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An Evening with Jamal Zarabozo, Siraj Wahaj & Yasir (Organized by WhyIslam)


img00040.jpgThere is an exciting message for MM readers & Muslims of America towards the end of this post.

On Saturday night, I attended ICNA-NJ / WhyIslam’s evening lecture program on “In the footsteps of Ibrahim (AS)”. There were about 700-800 folks in attendance.

The program was well organized and the talks were awesome mashallah. Imam Siraj started with an excellent reminder, followed by a more academic lecture from Shaykh Jamal (JZ), and then culminating in a tafseer-story-narrating-type lecture by Shaykh Yasir.

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Between the lectures, a nearly hour-long fundraising effort was undertaken to support the purchase of a building that will serve as offices, recreation and dawah center for ICNA-NJ & their fabolous undertaking of and 877-why-islam toll-free number. I definitely recommend supporting this wonderful effort, which is helping to bring the message of Islam to thousands of people around the globe. The moderator pointed out that receives nearly 3 million hits every month, which is quite exceptional. You can donate here.

I should add that I did find a bit distasteful, the lack of any prior notice regarding the fundraising activity. Organizations should be upfront of fundraising activities so that people are not thinking “bait and switch” in the back of their minds. Furthermore, it just seems that Muslim organizations have not learned or are not improving on the old fundraising shticks. Going on the stage and presenting a few ayahs and hadeeth, reminding people how we don’t care about the Ummah if we don’t donate, etc. just doesn’t do it for many people, faced with the multitude of Islamic projects that need our support. Instead, a newer approach, with perhaps auctions or other creative ways, is needed. As for the fundraising last night, had it not been for Imam Siraj, the goal of $100K was looking untenable. Imam Siraj’s involvement at least got them close alhamdulilah.

The highlights of the program for me personally were:

  • Imam Siraj’s tribute to Shaykh Jamal (he called him Doctor a few times, not sure if I missed out on his PhD??) on JZ’s excellent books, and the effect those have had on Imam Siraj, especially the 3-volume explanation of Imam Nawawi’s 40 hadith (buy here).
  • Imam Siraj related a story about his parents (as he talked about not being left out of family gatherings on Thanksgiving, as a convert): Imam shows up at Thanksgiving at his parents’ house. His son shouts “so grand-ma and pau-pau, when are you becoming Muslim?”. And his mother says: “well, might as well do it tonight!” And both his mother and step-father became Muslims (hmm, actually not sure about the step-dad part). I should mention that before he started the story, he did look at Jamal, and said that he knows that they don’t agree on this (i.e. on partaking in the celebration).
  • Imam Siraj’s unplanned dive into fundraising activities, after the official fundraising Shaykh had a dismal start (no one was raising his or her hand to pledge, and things were become a tad embarrassing)… so Imam gets up and says, “no, no, no”… that he won’t let this happen. And here comes the expertise and the creativity! He shouts out that he will go around the entire audience and shake the hands of 50 people, each pledging $1000! Now, this seemed incredulous after the “silent” start. But, Imam Siraj rocked the room… and secured what he pledged… with one generous desi uncle wanting 5 handshakes!
  • Seeing Shaykh Jamal Zarabozo after 5+ years. His beard is whiter but his sense of humor still resilient.
  • Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s lengthy tribute to Shaykh Jamal: “He is my inspiration for my thirst of knowledge and the path I undertook”. I am not sure, but I think I noticed Shaykh Jamal wiping off some tears (or perhaps it was my imagination).
  • Shaykh Yasir’s special announcement: “Ibrahim (AS) is sending his salam to all of you”… based on a hadith in Tirmidhi.

A special guest was also among the attendees: Abu Muslimah (a pic of him with Yasir is below), who had positive discussions (that was the sense I got) with JZ & YQ post-program. Interestingly, an African-American brother came on the stage after the program and started arguing with YQ about the Sunni Pledge. I find the myopia amazing— aren’t there more important and significantly stifling social problems that a particular strain of “salafism” in the Northeast is causing (that other African-American brothers such as Tariq Nelson– see here and the article linked in the comments to an interview with Tariq, and recently Abdur-Rahman have been talking about) that the brother should be worrying about? I doubt the pledge or lack thereof is going to have any effect on the bigger problems facing their communities. [I emphasize both the “strain” context, and the regional context, because some people like to generalize for a variety of reasons (from ignorance to maliciousness)].

There is another special and exciting message for all the Muslims in America. Inshallah, Shaykh Jamal is going to be “getting out” and traveling again, after nearly 10 years of pretty much staying put in Colorado. He wants to be “active” and involved in programs. In fact, he may even be relocating to a big Muslim community (privileged information about where:) ). Also, there is a chance that he may show up at Texas Dawah next week!! Small chance, but possible and inshallah probably likely next year. You may also be seeing him at other conferences and events. May Allah make his reinvigorated desire a reality.

For MM readers, there is another exciting possibility: As we talked over breakfast, Shaykh Yasir and I told Shaykh Jamal about our little effort here on MM. Now, Shaykh Jamal could never be a blogger (he still relies on the fax machine for communications :) ), but he pretty much consented to writing and sharing articles on MM. In fact, there are some pieces already prepared that we may be seeing exclusively on MM soon! They will be of a more academic nature, but hey anything from JZ is awesome. May Allah make this possibility a reality as well– all JZ fans, make dua!

P.S. Sorry for the grainy pictures… can’t do much better with a cell phone camera. Top picture is of Jamal Zarabozo, bottom (in order): Siraj, Yasir, Abu Muslimah with Yasir on his left.

See also (including audio): A conversation with Jamal Zarabozo  & Audio here




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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  1. Tariq Nelson

    December 17, 2007 at 8:53 AM

    as-salaam alaykum


    Nice post. But since it was mentioned, I think “caused” (past tense) is a better way of putting it. I feel that we have pretty much hit rock bottom where that thing is concerned and we as American Muslim in general are now (slowly) headed in a positive direction since those guys are a spent and discredited force. No one pays attention to them anymore and I am hearing more and more stories of brothers leaving that movement and getting their lives in order in a positive Islamic manner.

    For the record, they HATE Abu Muslimah – who (again for the record) is still a close friend of mine. One of these guys recently was talking about how he wished the ulamaa would pass a “fatwa” on Abu Muslimah so that someone would kill him.

    These guys are sick and their “minhaj” makes me want to puke

  2. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 9:06 AM

    salam akhi Tariq… I had to look hard at the post to realize what you are referring to, so for the readers’ benefit, you are talking about:

    I find the myopia amazing— aren’t there more important and significantly stifling social problems that a particular strain of “salafism” in the Northeast is causing

    I see what you are saying, but even though the social problems may be ebbing and hitting rock-bottom, as you say, BUT they continue to exist, right? So, a past-tense would imply that they are over… and that would provide a false sense of comfort for the brothers who have a lot of work ahead of them to help their communities, i.e. like you :)

    I hope that no one got the sense that the AA brother arguing with YQ was somehow connected to Abu Muslimah. The two sentences were distinct, with no relationship implied between Abu Muslimah or the other AA brother. As Br. Tariq said, Abu Muslimah is part of the positive changes that are and will be happening in the AA community.


  3. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 9:24 AM

    On a different note, as Imam Siraj pointed out, and everyone knows: the fact that different Islamic conferences are either all immigrant or all AA… Even smaller-scale events and efforts seem to be one or the other.

    So, I was thinking what if we had a conference jointly held by MANA and ICNA or other combination of organizations? Where the “law” of attendance (forced) would be one immigrant for every one AA brother/sister (or other “indigenous” person). And as part of this event, you institute a buddy system… one immigrant with one indigenous… perhaps sorted out by age and of course by gender.

    And the conference/workshops would about getting to know each other and building ties and relationships, with tangible goals for future meet-ups, like buddies visiting each other at least once, having a meal together at least once, etc. over, say, the next 6 months.

    Wouldn’t that be awesome? If I had the resources as I did in Houston, I would consider organizing it myself… but alas!

    Nevertheless, MANA is right here, ICNA-NJ is right here… I think between the two, they could do a fabulous job along these lines. I am thinking that we may not even need major organizations… even if someone put the effort to start with a 100 people (50 of each “type”)

    Someday, sooner than later, we have to BREAK the barriers and the walls between the two Muslim diasporas… otherwise we’ll become total strangers to each other in this land where Muslims are already strangers to the rest.

  4. Tariq Nelson

    December 17, 2007 at 10:12 AM


    Yes there is A TON of work to do in picking up the pieces, but I am only implying that I feel that these guys have pretty much done all the damage that they will do – which is good news. And now we can start to fix the problem.

    Sort of like a water leak that floods the house: once the leak is fixed, we can now start to repair the damage done by the leak

    I agree with you 100% about breaking of the barriers between the “two communities”.

    I think your “buddy” idea is pretty good and I may try to do something like that on a local level.

  5. Hood

    December 17, 2007 at 11:00 AM

    …an African-American brother came on the stage after the program…

    Unless there is a reason for us to know that this brother was an African American, there is really no benefit in you mentioning this, unless of course you wish to accentuate the fact that the only people that are not falling in line with the glorious get-a-long gang da’wah are African Americans.

    Also mentioning a “certain strain of Salafism” is also highly unproductive, as if to say that the only people not agreeing with the “pledge” are those of that “strain”, while a simple search of the internet will prove otherwise.

    These type of slights reek of bigotry and in general drives people away due to the heavy handed nature in which these statements are dealt out.

    We should not let others’ mistakes allow us to forget our obligations to them, especially in showing them the decency that we ourselves wish they show us.

    {فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظّاً غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لاَنفَضُّواْ مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الأَمْرِ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ }آل عمران159

    Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah; surely Allah loves those who trust.

  6. MR

    December 17, 2007 at 11:19 AM

    Let the movement begin…

    U.M.A. 2008 Conference
    United Muslims of America
    Location: God knows
    When: Ditto above

  7. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 11:25 AM

    asalamalikum br. Hood.

    I believe you took the statements completely out of context:

    1) Mentioning the African-American thing is because of what many AA brothers are blogging about these day. That there are severe issues in that community and the last thing they need to worry about is the pledge… You know well, and that’s why I think Tariq understood my context (correct me if I am wrong), that “manhaj” issues have dominated the AA community here for too long at the expense of the deeper problems plaguing their communities.


    the only people that are not falling in line with the glorious get-a-long gang da’wah are African Americans.

    I am not sure what you are implying here. “gang dawah”? Is that an appropriate thing to say?

    3) The “strain” was not supposed to be linked with the pledge. The strain was to emphasize the manhaj-obsessions. My ONLY point of bringing up the pledge was not that it was only AA “strain” disagrees with it, because I am not myopic akhi and know whats going, but as I already mentioned, due to the unfortunate and severe social problems specific to this community here.


    These type of slights reek of bigotry

    Those who know me also know that I am the last person to have bigoted views… my posts in the past (see here for instance) and my comments on this post as well speak for themselves.

    And I find it surprising that you take offense to what is the slightest mention to the lack of priorities in the AA strain of salafism in the Northeast (and this is the reality), though other brothers have said the same in far more vociferous and strong terms.

    Next time, I’d appreciate the opportunity to explain if you find that my comments “reek of bigotry”.


  8. ...

    December 17, 2007 at 11:40 AM

    oh cool, i attended that lecture as well =) (i came about 15 mins after program began but it was cool…It was my first time seeing dr Jamzal Zarboza, and tthe tribute YQ gave to Dr Jamal was awesome =)

    It was amazing how dr jamal kept saying prophet Muhammad (pbuh) instead of Prophet Ibrahim- hehe (shows his love & attachment for Prophet Muhammad (phub)

  9. ...

    December 17, 2007 at 11:42 AM

    oh yeah, you forgot you mention that somebody donated 25k, MashaAllah (that was the first donation) =) however it still couldnt motivate the rest of crew …

  10. Suhail

    December 17, 2007 at 11:45 AM

    There are many brothers who dont agree with the pledge and are not attached to madkhalis (as they are named). I dont agree with the pledge but am not a madkhali.

    Also sometimes when we attach salafi dawah with the narrow minded Manhaj police it doesn’t make any sense because madkhalis may attach themselves with salafi dawah but they are quite the oppositte.

    On the topic though it was nice to see Shiekh Jamal Zarabozo back. Havent heard any lecture from him for a long time. What was he doing for previous few years? I would love to hear more from him inshallah in the future. Nice that he will writing here.

    Jazakallah Khair

  11. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 11:47 AM

    I guess we should announce in advance about programs, and have citizen bloggers such as yourself “…” provide us more info!

    In fact, if anyone attends any program, and wants to blog about it, we can consider it for publication depending on its significance and benefit inshallah :)

  12. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 11:53 AM


    There are many brothers who dont agree with the pledge and are not attached to madkhalis (as they are named).

    Yes, absolutely true. So, let me restate again, that my couple of sentences referring to the pledge did not mean that only the strain (now since Br. Suhail mentioned it, the “super-salafi” madkhali strain, pardon my expressions) don’t agree with it.

    And also unfortunately, and that is why I emphasized it in the post, the generalization of this “strain” to all the dawah in North America is wrong and inaccurate.

    As for Shaykh JZ, he was busy writing books and stuff… and we didn’t want to ask him “where he has been” … we were just happy that he is up and running again :)

  13. Suhail

    December 17, 2007 at 12:05 PM

    Yeah brother Amad it really nice to see him back.

  14. Hood

    December 17, 2007 at 12:20 PM

    Sentiment, perception, and relevance Amad
    Sentiment, perception, and relevance

  15. AnonyMouse

    December 17, 2007 at 1:47 PM

    Wowwwwwww, masha’Allah!

    Sheikh JZ is like a legend in my house… my dad is in awe of his translating skills… and my mom is in love with all his books!
    Subhan’Allah, it will be amazing to have his stuff on MM :D

  16. Umm Reem

    December 17, 2007 at 2:05 PM

    It was nice to see JZ back, same innocent ‘noorani’ :) face, though, looked more elegant with the gray hair & beard (not red anymore!)

    As for him being a doctor, he had almost finished his PhD in economics but had some disputes in the end with his professors, because his final thesis was on ‘Islamic Finances System’ or something like that…and so he got fed up and walked away :)

  17. SaqibSaab

    December 17, 2007 at 2:57 PM

    Haha, so I always liked calling Shaykh Yasir “YQ.” Now we’ve got “Jay-Z.”

    MashaAllah. Can’t wait to get his stuff on Blogistan. :)

  18. AbdulHasib

    December 17, 2007 at 3:11 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah,

    Exciting news. Hope to see the shaykh insha’aAllah in TDC.

    And please.. i know there’s a “fetish” for acronyms, but please can we not call Shaykh Jamal, “JZ”

    ha just a small request, please.

    WAs-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah

  19. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 4:05 PM

    “JZ” has a long history with his old, old students who used to drive from Texas to Colorado to study with him… so, I love you fiddeen akhi Abdul-Hasib, but no can do :)

  20. sunnah

    December 17, 2007 at 4:15 PM

    Actually it does reek of bigotry. And stop trying to sideline those who disagree with the pledge as if they are all people who are extremists that have an obsession with Manhaj! I don’t think abu zubair from islamic awakening is obsessed with manhaj. YET he made his position clear on principle. i hate this condescending view you seem to have against those who’ve disagreed with the pledge or even with brother rasheed who happens to live in TORONTO and was trying to point out that the media did not really run with the ‘honor killing’ story. and you accused him of disagreeing with everyone for the sake of disagreeing. Fear Allah akh.

  21. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 5:00 PM

    “Sunnah” I took your comment out of moderation because it gives me an opportunity to address the doubts that you have brought up, esp. if they have gotten any traction.

    1) The “reek of bigotry” comment was with regards to racism, not “pledgism”.

    2) You are assuming that somehow I am keeping a pledge scorecard and keeping tabs on who to be nice to (pro-pledge) and be mean to (anti-pledge). That is actually quite amusing, and obviously blatantly wrong. And frankly, I don’t have time to waste over such trivialities.

    3) I think I have tried to clarify this a few times, but I’ll try again: the comment in the post, which mentioned the pledge was not about the pledge but the focus on “manhaji” issues (be it pledge, madkhali, whatever) vs. social issues. That was the point. If the brother was arguing about hakimiyyah, then I would have made exactly the same comment, replacing pledge with hakimiyyah. Hope that it is clear this time because I am not explaining again.

    4) With regards to Br. Rasheed, I have to admit that I was annoyed at him for his comments, consistently opposing what I found to be obvious and overwhelming truth (in my opinion of course). So, I am sorry for showing that annoyance bro.

    But it wasn’t because Br. Rasheed was “X’ed” out in my pledge scorecard, but because his comments on the issue AT HAND were annoying– nothing more, nothing less. I would have reacted the same way if it was Br. fill-in-the-blanks (even if he was OK’ed on my imaginary scorecard).

    5) Pls don’t start throwing around names, based on what you perceive as my “pledge bias”. I have a lot of respect for Br. AbuZubair… in fact, I asked him for help on some other issues not long ago. Furthermore, Br. Haitham is still a Shaykh and friend to me, and you know his position on the pledge.

    Finally, I could only be condescending to others if I had some superior knowledge, skills or other great quality. Fortunately, for my ego, I have none.


  22. ...

    December 17, 2007 at 6:30 PM

    btw, is Dr Jamal a convert?

  23. SaqibSaab

    December 17, 2007 at 6:53 PM

    And as part of this event, you institute a buddy system… one immigrant with one indigenous… perhaps sorted out by age and of course by gender.

    Muhajir and Ansari style?

  24. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 8:42 PM

    Shaykh Jamal is a convert. He is originally from Spain. His wife is a convert too– German immigrant.

    Saqib: now that sounds cool…

  25. Amad

    December 17, 2007 at 9:31 PM

    salam… Omer jazakAllahkhair. That is quite awesome. I have added the links to the main post as well.

  26. AnonyMouse

    December 17, 2007 at 11:34 PM

    I’m super jealous… in a good way, masha’Allah! :)

  27. ibnabeeomar

    December 18, 2007 at 11:05 AM

    omer – jazakallahu khayr for that link!

  28. Yus from the Nati

    December 18, 2007 at 4:17 PM


    This posting has made me lightweight tear up.
    Especially about Jamal Z.

    It feels good that “he’s back”even though he “never left? haha

    I’m in the process of reading his books right now…

    I think he’s a BEAST, and Allah is his reckoner, and I don’t praise anyone, putting it forward, in front of Allah’s commendation, however, I think he’s a beast, if he knows that of him.

  29. ibnabeeomar

    December 18, 2007 at 5:04 PM

    i remember a few years back when i really first started reading islamic books seriously, sh. jamals books immediately jumped out and i did my best to get my hands on whatever books of his i could find. i still have fond memories of reading volume 1 of his 40 hadith explanation – i think i read every single page of that book through the course of one college semester during one particular computer science course. i honestly think if it wasn’t for that class giving me time to read that book i would have cut class! so jazakallahu khayr sh. jamal not only for the book, but the unintended side effect of making me go to class :)

  30. Nihal Khan

    December 18, 2007 at 9:53 PM

    To Br. Amad,

    Ah Ha! So it was you there Br. Amad. Thought I recognized you ;)

    Also, InshaAllah stay tuned to the next issue of the Tri-State Muslim newspaper for my review of the event.

  31. Amad

    December 18, 2007 at 10:22 PM

    I was there in my special undercover disguise, dressed as an Eskimo (well, it was kind of cold outside, mad-cold for someone who calls Houston home). I guess it wasn’t good enough ;)

    I was hoping someone from Tri-State would comment, so we can get a BETTER article and better pictures :)

    Mashallah Tri-State seems to be doing a great job in the Northeast. Br. Nihal, if you have hooks at Tri-State, you should send some copies to Delaware’s main masjid too… hit me up if you need help with that. Their address is 28 Salem Church Rd., Newark, DE 19713.

    Also, how do we write or submit articles for Tri-State? Please feel free to introduce Tri-State to readers here…

    Finally, please do meet up next time we are in the same crowd… I would love to meet our awesome readers!

  32. Nihal Khan

    December 19, 2007 at 12:28 AM

    Check out their website…

  33. Rasheed Gonzales

    December 19, 2007 at 1:01 AM

    But it wasn’t because Br. Rasheed was “X’ed” out in my pledge scorecard, but because his comments on the issue AT HAND were annoying– nothing more, nothing less.

    That’s interesting.

    So stating my observations regarding various things in the other thead annoyed you. Is that because my observations weren’t in-line with yours? Or were they annoying because you seem to think that I’m part of some particular “strain” of salafî?

    Either way, it sounds very much like some sort of bigotry to me.

  34. Amad

    December 19, 2007 at 1:11 AM

    Eid Mubarak Rasheed.

    -yours brotherly bigot

  35. Rasheed Gonzales

    December 19, 2007 at 7:53 AM

    May Allah accept from us and from you, brother. I hope you enjoy your ‘Îd festivities.

    Btw, just so it’s clear, I don’t have anything against you. I was just asking.

  36. Aboo Uthmaan

    December 19, 2007 at 9:10 PM

    Maybe it’s because Br. Amad has “been there, done that” and recognises “the way how brothers from your click see the world…”

  37. Amad

    December 19, 2007 at 11:09 PM

    Touché Aboo Uthmaan. Hope those quotes didn’t take too long to find.

    Someone corrected me that it should be clique, not click.

    I hope your Eid was fun and blessed too Aboo Uthmaan.

    I am glad that Br. Rasheed, you don’t have anything against me. It’s all goood.

  38. AnonyMouse

    December 20, 2007 at 12:24 AM

    Group hug, anyone? ;) :)

  39. Aboo Uthmaan

    December 20, 2007 at 5:09 AM

    Not really, thanks to the ingenious categorisation system!

    Group hug? Well that depends on what “clique” you’re in, just kidding, I think! SMILE!

  40. Aboo Safiyyah

    February 23, 2008 at 6:24 PM

    I was wondering where Sh. Jamal studied Islam. Does anyone know?

  41. Amad

    February 23, 2008 at 10:58 PM

    Aboo safiyyah: not quite sure but I believe that most of his study has been done independently. He is a book-worm if there was ever one. if anyone else knows more, pls feel free to share.

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