I’ll avoid the customary hyperbole where everything becomes mystical and exotic, and the most elemental study is blown out of proportion. Faith is about how we do life so my objective here is to paint a very normal picture. Typically, the objective would be to infer who I am through what I’ve done and where I’ve come from, but that depends on how you take what’s written here!
Where I’ve come from
I’m a proud Londoner, born and raised in this amazing city. Most of my learning and work has taken place here, both secular and religious, and the rich diversity of this city has granted me valuable experiences that inform my ideas, thoughts and outlook. I grew up in Hackney which has a particularly diverse cultural and economic make up, and my friends and family come from various ethnicities, religious traditions (or none), and socio-economic backgrounds. Inevitably, my socialisation has been broad and diverse and has siginificantly contributed to the ability to connect with different types of people from across society, whilst uncoupling me from the burdens of particular cultural forces, group-think, or parochialism.
One of the main reasons I ended up in scholarly training was, besides my inquisitive nature, the innate need to identify meaning in everything I do. Unsatisfied with the “religion” I experienced in Muslim public spaces or the teachings of preachers and clerics, my wife and I left for Cairo to improve our Arabic so that we might engage the book of God directly, but with little intention to undertake protracted scholarly training. But after attaining fluency I thought to look upon the works of medieval scholars, which to my curiosity, painted a very different picture of Islam to the one I had left behind and little resonated with me. It wasn’t reading any one scholar per se but more so what I could generally glean from the early scholarly tradition. Their outlook was far more mature and nuanced, and they denounced sloganeering and populism opting for truth and substance. Not being subjected to an era of securitisation and the type of hyper-politicisation we currently experience in the west, their approach wasn’t reactionary but formulative and uplifting; broad-minded, tolerant and probing; with deep philosophical reasoning that focused on godliness rather than identity politics; they opted for effective problem-solving rather than naysaying or simply registering protest.
The more I read and researched and the deeper I delved into philosophical enquiry, the more I became mesmerised with the Abrahamic method of subservience to God and the greater the realisation that modern “religion” has left much to be desired. I started scholastic training with grand plans, but as I continued most of my aspirations for professional scholarly pursuits and public engagement along with the notoriety that comes with it began to dissipate, although I guess some of that might also have been due to increasing maturity. Perhaps it’s what my earlier Hanbalī studies instilled in me as I progressed, for as the Hanbalī thinker Ibn Aqīl lamented, having become judicious in fiqh many Hanbalīs would shy away from public affairs to busy themselves with a quiet life of godliness and piety. This strongly resonates with me, but thinking about how I got here leads me to conclude I have little choice in the matter – from a point of qadr (divine decree) it seems this life was chosen for me rather than being of my own choosing.
The Abrahamic faith I am committed to is not a culture or habit that I inherited, but (in adulthood) the result of critical thinking, deep enquiry, and rational reasoning. It’s what has led me to believe in God, and as a matter of consistency, it’s what I employ to reason what God wants. Accordingly, my journey of learning has been a very personal one shaped by my own search for meaning, rather than with the objective to pontificate to everyone else. Having personally experienced how the true dīn can inspiringly develop individuals and collectives to flourish, my genuine motive is merely to share what I’ve learned and continue to experience. This means I see no productivity in polemics or sectarianism; I intend to engage with and teach those sincerely searching and who want to know, and those who constructively support what I do.
What I do
I explore real-world applications of the shari’ah with a commitment to problem-solving issues of relevance to western believers, whilst also educating the public (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) on the millat Ibrahīm (religion of Abraham). It’s about connecting grand religious ideas with messy human reality and articulating shar’ī points of view to challenge and deepen thinking on all sides of the important questions.
I currently focus on applied theology and shar’ī ethics in a British context, as well as western political theory and siyāsah shar’iyyah (shar’ī political philosophy). I advocate a God-centred approach (rabbāniyyah) to all things, with a deep focus on Qur’anic narratives and prophetic guidance known as al-fiqh fī al-dīn (a comprehensive understanding of the faith) which is how faith practically and constructively speaks to the social, political and religious interactions of western believers today.
Studies and experiences
I hold a BA in Theology and English literature and a separate BA in Islamic Law and Legal Theory, a BSc in Politics and International Relations, and a MA in Political and Legal Theory (dist), having graduated from the universities of London (LSE), Warwick and Al Azhar. I also completed a PGCE at the Institute of Education (UCL). Alongside my secular education in London, I started studying the Qur’an and Arabic as well as Hanbalī fiqh which continued in Cairo and Makkah, two great cities where I also studied the Mālikī school, seeking a rounded understanding of the early ahlul-hadīth fiqh tradition and the Mutakallimīn school of usūl. Subsequently, as I guess we all do, I studied hadith and tafsir sciences as a requirement of fiqh al-hadith and to strengthen my operationalisation of tafsīr (Qur’anic exegesis). In Makkah I focused on hadith sciences and usūl al-fiqh, whilst at Al Azhar University (Cairo) I completed a degree in Islamic Law (Sharī’ah Islāmiyyah) from a point of comparitive fiqh that meant also engaging the Shafi’ī and Hanafī traditions, whilst also researching most of the contemporary issues that I could think of that’d be relevant to westerners. For practical purposes, I studied both the Atharī (Hanbalī) and Ash’arī schools of theology and continue to evaluate their practicalities and ramifications. As such, my significant shar’ī occupation has been with practical usūl-al dīn (theology), fiqh (Islamic law), usūl-al fiqh (shar’ī philosophy and methodology), tafsīr (Qur’anic exegesis), and hadith for operational purposes (ilm al-dirāyah), whilst I plan for doctoral research in western political theory.
I serve Kingston mosque as a consultant scholar and as a formal advisor and consultant to a number of Islamic organisations, whilst holding public lectures and workshops across London and engaging the public through various digital platforms and social media. At Kingston I held a shar’i arbitration service and advice center, and in the past I interned at London’s main Sharia Council. I mentor trainee scholars and aspiring academics, and I work with a number of activists on various social and political projects. I also co-founded Averroes Trust, a Muslim led think tank that engaged and briefed parliamentarians, civil servants, policy practitioners and NGOs.
Check out the rest of the About pages (in the menu bar) to get a sense of my approach, what I hope to do, and how this site works.