Zakir Naik: His Background, Views and Debates

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Zakir Abdul Karim Naik (born October 18, 1965) is an Indian public speaker and writer on the subject of Islam and comparative religion. He travels extensively and has been featured at many Islamic conferences.

A medical doctor by training, Naik attempts to clear what he considers misconceptions about Islam, using the Qur'an, Hadith and other religious scriptures as a basis while also spreading Dawah (Islamic proselytism).

History and Background[edit]

He studied at St Peter's High School and Kishinchand Chellaram College. Later, he trained as a medical doctor at the Karnataka Lingayat Education Society's J. N. Medical College, Belgaum, Karnataka. He heads the Islamic Research Foundation, based in Mumbai. He is also the chairman of the IRF Educational Trust, and the president of Islamic Dimensions. Naik is the founder of the Islamic International School.

His Views[edit]

Naik claims to offer a rational understanding of Islam. Various aspects of Islamic law, Shari'ah, he says, may seem illogical to non-Muslims, or non-practicing Muslims; Naik claims these rules are sensible. Islam, in his view, is the best way of life because its teachings constitute practical solutions for the problems of mankind.

Idol Worship in Islam[edit]

Naik was once asked: "Muslims go on a pilgrimage to Mecca and worship the Kaba'h by circumabulating it and kissing the black stone. Is that not idol worship?" Naik replied:
"It is not idol worship. The Kaba'h represents a common direction for prayer and by circling it, Muslims feel that there is one God in the center. Muslims kiss the Kaba'h only because Muhammad kissed it."
Naik goes on to say:
"Which Hindu will stand on the idol of their deity? But Muhammad stood on the Kaba'h during the call for prayer during early times of Islam. This is the best proof that there is no idol worship in Islam but present in Hinduism."

Adoption in Islam[edit]

Naik believes that Muslims are allowed to adopt children but that such adoption cannot have a legal status under Islamic law. Giving the adopted child a legal name (of the parent) is something he considers forbidden. Also, once the child grows up, the female members of the family must treat him as a non-mahram (stranger) and observe hijab (be veiled) in his presence.[1]

Punishment for Apostasy[edit]

Naik believes that the Islamic injunction prescribing death for apostasy - those who leave the faith - is justified. He compares it to death penalties meted out to national traitors (army generals who defect being the example cited) and proclaims that apostates fall into the same category.[2]

Music[edit]

Naik asserts that all instrumental music is haraam (forbidden), except a one-membraned drum.[3]

Riba or Interest[edit]

Naik believes that Muslims should not receive, give or witness interest-related financial transactions. He declares that it is haraam (forbidden) for Muslims to own and use credit cards. He also says that taking loans or getting insurance is prohibited. He takes this further and says that it is also forbidden for Muslims to work in banks.[4] His supporters claim that his comments are relevant only in the context of banks dealing with interest.

Islamic Dietary Laws[edit]

Observant Muslims do not eat pork. Naik argues that pork is forbidden because the swine is a dirty animal by nature, and that its flesh is the source of many diseases:

"The pig is one of the filthiest animals on earth. It lives and thrives on muck, faeces and dirt. It is the best scavenger that I know that God has produced."
Naik also believes that diet has psychological/ethical consequences and one is what one eats :
"The pig is the most shameless animal on the face of the earth. It is the only animal that invites its friends to have sex with its mate. In America, most people consume pork. Many times after dance parties, they have swapping of wives; many say 'you sleep with my wife and I will sleep with your wife.' If you eat pigs then you behave like pigs"
He also says:
"Eating of pork can cause no less than seventy different types of diseases. A person can have various helminthes like roundworm, pinworm, hookworm, etc." [5]

Hijab[edit]

Naik supports the practice of hijab, or Islamic modesty for both men and women. He writes that in Islam, a woman is required to cover herself entirely except for her face and hands up to her wrists. He claims that Islam thus protects women from the lust of men. For men, he prescribes looking away from women if immodest thoughts enter their minds.

Naik goes on to say:

"Suppose there are twin sisters. While walking down the street, one of them is wearing a mini-skirt, while the other is wearing the hijab with everything covered with loose clothes except the hands up to the wrist. If there is a hooligan who is waiting to tease a girl, which girl will he tease? He will tease the girl wearing the mini-skirt." [6]

Polygamy[edit]

Naik argues that polygyny, or the Muslim practice of taking up to four wives is justified as it is in the best interest of both women and men. He claims it protects the modesty of women, while keeping men from going astray. He writes in his website that human males are polygamous by nature and that a man is less likely to cheat if he has more than one wife. He also believes that there are more marriageable women than men in the world and claims:
"If every woman got married to only one man, there would be over thirty million females in U.S.A, four million females in Great Britain, 5 million females in Germany and nine million females in Russia who would not find a husband. Thus the only two options before a woman who cannot find a husband is to marry a married man or to become public property."

The numbers he cites seem outdated, stemming from the time many men had died recently in world war II. Nowadays, there are more males born than females, from a purely arithmetic point of view, it would be no problem to match every woman with a male.

Naik points to Qur'an 4:3 to explain the Muslim position on polygyny. This verse explains that a man can take more than one wife only if he is able to treat them equally. If he cannot do this, he should have a relationship with only one wife and/or "what your right hands possess" (i.e. female slaves and concubines). [7]

A woman's Value as a Witness[edit]

Qur'an 2:282 says that two female witnesses are equal to one male witness. According to Naik's interpretation, this verse deals only with financial transactions and murder cases. Naik says:
"In financial transactions, two men are preferred. Islam expects men to be the breadwinners of their families. Since financial responsibility is shouldered by men, they are expected to be well versed in financial transactions as compared to women. As a second option, the witness can be one man and two women, so that if one of the women errs the other can remind her."
Naik extends this thought to murder cases and says:
"... the feminine attitude can also have an effect on the witness in a murder case. In such circumstances a woman is more terrified as compared to a man. Due to her emotional condition she can get confused. Therefore, two female witnesses are equivalent to one male witness."[8]

Charity[edit]

Islam prescribes Zakat, or obligatory charity towards other Muslims.[9] Ideally, every Muslim who has assets in gold, silver, livestock, savings and currencies that exceed the nisaab level should give 2.5% of those assets every lunar year to charity.

Naik believes that if Muslims followed Islamic law in this regard, poverty among Muslims could be eliminated.[10]

Prosecution of Criminals[edit]

Between Muslims, Shari'ah prescribes capital punishment for crimes such as murder and rape -- unless the victim's family either forgives the culprit or receives blood money, or both.

Naik believes that these penalties are necessary to prevent rape and murder, and that these penalties would ultimately make for a safer society.[11]

Permissible food in Islam[edit]

In a 2006 TV appearance, Naik declared that it was forbidden, for Muslims to eat prasad. Prasad is food offered to Hindu deities and then shared with friends and family; it is believed to convey blessings and good fortune. Naik said that too many Muslims say 'Bismillah' over the food, and eat it to please their friends. Naik claims that the following verse from the Qur'an forbids the eating of prasad:
Eat not of (meats) on which Allah's name hath not been pronounced: That would be impiety. But the evil ones ever inspire their friends to contend with you if ye were to obey them, ye would indeed be Pagans.

Wishing Christians a Merry Christmas[edit]

In a 2003 speech in Toronto, Naik asserts that it is forbidden for Muslims to wish their Christian friends a merry Christmas. Naik believes that this common greeting acknowledges Jesus as a son of God and is thus blasphemy for Muslims.

Implementing Shari'ah in India[edit]

Naik writes that while he appreciates that India presently allows Muslims to have their own personal law:
"Muslims in India would prefer the Islamic criminal law (Shariah) to be implemented on all Indians since it is the most practical."[12]

Some have criticized Naik for trying to subvert basic democtatic rights in India (for promoting Shari'ah) by exploiting the same freedoms given to him in Indian democracy. He is considered one of the leading "Parasitic Intellectual Jihadis" in the democratic world for this reason. A Parasitic Intellectual Jihadi is one who exploits the very freedom and equal rights given to him in a non-Muslim majority nation to subvert the same for non-Muslims.

Debates and Dialogues[edit]

Naik sometimes participates in debates as part of his public activities. His supporters find two events notable:

Debate in Chicago[edit]

One of the featured activities at the 2000 Chicago ICNA Conference (a gathering of American Muslims) was a debate titled "The Quran & the Bible in the Light of Modern Science", between Naik and a Christian medical doctor named William F. Campbell. Campbell took three years out of his practice to write a book called The Qur'an and the Bible in the light of history and science, which he conceived as a rebuttal to Maurice Bucaille's The Bible, The Qur'an, and Science. Each of the debaters tried to discredit the other's scripture by parsing out verses from their counterpart's Holy Scripture and pointing out perceived errors. The debate can be downloaded here.

Inter-Religious Dialogue in Bangalore[edit]

An "Inter-Religious dialogue for Spiritual Enlightenment" was held on the 21st of January 2006 at Bangalore. Naik and the founder of the Art of Living, Sri Ravi Shankar, spoke on the topic 'The Concept of God in Hinduism and Islam , in the light of sacred scriptures.'

This was by far the biggest dialogue in which Naik participated and can be viewed here.

During the event, Naik said, "religious tolerance is important in Islam but tolerance does not mean acceptance." He claimed that people of other religions were misguided and said, "Muslims would have a problem with the Hindu imagery of the god Vishnu." Naik also claimed that the Vedas prophesize the coming of the prophet Muhammad for which Ravi shankar replied, "Muslims should now respect the Vedas and not call it scriptures of the unbelievers."

Challenge to Pope Benedict XVI[edit]

On September 29, 2006, Naik invited Pope Benedict XVI for open interfaith dialogue. [13]

Challenge to Dr. Zakir Naik from Indian Christians[edit]

Sakshi: an apologetics network in India has now challenged Dr. Zakir Naik to a debate.

We would like to let Dr. Zakir Naik know that Indian Christians though poor and few in number are now ready to debate with Dr. Zakir Naik on any topic that examines both the religions. We, at Sakshi, express our willingness if Dr. Zakir Naik wants an Indian Christian to debate whatever the cost might be. Please let us know if you have contact with Dr. Zakir Naik'

Ali Sina's Challenge[edit]

Internet debater Ali Sina's offer to Naik for a written debate has remained unanswered for over 3 years.[14]

After numerous attempts to reach out to Naik, Sina has been instructed by Naik's assistants that Naik does not participate in written debate. Sina has instead been posed a counter challenge by Naik's supporters to arrange for a live audience of at least 10,000 people. Sina, in counter claim, says this demand is not justified and cites the threat to his life from Islamic terrorists as well as the lack of time in a televised debate. He has instead offered to publish the written debate on his website. [15]

Refusal to Debate Sam Shamoun[edit]

Just like Ali Sina, we regularly receive challenges from Muslims that we should debate with Zakir Naik. We are ready, we have said so to Zakir Naik and his team. It is Zakir Naik who refuses to face our debate representative Sam Shamoun.

Naik's Supporters[edit]

Naik supporters claim that Naik can quote, from memory, Islamic scriptures like the Quran and the hadith, and also books from other religions like the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Vedas, and the Manu Smriti.

Naik's Critics[edit]

Muslim Critics[edit]

Naik's views on prasad and Christmas wishes have been discussed on Indian television channels. During NDTV's televised debate "The Big Fight" (March 11 2006) and prominent Indian Muslims such as Salman Khurshid and Javed Akhtar reproved what they felt were Naik's mischievous attempts to radicalize the Indian Muslim community and promote communal strife.

Other Muslims like Sheikh Taj-Al Halily and the members of the Muslim Canadian Congress have also rejected this viewpoint on Christmas wishes. [16]

In response to questions about Naik, Darul Ifta, an Islamic organization in India which issues advice and fatwas has said that "one should not rely upon his speeches"[17], "his knowledge is not deep"[18] and that"he is deviated from the path of well-versed Ulama"[19]. They also say that Naik is "spreading mischievous things and misguiding simple Muslims to wrong path"[20] and that "he is religiously deviated, some of his talks are unauthentic." [21] They advise other Muslims that "one is most probably feared to fall in fitnah by listening his speeches."[22]

Complete quotes from Darul Ifta are given below:

"The statements made by Dr Zakir Naik indicate that he is a preacher of Ghair Muqallidin, he is of free mind and does not wear Islamic dress. One should not rely upon his speeches. "[17]

"He seems Ghair Muqallid and his knowledge is not deep. Therefore, he is not reliable and Muslims should avoid listening to him." [18]

"Religion should always be learnt through authorized Ulama and authentic books. According to the beliefs and thought that we know about him, he is deviated from the path of well-versed Ulama in many of the thoughts. His approach seems contradicted to authentic Ulama of salaf. Therefore, one should avoid attending his programmes. However, if you happen to listen his talk you should not rely him until you confirm it by any Aalim." [19]

"We do not have details about Dr. Zakir Naik, only we know that he is an agent of Ghair Muqallideen, away from knowledge and wisdom, spreading mischievous things and misguiding simple Muslims to wrong path." [20]

"According to the sayings of Zakir Naik quoted in people's questions, he is religiously deviated, some of his talks are unauthentic. A common man may not be able to differentiate between right and wrong; therefore people should avoid listening his speeches, they are feared to fall in deviation." [21]

"The extracts quoted by the questioners about him indicate that he is having deviation; therefore one is most probably feared to fall in fitnah by listening his speeches." [22]
Darul Ifta, India in response to questions from Naik

In November 2008, a fatwa was issued against Zakir Naik by Islamic scholars in Lucknow India for supporting Osama Bin Laden and glorifying Yazeed, the 'killer' of Imam Hussain, a prominent figure in Shia Islam. [23] Lucknow's shahar qazi Mufti Abul Irfan Mian Firangi Mahali described Naik as a kafir (non-Muslim) in his fatwa, which states he should be ex-communicated from Islam.

Non-Muslim Critics[edit]

Non-Muslim critics have claimed that Naik's views on "Idol worship in Islam" is hypocritical. They have claimed that he deliberately talking only of "standing on idols" and nothing else which could be deemed disrespectful (like spitting or kicking).[24]

Some have also questioned his claim that the consumption of pork can lead to a person behaving like a pig. [25]

Critics also point to Naik's strident debating style to claim that he wants to raise communal feelings.[26] During the Bangalore debate, Naik criticised other religions including Hinduism. His co-speaker Sri Sri Ravi Shankar simply replied, "to each their belief, and it is not our position to question them."[27]

Various published sources, such as the CIA Factbook, contradict Naik's claims that there are more women than men in groups of marriagable age.[28] Critics say this undercuts his rationale for polygamy.

Ali Sina, who is a big critic of Naik, has claimed that Naik is a showman who twists the truth and fools his audience. He has reviewed the debate between Campbell and Naik and claims that Naik misrepresented Islam with his lies.[29]

Also in June of 2010, UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, banned Zakir Naik from entering the country. He had been due to give a series of lectures at arenas in Wembley Arena and Sheffield.

“I have excluded Dr Naik from the UK. Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour. Coming to the UK is a privilege not a right and I am not wiling to allow those who might not be conducive to the public good to enter the UK.

See Also[edit]

  • Zakir Naik - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Zakir Naik

External Links[edit]

Naik publications and debates
Anti-Naik
Naik in the News

References[edit]

  1. Zakir Naik - Questions and Answers in Urdu 2 of 4 (15:40 in the video link)
  2. Zakir Naik - Questions and Answers 4 of 4 (30:15 in the video)
  3. Zakir Naik - Questions and Answers 4 of 4
  4. Zakir Naik - Questions and Answers in Urdu 3 of 4 (11:12 and 13:18 in the video link)
  5. IRF.net: Misconceptions About Islam (FAQs) Question 11 of Section A
  6. IRF.net: Misconceptions About Islam (FAQs) Question 03 of Section A
  7. IRF.net: Misconceptions About Islam (FAQs) Question 01 of Section A
  8. IRF.net: Misconceptions About Islam (FAQs) Question 13 of Section A
  9. Haytham bin Jawwad al-Haddad - The way of giving Zakat al-Fitr in non-Islamic Lands Islamicawakening
  10. IRF.net: Misconceptions About Islam (FAQs) Question 17 of Section A
  11. IRF.net: Misconceptions About Islam (FAQs) Question 17 of Section A
  12. IRF.net: Misconceptions About Islam (FAQs) Question 08 of Section C
  13. Zakir Naik invites Pope Benedict XVI for open interfaith dialogue
  14. Faithfreedom.org - The Challenge to debate with Dr. Zakir Naik
  15. Faithfreedom.org - The Challenge to debate with Dr. Zakir Naik p2
  16. Merry Christmas = Murder Little Green Footballs
  17. 17.0 17.1 Deviant Sects & Groups - Question #7077, Darul Ifta, India
  18. 18.0 18.1 Question #171, Darul Ifta, India
  19. 19.0 19.1 Question #2415, Darul Ifta, India
  20. 20.0 20.1 Question #110, Darul Ifta, India
  21. 21.0 21.1 Question #11443, Darul Ifta, India
  22. 22.0 22.1 Question #9421, Darul Ifta, India
  23. Storm over fatwa against scholar Zakir Naik - November, 2008
  24. Idol Worship in Islam Faith Freedom International forum
  25. Zakir Naik: If you eat pigs then you behave like pigsFaith Freedom International Forum
  26. Zakir Naik must apologize Hindu unity
  27. Dr Zakir Naik & Ravi Shankar Debate
  28. CIA world-factbook
  29. Ali Sina - World's Greatest Showman Faith Freedom International, Dec 6, 2006