Imam Zaid Shakir, Born in California, USA, accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He obtained a BA with honours in International Relations at the American University in Washington D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, he led a successful campaign for divestment from South Africa, and co-founded New Brunswick Islamic Centre (formerly Masjid al-Huda).
Imam Zaid Shakir is also co-founder, and senior Faculty Member of Zaytuna College located in Berkeley, CA. He is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work.
Background: African American
Resides: California, USA
Current Occupation: Islamic scholar
Education: B.A. Islamic Law and Arabic Language, M.A. Political Science, B.A. International Relations, Islamic studies
Preferred Subject: International Relation, Political Science
Notable Teachers: Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri, Mustafa Al-Turkmani
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, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee. As Imam of Masjid Al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he spear-headed a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort, and also taught political science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University. He served as an interfaith council Chaplain at Yale University and developed the Chaplaincy Sensitivity Training for physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital. He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic sciences.
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 Muslim scholars of our age, such as Sheikh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Shāghūrī and Sheikh Mustafa Al-Turkmani. In 2001, he was the first American male graduate from Syria’s Abu Nour University and returned to Connecticut, serving again as the Imam of Masjid al-Islam, and writing and speaking frequently on a host of issues. That same year, his translation from Arabic into English of The Heirs of the Prophets was published by Starlatch Press.
In 2003, he moved to Hayward, California to serve as a scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute, where he taught courses on Arabic, Islamic law, history, 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.
In 2005, Zaytuna Institute published, Scattered Pictures: Reflections of An American Muslim an anthology of diverse essays penned by Zaid Shakir. He co-founded the Lighthouse Mosque, Oakland, CA. in 2007. He authored an award-winning text, Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, a translation and commentary on Imam Harith al-Muhasibi’s work, Risala al-Mustarshideen in 2008. He is co-founder and chairman of United For Change since 2009. The mission of United For Change is, through modern discourse, 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.
Imam Zaid has also authored numerous articles and research papers on a wide range of topics. He is a frequent speaker at local and national Muslim events and has emerged as one of the nation’s top Islamic scholars and a voice of conscience for American Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Imam Zaid has served as an advisor to many organizations, and influential leaders. He is ranked as “one of America’s most influential Scholars” in the West; by The 500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, (2009).
Recently, Imam Zaid is a signatory along with religious and spiritual Leaders from around the world who presented the UN Secretary General with a declaration 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. In 2018, CNN listed him among 25 influential American Muslims.
- B.A., Islamic Law and Arabic Language, Abu Nour University, Damascus, 2001
- M.A., Political Science, Rutgers University, New Jersey, 1985
- B.A., (summa cum laude), International Relations, American University, Washington, DC, 1983.
- Computer Support Specialist, United States Air Force, Logistical Support Training School, Denver, Colorado, 1976
- United States Air Force – Accommodation Medal – 1981
- Diplomas (ijazahs) from Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Shaghuri (non-philosophy Tasawwuf texts), Shaykh Mustafa al-Turkmani (Islamic Sciences) and Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya’qubi (Islamic Sciences).
Thought as “one of the most thoughtful and dynamic teachers about the true nature of Islam in America today”
- Where I’m Coming From: The Year In Review, NID Publishers, 2010.
- Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, NID Publishers, 2008 (translated with commentary has been awarded as a finalist in the category of general spirituality by USA Book News).
- “The Zaytuna Ruku Tree”, Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring and Creation, 2008.
- A Sierra Club landmark book collection. Scattered Pictures: Reflections of An American Muslim, Zaytuna Institute, 2005, and reprint NID Publishers, 2007.
- Agenda to Change our Condition (2007).
- The Heirs of the Prophets, Starlatch Press, 2001 (translated).
- Muslims and The Climate Crisis: Responding To A Higher Call, Creation At The Crossroads, 2016. A faith-sharing resource created in collaboration by RENEW International, GreenFaith, and the Catholic Climate Covenant.‘Terrorism and Islamic theologies of religiously-sanctioned war’, in Brian Wicker and David Fisher (eds), Just War on Terror? Christian and Muslim Responses. ( London: Ashgate 2010), 9-24.
- ‘Biografska skica Marmaduke Pickthall’, Godisnkak BZK Preporod 9 (2009), 367-383.
- ‘Jesus and Muhammad: new convergences’, Muslim World 99 (2009), 21-38.
- ‘Poverty and the charism of Ishmael’, in Michael Ipgrave (ed.), Building a Better Bridge: Muslims, Christians and the Common Good ( Georgetown: Georgetown University Press, 2008), 141-52, 168-71.
- The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology (edited volume). (Cambridge University Press, 2008), editor, also Introduction, pp.1-16.
- ‘Ibn Kemal (940/1538) on Ibn ‘Arabi’s hagiology’. In Ayman Shihadeh (ed.), Sufism and Theology ( Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), 137-157.
- Islam ve Hıristiyanlık: politik-teoloji denemeleri . ( Istanbul: Etkili s im, 2007.)
- ‘Islamism and Europe’s Muslims: recent trends’, in Muslim Integration: Challenging conventional wisdom in Europe and the United States ( Washington: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007), 33-44.
- ‘Ishmael and the Enlightenment’s crise de coeur: a response to Koshul and Kepnes,’ in Basit Bilal Koshul and Stephen Kepnes (eds), Scripture, Reason, and the Contemporary Islam-West Encounter: Studying the ‘Other’, Understanding the ‘Self’ ( New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 149-175.
- ‘Mary in Islam’, in Sarah Jane Boss, Mary: The Complete Resource ( London: Continuum, 2007), 479-502.
- ‘Qur’anic Reasoning as an academic practice’, Modern Theology 22:3 (July 2006), 449-63.
- Abraham’s Children: Jews, Muslims and Christians in Conversation (Edited, with Richard Harries and Norman Solomon) ( Edinburgh: T&T Clark / Continuum, 2006).