Ismail Ibn Musa Menk – Advocate of Spirituality, Equality and Selflessness
Someone asked the Prophet PBUH, “Who is the biggest scholar?” He replied: “He who is constantly trying to learn from others, for a scholar is ever hungry for more knowledge.”
Religion has a definitive role to play in the search for peace. The world cannot have peace until nations and people begin to reduce their selfish desires for more and more material possessions, give up their racial arrogance, and eliminate their madness for worldly power. Material wealth alone cannot bring peace and happiness. We need something more than that.
Spreading the message of peace through his lectures, faith-based motivational speaker, Mufti Menk, tries to bridge the gap across various multi-cultural and multi-religious beliefs. Mufti Menk’s Building Bridges program which he launched in 2016, has benefitted hundreds of thousands across the globe, from Africa to Australia. It is no wonder that he is one of the most sought-after scholars today.
An Acclaimed Mufti
A mufti is an Islamic scholar who interprets and expounds Islamic law. He is entrusted with the authority of issuing religious verdicts to Islamic problems brought to his attention.
Mufti Menk is the head of the fatwa department of The Council of Islamic Scholars of Zimbabwe.
He is identified as a Salafi (one who advocates literal and to some degree binary interpretation of Islamic teachings as enjoined by Prophet Muhammad PBUH and subsequently practiced by the early pious predecessors known as the Salaf al-Salih).
But Mufti Menk has never referred to himself as a Sufi or Salafi but has insisted that he is a Sunni Muslim.
An Enlightened Mind
Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Ismail Ibn Musa Menk was tutored by his father Musa Menk, a well-known scholar and Da’ee. He completed his hifz and recitation courses at an early age and learnt the Arabic and Urdu languages whilst studying Shariah under his father.
Ismail Ibn Musa Menk kept a humble balance between his secular and religious studies but found himself more inclined towards religious studies. He worked tirelessly to acquire knowledge and from a very young age, spent most of his time studying.
Mufti Menk attended St John’s College in Harare where he completed his secondary secular education. He then attained a degree in Shariah from the University of Madinah and later specialised at Darul Uloom Kantharia in Gujarat.
Ismail Menk always cared for his country and its people, and they all knew that he would return some day. After pursuing his education, he returned to Zimbabwe in 2000 to join the only national Council of Imams known as Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe. It is an Educational and Humanitarian Organisation established in 1975, which caters to the needs of the local people.
At the AGM (Annual General Meeting) the same year, he was voted into the Executive Committee of the Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe and appointed the Mufti of Zimbabwe, as the Head of the Fatwa and Guidance Department of the council.
A Distinguished Scholar
Mufti Menk has been actively engaged in teaching, lecturing internationally, running Islamic educational institutions for the underprivileged as well as orphans. He is also one of the Imaams at the Arcadia Masjid in Harare and teaches at the Darul Ilm. He has been on lecture tours to many countries, across many continents and makes the time to attend many international religious conferences, seminars etc. His humour, witty comments, pertinent anecdotes and friendly approach are traits which have made him extremely popular with students and youths. Many young scholars have also been inspired by his style, approach and way of delivering messages.
A Spiritual Guide: Mentoring to the Path of Islam
Mufti Menk is active in many philanthropic activities. He mentors, guides and nurtures people to the path of Islam.
He contributes Islamic content to various media networks and is an experienced social worker and counsellor. Mufti Menk enjoys spending time with the underprivileged. Each year, during the month of Ramadhan, he travels far and wide to communities explaining Qur’anic teachings.
Mufti Menk often visits many areas of rural Zimbabwe to guide the rural folks on social and spiritual matters. The programs are held either at Masjids or local schools. It is dubbed “Islamic Day Program” and has become very popular among rural Muslims.
To empower the women in Zimbabwe, especially in his community, Mufti Menk started a weekly Sisters Learning Programme under the Council of Imams, disseminating religious based education and providing guidance on social and spiritual matters.
These lessons have proven to be a great success and are still running in Harare every week.
He also conducts annual Hajj Guidance classes for Zimbabweans intending to go to Makkah each year; guiding the pilgrims with the necessary insights required for their holy journey.
Proponent of Peace and Justice
Mufti Menk’s message of peaceful coexistence is evident in his Building Bridges series of lectures; something that resonates well with people of all faiths.
He believes that everyone, regardless of faith should work together for a peaceful world.
Each person has his rights and we should not trample on their toes to assert what we feel as the ultimate answer!
Most importantly, people must not harm each other. People will differ in their views but that can be done respectfully, without hating on one another.
Mufti Menk respects all sects of religion. His thrust is on curbing religious extremism. He says we should not judge people by their physical appearance. He has witnessed some of the most pious people in the poorest of nations that he had visited.
Ismail Menk guides people of all faiths towards good character and conduct, great mannerisms on reaching out to one another, respect and tolerance and a non-judgemental attitude. His followers are from all walks of life and from all faiths. He believes in short daily doses of reminders to humanity. During a visit to the Maldives, in 2018, Mufti Menk urged Liberian Muslims to avoid Muslim-Christian violence, arguing that Muslims and Christians are brothers and sisters from one father, the prophet Adam.
Influential Muslim Cleric
Mufti Menk has been on the list of the Top 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World since 2010, by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in the Kingdom of Jordan.
He has received many accolades for his work from governments and communities the world over.
He is a frequent speaker in many countries; from the Africas, the Middle East as well as south and east Asia.
He was also conferred an Honorary Doctorate or Social Guidance from Aldersgate University.
The Digital Mufti
Mufti Menk uses Social Media on a daily basis to guide people of all faiths towards mutual respect and a life filled with hope.
He has openly denounced terrorism and extremism and believes in peaceful coexistence. He has also spoken out against violent groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. His social media posts are very popular across all age groups; so popular that there were calls to compile them into books. The result: Motivational Moments in two editions, each with five hundred of his best quotes on social media, which had been selected by his followers.
Mufti Menk uses all platforms to spread his message of goodness. He has more than eight million followers across all the social media platforms. His retweets, likes, shares and views usually go into the millions. One can also reach him on his web page which is muftimenk.com
MuslimCentral.com, the largest English Language Muslim internet platform for Lectures and Recitals has developed mobile apps and podcasts exclusively for Mufti Menk. These operate on both iOS and android platforms. His lectures are usually recorded and uploaded via his mobile device immediately after they are delivered. All this is done totally free of charge. He believes this is the best way to spread his message of peace.
Maintaining Peace amidst Troubled Waters and Controversies
Mufti Menk has always played a pivotal role in the global war on extremism. He has maintained a balanced approach by educating everyone to respect each other and people from all faiths.
Yet, some still see him as radical.
He once made a controversial statement on homosexuality, which led the Huffington Post to label him as an “openly homophobic Islamic preacher” who has denounced gay people as “filthy”. As a result, his lecture at a British university was cancelled after student unions and officials expressed concern about his views.
However, Mufti Menk made it clear that he is not Homophobic. His comments were based on a “misguided notion” then and he never intended to bring disgrace to anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Another controversial incident alleged that Mufti Menk was preaching “segregationist and divisive teachings”. In October 2017, Singapore banned Mufti Menk from its borders because, the government believed that he expressed views incompatible with the country’s multicultural laws and policies. The allegations were based on an inaccurate perception and edited sound byte of one of his lectures, where he was said to have disallowed Muslims to greet Christian Merry Christmas. The Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe, Menk’s own institution released a statement to express “regret and dismay” regarding the ban. It said that Menk is an “asset to multi‐cultural, multi‐religious Zimbabwe” and that viewers should “listen to his sermons in full” and not “edited clips of a few minutes” to see the moderate path he has chosen. They reiterated the fact that Mufti Menk never prohibited anyone from greeting others during their festivals. He has maintained that the wording should be more inclusive and agreeable to all such as Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings etc.
It caused a furore among his followers who maintained that what he preached was anything but divisive!
Following the ban, many countries welcomed him warmly including Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines etc. He continues the Building Bridges program and hopes to bring it to many other parts of the globe.
Some of the most loved quotes by Mufti Menk are:
You’re disappointed not because of other people’s behaviour but because of your own expectations. Accept the fact that people will let you down. Time and again. They’ll show you their true colours eventually. Learn to expect only from the One who made you. He always delivers!
Not everyone will understand your journey, the path you’re taking. That’s ok. You’re not alone. Not everyone will understand your vision and goals. That’s ok because the Almighty does. He gave you those dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Whatever you’re facing now, always remember, the Almighty would not have allowed it unless He had a purpose to it. He doesn’t just act randomly. Each trial is aimed at making you learn something, making you grow as a person. Understand His Plan and you’ll emerge stronger.
▪ Mufti Menk was awarded the Global Leadership Award in Social Guidance at the KSBEA 2015 Awards ceremony conducted by the Cochin Herald.
▪ Mufti Menk was honoured with the Doctorate of Social Guidance from Aldersgate University, Philippines at The European Professional Doctorate (EPD-EU) convocation ceremony, Dublin in April 2016, recognising the achievements in his professional journey, exceptional intellectual and artistic achievements and his extraordinary contributions to society.
Mufti Menk received the OIC Global Leadership Award in 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.