By Adil James, MMNS
Bloomfield Hills–May 15–The BMUC has been filled to bursting by two events in a row, first a Mawlid and now a lecture aimed at children, Friday night by Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute.
According to his website, Imam Shakir converted to Islam in 1977 while serving in the US Air Force. He obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at American University in Washington DC, and later his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. He co-founded an Islamic center at Rutgers, Masjid al-Huda. He studied Arabic for a year in Cairo, Egypt, and then settled in New Haven Connecticut and founded Masjid al-Islam, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee. He taught political science and Arabic, and then went to Syria for seven years to study Arabic, Islamic law, Qur`anic studies, and spirituality. He graduated in 2001 from Syriaâ€™s prestigious Abu Noor University and returned to Connecticut.
In 2003, he moved to Hayward California to serve as a scholar-in-residence and lecturer at the Zaytuna Institute of Imam Hamza Yusuf. He now teaches courses on Arabic, Islamic law, history, and Islamic spirituality. He is the author of numerous articles and several books.
Imam Shakirâ€™s message to the approximately 400 people gathered standing-room-only in the conference room of the BMUC focused on guiding children. Guiding them towards good values as they journey through adolescence in a country which provides many distractions and detours from good morals and good actions. He advised adolescents not to be too enamored of celebrities they see on television, saying â€œyou donâ€™t know these peopleâ€ and giving the example of an impressionable young man who saw Busta Rhymes briefly and was heart-broken to say â€œhe looked at me like he wanted to kill me.â€
He advised young people not to be ghetto-wannabes, saying the reality of that life is something people who emerge from it never want to go back to, and which one must not glorify.
Shakir said â€œyou have to be focused on a goalâ€ to get through adolescence.
He advised reading, explaining that during his youth he had read perhaps every single book at a small local library close to his Connecticut home. He argued that what makes us human is our ability to think and analyze, and he mentioned that in order to fulfill religious responsibilities we have to use our minds.
â€œFocus on what you are doing,â€ he said. â€œThis popular culture makes people weak.â€
He also advocated hard work, explaining that â€œOur life is work–I had a wonderful, fun-filled childhood, but I learned how to work–I had a morning paper route and I had an afternoon paper route.â€
He described his working whole days during his youth picking tobacco in Connecticut, in order to buy clothes for school.
â€œWork is very important.â€ He quoted Imam Al-Ghazali, who said wealthy parents should maintain their children but not give wealth too freely to them.
Shakir spoke at length, also, about the consumerization of our culture, and the many detriments to health and well-being that have come from companies viewing people as either consumers or as products themselves–and trying to take money from people even by providing services that harm rather than help people.
Imam Zaid Shakir has a website, www.zaidshakir.com.