By Yusuf Islam
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.
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 
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.  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.
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).” 
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. 
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.
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]!’
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.
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.
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
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
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! 
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.
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
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’.
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.
 Today I am the proud daddy of four girls,
and one son (and now a granddaddy at last!)
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
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
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
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
|| 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.
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
|| 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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
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."
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!
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
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.
 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)
 Warner/Chappell Music,
written by Benjamin, Marcus, Caldwell
 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.
 Fatwas are usually made
and issued by scholars in cases like these
where such issues are not clear cut and are
 The Muslim, May –
 The Qur’an: The
Heights (7), verse 32
 The Qur’an: ‘The
Morning Light’ (93), verse 11
 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.
 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.
 The Qur’an,
The Heights (7), verse 31
 The Qur’an,
Small Kindnesses (107)
 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.
 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.”
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."