New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

The Life of a Muslim “Rock Star”

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2009-07-07

In Response to a brief essay I wrote in the aftermath of Michael Jackson’s passing, an individual identifying himself as RHM wrote the following comment:

As Salamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh, Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Cynthia McKinney, former US Congresswoman from the state of Georgia, sits today in an Israeli prison where she was taken at gunpoint three days ago by the Israeli military after being plucked off a ship in international waters on her way with other humanitarians to deliver medicine, food, olive trees, and toys for children to the people of Gaza.  Some weeks ago she was part of a similar mission on another ship, the Dignity, that was rammed in international waters by the Israeli navy, and was nearly sunk.  It was only by the grace of Allah that they made it back to a friendly port alive. 

This time, after placing their lives on the line again, these people who would have delivered food and medicine to sick and starving muslims in Gaza are now illegally interned in an Israeli prison.  (See this legal opinion from UN ombudsman Richard Falk: UN expert says Israeli seizure of aid ship a crime | Reuters ) 

Here is Cynthia McKinney’s phone call from her second day of imprisonment in Israel, as broadcast today on WBAI radio in New York:

Now known by her Israeli captors as Prisoner number 88794, Ms. McKinney joins a long line of distinguished, nonviolent humanitarian prisoners of conscience against racism, colonization, apartheid, war, and genocide, from Martin Luther King, continuing on back through Mohandas Gandhi to Henry David Thoreau.

Where is the impassioned outcry from muslims of conscience against not only the imprisonment of these humanitarians, but, even more importantly, against the ongoing genocide being levied against human beings, people who are also members of the umma, in Palestine, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan?

Both Imam Zaid and Sh. Hamza have taken the time and trouble this week to publish essays on the Zaytuna website about the death of Michael Jackson, but they have not seen fit to breathe a word about the genocide in Gaza, no less to write upon the subject, in all of the months, running into years, during which this crime against humanity has continued. 

Is the death of a drug-addled pop star of dubious morality, however lamentable it may be that his life and talent have been extinguished, really the most fitting and pressing topic to have our attention directed to, and for us to focus upon? 

Are there not vastly more important and pressing concerns for the umma, for all of us as human beings generally, as well as each of us individually?  I ask again, what about our brothers and sisters who are being shot at, blown up, mutilated, starved, incarcerated, made homeless, abused and tortured on a daily basis in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Palestine?  Where is the outcry from the leaders of the Zaytuna Institute on the lives of these brothers and sisters? 

It is nowhere to be found in any measure.  But isn’t that just the point? How fitting that Michael Jackson’s funeral will be a ticketed event at the Staples Center in L.A., which will be followed the next day in the same arena by the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Solon of Athens wrote about the polity being distracted from what truly matters by its leaders’ promotion of “Bread and Circuses.”  That’s what MJ is for the masses.  That’s what American Idol is. Just look at the name. Ibrahim and Muhammad removed our idols twice. It seems we need to clean house again.

Astaghfirullah.  The “rock stars” of the muslim umma should themselves be concerned with the state of the people who comprise the mass of humanity and the umma, more than about other rock or pop stars.  We as muslims and human beings, our umma, and its institutions and leaders, are all indeed capable of so much better.  Are we not? True courage, as exemplified by Ms. McKinney, is certainly an obligation under the blessings of freedom, and it is a duty of our deen.

I pray for us all to be guided rightly Allahu ‘alim. With love and concern,


I feel that I should respond to this post. Although the writer makes several thought-provoking points, there are factual errors that are the basis of insulting assertions. Here is my response, which is too lengthy to be posted as a comment:

As-Salaam ‘Alaikum RHM,

May Allah be with you during these challenging times. I would like to address a few issues you raise in your comment concerning the brief essay I wrote about Michael Jackson. First of all, I did not publish the essay on the passing of Michael Jackson this week, as you state in your comment, which was posted 7/3/09. I published an essay on the subject 6/26/09, just after midnight, over a week before your post and several days before the illegal seizure of the vessel carrying Cynthia McKinney and her companions, which occurred Tuesday, June 30, 2009. By you stating that the article was published “this week” you make it appear as if I knew of the seizure of Ms. McKinney ship at the time I wrote the article on Michael Jackson, and I then chose to ignore that seizure and write about Michael Jackson instead. Simple chronology shows that not to be the case. Allah knows best as to the intention behind your allegation.

You further state, “…but they have not seen fit to breathe a word about the genocide in Gaza, no less to write upon the subject, in all of the months, running into years, during which this crime against humanity has continued.” Apparently, you do not read what has been posted on this website in recent months concerning the situation in Palestine. If you took the time to read what has been posted on this website you would have noted the following passage which was written in an article entitled, Looking Into The Abyss:

“In America and Israel it is frequently said that Hamas is guilty of killing the political process evolving between Israel and the Palestinians, owing to its obscurantist insistence on Israel’s destruction. The truth of the matter is that the political process died long before Hamas even ascended to power. Although it is frequently stated, again in Israel and America, that there is no meaningful political process between Israel and the Palestinians because Israel can find no Palestinian partners desiring peace, the truth of the situation, captured by what Henry Siegman writes in the New York Review of Books, is to the contrary:

Whatever one’s reading of Hamas’s intentions as it takes over the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, the notion that its sweeping electoral victory spells “the end of the peace process” is nonsense. The peace process died when Sharon was elected prime minister in 2000. More correctly, it was killed—with malice aforethought—by Sharon’s “unilateralism” with which he implemented the disengagement from Gaza, which in turn provided cover for his continued unilateralism. That he was bringing off the disengagement against the wishes of the settlers helped to divert attention from his refusal to have any negotiations with the Palestinians.

Unilateralism continues to serve as the euphemism for Israeli policies that are expropriating half of what was to have been the state of Palestine, and are concentrating the Palestinian population, about to outnumber the Jewish population, in territorially disconnected Bantustans that make a mockery of the promise of an independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state made in the “road map” of 2003, which was put forward by the Quartet of the US, the EU, the UN, and Russia.

Israel’s unilateralism and the callous disregard for Palestinian suffering that it involves is the real reason for the collapse of any viable political process between the Palestinians and Israel. The arrogant political morality that such unilateralism is predicated on is captured in the remarks made by Dov Weissglas, a top Israeli political advisor and a member of the Israeli government’s “Hamas Team” when he joked about the prospects for the Palestinians in the aftermath of their electing the Hamas government, to the raucous laughter of an assembly of high-ranking Israeli officials: “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but they won’t die.”

Weissglas’ callous statement marked the beginning of the Israeli campaign to destroy Gaza. The current crisis, like the punishing invasion in the aftermath of the capture of Gilad Shilat by Palestinian forces, are just murderous escalations in a campaign dating back to the Palestinians’ election of the Hamas government. Contrary to Weissglas’ quip, many Palestinians have died as a result of the sanctions, bombardments, and extra-judicial assassinations preceding Israel’s all-out assault on Gaza. As for Hamas, it was never given a chance to prove its commitment to the peace process.”

Perhaps these, and similar words that have appeared on this website do not qualify as “breathing a word” or, “no less to write upon the subject.”  If they did it would be far more difficult to defame your fellow Muslim with snide accusations of being a “rock star.” Since my prose does not meet your standard as condemnation of Israel genocide and politicide against the Muslims of Palestine, perhaps my poetry might. These words were penned and published on this blog in the aftermath of the recent slaughter in Gaza:

Gaza: InThe Hangman’s Rope

They see no death, no blood, no pain;
too blinded by an ancient claim.
So take the land, destroy the man,
And bomb the babe in mothers’ hands,
Uproot the olive, kill the dove,
to Hell with charity and love.
When those twain die, so too does hope,
a victim of the hangman’s rope.
And who is there to fear the Reaper
when no one is his brother’s keeper.

Our tribe we must ourselves protect
with murder, which we must perfect.
So goes that atavistic claim,
To justify the bombs that maim,
to justify the phosphorous shells,
the fire of this worldly hell.
A worldly hell the Gazans know,
that testing ground, that weapons show.
But from that ground the will persists.
From pools of blood rise clench’d fists.
And then those fists hurl sticks and stones,
that smash the walls of stolen homes.

From mounds of rubble come the words,
of futile cries to just be heard.
Heard through the death, the blood, the pain;
that others have a valid claim.
And through the fog of war it’s clear,
no one alive would care to hear.
So kill them all so be their fate,
their claim is ours, but theirs can wait.
So take the land, destroy the man,
and bomb the babe in mothers’ hands,
Uproot the olive, kill the dove,
to Hell with charity and love.
When those twain die, so too does hope,
it’s Gaza in the hangman’s rope.

As far as your claim that my so-called silence to the suffering of Palestinians has been “running into years, during which this crime against humanity has continued,” you should do research into a person’s history before you proceed to publicly insult them. In the past, I was one of the principal writers for one of the leading English language Palestinian magazines, and wrote about the crimes of Zionism from every conceivable angle. However, that does not count, it does fit into your prejudiced assessment?

As far as that so-called silence is concerned, when I helped to raise over a quarter million at the Muslim Community Association (MCA) in Santa Clara, California, for the people of Gaza in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter there earlier this year, I do not think that I did that with silence over the issue. That to does not count I suppose.

In response to your question, “I ask again, what about our brothers and sisters who are being shot at, blown up, mutilated, starved, incarcerated, made homeless, abused and tortured on a daily basis in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Palestine?  Where is the outcry from the leaders of the Zaytuna Institute on the lives of these brothers and sisters?” I say again, you obviously have not been reading what has been posted on this website. As far as speaking out on behalf of the Muslims suffering from a senseless and unwinnable war in Afghanistan, I refer you to my article, Drilling and Killing for God.

As far as the role of the United States in encouraging the overthrow of the Somali Islamic Courts regime through an Ethiopian proxy army, I refer you to my article, The Somali Crisis.
To quote from that particular article:

Before the rise of the Islamic Courts government, Somalia had been torn by over fifteen years of internecine warfare. The sea and airports were closed, the cities were unsafe, the economy had collapsed and the social fabric of the country shattered. Upon assuming power in 2006 the Islamic Courts government proceeded to establish order in the country, beginning with the divided and dangerous capital Mogadishu. Shortly thereafter, order was established in the capital, the markets were bustling, the harbor and airport were reopened, and healing was beginning between the tribes that had been at odds with each other during the civil war.

Apparently this was not good enough for America. Using the pretext that the Islamic Court government was somehow affiliated with Al-Qaida, an allegation never proven, the United States backed an invasion by the Ethiopian army in support of a weak, despotic, ineffective Somali government that was on the verge of total collapse. The result was the end of peace and stability and a return to the warfare, tumult and confusion that had exacted such a devastating toll on the Somali people for much of the past two decades.

Once again hundreds of thousands of people are forced to flee Mogadishu and surrounding areas. Once again innocent lives are being needlessly lost, and once again a Muslim country is introduced to the brand of “democracy” America seems to offer exclusively to Muslims, the type that flows from the barrel of a gun.

I further explained the origins of the Somali pirates and the propagandistic way their existence is being used in my article Somali Pirates: More of the Same or a New Way Ahead.

Your response is written as if the page and a half I wrote about Michael Jackson is all I have ever written. This is what happens when one’s passions blind one to the truth. How does that page and a half essay compare, for example, to the twenty-four pages documenting my trip to Mali as part of an effort to call attention to Muslims suffering in Africa? I can assure you that it was no trouble, nor a bother,  nor a time consuming effort to write a few lines about Michael Jackson. I wrote the essay the night of his passing before I went to bed. As for the twenty-four pages for Mali, that effort took a trip to Africa and many sleepless nights documenting my observations. Yet none of that, along with hundreds of other pages written concerning the plight of Muslims all over this world means anything in comparison to a page and a half on Michael Jackson.

Speaking of Africa, since you falsely claim I wrote the essay on Michael Jackson the week of June 3rd, when you posted your comment, I will let you know the truth of the matter.  I was aware of Cynthia McKinney’s predicament. However, on the day the story broke, Tuesday, June 30, I had to fly from California to the Washington DC area to teach at the Fawakih Arabic Intensive in Hearndon, Virginia. I caught a flight that departed San Francisco Airport 7:30 in the morning and landed in Virginia 4:30 that afternoon. As soon as I reached the venue I had a two-hour session. For the next two days, Wednesday and Thursday, I taught for five hours a day. I am not sure that you would understand what kind of energy and preparation goes into teaching five hours in a single day, but I do not think you would care anyway. You would be too busy looking for the flaws to provide yourself the opportunity to justify your assessment of my being a Muslim “rock star.”

That Friday morning, I got a ride to Washington DC, left my wife in the hotel lobby to check in for the ISNA Conference, and left immediately for the DC Jail, without even setting foot into my room, via the subway in order to do the Jumu’ah there. I know that is not something Muslim rock stars are supposed to be doing, so apologize to you for that. After returning to the hotel, I barely had time to get a bite to eat before I proceeded over the next 48 hours to do ten sessions. You might call it ten sessions being a Muslim “rock star” I call it ten sessions serving my community because I was asked to do so by six different organizations. Among my sessions was participating in the first panel in the history of ISNA dedicated to the physically and mentally challenged and disabled. Unlike a rock star, I did not impose myself via a public relations staff on those organizations; they asked me to assist them in their respective efforts, and I gave everything I had trying to accommodate them. I might add, for your information, from those ten sessions, there was not a single honorarium.

I left the final session I was involved in 7:30pm Sunday evening, went to my hotel room hastily packed and went straight to Dulles Airport to catch a 10:05pm flight that night to London to participate in a four day, four city tour in England to help raise money for Islamic Relief’s efforts in Africa, which started Monday evening, the same day I arrived. I thank Allah that since returning from Mali I have helped to raise over $300,000 for the Muslims there. I am still in England now in the middle of that tour. That is why I haven’t had time to write anything about the travesty involving Cynthia McKinney.

Again, in response to one of your rhetorical questions, “Are there not vastly more important and pressing concerns for the umma, for all of us as human beings generally, as well as each of us individually?” Yes there are. If you do not like or appreciate the way I sacrifice my time, health, family, and ability to try to deal with them there is nothing I can do to help you. I will pray for you.

As for Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, I am not going to write much in his defense because he would not wish that I do so. I will say that he hastily wrote his essay on Michael Jackson the same day I wrote mine with no idea I was going to write anything on the subject. His essay focused on the fleeting nature of the this world, the delusionary and inhumane nature of our popular culture, and the inevitability of death. When does writing about these things become condemnable? To quote from his essay:

In the manner of Elvis or the Beatles, Michael is unwittingly both a cause and a symptom of America’s national obsession with celebrity, currently on display in the American Idol mania. Celebrity trumps catastrophe every time. Far too few of us make any attempt to understand why jobs are drying up, why mortgages are collapsing, why we spend half-a-trillion dollars to service the interest on the national debt, why our government’s administration, despite being elected on an anti-war platform, is still committed to two unnecessary and unjust wars waged by the earlier administration, wars that continue to involve civilians casualties on an almost daily basis. Instead, we drown in trivia, especially trivia related to celebrity. And the response to Michael’s death is part of the trivial pursuits of American popular culture. The real news about death in America is that twenty Iraq and Afghan war veterans are committing suicide every day. But that does not make the front page nor is it discussed as seriously as the King of Pop’s cardiac arrest.

Nevertheless, Michael’s very public death notice is a powerful reminder that no matter how famous or talented or wealthy one is, death comes knocking, sometimes sooner than later. Michael has now entered a world of extraordinary perception, a world that makes his “Thriller” video seem mundane. It is a world of angels and demons, and questions in the grave, a world where fame is based upon piety and charity. Given Michael’s reported conversion to Islam last year, Muslims count him as one of our own, and we pray that he can finally find the peace he never found in this world and that he is in a place, God willing, of mercy, forgiveness, and solace.

Did you even bother reading the essay you so flippantly condemn? He is talking about the very things you accuse Muslim “rock stars” of avoiding. Discuss these issues in the context of Michael Jackson’s death only enhances their relevance. The only other thing I will say concerning Shaykh Hamza is that he has sacrificed time with his wife, his five sons, and his health has suffered mightily as a result of his running around serving this community. I will leave it at that.

Finally, you state, “Astaghfirullah.  The “rock stars” of the muslim umma should themselves be concerned with the state of the people who comprise the mass of humanity and the umma, more than about other rock or pop stars.  We as muslims and human beings, our umma, and its institutions and leaders, are all indeed capable of so much better.  Are we not?”  I will be the first to acknowledge that I can do better. What about you? By the way, it sure is a lot of fun being a Muslim rock star.

May Allah help us all.

Imam Zaid Shakir


By sc on July 8, 2009 at 11:24am

May ALLAH SWT bless you Imam Zaid Shakir. Please keep up the work and effort-inshaallah. I am always scratching my head when I hear these slanderous allegations, as usually I find these people could not possibly be reading your writings nor listening to your lectures/khutbahs etc.

By RIfat Sheikh on July 8, 2009 at 12:19pm

Salaam Alaykum, It

By ibrahim on July 8, 2009 at 12:45pm

May Allah swt bless you in this life and hereafter. May Allah swt bless you with health and resources to continue the service you are providing the Ummah, especially in US. May Allah swt bless you family for having patience and allowing you to dedicate your time in the way of Allah swt.

By Molly Darden on July 8, 2009 at 1:03pm

Bravo, Imam Zaid; well-put! Blessings, Molly Darden

By Osman Tariq on July 8, 2009 at 2:18pm

Assalamualkum, Imam Zaid, I regularly read your blogs and benifit much from your insight. I would like to personally apologize about those visous comments that were made against you. May Allah preserve you and Imam Hamza. For what you have done for the muslims in america few have even dreamt possible. Wasalam

By ibnmasood on July 8, 2009 at 3:01pm

don't worry imam zaid, you have no need to defend yourself! concentrate on what good you're doing and don't let these haters distract you...we all pray that your life can be of utmost benefit to the muslim ummah! ameen.

By Saf on July 8, 2009 at 3:05pm

Ah, Imam Zaid, I love you much for the sake of Allah. You and fellow scholars alike are who are 'fighting' what my father & I consider to be the real jihad -- often sacrificing health, personal issues, family, etc to serve the ummah and share your beautiful, beautiful wisdom & prescence with us all over the world to inspire faith, community, and positive activism. InshAllah you will be blessed abundantly and everything you do will be a sadaqah jariya... InshAllah you are also kept humble....

By Syed T on July 8, 2009 at 4:07pm

SubhanAllah dearest Imam Zaid, I love you for the sake of Allah. What a beautiful response. I pray that you are blessed with health in order to continue all of the immense work you have done for this 'Ummah insh'Allah. You and the numerous Shayukh at Zaytuna have effected me and many of my acquaintances in so many positive ways. JazakAllah Khayr. I hope to see you in London tomorrow insh'Allah. Wsalaam Your brother in Islam. Syed, T.

By Umm Shams on July 8, 2009 at 4:13pm

Imam Zaid rocks! (So does Imam Hamza, btw). May Allah preserves the both of you, and benefit us with your presence. As to your detractors...I pray that they are not so intent on detracting & insulting as to forget to put in some rock-solid, real-life, grassroots works. May Allah bless this ummah with more men & women the likes of Imam Zaid & Imam Hamza; those who will act as the bedrocks and citadels for a community facing so many challenges.

By RIfat Sheikh on July 8, 2009 at 4:25pm

Salaam Alaykum, It

By Dawud Israel on July 8, 2009 at 4:29pm

I absolutely LOVED this line: "By the way, it sure is a lot of fun being a Muslim rock star. " Hehe. I personally think you should've just brushed this off, since you could have, yes could have, used the time you wrote this article, more wisely no? Comments such as these are common because of two things: 1) Frustration and anxiety, not simply from the state of the ummah, but because of other issues such as being a minority, resentment at not being given a voice as loud as our "rock stars" and questioning whether that voice is used wisely and for the best. The simple fact is Muslims don't have a voice in the ummah- and when they aren't heard- they find alternate avenues, writebooks against the Muslim community or become progressives or what have you, feeling justified in blowing up their emotions of resentment towards Muslims ignoring them. You should look into this book on the abuse of power among those in positions of spiritual authority: 2)Cultural and intellectual segregation: their is a sense that the narrative should only be of a certain kind. This has happened among afr-am, who believe anything written by afr-american people MUST focus in someway on racial inequality rhetoric, in the same way hijabis are obsessed about talking about hijab, and thus limit discussion on other issues. Similarly, this person doesn't want people focusing on other areas such as MJ. People are human and need a break from always fretting over the ummah- so MJ was a bit of a release for people. So it was a bit of a human thing- you can't blame a person for what their hearts feel. But at the same time, to what extent should we be following the narrative and debates in our community- we are still stuck on the shia/sunni and salafi/sufi track, and if people want to escape from that, either via a discussion on MJ or the united for change malaria project- is that such a bad thing? At the same time, when have we gone too far away from the ummah that we avoid those narratives and discussions on Israel? How long until we can escape from it, or until we frankly stop caring and get desensitized? Personally, I am working on a project that will give Muslims a voice and empower them in that sense, rather than bottling them into following the dictates of a foreign-imported shaykh or the narrative all-important debates on forums and blogs, which are at the end of the day, irrelevant to their needs. May Allah reward you Imam Zaid and don't let comments like these distract you from your pivotal work on malaria. Shaytaan seeks to distract you in novel ways, you need to be patient since you will now face greater trials which go hand in hand with your greater goals. Don't let anger get the best of you. May Allah bless your work and your intentions, Ameen. :) -Dawud

By destinyseeker on July 8, 2009 at 6:22pm

Assalaamu 'Alykum, I deeply appreciate you taking the time to -- most especially -- offer us a glimpse of your schedule, among your response to AHM. I understand and appreciate the scholars' reluctance, including Sheikh Hamza and yourself, in divulging too much of this kind of information (with the idea that you rather gain your 'acceptance' from Allah while enduring 'rejection' from people in this world). But little do we laymen really realize the efforts you perform for us. And sitting behind anonymous internet accounts, we are exposed to a vast sea of baseless and misleading allegations, which we often perpetuate unwittingly ourselves. The content of this article will absolutely help me to avoid gossip and backbiting (via the comments sections of Web 2.0). Jazakallahu khairan katheeran, my most beloved Imam. Rock on!

By alti on July 8, 2009 at 7:50pm

mash'Allah that was really well written... haha --> "By the way, it sure is a lot of fun being a Muslim rock star. " greatest line from the entire posting...

By Ikhlas on July 8, 2009 at 8:31pm

SubhanAllah, May Allah swt give us taufeeq to give the due respect to our teachers & community leaders. "Those who dont thank others, do not thank Allah", Ya Sheikh just wanted to sincerly say *Jazakum Allahu Khayrun* for all your hard work, for all your efforts and for all the sacrifices you and your making have been making on daily basis for our community. No amount of words can ever do justice to your tireless work, but Ya Sheikh, I pray that Allah swt rewards you with highest place in Jannah for all the efforts & striving u r doing for HIS sake. *Ameen*

By Omar Mendoza Mahmood on July 8, 2009 at 8:42pm

Jazakum Allahu khayran, Imam Zaid.

By Maverick on July 8, 2009 at 8:45pm

salamualaikum Imam Shakir your response was measured and moderate, and was needed nonetheless to educate many people in the community who only see the surface of our leaders and know not of the massive icebergs of actions that lie beneath the surface. For the original poster who made that comment, I can only advise that one should remain silent and check all your facts before saying something [as Imam Zaid Shakir himself advised in his response]. Too often many of the problems faced by Muslims in the West could be prevented if they simply committed their due diligence to verifying facts and data before speaking or taking action. And a healthy dose of husn ad-dhunn couldn't hurt either.

By SaqibSaab on July 8, 2009 at 10:18pm

In the dialogue of the American youth, dear Imam, "PWNED!"

By AbdelRahman on July 8, 2009 at 10:28pm

Poignant and accurate - awesome response Imam Zaid, and may Allah give you strength and energy during your marathons to serve the Ummah. We are all servants of Allah [swt], and you're serving Him the way you know how, and we (all of your brothers and sisters) appreciate it. Rock on, Imam.

By Your Brother in Islam on July 8, 2009 at 11:49pm

Salam Imam Zaid, Allah bless you and protect you and keep your family safe, and increase you in what you have and bless you with firdaus. May Allah allow you to meet the Prophet, and let you sip from his pool, and let you be amongst those who are the first entered into paradise, when the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, goes to the gardens and knocks on the door with the saliheen. I read this article and am proud to have ulema who are fighting for the deen, and saddened that we have an ummah that cannot see it. Further to this, it makes me wonder why such a thing could happen, why could such a comment be said? I think it's more than plain ignorance or flippancy - there is a deeper problem with the way that we take knowledge in this age of sound bytes. Without thorough knowledge of your written documents history or personal history, the writer of the comment blasted you on premises that clearly weren't true. I think that this is perhaps symptomatic of the age that we live in, with twitter feeds and 60second media updates, that we are encouraged to treat topics in a quick, superfical and thoughtless fashion. In calling you a 'rockstar' it seems that the poster has only revealed something about himself or herself - that he too is a product of this 'rockstar' age, where flippant opinions can and will be grounded on nothing but thin air.

By Amallick on July 8, 2009 at 11:58pm

Salam, JAK Imam Zaid for your response, although many people are already aware of the work that you do and truly feel indebted to you and your efforts. I returned from ISNA a few days ago and at the end of the day on Sunday, my brother and I, as simple attendees, were exhausted at all the lectures we attended. We both thought of all the speakers (especially the 'rock stars'), their preparation for each session, the lectures and their continuous efforts in supporting and motivating Muslims and even non-Muslims. JazakAllah khair for your efforts-there are many of us who appreciate your work and truly feel blessed to be given the opportunities to attend your lectures. May Allah guide us all. A. Mallick

By AsimG on July 9, 2009 at 9:28am

Asalaamu alaykum, This post was necessary. Too many well-meaning internet posters have been spending their time attacking American shuyookh with just about anything they can find. And usually our beloved ulema stay quiet and the trend continues and grows. We, (the internet posters/muslims who don't do much), needed a reminder on how we are doing nothing and that we should be quiet in matters we know nothing about and to think good of our shuyookh. May Allah preserve you Imam Zaid and protect you from excessive negativity and praise. Ameen

By Rabiya on July 9, 2009 at 11:06am

Salaam Alaykum I'm sure this won't get published since it is not going to be a high 5 comment praising the imam. But at least you, Imam Zaid, or your wife, Umm Hassan, will see this and I hope it makes you think. Imam Zaid, my estimation for you just went through the floor. The article about Michael Jackson with unsubstantiated rumors passed on as fact to a community that is already more than partial to conspiracy theories was bad enough. But as someone who has worked with some of the organisations that have brought you and Sh. Hamza in for programs in the past, I feel that you're not really answering the issue that has many organisers grumbling about working with your org or the other 'traditional Islam' shaykhs. You obfuscated the issue, taking away from the real complaint, which I think is a serious issue, especially in these economic times. We grumble about the first class plane tickets, about the 4/5 star hotels, the fresh cut flowers in every room, the crazy requests we have to put up with (like that brother who had to drive 50 miles to an organic health natural co-op because one of the shaykhs would ONLY eat a certain type of food - our food not being good enough for him). There was one shaykh - not from Zaytuna, but a friend of yours - who insists on organisers chauffeuring him in a Mercedes Benz or a Cadillac. And he calls himself a "faqir". How can either of you comment on how the culture of celebrity helped damage Michael Jackson and how sad it is in the American people when you're doing it with the Muslims? We can't even get into the way "nasheeds artists" insist on being treated and the behaviour they engage in with women when they blow through town. And after all of the stuff that has come out of your fellow shaykh's domain in Jordan, and your GOOD BUDDY in Syria, I did not expect that I could get any more disappointed in the lack of leadership from the men who pose themselves as the leadership of an American Muslim community that is big on education, trust, truth, and justice.

By Adam on July 9, 2009 at 7:43pm

"Speaking of Africa, since you falsely claim I wrote the essay on Michael Jackson the week of June 3rd, when you posted your comment, I will let you know the truth of the matter." Dear Shaykh, did you mean July 3rd?

By Ahmed on July 9, 2009 at 9:42pm

Salam Alaikum, Barak Allahu Feeq Imam Zaid Shakir. There has been a smear campaign against our "rock star" ulema for a while now especially in the blogosphere. You'd think they could try to be a little more original than borrow from McCain's presidential campaign, which tried to paint Obama as a "rock star". God bless our ulema for their sacrifices. Ahmed

By Traveler on July 9, 2009 at 11:03pm

Asalaamu alaykum, Imam Zaid, no need to defend yourself. Critics will always find something to pick on. When you are doing A, they will ask why are you not doing B? And then when you are doing B, they will ask why are you not doing A? That is their way. Best to stay positive.

By zsalman on July 9, 2009 at 11:15pm

jazakAllahu Khayr Imam Zaid

By Haroon Sellars on July 10, 2009 at 2:33pm

Peace be upon all, I posted the following on Facebook earlier and wanted to post it here as well.... This caught me off guard and has really caused me to weep almost uncontrollably -even as I type this. Knowing what I know of Imam Zaid by the witnessing of my eyes, ears and heart I don't know what was more painful, the statements of the complainer or Imam Zaid explaining his situation in response! My wife used to attend an Arabic class taught by Imam Zaid and one day she missed class due to illness and I'll never forget hearing a ring at the door and opening it to find Imam Zaid and some of the other students standing there! After hearing the reason for my wife's absence, he brought not only himself but other classmates to come visit and check on her and pray for her. ... Read More My wife recovered from the effects of the illness, alhamdulillah but still has not recovered from the effects of the visit. Like a rock, he stands firm in shaky times and like a star, he is a guiding light in the darkness. A "rock star" to me, indeed!

By zainab on July 10, 2009 at 2:53pm

If what you have just written came from the mouth of a random college girl, i can imagine wanting to say "You go girl!" :) lol Thankyou Imam Zaid for your effort, you really inspire me. May Allah accept your effort and reward you. May Allah reward you through your family and health, and ultimately reward you with paradise.

By simple on July 10, 2009 at 4:06pm

life is so simple--people make it so confusing. NOBODY has time to criticize scholars--PERIOD. the first person to find me somebody with time to criticize scholars gets one millions dollars in cash from me!

By Mujahid on July 11, 2009 at 9:23am

May Allah Most Sublime preserve our Imam Zaid, Shaykh Hamza and our dwindling

By zainab on July 11, 2009 at 5:38pm

assalamu alaikum what im about to ask has nothing to do with what this article, however im just hoping you'd be able to reply. (inshallah) I'm stuck on the issue of homosexuality.. why is it forbidden in islam? ive heard of the story of the prophet Lut but i didnt understand why its wrong. theres even research about the question of homosexuality being a cause of nature or nuture. How should muslims deal with homosexuality? Its confusing, because theres plenty of public figures and celebs pushing the idea of homosexuality being ok.. i mean no muslim can be blind to the open views on homosexuality no matter how uninterested they are in the mainstream arts scene. Thankyou.

By Ayse on July 11, 2009 at 11:23pm

Assalamu alaykum, Getting back to the real matter at hand, what do you have to say about the kidnapping in international waters of Cynthia Mckinney and 20 fellow humanitarian aid workers by the criminal Israeli "Defense" Forces? How about addressing the media blackout in this country, the UK, and Europe concerning this flagrant display of arrogance on the part of Israel, and the complete silence of the US Government? McKinney may not be a muslim, but she is a hero who should be an example to all of us who desire truth and justice in this life. May we say "Israel" and "injustice" in the same sentence? Can you? Who is holding the hangman's noose in your poem about Gaza? Dare you name it even once, and with nearly the same indignation with which you repeated the words "rock star" ten times in your essay? Isn't genocide more than "callous", as you wrote in your essay on Gaza? In re-quoting your own essay "Into the Abyss", you left out this important statement: "However, enough is being written about the moral and political failings of the Zionist state. Here, I wish to writeabout something a lot more difficult for Muslims to examine, namely, our own moral and political failures." And that, then, is the focus of your essay. Not, as you seem to suggest now, expressing moral outrage at the Gaza genocide of 2008-2009. In a 2004 interview in Ha'aretz, Dov Weisglass called Israeli policy on Gaza "formaldehyde" for the Palestinians and the peace process. Mr Weisglass boasted that he had in secured US approval for Israel's stalling any peace or justice for Palestinians while Israel immplemented its policies of ethnic cleansing (a euphemistic phrase for the removal of people from their land). "The rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns," he joked. He might have added, "or dust." Callous? Or criminal? I would call it obscene. Opening our eyes to the crimes of Israel is our obligation. Our beloved Prophet would not have turned away from the plight of the Palestinians. The blame is on us for failing to heed the cries of our brothers and sisters. And please, don't you dare say that they brought it upon themselves. Do not encourage us to loathe ourselves. We can only fight injustice when we are united in Islam, and we must recognize Iblis in his many guises. May Allah guide us on the straight path.

By Faraz Khan on July 13, 2009 at 2:34pm

I love Imam Zaid... May Allah always bless you.

By Iman on July 14, 2009 at 12:56pm

Imam Zaid, a rock star?? Really.. Imam Zaid is no rock star. I remember him as an Imam serving his community. His car was so beat up, I felt embarrassed to park mine next to his. Iman Zaid, may God reward you and your family.

By FormerBlogger on July 16, 2009 at 9:44pm

as-salaamu `alaykum. As a former blogger I have seen that there are literally millions of people out there reading blogs and other websites who have nothing better to do than to spend their time over-analyzing and criticizing everything they read. I really feel that Imam Zaid's painfully detailed justification (right down to flight times, etc.) is totally unwarranted. There will be yet another one and another one after that who will writeto you and accuse you of "not paying enough attention to issue X" or for "paying too much attention to issue Y" or even for "hurting my feelings by making me feel bad about issue Z". So please brother Imam, do not start a trend of teachers and scholars and other public figures feeling the need to call attention to and publically respond to silliness like this. I can personally attest from my former blogging days that it is time-consuming, mentally and sometimes emotionally draining, and ultimately a complete waste of time. Jazaaka l-laahu khayran for your efforts.

By ahmed on July 17, 2009 at 8:21pm


By Mia'zanah on July 18, 2009 at 11:16am

As salaamu alaikum, Imam Zaid. Michael Jackson's passing is relevant to us on many levels, including his influence on American culture, his charitable efforts, and certainly his recent, and much speculated upon, conversion to Islam. There is much in the African American experience, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, that deserves the same attention, and due diligence to rectify wrongs that continue to plague this community. While there may not be bombs dropping on our heads in America, there is gang violence, police brutality, corruption in the courts leading to unjust incarceration which is descimating families, among many other concerns that cannot be dealt with in such a small comment. When the rest of the Muslim ummah recognizes the ongoing injustices that afflict our African American bothers and sisters, inshaAllah we will finally get to a place where we truly want for our brothers what we want for ourselves. We must have empathy and working hands for ALL who suffer, not just a certain geographical area.

By TN on August 14, 2009 at 10:27am

assalam aleikum. This was not well posted matter. Whoever the guy name RHM BROUGHT REAL IMPORTANT MATTER BUT IM SORRY IMAM YOU HAD NOTHING TO ANSWER OTHER THAN FIRCE REACTION THAT CLEARLY MANIFEST YOUR INNABILITY TO HANDLE MUSLIM ISSUES AND ISLAM. AND ABOVE ALL YOUR TWISTED OBJECTIVITY OF YOUR WORK. If islam is complete way of life that Alah prescribed upon mankind, it must have laid down rullings concerning every matter! In your " New Islamic directions" campaign of the new world order you have far many posts about hypothetical issues than whats real important which is what brother/sister RHM mentioned" the state of the suffering of defenceless ummah under the hand of kuffars, hypocrites, polytheists, and apostales supported by Zionist America". How many posts have writecondeming US administration? what did you say about what islam says over the matter?, what did you tell muslims what to do over the matter?However the matter is not about how many times we should writes about these attrocities. The important matter is objectivity and practicality of what has been written in those posts based on Quran and Sunnah if only and fear Allah subhaanahu wataalah. Unfortunately what came out from those posts was quet contrally to what islam says, logically thinking based on Fitrah of human being( As the case of sister Cynthia Mckinney and others who even prosecuted and lost their lives), contrally to the fatawah of some other prominent scholars of islam. Example in one of post about the documentary "OBSESSED" you called some group of muslims as deluded muslims" I suppose those are the one consederd to be "terrorists, extremists, fundermentalists, radicals muslims, jihadists, fanatics it really? according to my understanding the meaning of the word " delusion" as it was used in the quran is being fooled, deceived with materialistic life, the dunia. you cant be deluded with the akhera. so who is really deluded? May Allah guide us all, make us Haq as a Haq and Batil as a Batil. May Allah unite our herts upon Haq and make us die for it, May Allah puts the fear oh Him only in our herts and make us endure all trials comes with it until the last second of ou lives! Ameen!

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By Ian on July 14, 2010 at 10:05pm

As salamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu, Imam Zaid, I pray all is well with you. I'd just like to ask whether this brother would have said all this to your face. An unfortunate reality of this "E-Age" is the tendency for people to make flippant/obnoxious remarks about things of which they have no knowledge merely because the nature of the media allows them to evade the implications of such remarks. Having known you and your sincere nature since my accepting Islam, I would have to say that "RHM" could not be addressing you, but only reacting to the guilt of his own inaction in these challenging times. I'll second brother Haroon in affirming your "Rock Star" status as you certainly aren't the "straw man" that RHM attempts to paint you as.

By Wael - on December 14, 2010 at 9:28pm

Imam Zaid, As-salamu alaykum. I realize that we the public only see a small slice of the sacrifice and effort that you make. Nevertheless, i am grateful and I thank you. I come to this website when I need a dose of your unique combination of rawness, intellectualism and spirituality. Allah sees everything that you do, and sees your striving soul. May Allah increase you always in sincerity, and in your longing to meet Him. As a poet, I appreciated your poem about Gaza. It was powerful and moving.

By mustafa on February 3, 2011 at 2:58am

Allah is in Control! Ma Salaam,my Brother.

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