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.
One of seven children, Imam Zaid Shakir was 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 during the mid-1980s, he led a campaign that culminated in the university divesting from South Africa and co-founded Masjid al-Huda which would grow to become the New Brunswick Islamic Center.
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, as well as the foundations of the social sciences. 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. The next year, he authored an award-winning text, Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, a translation and commentary on Imam Harith al-Muhasibi’s work, Risala al-Mustarshideen.
Imam Zaid co-founded Zaytuna College in 2008, the first accredited Islamic liberal arts college located in Berkeley, CA. He is co-founder and chairman of United For Change since 2009. The mission of United for Change is to bring scholars from various orientations together to create awareness of the most pressing issues affecting the Muslim Ummah. 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. The “500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, lists him among the most influential Muslim scholars. The 500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, (2020).
Imam Zaid along with religious leaders from around the world, is a signatory of a declaration in support of the Paris Climate Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This document, which was presented to the UN Secretary General, has garnered more international support than any similar initiative. In 2015, he authored the Muslim response Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change, Laudato Si. That response has been studied by Catholics all over the world. In 2016, Imam Zaid had the immense honor of leading the funeral prayer for the late boxing champion and human rights icon, Muhammad Ali. While continuing his work with Zaytuna College, Imam Zaid became a Green Faith partner in action for the earth in 2017. CNN listed him among twenty-five influential American Muslims in 2018. 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. Imam Zaid assumed leadership of the Muslim Alliance in North America from 2020 to 2022.
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
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.
December 27, 2020
CBS Sunday Morning
“Messages of Healing and Hope, After a Difficult 2020”, CBS Sunday Morning TV Show hosted three faiths reflections for those whose devotion may have been tested by a year of struggle and loss, to renew hope and expectation for the New Year. Featuring Rabbi Elaine Zecher, of Temple Israel of Boston; Imam Zaid Shakir of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif.; and Judah Smith, lead Pastor of Churchome.
February 8, 2019
“40 Years a Slave: The Extraordinary Tale of an African Prince Stolen from His Kingdom”, Imam Zaid Shakir states, “During the isolation of being alone in the wilderness it dawned on him that he is no longer a prince, he’s no longer a warrior. From that point onwards his dignity was based on his ability to master the circumstances that he was in....”
May 3, 2018
“One girl’s pain led to his calling”, Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College, tells the story of a young girl’s question, which helped catalyze his conversion to Islam."
March 30, 2018
Now This News
“Imam Zaid Shakir Calls for Action on Police Brutality at Stephon Clark’s Funeral”, Imam Zaid Shakir called for action against police brutality while speaking at Stephon Clark’s funeral. He stated, “Today, we’re gathered to memorialize and to subsequently bury Stephon Clark. But yesterday it was [Amadou Diallo,] and Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Gary King, Oscar Grant, Alan Blueford, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Alton Sterling Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Now This News,
March 29, 2018
USA Today “Live stream: Funeral for Stephon Clark”, Imam Zaid Shakir, Rev. Al Sharpton, and other clergy deliver the eulogy at the funeral of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard, USA Today,
March 29, 2018
“WATCH: Funeral of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, CA”, Imam Zaid Shakir, Rev. Al Sharpton, and other clergy deliver the eulogy at funeral held for Stephon Clark after he was killed in a police-involved shooting in Sacramento, CA.
November 10, 2017
ABC 7 News
“Bay Area Muslim Community Raises Money For Fire Victims”, Imam Zaid Shakir, Congressmen Ro Khanna, Eric Swalwell, Bay Area Community Unite, Muslim Americans for Peace and Prosperity, and hundreds of community minded people joined forces with Islamic Relief USA to raise money for North Bay fire victims.
June 12, 2017
“The Greatest At Rest”, One year ago, Imam Zaid Shakir and a chosen few brought Muhammad Ali home for the last time. This is the story of how they carried out their sacred calling. This story by Tom Junod appears in ESPN The Magazine’s June 12 World Fame Issue.
June 1, 2016
“Muhammad Ali’s funeral to follow Muslim traditions”, Funeral arrangements are set for Muhammad Ali. The boxing champ will be honored by two events open to the public: an Islamic prayer service Thursday and a funeral Friday preceded by Imam Zaid Shakir. A former president, heads of state, Hollywood celebrities, and sports legends are expected to pay their respects. Jericka Duncan reports from the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY.
June 1, 2016
NBC Nightly News
“Muhammad Ali Memorial: Thousands Gather to Mourn ‘The Greatest’”, Former President Bill Clinton, Bryant Gumbel and Billy Crystal delivered eulogies at Ali’s memorial service. Imam Zaid Shakir preceded over the opening and closing, and thousands paid their final respects to the boxing legend in Louisville, KY.
May 20, 2016
“Highlights from the Muhammad Ali Memorial Service”, Friday’s memorial service began with Imam Zaid Shakir and other religious and faith leaders, and ended with eulogies from family and friends. It was long—about three hours—but there were moving tributes and remembrances throughout the service.
July 7, 2015
“How American Muslims Are Helping Black Rebuild After Spate Of Fires”, Imam Zaid Shakir, an Islamic scholar at California’s Zaytuna College explained,“we do, however, understand the climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country. We want to let our African American brothers and sisters know that we stand in solidarity with them during this dark hour.”
July 7, 2015
“How American Muslims Are Helping Black Churches Rebuild After Spate Of Fires.
February 8, 2019
“New Charlie Hebdo Cover Depicts Prophet Mohammed”“Let us ignore the provocations and defamation and get about the work of being a source of good and mercy to all we may come into contact with”, Imam Zaid Shakir, a popular cleric and scholar from California, posted on Facebook this week. “May Allah bless you all and make things easy for you and your families during these trying times”.
June 1, 2013
“Muslim college carves niche in USA”, Until Zaytuna opened its doors three years ago, American Muslims who wanted to study and grow in their faith mostly had to look overseas for a college education.
September 9, 2010
“Muslim college opens in California”, Berkeley, California — Amid the uproar over the proposed mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, a new Islamic college recently opened its doors in California with plans to educate a new generation of Muslim-American leaders.
June 22, 2007
Bill Moyers Journal
Born in Berkeley, California and raised in the Atlanta and Hartford projects alongside six other children, Imam Zaid Shakir converted to Islam in 1977, and today is one of the foremost Islamic scholars in the west.
March 5, 2017
New Straits Times
“Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali Honoured For Spirit, Strength in Upholding Islam”, A two-day conference, which also featured leading American Muslim scholar Imam Zaid Shakir and co-founder of Zaytuna College, Putrajaya, Malaysia.
June 10, 2016
Muhammad Ali Funeral Recap: Celebrities and Fans Pay Tribute to Boxing Legend in Moving Public Service.
June 1, 2016
“Religious Advisor of Ali family Imam Zaid Shakir Talks About Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali”, Imam Zaid Shakir discusses his fondest memories of Muhammad Ali who passed away on June 3, 2016, Louisville, KY.
April 25, 2016
“Record 175 Countries Sign Historic Paris Climate Agreement”, Islamic leaders from around the world presented the UN with a declaration in support of the climate agreement.”
July 7, 2015
RT Question More
Muslim Groups Fundraise to Restore Black Churches, Support Victims of Arson.
July 7, 2015
Muslim non-profits are raising money to rebuild black churches because “all houses of worship are sanctuaries.
July 7, 2015
Al Jazeera America
“US Muslim groups launch fundraiser to help rebuild burned black churches”, the American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalized racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African-Americans,” organizer Imam Zaid Shakir.
May 17, 2015
Al Jazeera Third Rail
“Debating The Merits of Religion: Does It Do More Harm Than Good?”, Atheist scholar Daniel Dennett, evangelical Christian Larry Alex Taunton and Muslim scholar Imam Zaid Shakir debate.
October 20, 2011
News 7 Australia
Interviewed by Angela Cox along with Simon Kennedy, and Rhais Bhuyian on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
August 2, 2010
Voice of America
“America’s First Muslim College Opens This Fall: US institution hopes to cultivate native-born Islamic scholar”.
May 1, 2010
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
“Zaytuna College Fundraiser”, Why a Muslim College in America? The topic for a panel discussion including co-founder Imam Zaid Shakir.
June 9, 2016
Thousands of fans, dignitaries and faithful from across the globe filled a Kentucky arena Thursday to honor Muhammad Ali.
January 1, 2015
The Dallas Morning News
“North Texas Muslims, Neighbors Gather to Call For Peace”, Imam Zaid Shakir told the crowd that Muslims have to “touch the hearts” of their neighbors.“Our religion is focused on our hearts,” he said. “It started in the heart of our prophet, and he spread it to the hearts of his companions. They spread it to the hearts of the successors, and it reached our hearts.”
July 1, 2014
“Middle East turmoil weighs heavy as local Muslims gather for Eid”, Imam exhorts 15,000 area Muslims gathered to mark Eid: “Let us endure as they endure. Let us advocate for peace”.
February 16, 2011
Jackson Free Press
“Bridging the Gaps”, Jackson Convention Center, Jackson, Miss., Keynote speaker and panelist with Dr. James Loewen, scholars, filmmakers and experts.
September 9, 2010
"Zaytuna College". A talk with two of the college’s co-founders about their mission, and about what it means to be a Muslim American today.
September 8, 2010
"New College Teaches Young American Muslims". Interview with 2 co-founders and students of Zaytuna College.
July 18, 2010
"Founders, Students Defend Islamic College". Interview with co-founders of Zaytuna College.
February 6, 2007
Muslim Liquor Store Owners Face Criticism. Activists in Oakland, Calif., have long fought the concentration of liquor stores in their communities. Now they have new allies in Muslim groups who say Muslim owners of these liquor stores are hurting the neighborhood and violating religious principles.
June 28, 2020
American Muslim Institution
“Race Awareness: In The Name of God”, Dive into Race, Racism, and the Role of Faith with Imam Zaid Shakir, Rev. Dr. Faith Harris and Pastor Willie J. Barber II, as they shed light on the issue with values instilled in their faiths.
"The Unfinished Business of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.", Imam Zaid Shakir states, "While most remember Dr. King for his soaring oration, symbolized by his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered before a sweltering throng at the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963, Dr. King was far more than a moving orator. He was a formidable intellectual, an effective organizer and a passionate advocate for the freedom of his people."
June 3, 2018
“God’s Plan and Muhammad Ali”, Imam Zaid Shakir states, “It is time we started listening to Ali. It is God’s plan…”.
June 24, 2018
“This Is Who We Are”, Imam Zaid Shakir states, “Madeline Albright, infamously and casually agreed that over 500,000 dead Iraqi children who died during the six years US sanctions had been in place in Iraq to that point, was worth it...”.
October 28, 2018
Religious News Service
“Muslim #MeToo isn’t just a man problem. It’s also a male-led theology prob …”, Imam Zaid Shakir states, “I could have framed the issue better and I again apologize for misrepresenting clear Islamic teachings. However, the precedent being established by this case is extremely dangerous, and I would argue it is not one supported by our religion.” Some sisters have been harmed, and I am not in the business of harming people… I apologize from the bottom of my heart for anyone who has been harmed by my words”.
October 24, 2017
The Islamic Monthly
“Ignorance of Islam Is Incomprehensible Today”, For those with less time, there are a number of 15 minutes or less sound-bite lectures by world-recognized Muslim scholars, such as “Becoming a Muslim” by American Imam Zaid Shakir.
July 7, 2015
Christian Science Monitor
Why Muslims Are Raising Money for Black Churches Destroyed By Fire.
March 19, 2011
Reflections from the Chaplaincy, “Service with Zaytuna College and Berkeley Muslim Students’ Association”.
February 23, 2018
The Daily Northwestern
“Muslim Scholars Discuss Faith As Motivation in Discover Islam Week Keynote”, Northwestern Muslim-cultural Students Association invited keynote speaker Imam Zaid Shakir and Imam Omar Suleiman for a conversation about reconstructing the perception of achievements by Muslim Americans. The keynote presentation of the two Scholars advocated the use of faith as fuel for personal achievement and discussed fighting for greater social justice.
April 28, 2017
Yale Daily News
“Not So Simple Truths”, The IMC (Ivy Muslims Conference) is an annual conference that brings together Muslim students from across the Ivy League for two nights of spiritual and intellectual discussion with Imam Zaid Shakir and other prominent Muslim personalities, New Haven, CT.
September 21, 2009
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Islamic Scholars Plan for America’s First Muslim College
April 24, 2007
Various Sponsors & UC Berkeley
KPFA 94.1 FM, Cody’s Books, the Near Eastern Studies Department, and the Religion, Politics, and Globalization Program at UC Berkeley sponsored "Can We Talk About God". A capacity crowd gathered for a thought-provoking conversation between Roger Scruton and Imam Zaid Shakir, two thinkers with some common ground—and some sharply differing perspectives. The event moderated by Sandy Tolan of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
June 1, 2016
“Thousands expected for Muhammad Ali funeral”, Muhammad Ali Press Conference with Imam Zaid Shakir in Louisville, KY.
April 1, 2013
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
“Zaytuna College Hosts Historic Workshop on Environmental Education in Islamic Schools”, At the opening night reception, Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College, delivered the keynote address on “Planting Seeds for a Greener Tomorrow, Northern California Chronicle.