Zaid Shakir

Zaid Shakir

Zaid Shakir at the Global Peace and Unity event in London, 2007.
Born Ricky D. Mitchell
(1956-05-24) May 24, 1956 [1]
Berkeley, California, United States
Occupation Islamic Scholar, Author[2]
Title Imam
Religion Islam
Personal Information
Residence Northern California, United States
Nationality United States
Alma mater Rutgers University[3][4][5]

Zaid Shakir (born Ricky Daryl Mitchell, May 24, 1956)[1] is a Muslim American scholar [5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] and co-founder of Zaytuna College[3][5] in Berkeley, California. He teaches courses on Arabic, law, history, and Islamic spirituality.

He is co-founder and chairman of United For Change[13] since 2009. This effort through modern discourse, is to create awareness of the broadest and most consuming topics within the Muslim and interfaith community. The aim is to leverage the diversity through cooperation and goodwill and address the obstacles that have proven to be divisive.[14] In 2015, he signed the official Memorandum of Understanding between Zaytuna College and Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.[15]

The Chronicle of Higher Education stated, "Embodying an American story if ever there was one—including proverbial bootstraps, military service, political activism, and deep religious commitment—Zaid Shakir’s message of social justice in the face of poverty and racism he has known first hand makes him endlessly and, it often seems, effortlessly relevant. He is as approachable a man as I’ve ever met." [16] He is one of the signatories[17] of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, calling for peace and understanding. Imam Zaid is a signatory along with religious and spiritual Leaders from around the world who presented the UN Secretary General with a declaration[18] in support of the Paris Climate Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, marking the largest number of nations ever signing an international agreement.[19]

Early life

Shakir was Born 1956[6] in Berkeley, California as Ricky Daryl Mitchell to a family descended from African, Irish and Native American[7] roots. His formative years were spent in housing projects in New Britain Connecticut. These early experiences instilled in him a compassionate and realistic work ethic, as well as, an unshakeable desire for social change and economic justice. He converted to Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force and shortly after changed his name to Zaid Salim Shakir.[7]


A summa cum laude graduate, he obtained a BA in International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C., earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University.[4] He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic Sciences.[4] For seven years in Syria, and briefly in Morocco, he immersed himself in an intense study of Arabic, Islamic law, Quranic studies, and spirituality with some of the top Islamic scholars of our age, such as Sheikh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Shāghūrī[20] and Sheikh Mustafa Al-Turkmani. In 2001, he was the first American male graduate from Syria's Abu Nour University[4] with a BA in Islamic Sciences.

Recent work in the United States

Zaytuna College

In 2003, as a scholar-in-residence at Zaytuna Institute located in California, Shakir began to teach Arabic, Law, and Islamic spirituality. In 2004, he initiated a pilot seminary program at Zaytuna Institute, which was useful in Zaytuna College’s refinement of its Islamic Studies curriculum and its educational philosophy. For four years, students in the pilot program were engaged in the study of contemporary and classical texts. And, in the fall of 2010, he and his colleagues co-founded the Berkeley, California based Zaytuna College, a four-year Muslim liberal arts college, the first of its kind in the United States,[21] dedicated to "educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders", who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.


According to The New York Times, Zaid Shakir is one of nine influential Muslim scholars who has appeared in a YouTube video denouncing militant Islam."[22][23] The aftermath of 911 Shakir states, "People all over the world have felt the repercussions and the reprisals for the senseless brutality of 9/11’s perpetrators. Our best hope is to attempt to move beyond the pain, strife and hatred unleashed. Trusting in the power and promise of God we will be able to do just that." [24]

Shakir states in Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies & Threatens Our Freedoms, “Sharia forbids members of a Muslim minority [in Western societies] from engaging in clandestine acts of violence and paramilitary organizing… or from acting as political or military agents for a Muslim-majority country. Islamic law also forbids the disruption of public safety, many of the practices that the average person fearfully associates with some Muslims today, like killing innocent people (non-Muslims and Muslims alike) and stoning women."[25]


Imam Zaid Shakir (right) with Habib Umar bin Hafiz in Oakland, CA, 2011

A 200-page report entitled, "The 500 Most Influential Muslims" edited by noted professors John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin was published November 20, 2009 by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (Jordan) and the Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (Georgetown University) describes Shakir as "an influential Islamic scholar".[26][27]

The New York Times describes him as "a leading intellectual light" whilst adding that he has "a history of anti-American rhetoric" that has mellowed over the years.[28]

Tikkun Daily states that he is "one of the most thoughtful and dynamic teachers about the true nature of Islam in America today".[29]


Books authored

Books translated with additions

Books which include his foreword or note


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Zaid Shakir.


Articles and Interviews

See also


  1. 1 2 The Muslim 500
  2. "Bill Moyers Journal",
  3. 1 2 "Edward E. Curtis", The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States, Columbia University Press, p. 239, ISBN 0231139578
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Berkeley Center for Peace, Religion and World Affairs",
  5. 1 2 3 "Lonny Shavelson, Fred Setterberg", Under the Dragon: California's New Culture, Oakland Museum of California, Heyday Books, p.64, ISBN 978-1597140454
  6. 1 2 Esposito, John (2009). The 500 Most Influential Muslims. Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. p. 86. ISBN 978-9957-428-37-2.
  7. 1 2 3 "Edward E. Curtis", The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States, Columbia University Press, p.239, ISBN 9780231139571
  8. "Dallas News",
  9. "Al Jazeera America",
  10. "Hartford Seminary",
  11. "Christian Science Monitor",
  12. "Huffington Post",
  13. "Muslim Matters",
  14. "United For Change",
  15. "Memorandum of Understanding",
  20. "Al-hada’iq al-nadiyya fī al-nasamat al-ruhiyya ("The Dewy Gardens in the Spiritual Breezes"), Damascus, Dār fajr al-‘urūba, 2nd ed., 1998",al-Shāghūrī
  22. Sidney Harman (August 3, 2010). "Tuesday's intriguing people". CNN. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  23. Barbara Bradley Hagerty (September 8, 2010). "New College Teaches Young American Muslims". NPR. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  24. Sarah Joseph; Jeremy Henzell-Thomas & Imam Zaid Shakir. "9/11 - The day the world changed". Retrieved September 11, 2011.
  25. Arsalan Iftikhar (July 16, 2016). "Sharia Is Nothing to Fear". TIME. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  26. The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. John Esposito; Ibrahim Kalin; Marques, Usra Ghazi, eds. The 500 Most Influential Muslims (PDF) (1st ed.). Washington, D.C.: The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. p. 102. ISBN 978-9957-428-37-2. shakir, Imam Zaid Shakir is an influential Islamic scholar currently affiliated with the Zaytuna Institute. He founded Masjid al Islam in Connecticut, founded the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee.
  27. Adil James (November 17, 2009). "Muslim 500 – A Listing of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World". The Muslim Observer. Retrieved October 23, 2011. The 18 prominent American Muslims in the Scholars section of the book also include Yusuf Estes, Sulayman Nyang, Muzammil Siddiqui, Sherman Jackson, Zaid Shakir, and Nuh Keller.
  28. Goodstein, Laurie (June 18, 2006). "U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  29. Dave Belden (June 25, 2009). "Imam Zaid Shakir on the Tikkun Phone Forum". United Nations. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.