Zaid Shakir

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Zaid Shakir
Z. Shakir.png
Zaid Shakir presides over "The People's Champ" Muhammad Ali memorial service in Louisville, KY., 2016.
Ricky D. Mitchell

(1956-05-24) May 24, 1956 (age 66)[1]
EraModern era
OccupationIslamic Scholar, Author[6]
YouTube information
Years activeSeptember 29, 2009–present
Subscribers11.3 thousand[7]
Total views401.4 thousand[7]
Associated actsZaytuna College

Last updated: 26 October 2022
Muslim leader

Zaid Shakir (Arabic: زيد شاكر; born Ricky Daryl Mitchell, May 24, 1956)[1] is an American Muslim scholar[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] and co-founder of Zaytuna College[16][8] in Berkeley, California. He teaches courses on Arabic, law, history, and Islamic spirituality.

Shakir is co-founder and chairman of United For Change,[17] whose stated goal is to leverage the diversity of the Muslim and interfaith community and address divisive obstacles.[18] In 2015, he signed the official Memorandum of Understanding between Zaytuna College and Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.[19] He is one of the signatories[20] of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, calling for peace and understanding.

Shakir assumed leadership of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA) from 2020 until 2022, which is a broad-based alliance of Muslims dedicated to striving for justice and promoting what they deem as the "life-giving truth" of Islam.[21] He has been listed in the 500 Most Influential Muslims (also known as The Muslim 500), an annual publication compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan, which ranks the most influential Muslims in the world.[22]

Inspired to work with religious groups on sustainable development and climate change, he has taken "action for the earth" in partnership with the organization Green Faith.[23] The organizations mission is to "inspire, educate, organize, and mobilize people of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds around the globe for environmental action."[24][25]

Zaid Shakir is one of many signatories to a statement prepared by religious leaders from around the world who presented the UN Secretary General with a declaration[26] in support of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Early life[edit]

Shakir was born in 1956[9] in Berkeley, California as Ricky Daryl Mitchell to a family descended from African, Irish and Native American[10] roots. His formative years were spent in housing projects 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.[10][27]


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.[5] He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic Sciences.[5] 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 Islamic scholars such as Sheikh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Shāghūrī[28] and Sheikh Mustafa Al-Turkmani. In 2001, he was the first American male graduate from Syria's Abu Nour University[5] with a BA in Islamic Sciences.

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 Hamza Yusuf, and Hatem Bazian co-founded the Berkeley, California based Zaytuna College, a four-year Muslim liberal arts college, the first of its kind in the United States,[29] 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. In 2016, Zaytuna College became the first accredited Muslim campus in the United States after it received approval from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.[30][31]


As reported in The New York Times, Zaid Shakir appeared with nine other influential Muslim scholars in a YouTube video denouncing militant Islam.[32][33][34] The aftermath of 9/11 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."[35]

The Chronicle of Higher Education has praised him, stating, "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."[36][37]

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."[38]


The 500 Most Influential Muslims of the world edition 2020 describes Zaid Shakir as "an influential Islamic scholar and a voice of conscience for American Muslims[39] and non-Muslims alike", edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin[40]

Imam Zaid Shakir spoke the last words Ali heard on his deathbed. He leans over and with his mouth close to Ali's right ear, he sings, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger." Shakir begins talking to Ali, entreating him, exhorting him, telling him, "Muhammad Ali, this is what it means, God is one; say it, repeat it, you've inspired so many, paradise is waiting -- ".[41] He was, in Shakir's description, "a praying man" who understood he belonged to Allah. But he also knew he was Muhammad Ali, and so belonged to the world".[41][citation needed]

— "The Greatest, At Rest", ESPN - The Magazine's June 12 World Fame Issue

Tikkun Daily states that he is "one of the most thoughtful and dynamic teachers about the true nature of Islam in America today".[42]

Zaid Shakir was named in CNN's 2018 list of "25 Influential American Muslims", where he was described as "one of the West's most respected Muslim scholars."[43]

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


Publications and Articles by Zaid Shakir
Title Description Type
Where I'm Coming From: A Year In Review 2010. Author Books and Pamphlets
Agenda To Change Our Condition 2007. co-authored with Hamza Yusuf Books and Pamphlets
Scattered Pictures: A Reflection of An American Muslim 2005. Author Translations
Harith Al-Muhasibi, Treatise for The Seekers of Guidance (2008). Translation, notes, and commentary of Risala al-Mustarshidin, composed d.243/857 by an Iraqi scholar. Translations
Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali, The Heirs of the Prophets (2000). The translation and introduction of Al-Ulama' Waratha Al-Anbiya, composed d.1375 by an Iraqi scholar. Books with a foreword or introduction
Dawud Walid, Towards Sacred Activism (2018). Books with a foreword or introduction
Arsalan Iftikhar and Reza Aslan, Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms (2016). Endorsement Books with a foreword or introduction
Muslims and The Climate Crisis: Responding To A Higher Call Available in Books with a foreword or introduction
Meraj Mohiuddin,Muslims and The Climate Crisis: Responding To A Higher Call 2015. Endorsement Books with a foreword or introduction
Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, Tears Of The Yearners For The Meeting With God 2015. Books with a foreword or introduction
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin,Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet 2010. Editorial review Books with a foreword or introduction
Maraqi'L-Sadat, Ascent to Felicity 2010. Editorial review Books with a foreword or introduction
Sa'ad Quadri, The War within Our Hearts: Struggles of the Muslim Youth 2010. Introduction Books with a foreword or introduction
Abdul Azeez Ahmad,Living With Blindness: Lessons from the Life of Imran Sabir 2009. Introduction Books with a foreword or introduction
Sierra Club, A Gathering of Voices on Caring For Creation 2008. contributing articleThe Zaytuna Ruku Tree Books with a foreword or introduction
Richelene Mitchell, Dear Self: A Year In The Life of A Welfare Mother 2006 Books with a foreword or introduction
Aftab A. Malik and Ibrahim M Abu'- Rabi, The Empire and The Crescent: Global Implications For a New American Century 2004. contributing article Jehad as Perpetual War Books with a foreword or introduction
Joseph Lumbard, Submission, faith and beauty: the religion of Islam (2009). Co-edited with Hamza Yusuf. Edited Books


  1. ^ a b The Muslim 500
  2. ^ Howe, Justin (2020). The Routledge Handbook of Islam and Gender: Muslim Chaplaincy and Female religious Authority in North America. Taylor and Francis Group. p. 213. ISBN 9780815367772.
  3. ^ Malik, Anas (2013). "Challenges to Interreligious Liberative Collective Action between Muslims and Christians: The Struggle to Constitute and Sustain Productive... This is not only the position of the Shafii school of jurisprudence represented by Zaid Shakir". The Journal of Religious Ethics. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.: 457–473. doi:10.1111/jore.12024. ISSN 0384-9694.
  4. ^ Haddad, Mattson (2008). An Examination of The Issue of Female Prayer Leadership. Columbia University Press. p. 239. ISBN 978-0231139571.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Berkeley Center for Peace, Religion and World Affairs",
  6. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal",
  7. ^ a b "About Zaid Shakir". YouTube.
  8. ^ a b "Lonny Shavelson, Fred Setterberg", Under the Dragon: California's New Culture, Oakland Museum of California, Heyday Books, p.64, ISBN 978-1597140454
  9. ^ a b Esposito, John (2009). The 500 Most Influential Muslims. Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. p. 86. ISBN 978-9957-428-37-2.
  10. ^ a b c "Edward E. Curtis", The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States, Columbia University Press, p.239, ISBN 9780231139571
  11. ^ "Dallas News",
  12. ^ "Al Jazeera America",
  13. ^ "Hartford Seminary",
  14. ^ "Christian Science Monitor",
  15. ^ "Huffington Post",
  16. ^ "Edward E. Curtis", The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States, Columbia University Press, p. 239, ISBN 0231139578
  17. ^ "Muslim Matters",
  18. ^ "United For Change", Archived December 3, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Memorandum of Understanding",
  20. ^ "Signatories".
  21. ^ "MANA",
  22. ^ "Imam Zaid Shakir". The Muslim 500. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  23. ^ "A Green Ramadan",
  24. ^ "Permaculture Design Certificate",
  25. ^ "For The Love of This World",
  26. ^[bare URL PDF]
  27. ^ "The Cambridge Companion to American Islam / Converts and Conversations",
  28. ^ "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
  29. ^ "About".
  30. ^ Song, Jason (March 11, 2015). "Muslim college gains accreditation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  31. ^ "US gets its first accredited Muslim college". The Express Tribune. March 12, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  32. ^ Sidney Harman (August 3, 2010). "Tuesday's intriguing people". CNN. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  33. ^ Barbara Bradley Hagerty (September 8, 2010). "New College Teaches Young American Muslims". NPR. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  34. ^ Laurie Goodstein (July 31, 2010). "American Muslims Make Video to Rebut Militants". New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  35. ^ Sarah Joseph; Jeremy Henzell-Thomas & Imam Zaid Shakir. "9/11 - The day the world changed". Retrieved September 11, 2011.
  36. ^
  37. ^ "The Cambridge Companion to American Islam / Sexual Identity, Marriage, and Family", doi:10.1017/CCO9781139026161.021
  38. ^ Arsalan Iftikhar (July 16, 2016). "Sharia Is Nothing to Fear". TIME. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  39. ^ "Muslim 500 – A Listing of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World".
  40. ^ "Muslim 500 – A Listing of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World".
  41. ^ a b Tom Junod (June 12, 2017). "The Greatest, At Rest". ESPN. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  42. ^ Daniel Burke and Madeleine Stix (June 25, 2009). "Imam Zaid Shakir on the Tikkun Phone Forum". United Nations. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  43. ^ Daniel Burke and Madeleine Stix (May 6, 2018). "25 Influential American Muslims". CNN. Retrieved January 1, 2020.

External links[edit]