Everybody's Journey The Basics of Islam Audio and Video Thoughts and Writings Album releases by Yusuf Islam


By Yusuf Islam

‘I’m just a soul whose intentions are good,
Oh Lord! Please don’t let me be misunderstood.’

Over the years, since becoming a Muslim, I have been accused of saying and doing things I have neither said nor done. Stories spread from person to person, whether intentionally or not, the result is that some people are led into thinking I am connected to causes I don’t believe in or subscribe to.

Now that I’ve decided to sing again, I’m sure it will attract a whole new wave of articles and allegations to diminish my work for peace and better understanding. So to avoid relying on whispers or hearsay, here’s a chance to glance at what I have to say first-hand about some of those controversial issues people tried to tag me with – past and present – as well as a chance to reprise some of my old lyrics.


Where And When Was He Born?

Cat Stevens Has Become A Monk?
Yusuf Islam Teaches in an Islamic School?
Does Yusuf Islam Oppose Freedom of Speech?
Did Yusuf Slam The Pope?
What is His Song "Longer Boats" About?
Didn’t He State Music is an Affront to Allah?
How Does Yusuf Feel About His Old Songs Now?
Why was He Turned Away From USA?
Does He Support Terrorism?
Is It True Yusuf Islam Supported Hamas?
Didn’t Yusuf Islam Have An Arranged Marriage?
How Many Children Does Yusuf Have?
Do Yusuf Islam’s Daughters Wear the Veil?
Do You Have Any Information about Yusuf’s Charities?
How Many Schools Does He Run?
Doesn’t Yusuf Have Links With Terrorists?
Did Cat Stevens Say, ‘Kill Rushdie!’ ?
Does Yusuf Not Speak to Veil-less Women?
Yusuf Islam Wants to See Salman Rushdie Burnt, Right?

Even as Cat Stevens, I always had some problem with the way the media would sometimes alter my words and make up their own stories; dodgy pictures and crass headlines is all part of the hype of music biz which every artist kind of accepts. Being projected ‘larger-than-life’ is part of the terms and nature of entertainment; it’s the necessary price one pays for being famous, I suppose.

When I left the music business, it was due to the miraculous fact that I had found a most profound spiritual connection which seemed to unite all my beliefs and highest hopes: Islam – or the entry to ‘peace with God’. I had been given a copy of the Qur’an which taught me about faith in the One and only God of this matchless and magnificent universe, and was continuously talking about stories and lessons from the seamless history of humanity as a whole. The Gospel and Torah were frequently mentioned as were the names of Jesus, Moses and Abraham.

Far from the foreign, Arab-centric emphasis I expected, the Qur'an presented a belief in universal human values; it did not discriminate against races, it only judged their behavior. We may be different colors and from different tribes [1] but we are all human beings and, 'The best of people are the most God-conscious' the Qur’an stated. So it was not exclusivist in the sense that it acknowledges other cultures and faiths co-existing at the same time. That was certainly news to me!

Perhaps it was because I was unable to explain my incredible discovery or my reasons clearly, that my chosen path looked oddly out of step with my previous track record. But I wasn’t too worried about that; people would get to understand, gradually, I thought. After all, everybody knew I was ‘on the road to findout’ - why should they deny me ever finding out?

Admittedly, my exit from the music world was quite a dramatic one. Maybe if I’d written a song and sung about it, reactions might have been different. Unfortunately, my departure naturally played into the hands of the heat-seeking journalists. Couple this with my choice in those days of the relatively unknown faith of Islam - historically suspect from a normal Western point of view - and we have the elements for a great new burst of imaginative and misleading stories.

Although Islam wasn’t front page news at the time I embraced Islam in 1977, you don’t need a PhD to understand that the religion didn’t court as many fans in the West as Cat Stevens did. And for that reason, this poor chap and his faithful Moonshadow were doomed to suffer.

Now I have decided to sing out for a peaceful world again, perhaps it might be too late for some people to change their perception or preconceptions - old habits die hard and some headlines are difficult to forget. But my intention right now is to help people understand what truth lingers in the shadows behind some of those frightening yarns and rumours which have been spread about me.

Where And When Was He Born?

I was born July 21st, 1948 in London and named Stephen Demetre Georgiou. I adopted the name Cat Stevens in 1965 and later changed it to Yusuf Islam on 4th July 1978. It’s interesting thing to note that I was born during the days of the full Moon on the 14th of Ramadan, 1367, according to the Islamic Lunar calendar.







Cat Stevens Has Become A Monk?

I never underwent any religious ordination; I never belonged to a religious sect or religious group – but simply became a Muslim, got married and withdrew from the music business.

In the past some people were told I'd become a Buddhist and was living far away in some distant mountain Monastery. As for those who got the religion right and heard correctly that I’d embraced Islam, they somehow managed to still get it wrong. One American tabloid decided to print a whole story about me giving all my money away to mosques and begging with a bowl on the streets of Tehran!

The report originated from some spurious Italian article which claimed that I gave my wealth away and I was making daily pilgrimages between Qom and Tehran. We promptly sued them; this made them look a little closer at the facts. They finally did a bit of investigation and found out I’d never even visited Iran. They finally settled out of court (the money went to charity) and they rewrote another article putting the facts right and talking about my work in education and the schools I helped establish in London, where I’d been living comfortably with my family for years.



 

 

 

Yusuf Islam Teaches in an Islamic School?

Never have I taken a teaching post - nothing would petrify me more. I leave that very important job to the professionals.

After having three children within the first four years of my marriage, education was at the top of my agenda. So I helped establish three schools for Muslim pupils in London, the first being a Primary school which opened in 1983. This was followed by a girls’ then a boys’ secondary school, all of which teach the British National Curriculum. These days, our schools often top the National League Tables within the local Borough due to excellent exam results.

As founder and Patron over the years I have been involved with obtaining voluntary-aided status and grants from the British Government similar to other faiths, like Christian and Jewish denominations. Historically, our primary school was the first Muslim School to receive such status in Great Britain.

 

 

 

 

Does Yusuf Islam Oppose Freedom of Speech?

I believe the freedoms given by laws such as the First Amendment are incredibly compatible with Islam and its principles, if they’re not abused.

The notion that faith and the issue of freedom of speech are incompatible is something people will continue to argue about. There is perhaps fairly good a reason due to a still rather unresolved paradox. It goes like this –

If, as citizens we are given freedom of speech, then why is freedom of speech considered unlawful or undemocratic when voiced by a [religious] believing citizen, where no crime has been committed? Put another way, if people are free to believe in an unseen God and His Divine message to mankind, providing no laws of state are broken, why should such freedom to express that be denied? Why, for instance, can’t we generously accept and follow the whole of the spirit of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States which states:

  ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

The historic First Amendment stated above was written because at America's inception, citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms. People and generations who had been fleeing religious persecution in Europe, wanted to secure their rights to hold a belief other than whatever the future government of the country decide or hold to be true. Interestingly, it was also Morocco, a Muslim State, which historically became the first country to recognize the sovereignty of the United States in 1777.

The right of citizens to hold a belief in the Bible as well as the Qur’an, to uphold the Ten Commandments and to practice one’s faith in peace without harming others, is a hallmark of a true open, multi-cultural, multi-religious society. Indeed, this is the nature of an Islamic society - and not an exclusively Muslim one!

A cursory study of the golden age of Islam in Spain is example enough of how religious tolerance and co-existence was practiced in the past. In fact, we don’t have to look further than the original model of the Prophet’s city, Madinah, where Christians and Jews lived and played a full part in the society and were encouraged to live according to their own Scriptures and laws.

To safeguard the peace and security of the multi-religious society, Islam wisely prohibits the vilification of what people hold sacred, in order that people do not vilify or mock God the Almighty in return. There are also many examples in Islamic history where the Prophet of Islam did not respond to insults and mockery, but simply carried on calling people to faith and good deeds. That, I believe, is the right Islamic response in a country where Freedom of Speech is practiced and valued.

It is really up to Western-born Muslims to help more people understand the incredible tolerance and peaceful message this faith has to offer. This, in fact, is the actual policy I tried to adopt following the controversy about the place of censorship and blasphemy in the modern Western State; I decided to provide a truer and more accurate picture of the Prophet of Islam to balance the awful slurs made against him in books, on TV and the press and media generally.

One of the benefits - if we look at it as such – is the motivation the whole issue gave in inspiring me to go back into the recording studio again and reconnect and communicate directly with no third party or barrier between me and those who are willing to hear what I have to say.

 

 

 


 

Did Yusuf Slam The Pope?

I never attacked Pope Benedict XVI but respectfully offered advice and other materials to assist understanding the Faith of Islam.

During a Sunday Morning interview on BBC TV, I was asked about my view on the controversial statement made by the Pope, in which he quoted a 14th century Christian emperor and his extremely hostile view of Islam. I stated my respect for his position as head of the Catholic Church and simply suggested that the quote which he chose was inappropriate and offered another by Mahatma Gandhi, whose interpretation of Islam was much more peaceful.

In Young India, he [Mahatma Gandhi] wrote:

  "I become more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers and his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and his own mission. These, and not the sword, carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle."

I also sent the Pontiff a copy of my audio/book ‘The Life of the Last Prophet’. My intention is to inform more people about Islam and its links to Christianity and Judaism, through telling the life and story of the man sent to represent it; hoping that this will advance the understanding and dialogue between people of the great faiths of Islam and Christianity, leading towards a more enlightened future of peace and co-existence.

In addition, affably, along with the audio/book package, I added a CD with a song recorded from my latest album called, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. Something I thought the Pope might connect with and appreciate at this time - with the best of respects.

 

 

 

 


 

What is His Song Longer Boats About?

In the late 60’s, due to the successful landing of a man on the moon (which happened coincidently on my 21st birthday) there was a lot of talk and speculation about UFOs.

I wrote the song as a plea for human unity in face of external (possibly extra-terrestrial) threats. There was also a lyrical inference to say that we should look closer at the beautiful and mystical nature of the earth, and watch out for adopting inherited wisdoms from people who claimed to be masters of the high, moral ground.

  I don’t want a ‘god’ (statue or false image) on my lawn
Just a flower, I can help long
For the soul of nobody knows,
How a flower grows – how does a flower grow?


True, I gave interviews sometimes and talked about UFOs with passion, but that was partly due to my wish in making the interview more interesting. My apologies.

But in another way, the image of ‘longer boats’ in my mind reminds you of the Vikings and the ships they conquered Britain with. A hint of how we perceive aliens who have different customs to us – thankfully, my mother was Scandinavian, so I never really shook listening to such stories.

 

 

 


 

Didn’t He State Music is an Affront to Allah?

Never did I ever state that I believed music was objected to by God; or that I had given it up forever.

Interestingly, the word ‘music’ is not to be found anywhere in the Qur’an and there is no such word ever used by the Prophet in his authentic sayings. [3] However, there are many different opinions, and valid ones at that, about music which indicates that it is not to be taken as a hard and fast question of faith, but is simply a matter of fiqh (juristic interpretations regarding rules of life) – over which scholars may legitimately differ. [4]

When I embraced Islam on 23rd December, 1977, I was still making records. After informing the chief Imam at London’s Central Mosque of my work in music, he encouraged me to continue composing and recording.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take long to realise that apart from the creative side, there were many other aspects about the music industry which infringed negatively on the Islamic way of life so I simply decided to give up the music business. As a new Muslim this allowed me to concentrate fully on learning and practising Islam, getting married starting a family and returning back to look after my parents.

In the first interview I ever gave to a Muslim magazine back in 1980, I was asked about my thoughts on music, I said in reply:

  “I have suspended my activities in music for fear that they may divert me from the true path, but I will not be dogmatic in saying that I will never make music again. You can’t say that without adding, ‘Insha Allah’ (if God Wishes).” [5]

There were many Muslims offering me advice and telling me their opinions about all sorts of issues, some where very convincing. Nevertheless, legitimate variant opinions exist on all sides dealing with the subject of music. When closely studying the details of Prophetic evidences, there are many which point to the possibility of wide-ranging conclusions. Now, after having studied the subject for more than a quarter of a century, I can say that it is certainly not as black and white as some have tried to make it out to be.

In Islam, as with religion and life generally, there always will be room for cultural and artistic expression. Some of the most beautiful works of art in human history have been lovingly dedicated in praise of the Divine. Their enjoyments are part of the gifts given to mankind by the Creator. As we read in the Qur’an itself:

  Say: Who has forbidden the beauteous (gifts) of God, which He has produced for His worshippers, and the pure and clean provisions? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, and purely for them on the Day of Judgement. Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who understand. [6]

Music is part of God’s universe. We need all sorts of nourishment and music fulfils and satisfies the hunger we all experience and the need for harmony and aesthetic beauty to decorate our daily lives, particularly when times are hard.

Sometimes songs are vital in keeping people’s spirits high in times of trial and hardship. This understanding was brought home to me when I listened to the inspiring cassettes coming out of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990’s after the onslaught of the genocide against Muslims; a turning point in my understanding of the need for music in certain conditions and times.

 

 

 

 

How Does Yusuf Feel About His Old Songs Now?

I once wrote to the record companies asking them to stop selling my albums. But this was a radical reaction based on the harsh criticism I was experiencing at the time from the press and media in general. But I fully appreciate now how my songs and words have brought hope to many to see life in a positive light.

Today, my songs of the past represent a very important and dynamic period of my life and stand as a record of my innermost spiritual hopes and inspired dreams. Inspiration has always been a sublimely mysterious experience. My song, 'The Wind' makes reference to that mysterious form of inner-journey, which takes place beneath the surface of our conscious thoughts.

Not all my songs were ‘spiritual’, but so long as the words stay within moral limits and do not direct people towards harming themselves or others, there is nothing wrong with them per se. Much of my royalties from previous music was and still is distributed to charitable causes.

It’s also clear that my songs have helped many people over the years. I have received many emails and letters from people of all faiths, explaining how my songs and words have brought comfort and hope and the ability to see life in a positive light again – for that I am eternally grateful to the Power above:

  ‘As for the blessings of your Lord, express them [aloud]!’ [7]

 

 

 

 

Why Was He Turned Away From USA?

No reason was ever given, but being asked to repeat the spelling of my name again and again, made me think it was a fairly simple mistake of identity. Rumors which circulated after made me imagine otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

Does He Support Terrorism?

Like all right-minded people, I absolutely condemn all acts of terrorism, including the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7. The actions of the terrorists were completely un-Islamic and against the teachings and example of the Prophet. It’s everybody’s responsibility to make this world a safer, more peaceful place.

I do believe that some people in the West have a hard time today in decoding the spiritual message of peace which exists behind certain bloodcurdling events and headlines which are branded abroad in the name of Islam. There are obviously minority elements amongst certain quarters, both Muslim and non-Muslim, which actually go out to misinterpret the facts and pass by the true shining principles of this religion.

Out of one billion peace-loving Muslims, some vociferous extremists, unfortunately, have helped to confirm some people’s worst fears. I feel sorry for that. It’s grossly unfair for the vast majority of humankind who still have yet to benefit from what this wonderful spiritual code of life (Islam – or ‘entry to peace with God’) can offer.

I was among the first Muslims to publicly express my sorrow and objections to the atrocious attacks against innocent victims of 9/11 and 7/7. No right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: the Qur'an – as with the Old Testament - equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of “the whole of humanity.”
In my statement printed widely at the time, I said:

  “We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives in this unthinkable act of violence as well as all those injured; I hope to reflect the feelings of all Muslims and people around the world whose sympathies go out to the victims at this sorrowful moment.”

Half of the royalties from my box set released in 2001 went to September 11 charities and I performed Peace Train projected live at a solidarity concert at New York’s Radio City Hall.

The real enemy we face is ignorance. We must all be careful not to join the ranks of that army. We must warn of the hazards that this terrifying event could produce as a tool for some dangerous ideologists to promote increased intolerance and hostility against more civilian bystanders; this would equal the mentality which caused two previously devastating world wars. Patience, therefore, is called for by all influential quarters, particularly politicians and media.

 

 

 

 

 

Is It True Yusuf Islam Supported Hamas?

I have never knowingly supported Hamas or directed money to them; and use my charity worldwide to help victims of war and natural disasters, particularly children and orphans.

Although it has never been officially acknowledged, it has been reported that the reason I was not allowed entry into the USA in September, 2004, was because of reports via Israeli sources that I was a supporter of Hamas. The truth is I never knowingly supported the activities of any organization called Hamas, and would even find it impossible, even today, to say I personally know anyone who claims to be a member of it – let alone when I visited the Holy Land back in the late eighties.

The ‘source’ of the accusation I presume must go back to the my second visit to the Holy Land in 1988 as a member of a British Muslim delegation to investigate for ourselves what was being witnessed by the world on TV, and distribute small amounts of charity.

On the news, we’d all seen footage of the Israeli soldiers openly breaking the bones of young Palestinians and harshly beating women and children. The world looked on, outraged by these unforgettable images. As far as I and many like me were concerned, the Intifada was a generic name given to a resistance from the people of Palestine themselves. Hamas at that time was a name unknown to me! [8]

The trip was arranged by people in London who had contacts in Jerusalem and other Palestinian areas; I had no idea any of our guides had any links to any movement. But according to Israeli viewpoint, whenever a person feels sorry for the poor victims of occupation including orphans, the disabled, widows and medical cases, if you try to help give charity to them – be warned, you may be considered a terrorist!

I was at that time the Chairman of Muslim Aid, a UK registered charity. Our policy was to deliver humanitarian relief to the most deserving. Every charity worker knows what it’s like in a time of crisis, you certainly don’t have time nor ability to distinguish which needy child’s father or brother belongs to this or that affiliation - that would defeat the whole concept and motivation behind delivering humanitarian aid which drives charity work.

 

 

 

 

 

Didn’t Yusuf Islam Have An Arranged Marriage?

I had two prospective girls I was interested in marrying, one a new convert from America and the other from a traditional Muslim family. I invited them to meet my mother and then asked her opinion. She told me her preference and I agreed.

I had no intimate relationship with either before marriage. Therefore, to Western standards and my own previous track record, this was a stark departure from the norm. Nevertheless, the old fashioned custom of respect and modesty between sexes has tremendous benefits in making marriages last.

The Prophet said there are four things a person marries for: Wealth, Beauty, Lineage or Faith, and the successful one is the one chosen for Faith (although the other qualities may already be present - of course). This wisdom is one I followed and the happiness and peace I found, incalculable. My wife’s name is Fauzia, which itself means, ‘success’.

 

 

 


 


How Many Children Does Yusuf Have?


The answer is that my wife and I have five children, our last child, a son (the sixth, Abd Al-Ahad Ahmad), died after thirteen days due to a fatal heart ailment. [9] Today I am the proud daddy of four girls, and one son (and now a granddaddy at last!)

 

 


 

 

Do Yusuf Islam’s Daughters Wear The Veil?

My four daughters all follow the basic wearing of clothes which modestly cover their God-given beauty. They’re extremely well educated; they do not cover their faces and interact perfectly well with friends and society.

The beautifully modest expression of Islamic dress is one of the things which attracted me to my wife in the first place. She too does not veil her face but adopts the normal traditional approach to covering her hair in public and for places and times of worship. My daughters all followed her example.

Indeed, my wife was a teacher of dress and fashion design (you’d be surprised to know what these ladies wear when in ladies-only company!) The restriction to see a woman’s beauty and form is only for males who are not closely related. Uncles, sons, nephews etc. all are accepted as close family and there is no restriction with them.

The styles of dress and covering adopted by men and women in various parts of the world may differ; African dress style is different from Asian and Arabian, for instance. The basic reason for the Divine guideline of dress is to preserve the love and affection of husbands and wives within the privacy of the family; and to maintain a high level of dignity and respect for the opposite sex.

I also believe that the mode of dress should not make people’s heads turn. The idea of wearing something that identifies oneself as ultra-liberal or ultra-religious, could be taken as immoderate, which is not what I consider to be the spirit of what God prefers. However, there is a balance which must be maintained. There is a saying that ‘God is beautiful, and He loves beauty’. Some may say that modesty itself is an expression of true, inner beauty, and modesty is linked to faith

As far as enjoying the beauties and fascinations of life are concerned, Islam connects these to the functions of promoting moderation in all things. As the Qur’an says:

  O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for God loves not the extravagant. [10]

 

 

 

 

Do You Have Any Information about Yusuf’s Charities?

Small Kindness is the charity I established with my wife in 1999 particularly to help in the Kosovan crisis. We now are looking after over a thousand orphans in Indonesia and Iraq as well as the Balkan countries.

Small Kindness is fully registered with the UK Charity Commissioners and produces annual accounts and reports. The name itself, Small Kindness’ comes from a chapter in the Qur’an of the same name, which says

  Have you not seen the one who denies Faith?
Such is the one who repulses the orphan;
And who does not encourage the feeding of the poor and needy.
So woe to the worshippers, those who are neglectful of their prayers;
Those who would be seen but refuse even small kindnesses.
[11]

 

 

 

 

How Many Schools Does He Run?

We actually run three schools: a Primary school, mixed boys and girls; a secondary girls’ school; and a secondary boys’ school. The primary school is supported by the government as a voluntary aided school and the other two are private, fee-paying.

All our schools teach the British National Curriculum and do extremely well in the National Exam League Tables, often topping the schools’ charts in our local area in North West London.

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t Yusuf Have Links With Terrorists?

Like anyone famous, you get to meet many people; I’ve toured with Jimi Hendrix for God’s sake! That does not establish an inextricable link between me and any body I’ve met during my five decades on earth - would-be terrorists included. The removal of conflict is my primary aim in life.

I've met thousands, from princes, presidents, pop-stars and politicians to police and even prisoners; an active community life puts you in touch with many. Over my 29 years as a Muslim I have met every kind of character, however in meeting them It doesn't suggest that I take them as intimates or follow their view point. Meeting Bill Clinton doesn't make me a democrat as much as meeting the Dalai Lama doesn't make me a Buddhist.[12]

In Islam there are also two basic principles to learn when dealing with others: first you behave politely with them; and secondly, you try not to hurt or turn people away when they’re asking for charity or kindness. But as for supporting ‘terrorists’, I have never supported terrorism or the people who advocate the use of it.

At Muslim Aid’s office, we were endlessly being petitioned for help from every corner of the world; people with heart wrenching stories of suffering and discrimination. As chairman of the organization for eight years, between 1985 to 1993, I was involved with other members of the executive committee in dealing with thousands of requests and pleas for assistance. We always searched out the genuine cases and tried our best to support the most needy.

It’s possible that sometimes during the distribution process help may have reached people or their families who were deemed as politically or religiously unsavory by certain regimes, but that does not necessarily prove a case for supporting terrorism or violence. Wars and dissent are part of life’s chronicles; as humanitarians we cannot give up trying to help people in extreme need. Anyway, in the vast majority of cases it is famine, floods and natural disasters that engaged our resources and attention.

Whenever an accusation of misuse of funds was made during my tenure at Muslim Aid, we either won the case in court or agreed to receive substantial damages and an apology from the offending publications. Finally, I decided to resign totally from the organization in 1999 because of certain internal group-politics and my disagreement with a lack of strategic vision and long-term development planning. It was an amicable ending to the relationship.

 

 

 

 

 

Did Cat Stevens Say, ‘Kill Rushdie!’ ?

I never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini - and still don’t. The book itself destroyed the harmony between peoples and created an unnecessary international crisis.

When asked about my opinion regarding blasphemy, I could not tell a lie and confirmed that - like both the Torah and the Gospel - the Qur’an considers it, without repentance, as a capital offense. The Bible is full of similar harsh laws if you’re looking for them.[13] However, the application of such Biblical and Qur’anic injunctions is not to be outside of due process of law, in a place or land where such law is accepted and applied by the society as a whole.

The accusation that I supported the Fatwa, therefore, is wholly false and misleading. It was due to my naivety in trying to answer a loaded question posed by a journalist, after a harmless biographical lecture I gave to students in Kingston University in 1989, which unleashed the infamous headline above.

To indicate my actual stance about this matter before this front-page controversy erupted, it’s useful to quote a letter of complaint I sent to Viking, a subsidiary of Penguin Books, the publishers, on 8th October, 1989. This was after I had been sent a preview of the text of Satanic Verses:

  “I wish to express my deepest outrage at the insensitivity of Penguin Books in Publishing Salman Rushdie’s book, ‘Satanic Verses’, This book is clearly blasphemous in nature and so deeply offensive to the Muslim Community… I urge you to give the contents of this letter your most urgent attention and take a responsible decision.”

Some years later I re-entered the studio to produce a spoken-word recording, The Life of the Last Prophet, my first official album after seventeen years. During its launch at a press conference I said:

  “The Satanic Verses was Salman Rushdie’s view of the Prophet of Islam; The Life Of The Last Prophet (s) is mine! Rushdie’s book, by his own confession, is based on fiction - mine is based on facts! Therefore people are free; they now have a choice, so let them listen and see who they are more inclined to believe...”


As can be seen from the above, my personal response was significantly different from the fables and myths which have been circulated by the media.

Sad too that no matter how many times I’ve repeatedly tried to explain my true position, journalists inevitably bring up this subject again and again; as if it was the only memorable thing I was reported to have done in my almost sixty years living on this planet (yawn).

 

 

 

 

Does Yusuf Not Speak to Veil-less Women?

The accusation that I do not speak or interact with ladies who are not veiled is an absurdity. Only misinformed or unenlightened people with heads buried for the last decade - missing a plethora of my TV and public appearances proving otherwise - would repeat such junk.

Reality is often different from the media’s lust for a good headline. It’s true that I have asked my manager to respectfully request lady presenters from embracing me when giving awards or during public appearances, but that has nothing to do with my feelings or respect for them. Islam simply requires me to honour the dignity of ladies or young girls who are not closely related to me, and avoid physical intimacy, however innocent it may be.

My own story with regard to women’s rights really began when I became a Muslim. Following my acceptance of Islam, I immediately returned to London to look after my mother. Soon after I married and within a year had the great news of a baby girl, we called her Hasanah (meaning, good or beautiful). God has blessed us with four daughters and two sons (one son died in infancy), and I have always been an advocate for girl’s education. My four daughters all follow the basic wearing of clothes which modestly cover their God-given beauty. They’re extremely well educated; they do not cover their faces and interact perfectly well with friends and society. My eldest, Hasanah, runs a record company in Dubai and my second eldest, Asmaa, is training to be a solicitor.

According to the Last Prophet, “Women are the twin halves of men."[14] He also said, "Heaven lies at the feet of your mother." In the Qur'an, when we read the story of Adam and Eve, at no time do we read that blame is attached to a section of humanity, i.e. women, for the fall of man; the fact is that the responsibility was ultimately born by both, equally.

The reality is that my honour and respect for women has only increased with
Islam and my acceptance of my wife's rights. It was after all at my wife's
request that my manager was told to caution ladies, during TV appearances
or gatherings, from kissing me or getting too close - veiled or not!

 

 

 

 

Yusuf Islam Wants to See Salman Rushdie Burnt, Right?

Because of imaginary scenarios set by courthouse TV interviewers, in 1989 I was drawn into making stupid and offensive jokes about Rushdie on a program called, ‘Hypotheticals’; however they were meant to lighten the moment and raise a smile - as good ol’ British sense of humor occasionally is known to do – unfortunately for me…it didn’t.

In 1989, during the heat and height of the Satanic Verses controversy, I was silly enough to accept appearing on a program called 'Hypotheticals' which posed imaginary scenarios by a well-versed (what if…?) barrister, Geoffrey Robertson QC. I foolishly made light of certain provocative questions. When asked what I’d do if Salman Rushdie entered a restaurant in which I was eating, I said, “I would probably call up Ayatollah Khomeini”; and, rather than go to a demonstration to burn an effigy of the author, I jokingly said I would have preferred that it'd be the “real thing”.

Criticize me for my bad taste, in hindsight, I agree. But these comments were part of a well-known British national trait; a touch of dry humor on my part. Just watch British comedy programs like "Have I Got News For You" or “Extras”, they are full of occasionally grotesque and sardonic jokes if you want them! On one particular broadcast of “Have I got News…” Ian Hislop, the editor of British satirical magazine Private Eye, personally called me “a Shi’ite” (doesn’t take too long to work out with a twist of an English accent what he meant by that).

Certainly I regret giving those sorts of responses now. However, it must be noted that the final edit of the program was made to look extremely serious; hardly any laughs were left in and much common sense was savagely cut out. Most of the Muslim participants in the program wrote in and complained about the narrow and selective use of their comments, surreptitiously selected out of the 3-hour long recording of the debate. But the edit was not in our hands. Balanced arguments were cut out and the most sensational quotes, preserved.

Providentially, they kept in one important response to a final question posed directly to me by Geoffrey Robertson QC. At the end of the debate he asked me to imagine if Salman Rushdie was taken to court in Britain and the Jury found him ‘not guilty’ of any crime - Blasphemy or otherwise - and dismissed the case, what I would do. I clearly stated that I would have to accept the decision and fully abide by the law! And that was no joke.









I know this may not put an end to certain questions and doubts in some people’s minds about the subject, but my hope is that it will provide a clearer insight for those who are unbiased now to be able to see the level of distortion which takes place in the reporting of my life and activities - and God Guides to paths of Peace whom He chooses.


[1] And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours’ (The Qur’an, 30:22)

[2] Warner/Chappell Music, written by Benjamin, Marcus, Caldwell

[3] There are some references to musical instruments in certain reported sayings, but the definition is not clear as to exactly what instruments the word, ‘ma’azif’ (the word quoted in the Hadith) refers to in the most authentic source, Al-Bukhari. It is well known that the Prophet allowed the drum and even the flute to be played in his presence without ordering them to be broken or destroyed, so it leaves a question open. The Hadith referenced here also mentions ‘silk’ as being amongst other prohibited articles, however, every scholar knows that silk is not completely forbidden and there are allowances for ladies to use it freely as well as for medical reasons; buying and selling silk and using certain amounts for ornament and decoration are also allowed.

[4] Fatwas are usually made and issued by scholars in cases like these where such issues are not clear cut and are ambiguous.

[5] The Muslim, May – June, 1980

[6] The Qur’an: The Heights (7), verse 32

[7] The Qur’an: ‘The Morning Light’ (93), verse 11

[8] I subsequently learnt that back in 1988 the Israeli government and authorities had not even defined Hamas as a terrorist Group, and in fact, they had been - even though indirectly - supporting that movement as an opposition to Arafat’s PLO Party. Also, it is important to mention that suicide bombers had not been even heard of at that time.



[9] According to Islam, children are born sinless, and if they die before the age of puberty are not responsible fully for their actions and go direct to Heaven.

[10] The Qur’an, The Heights (7), verse 31

[11] The Qur’an, Small Kindnesses (107)

[12] It has been reported that I had sat in the company of characters like Shaikh Omar Abdurahman, the truth is, I met him only once in the 80’s when he visited the Central Mosque in London, and those who were present in the prayer hall would remember how I openly disagreed with him regarding the attitude to Christians and Jews (People of the Book), and pointed out the Qur’anic verses which encourage co-operation, kindness and dialogue.
As for the other accusation of being linked to Shaikh Omar Bakri, the one time leader of the Muhajiroon movement in UK who was expelled by British authorities, I knew him originally as Omar Fostock; he was brother in law of Dr Majid Katme who was another prominent member of Muslim Aid, and Omar used to provide the organization’s offices with stationary from his company called, appropriately, ‘Fostock’. We had a serious disagreement also about the issue of charity; he advocated that Zakah could only be distributed by the legal authority through the establishment of the Khilafah; I argued it was the duty of every Muslim to give charity and using trusted people to distribute it on your behalf was totally acceptable.

[13] In Exodus 20:7 the Third Commandment openly states, “You shall not take the name of The Lord in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless”. It also says in Leviticus 24:16, “And he who blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregations shall surely stone him.” Again, quoting Matthew, 12: 31-32, Jesus is reported to have said, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit, shall not be forgiven.” In addition regarding other crimes it says in Leviticus 20: 14, “And if a man take a wife and her mother he shall be burnt with fire”; also in Leviticus 20: 15, “if a man lies with a beast, he shall surely be put to death,” and in Exodus 21: 17, “Anyone who curses his father and mother must be put to death.”

[14] Human Life began with the union of man and woman, together, as we read in the Qur’an (7:189)
"It is He (God) who created you (all) from a single soul and made from it a partner of like nature in order to dwell together with her in love. When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about unnoticed. When she grows heavy, they both pray to God, their Lord, saying, 'If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall ever be grateful."

 

 


 
   
   
   
   

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