafi’i. It led to the principled defense of Islam, and the diligent preservation of its foundational texts by the likes of Imam Ahmad. It led to the theolgical genius displayed by the likes of Imam al-Ghazali. And it led to the sustaining spiritual sobriety of countless sages such as Al-Muhasibi, Abu Talib Makki and others.

It is our desire to see Muslims, especially here in the West, avoid the historical tendencies that have resulted in fragmentation and the loss of influence for our Ummah, by benefiting from our wealthy heritage. Through a sound understanding of this religion, much good will result. In fact, we believe that such a result is inevitable as our Beloved Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has said, “Whoever Allah desires good for, He gives him a sound understanding of the religion,” (Al-Bukhari). We also are dedicated to making the lectures, writings, and other material produced by Imam Zaid Shakir available to a wide audience. Imam Zaid has benefited from long years working to advance Islam and has much to offer, not only to Muslims in the West, but also to a wider international audience. Trained in both Western social sciences and Islam, Imam Zaid is uniquely qualified as a presenter of Islam and a commentator on current events. It is our sincere hope that the content on this site will be able to present you with a wealth of information mined from the classical sources of our enduring Islamic tradition, and refined in the light of current demands and realities.

About Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir is a co-founder, and senior Faculty Member of Zaytuna College located in Berkeley, California. He 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.

Born in Berkeley, California, he accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at American University in Washington D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, he led a successful campaign for divestment from South Africa, and co-founded New Brunswick Islamic Center, formerly Masjid al-Huda.

After a year of studying Arabic in Cairo, Egypt, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut and continued his community activism, co-founding Masjid Al Islam, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee. As Imam of Masjid Al-Islam from 1988 to 1994, he spear-headed a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort, and also taught political science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University. He served as an interfaith council Chaplain at Yale University and developed the Chaplaincy Sensitivity Training for physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital. He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic sciences.

For seven years in Syria, and briefly in Morocco, he immersed himself in an intense study of Arabic, Islamic law, Quranic studies, and spirituality with some of the top Muslim scholars of our age. In 2001, he graduated from Syria’s prestigious Abu Noor University with a BA in Islamic Sciences and returned to Connecticut, serving again as the Imam of Masjid al-Islam, and writing and speaking frequently on a host of issues. That same year, his translation from Arabic into English of “The Heirs of the Prophets” was published by Starlatch Press.

In 2003, he moved to Hayward, California to serve as a scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute, where he taught courses on Arabic, Islamic law, history, and Islamic spirituality. In 2004, he initiated a pilot seminary program at Zaytuna Institute, which was useful in Zaytuna College’s refinement of its Islamic Studies curriculum and its educational philosophy. For four years, students in the pilot program were engaged in the study of contemporary and classical texts. In 2005, Zaytuna Institute published, “Scattered Pictures: Reflections of An American Muslim”, an anthology of diverse essays penned by Zaid Shakir. He co-founded the Lighthouse Mosque, Oakland, CA. in 2007. He authored an awardwinning text, “Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance”, a translation and commentary on Imam Harith al Muhasibi’s work, Risala al-Mustarshideen in 2008. He is co-founder and chairman of United For Change since 2009. The mission of United For Change is, through modern discourse, to create awareness of the broadest and most consuming topics within the Muslim community. The aim is to leverage the diversity through cooperation and goodwill and address the obstacles that have proven to be divisive. His most recent work is “Where I’m Coming From: The Year In Review”, a new collection of his essays from 2010. Imam Zaid has also authored numerous articles and research papers on a wide range of topics.

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. He is 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). Recently, Imam Zaid is a signatory along with religious and spiritual Leaders from around the world who presented the UN Secretary General with a declaration in support of the Paris Climate Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, marking the largest number of nations ever signing an international agreement. In 2018, CNN listed him among 25 influential American Muslims.

While many have cited Imam Zaid as example of Islamic moderation, his critics have questioned his moderate credentials by citing his expressed hope for the conversion of America to Islam and adoption of Islamic law in America. Dr. Ingrid Mattson stated that Imam Zaid is solidly grounded in the Islamic legal, ethical and intellectual tradition, which all Muslims share, as well as his personal understanding of the current political context. He has recently been appointed as the new chair of MANA, the Muslim Alliance in North America.

Testimonials

These testimonials give an indication of the impact of our work.

“The American Muslim community has been blessed with many wise scholars. Imam Zaid Shakir, scholar-in-residence at Zaytuna Institute, has written a compelling response to the Fort Hood tragedy. Imam Zaid’s response is solidly grounded in the Islamic legal, ethical and intellectual tradition, which all Muslims share, as well as his personal understanding of the current political context”. “A vigorous discussion and debate over our various understandings of this political context is certainly welcome and necessary, but no one who understands the priorities and principles of the Islamic tradition can disagree with Imam Zaid’s ethical reasoning, nor his conclusion that “Our civil rights can be assailed, we can be denied equal protection under the law, our lawful and law-abiding organizations can be closed down, but no one can take our dignity from us, no one can prevent us from being decent neighbors, honest workers, dedicated students, faithful citizens, and pious believers”.

— Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Hartford Seminary

“Imam Zaid Shakir is one of the towering principle voices not only in contemporary Islam, but in American society.”

— Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University

“Imam Zaid Shakir has compiled in Scattered Pictures: Reflections of an American Muslim a number of his articles of the burning issues that challenge all religious men and women in the United States of America and beyond. What is remarkable about this text is its message of hope. Deeply rooted in the Western and Islamic traditions, and bent on reconciling and profiting from both of them, Imam Shakir has written a text that could serve as a useful model for younger Muslims coming from a similar background. His reflections in this text have made it clear to me that the person who wrote this book is a man whose mental furniture has been properly re-arranged by his encounter with the Qur’an and the legacy of Prophet Muhammad. Muslims and non-Muslims will find much inspiration from the messages that are beautifully packaged for those who think seriously and critically.”

— Sulayman S. Nyang, Ph.D., Howard University

“On the issue of civilization, one has to remember that Islamic Civilization is a very important episode in our history of mankind, and someone like Zaid Shakir is a student of it and knows the literature and what it has achieved. And many of the big, loud-mouthed voices in modern politics pretend to speak for Islam and don’t speak for that civilization at all. They have lost all contact with the philosophers and the poets”. Dr. Scruton also said, he was “encouraged” by his exchange with Imam Zaid, and saw signs of hope in the ongoing engagement of Muslims and the West”.

— Dr. Roger Scruton, British political philosopher

“This collection of Zaid Shakir’s essays in Scattered Pictures: Reflections of an American Muslim is long overdue. For some years now he has brought a clarity of mind and feeling to substantive issues challenging Muslims today. It is good to see some of his fire-fly, lightning bolt thinking captured in words and put between covers.”

— Michael Wolfe, Unity Productions Foundation

“The clarity with which Imam shakir delves into issues such as the true nature of jihad and the relationship between Islam and the African American struggle leaves the reader with new insights and imparts a satisfying resolution to many unspoken issues and hardened realizations common to many Muslims today.”

— Yahiya Emerik, Islamic Foundation of North America

“Imam Zaid Shakir has accompanied the text Treatise for The Seekers of Guidance with an in-depth commentary based upon the Qur’an and Hadith that enriches and contextualizes the concise prose of Imam al-Muhasibi within the social milieu of our times. His employs language that is accessible and free of technical terminology. His translation thus provides sound guidance to anyone who is seeking in the midst of the uncertainties of social turmoil and personal struggle, a whole and integral path, a unity of form and substance,self-effacing comportment, and intimate knowledge of God. In short this is a work that no ones library should be without”.

— Dr. Kenneth Honerkamp, The University of Georgia in Athens

“May Allah SWT bless you all at Zaytuna for the education and support you offer your fellow human beings”.

— Lauren Booth, UK Journalist, Broadcaster

“Please accept my sincere well wishes on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Fast-Breaking, at the end of the month of Ramadan. Throughout these August Days, you have committed yourselves to prayer, fasting, helping the neediest and strengthening relations of family and friendship. God will not fail to reward these efforts! “.

— Diocese of Oakland

“Embodying an American story if ever there was one—including proverbial bootstraps, military service, political activism, and deep religious commitment—Zaid Shakir’s message of social justice in the face of poverty and racism he has known first hand makes him endlessly and, it often seems, effortlessly relevant. He is as approachable a man as I’ve ever met.”

— The Chronicle of Higher Learning

“We sincerely appreciated the connections you drew between the civil rights struggles of different communities and our own as well as your highlighting the importance of American Muslims on the forefront of civil rights work”.

— Council on American-Islamic Relations

“ISF would like to extend a warm welcome to Imam Zaid Shakir, the most recent addition to the Islamic Scholarship Fund advisory board. We are proud to have this most distinguished individual on the ISF team and we hope to work closely with him in the future”.

— Islamic Scholarship Fund

“Imam Zaid Shakir is one of the most thoughtful and dynamic teachers about the true nature of Islam in America today”.

— Tikkun Daily

“Imam Zaid Shakir has been called a voice of conscience for American Muslims, but his views on Islam in America put him at the center of a heated debate about faith and culture”.

— Bill Moyers, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

“Describes Imam Zaid Shakir as a “leading intellectual light”, 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”.

— New York Times

Media Profile

Imam Zaid Shakir appears or is quoted regularly in various public media channels, whether as a guest on TV, conferences, radio or newspaper and magazine coverage.