It was November 2006. I had belatedly joined the blogging band-wagon, which had significantly matured as a social media outlet. I called my blog at amadsden.blogspot.com “Muslims of a Muslim Mind” and religiously put up a new article almost every day. My first post was quite simple:

-  Why am I blogging?

–  I have a lot on my mind. I have too many things to accomplish. I don't have forever.

I wanted to write about USA politics, a departure from the old days of “politics=haram”. But, I was still very much into the Muslim conflict politics. So, my focus was raising the “orthodox voice” or at the time “not-salafi but salafi voice” because the blogosphere was dominated by what I preferred to call, “pro-regressives”, a term that may have been coined by the illustrious, in-your-face, “Dr. M”.

My personal blogging journey quickly introduced me to some of the more popular Muslim bloggers of the time, Tariq Nelson and Umar Lee. I struggled to figure out what end of the “manhaj spectrum” they sat on, because it wasn't quite obvious from their postings. Soon I was talking to both of them offline and extending the blogging relationship beyond. As a fan of their work, and also (to be honest) to expand my own reader-base, I joined their “niche” to some extent.  I also discovered (hard not to) “Mujahideen-ryder”, the salafi-turned-sufi-turned-soup bro, and I still remember having my first 100+ comments post arguing about something as petty as what was a better Islamic conference: RIS or TDC. This was also the time when imam Hamza Yusuf was slowly becoming palatable to me… it took a little while longer before I first found courage to promote his work.

Not long after I started blogging, I realized that many of my firmly-held, deeply-set religious beliefs had a hard time standing up to public scrutiny. It is one thing to believe what you believe in the safety of your own mind and home, but it is another to take it public and let the people test you for it. So, blogging became a positive experience for me. From arguing for hate, I started learning how to discuss how to love. From enmity to brotherhood. From manhaj-wars to wars for the good.

I remember checking my blog's stats every day – one hundred to two hundred hits. I had set blogspot settings to receive an email for each comment, and each comment was a small victory. People who have blogged or worked hard to get a following, whether on facebook, twitter, or on a blog, know what I am talking about. You can put tens of hours into a post, but if no one reads it or engages with it, you feel like a complete failure. It's like the tree that fell in the forest, did it make a sound if no one heard it? That's the same with a blog-post, did it really mean anything if no one read it?

Around this time, we had a particularly bold blogger, “Ali Eteraz”, an excellent writer, but with a habit of writing what I found terribly offensive. I still remember one of his post's titles, “How to Denude a Niqabi,” I think.  I could not stand for this nonsense and eventually got banned on his site! In retrospect though, I think he had a lot of depth to offer, and he had his own style of doing so. Also around this time altmuslim was doing remarkably well and I felt that someone had to stand up to these “proggies”.  Who would have guessed that only a few years later, I would write a piece for altmuslim, and be friends with Shahed Amanullah!

The lessons I have learned are simple yet so profound – people make contributions towards the purification of the ummah in different ways and with different styles. In general, the vast majority of Muslims who are doing Islam's work are sincere, even if they make mistakes. So, I now tell new internet cowboys to chill out and get to know others before jumping to conclusions.

Back to early 2007 then…

On the one hand, I had a driving force to “fight those soiling Islam”, and on the other, just a plain desire to raise the voice of the Islam that I knew and practiced, and fill what I believed was a big void in the blogosphere.

After a few months of struggling with bringing people to my blog, and noting the tendency of readers to jump from one blog to another, the solution seemed obvious: Bring together the various voices of Islam, mostly like-minded, under one umbrella and add a cornerstone Shaykh.

With this mission in mind, I contacted my college-mate, friend, and Shaykh, Yasir Qadhi, who was quick to latch on to the idea. Shaykh sahib (as I fondly call him) did not want his own site because he felt uncomfortable with the idea of a yasirqadhi.com site. He did not want something that he had to carry by himself. He was looking to be part of  a website that provided him an official platform but not something that was “his 100%”. Also, interestingly, this is the first time many of you may have heard this, he thought that I should NOT be part of it! He told me frankly that I could be divisive and hard-nosed and that it may affect the overall site, including him. And to be quite honest, he was not wrong about the “old Amad”.  However, after some thoughts and prayers, the website needed a driving force, someone who took personal ownership, and wrongly or rightly, that someone became me.

Having secured Shaykh Yasir's okay, I proceeded to collect a diverse, “A-team”. To be honest, I don't quite recall the order of how all this happened, but that is not really relevant anyway. There was “lotaenterprises” run by Omar, or otherwise fondly known as ibnabeeomar. Lotaenterprises was charming, witty and had the right sort of “which-Shuyukh-does-he-follow pedigree”, so an obvious choice.

Then there was a young 15 or 16-year old sister in Canada, who I had recently discovered with an eerily similar named blog to mine, “Musings of a Muslim Mouse”. She called herself “AnonyMouse”. This teenager remained anonymous for many years, until she revealed her identity as Zainab. You will be surprised to know how many stalkers an anonymous voice can have; the curiosity of who this anonymous sister was led to Zainab's author profile of “AnonyMouse” getting the second highest hits after Shaykh Yasir's. Thanks to all the freaks out there!

From local connections in Houston, I knew of Ruth Nasrullah, a convert to Islam who was trained in journalism, which would help the professionalism of our site. And finally we had Sam Zamanian, or Ahmad al-Farsi (many still don't know what his official name is), an Iranian-origin convert to Islam, who was studying at MIT at the time.

Once we got the team's initial okays, we started having an email conversation about the new blog. What to name it? But more importantly what its purpose was. And some would say that they still don't quite clearly know MM's purpose, but sometimes vague visions can lead to fantastic goals because they permit a lot of flexibility and malleability.

The question of “why this blog” was never fully answered. We went in circles and the only clear idea we could all agree upon was that we needed a voice for “mainstream”, “average” Muslims on the blogosphere. We also agreed that a group blog would provide much more exposure and many more readers than individual efforts. Having Shaykh Yasir's name attached to the blog would give it credibility and take it off quicker than any of us individually could expect.

The naming of the blog was harder. There was “saheefa.com” and a variety of other names. I also remember seeing a website “othermatters” or something to that effect, and “matters” rang a bell. We wanted a name that would immediately mean something in English. Something easy to remember and neutral. And so we landed on MuslimMatters.org and the rest is history.

In order to beef up our Islamic scholarship and get some popular names on-board, I contacted Shaykh Tawfique Chowdhury, someone I had the pleasure of doing hajj with when he was still a young student at University of Madinah. Additionally, we got Abu Bakr on-board, a friend of Omar, and someone who was already writing Islamic material at islamicsciences website. Finally, we got a nod from Muslim intellectual Amir Butler from Australia. For the most part, most of these personalities did not quite latch on to MuslimMatters and only one still remains nominally with us.

On March 10, 2007, I announced that I was to stop writing on my personal blog and jump on to MuslimMatters. You can still see this posting here. And the rest, as they say, is history :)

28 Responses

    • amadshk

      Timely visit Shahed :) We have come a long way, more me than you :)

      May Allah reward you for all your efforts in everything you are doing.

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    • Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim

      I also like the honesty of your intentions… If we too are honest with ourselves, many of us went in to blogging looking to pick a fight, but ended up making new friends instead… and hopefully learning something along the way, insha’Allah. :)

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      • amadshk

        yup… it’s easy to pick a fight in your own bubbles. But when you have to pick fights with the wider public, you realize that there are a lot of people out there, as smart or smarter than you, with ideas that are as good or better than yours. And suddenly, you don’t feel that macho anymore.

        If there is one thing I have learned is that in all matters, one should hope and pray that I am right, but know that I could be wrong. And I have been wrong many, many times… too many to count :)

        Take another example. Once we take very, very strong positions, and later realize that those positions were weak, then pride makes it hard to back-track. So, it is better to be moderate about all positions, especially positions that are in the gray area.

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      • amadshk

        Oh and not to forget, you were one of our early prized recruits… who could miss out on “iMuslim”… classic!

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  1. GoodNewsFromMuslims

    I been following MM since its early days though I don’t remember now how I discovered it but it has always been a pleasant read, one of the good things about MM is that it has largely maintained quality though sometimes on & off :)

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    • amadshk

      jazakallahkhair… hope you will stick around for all our ups and downs, for certainly there will be both in the future :)

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  2. NJ

    The blog has just gotten better and better with time, more inclusive of different voices, but still firmly in the realm of the mainstream community. Here’s to many years to come iA!

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    • amadshk

      I agree…. expanding the ideological base was one of our toughest challenges, and alhamdulilah, once we acquired mujahideenryder (or the new ibnpercy), we knew we had turned a corner :)

      And our editor in chief wouldn’t have quite fit the original mold either. Alhamdulilah, getting Sr. Hena was probably one of the most important “blog-saving” additions since startup :)

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  3. Muslim

    This blog was good until it go the new look. Its till a good site, but the new look takes forever to load and deters me and many I have talked to from the site

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    • siraaj

      Salaam alaykum Muslim,

      I’d be interested to get feedback from others on the website performance, we’re always looking to see how we can improve it – please contact me at siraaj AT muslimmatters DOT ORG and let’s see if we can address some of these concerns on site speed.

      We made some improvements last week and received positive feedback on site speed, but we can always do better, insha’Allah :)

      Siraaj

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  4. Nahyan

    Great, very insightful article.

    I can almost see you smiling at yourself while writing this, with a feeling of nostalgia. Reminiscing…

    MashaAllah, may Allah reward you + all contributors that built MM to where it is.

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    • amadshk

      yup, I was smiling… I was especially smiling at the fact that I almost got kicked out even before it smarted :)

      may Allah accept this…

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  5. abu Rumay-s.a.

    i had kind of abandoned the Islamic netsphere due to the perpetual controversy and disarray.. however, in 2008 someone had brought this site to my attention for a somewhat dubious issue and i wanted to clarify it for myself… once i read through some of the articles, I realized how vision and outlook could be developed much further than what I previously thought about… it finally dawned on me that change was essential for growth..

    this blog has been instrumental for many seeking a moderate voice (at a very crucial time) maintaining adherence to the principles of the religion and presenting issues from a much broader/deeper/critical perspective, outside the old box (me vs you, black vs white, etc.)… Jazakum Allahu khairun to you (Amad), Shaikh Yasir and the rest of the team, masha`Allah it is something to be proud of…

    tamim (abu Rumay-s.a.)

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    • amadshk

      jazakallahkhair tamim… you have been a loyal supporter for a long time. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

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    • amadshk

      I hope it is just that inshallah… make some dua’ for me… it removes jealousy too ;)

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  6. AnonyMouse

    This made me all nostalgic and teary… those were good times, mashaAllah, and I learned so much from MM and all its wonderful bloggers and commentators! It was a major source of growth for me, both as a writer and and a person.
    It is thanks to MM (after Allah, of course) that I have been able to develop myself and move on to writing for another amazing group, SISTERS Magazine. It’s also thanks to MM that I have come across people who actually call me by my pseudonym :D

    I met so many amazing sisters through MM, whom I continue to count as some of my closest friends (online, of course :P).

    May Allah reward you all for your efforts, continue to make you a source of good for this Ummah, and reunite us in Jannah, ameen.

    -AnonyMouse (Zainab bint Younus)

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  7. Asif

    Salamu alaikum,

    Amad, is there a way I can contact you personally? Sorry but I couldn’t find a link so I posted here. JazakAllah khayr

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    • amadshk

      yes, if you gave your correct email here, I just sent a msg to you.

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  8. Usmani

    Interesting article. It’s always fascinating to see how a group (or blog) views itself. What I’m wondering though, is does MM really view itself as the “moderate Muslim voice”? Or is the focus more along the lines of what you wrote here: “raising the “orthodox voice” or at the time ‘not-salafi but salafi voice'”. I think the latter is actually a more accurate description of the articles, and writers on this blog (I don’t mean this with any disrespect, it’s just what I have observed). Just as an example, the overwhelming majority of Muslim women do not wear the niqab, and it is generally not seen as something practiced by “moderates”. MM however, has several niqabi sisters as writers, who also tend to write more conservatively on women’s issues. I respect and support their decision to veil, but I would not venture as far as to say that these women represent the “middle ground” for Muslim women. And I could be opening a can of worms with this, but Amad, are you not a polygamist? My sincerest apologies if I’m bringing this up and it’s not true, but If I recall, Umm Reem (Who I believe is your wife), wrote an article about polygamy where she mentioned that her husband (you), informed her of his desire to take another wife later in life when proposing. With less than 2-3% of Muslim men practicing polygamy, I would hardly call this a practice of “moderate Muslims”.

    MM is well put together, but in my opinion, definitely has a clear conservative slant, so I find it rather ironic, that it views itself as the voice of “moderate Islam”.

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    • siraaj

      I think you can’t really define people by one or two issues as moderate, conservative, or whatever generic label we apply to bucket people. I think it’s more appropriate to measure someone (or a group) on a range of issues.

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    • amadshk

      but Amad, are you not a polygamist?

      lol
      the short answer is no! And any hypothetical questions that I might have posed 15 years ago doesn’t imply actualization!
      But let’s take it further. Just because a small minority practices something isn’t an acid test of what is moderation or not. For example, a minority of Muslims pray 5 times. So does moderation imply that we don’t preach and practice the daily prayers? Also most Muslims don’t fast Monday and Thursdays, but if they do, does that kick them out of moderates?
      In my humble opinion, “moderation” in an Islamic sense is to stick to what is commonly and widely accepted (let’s say by the 4 Imams) as being the sunnah. So, both exceeding and denying are forms of extremism. For example, claiming hijab is not an obligation is extremism. On the other hand, stating that women have to wear niqab at home in front of family is also extremism.
      As for “not-salafi but salafi voice”, that may have been true some years ago, but those following MM know that some of the most influential voices on MM now are and were never salafi.
      Does MM have a conservative slant (as opposed to moderate)? I think the more important question is if conservative values are mutually exclusive with “moderate values”. For example, among Christians, many hold conservative values, such as being anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, etc. Does that mean these Christians can no longer be “moderates”? If they are extreme, then what about those who bomb the clinics? What are they?
      One thing I have learned is that labels are only useful in very limited contexts. Because each label has such a wide spectrum and there is so much overlap between labels, that the exercise becomes futile.
      P.S. Having several “niqabi sisters” is not reflective of anything. There are more non-niqabis than niqabis in MM, so that would mean? And you do know that niqab’s obligation is found in pockets of sunnism across the spectrum (sufi, salafi, etc.), not to mention that some wear it but don’t hold it as obligatory.

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  9. Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    I find that many people, out of an exaggerated view of their intelligence and knowledge, mistake their own inability and lack of knowledge to defend particular beliefs/stances with the validity of those beliefs.

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  10. abduhaq

    I’ve found many beneficial posts on MM, may Allah reward you for that. The sensible way you respond to the comments here gives a big clue as to the how the site has been successful. JZK

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  11. elm

    Ahh I always wanted to know the history of this blog… and now I do. Allah is a witness to how much your blog benefits me. I love to read and many times I found myself reading through article after article in different newspapers, gaining new information but not really benefitting from it as such. Alhamdulillah for discovering this blog. MM is a gem for Muslims who love to read and broaden their horizon.

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