Zaid Shakir

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Imam Zaid Shakir
Building Zaytuna College "Brick by Brick"
Zaid Shakir at " Brick by Brick" fundraiser to build first Muslim Liberal Arts College located in Berkeley, CA. 2012
Born Ricky D. Mitchell
(1956-05-24) May 24, 1956 (age 58)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Occupation Preacher, Public Speaker, Author
Religion Islam
New Islamic

Zaid Shakir is a Muslim American preacher, public speaker, and writer who is a co-founder with Hamza Yusuf and Hatem Bazian, chairman of the board, and a senior faculty member of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, United States. He teaches courses on Arabic, law, history, and Islamic spirituality. He is one of the signatories[1] of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, calling for peace and understanding.

Early life[edit]

Born in Berkeley, California and with his formative years in New Britain, Connecticut, he converted to Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force and shortly after changed his name to Zaid Salim Shakir.[2] A summa cum laude graduate, he obtained a BA in International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University.[2] While at Rutgers, he led a successful campaign for disinvestment from South Africa, and co-founded New Brunswick Islamic Center,[3] formerly known as Masjid al-Huda.[4] After a year of studying Arabic in Cairo, Egypt, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut and continued his community activism, co-founding Masjid al-Islam,[5] the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee.[2] As Imam of Masjid al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he spearheaded a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort. He also taught political science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University.[2] He served as an interfaith council Chaplain at Yale University and developed the Chaplaincy Sensitivity Training for physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Years Abroad[edit]

He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic Sciences.[2] For seven years in Syria, and briefly in Morocco, he immersed himself in an intense study of Arabic, Islamic law, Quranic studies, and spirituality. In 2001, he was the first American graduate from Syria's Abu Nour University[6] with a BA in Islamic Sciences and returned to Connecticut, serving again as the Imam of Masjid al-Islam, and writing and speaking frequently on a host of issues.[7]

Recent work in the United States[edit]

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,[8] 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.

Public Profile

He has translated several classical texts from Arabic.[9] He has been a special guest and interviewed twice on Bill Moyers on January 18, 2002 and June 22, 2007, a prime time TV station network PBS. In 2007, Shakir participated in a lively conversation entitled, Can We Talk About God? Devotion and Extremism in the Modern Age with the foremost conservative thinker in Britain, writer and philosopher Roger Scruton. These two thinkers with some common ground and some sharply differing perspectives, the discussion was moderated by award-winning journalist, documentary-maker, Sandy Tolan of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.[10][11] Also in 2007, Shakir was a contributor in the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentary Prince Among Slaves, produced by Unity Productions Foundation.[12]

He is co-founder and chairman of United For Change since 2009. This effort through modern discourse, is to create awareness of the broadest and most consuming topics within the Muslim community. The aim is to leverage the diversity through cooperation and goodwill and address the obstacles that have proven to be divisive. It began as a result of an eight-day trip with Islamic Relief USA "Turn The Desert Green"[13] project and to observe their “Bite the Bug”[14] initiative to eradicate malaria in Mali.[15] He came back from Africa convinced that an issue like malaria couldn’t be tackled by one group or individual. Zaid Shakir said, “Seeing the work of Islamic Relief, how they’re filling the gaps and empowering the Muslims in sub-Sahara Africa to take charge of their health and their selves, to see how they’re building a healthcare infrastructure--it was truly inspiring.”[14]

He was a participant at the 9th annual 2010 seminar with The Archbishop of Canterbury,[16] Dr Rowan Williams who chaired the Building Bridges Christian-Muslim Seminar on Tradition and Modernity, which brought together leading Muslim and Christian scholars from around the world to explore issues at the heart of the two traditions. Shakir has also been featured on the and Newsweek blog, On Faith.


He stated in a 2009 interview with USA Today, "as a faith community our needs aren't any different than the needs of any other faith community. As Muslims, we need to develop institutions to allow us to perpetuate our values."[17]

He has expressed a hope that the people of the United States convert to Islam, "Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country. I think it would help people, and if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be a Muslim. Because Islam helped me as a person, and it's helped a lot of people in my community."[18]

According to CNN blog This Just In, an article entitled "Today's Intriguing People" states, The New York Times has reported that Zaid Shakir is one of nine influential Muslim scholars who has appeared in a YouTube video denouncing militant Islam."[19][20]


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".[21][22]

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.[23] Tikkun Daily states that he is "one of the most thoughtful and dynamic teachers about the true nature of Islam in America today".[24]


Books authored[edit]

Books translated with additions[edit]

Books which include his foreword or note[edit]


External links and further reading[edit]


Articles and Interviews[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e "Media List – Imam Zaid Shakir Professor, Writer, and Scholar". Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ "new brunswick islamic center". Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  4. ^ "salatomatic". Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  5. ^ "masjid al-islam". Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Imam Zaid Shakir, biograpghy". Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  7. ^ Imam Zaid Shakir (2003). "American Muslims and a Meaningful Human Rights Discourse in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001". CrossCurrents 52 (4). 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Books and Translations by Imam Zaid Shakir". New Islamic Directions. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Can We Talk About God? Imam Zaid Shakir & Dr. Roger Scruton (Pt1)". Zaytuna College. September 26, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Can We Talk About God? Imam Zaid Shakir & Dr. Roger Scruton (Pt2)". Zaytuna College. September 28, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  12. ^ Frazier Moore (February 3, 2008). "A lifetime of slavery, a legacy of freedom". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Turning the Desert Green – Islamic Relief in Mali with Imam Zaid Shakir". Mujahideen Ryder. March 19, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2009. 
  14. ^ a b "US Muslims to raise Malaria Awareness tomorrow". The Islam Awareness Blog. September 5, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Mali-Islamic Relief USA: Mali". Retrieved November 4, 2013. 
  16. ^ "The Archbishop of Canterbury's Building Bridges Seminar 2010 Building Bridges Seminar, Washington, D.C.". Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  17. ^ Rachel Zoll (May 18, 2009). "Muslim plan for U.S. college moves ahead". USA Today (Google cache). Associated Press. Archived from the original on Oct 13, 2011. Retrieved October 23, 2011. "In 1996, Yusuf founded Zaytuna Institute, now based in Berkeley, Calif., which is dedicated to providing elementary education in classical Muslim scholarship. Zaytuna means "olive tree" in Arabic." 
  18. ^ "U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground" On page 4 of an article by Laurie Goodstein in The New York Times June 18, 2006
  19. ^ Sidney Harman (August 3, 2010). "Tuesday's intriguing people". CNN. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  20. ^ Barbara Bradley Hagerty (September 8, 2010). "New College Teaches Young American Muslims". NPR. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  21. ^ The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. John Esposito, Ibrahim Kalin,, Ed Marques, Usra Ghazi, ed. The 500 Most Influential Muslims (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." 
  22. ^ 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" .
  23. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (June 18, 2006). "U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  24. ^ Dave Belden (June 25, 2009). "Imam Zaid Shakir on the Tikkun Phone Forum". United Nations. Retrieved October 23, 2011.