Teachers and International Guests
RMDT is extremely honoured to be hosting such highly esteemed scholars for the first time in New Zealand.
Dr Umar Faruq Abd-Allah
Dr Umar Faruq Abd-Allah (Wymann-Landgraf) is an American Muslim, born in 1948 to a Protestant family in Columbus, Nebraska. He grew up in Athens, Georgia, where both parents taught at the University of Georgia. His father taught Veterinary Medicine and Organic Chemistry, while his mother’s field was English. In 1964, his parents took positions at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where his grandfather had been a professor emeritus of Veterinary Medicine. Dr Abd-Allah did his undergraduate work at the University of Missouri with dual majors in History and English Literature. He made the Dean’s list all semesters and was nominated to the Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society. In 1969, he won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and entrance to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York to pursue a Ph.D. programme in English literature. Shortly after coming to Cornell, Dr Abd-Allah read the autobiography of Malcolm X, which inspired him to embrace Islam in early 1970. In 1972, he altered his field of study and transferred to the University of Chicago, where he studied Arabic and Islamic Studies under Dr Fazlur Rahman. Dr Abd-Allah received his doctorate with honours in 1978 for a dissertation on the origins of Islamic Law, Malik’s Concept of ‘Amal in the Light of Maliki Legal Theory. From 1977 until 1982, he taught at the Universities of Windsor (Ontario), Temple, and Michigan. In 1982, he left America to teach Arabic in Spain. Two years later, he was appointed to the Department of Islamic Studies at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah, where he taught (in Arabic) Islamic studies and comparative religions until 2000.
During his years abroad, Dr Abd-Allah had the privilege of studying with a number of traditional Islamic scholars. He returned to Chicago in August 2000 to work as chair and scholar-in-residence of the newly founded Nawawi Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation. In conjunction with this position, he is now teaching and lecturing in and around Chicago and various parts of the United States and Canada, while conducting research and writing in Islamic studies and related fields. He has written a biography of Mohammed Webb (d. 1916), who was one of the most significant early American converts to Islam. Dr Abd-Allah is presently completing a second work entitled Roots of Islam in America: A Survey of Muslim Presence in the New World from Earliest Evidence until 1965 and is also updating his dissertation for publication.
Dr Umar has been inspiring seekers of knowledge all over the world for many years, combining a uniquely in-depth knowledge of Islamic sciences, with an ability to speak directly to the hearts of those privileged enough to be in his presence.
Dr Umar has never before been to either Australia or New Zealand, despite many Australians following him on trips such as the annual Deen Intensive Foundation Rihla, and the Nawawi Foundation journeys to historic Muslim lands. Dr Umar’s visit to New Zealand is guaranteed to evoke huge interest, particularly in countries where there is a widespread appreciation of deep scholarship and knowledge of who Dr Umar is.
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a researcher and teacher of the Islamic sciences, specialising in Islamic Law. He is the Educational Director of SeekersGuidance, and a partner and legal advisor with StraightWay Ethical Advisory. He is the author of Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004).
Shaykh Faraz was raised in Canada and obtained a Bachelor’s in Economics & Commerce from the University of Toronto in 1997. Subsequently, he spent ten years studying and teaching Islamic sciences in Damascus, Amman and Karachi under leading Islamic scholars including Shaykh Adib Kallas, Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, Shaykh Muhammad Jumuah, Shaykh Akram Abd al-Wahhab, Shaykh Nuh Keller, and Mufti Mahmud Ashraf Usmani. He currently teaches and lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife and three children.
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is easily one of the most highly acclaimed scholars of our time. He is extremely highly respected for his deep knowledge of the religious sciences, while also acknowledged for his unique teaching abilities as well as his profound humbleness. Shaykh Faraz’s teaching experience is immense, in a wide variety of learning contexts. His contribution to the community in innumerable ways is difficult to surmise, due in large part to the universality of his application of the Islamic principles he is so intimately acquainted with. His students all over the world, new and old, will attest to the continuous challenge he gently puts to them to be the highest of human beings by upholding the best of prophetic character in every aspect of their lives.
Ustadh Usama Canon
Born and raised in California, Usama Canon embraced Islam in 1996. Since then, he has had the honor of studying various Islamic Sciences both at home and abroad under some of today’s foremost scholars. His mastery of various Islamic sciences including the Arabic language, as well as the stories of his journey to such knowledge, is a source of continuing inspiration for many across the world. Usama Canon has served as an Instructor at Zaytuna Institute and as a Muslim Chaplain for the State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for many years.
Usama Canon is the Founding Director of Ta’leef Collective and maintains an active role in various facets of outreach and education, concentrating on issues facing Muslim youth, assisting converts, and developing support systems for Muslim ex-offenders. His gifts of articulation, his ability to engage younger and newer Muslims in the discussion of the essence of Islamic sciences at all levels of knowledge and familiarity with Islam, are amongst some of his amazing and unique qualities. Those who’ve had the honour of attending retreats with Ustadh Usama in recent years have come to know some amazing stories from other teachers, of his conversion to Islam, his journey to knowledge, his connection with his very special teachers and the amazing level of aptitudes Ustadh Usama has reached, an aptitude and ability which we have personally witnessed in his classes and which gives each of his classes a unique, vibrant and enthralling environment combining intellect, beauty and most of all, love for Allah and His Beloved.
Imam Afroz Ali
Imam Afroz Ali is the Founder and President of Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences & Human Development based in Sydney, Australia. His studies in Islamic Sacred Knowledge have taken him from university-based Islamic University- Madina, Saudi Arabia then moving towards Traditional Scholarship in Yemen, United States and Mauritania, spending considerable time to learn. He has received licences to teach from the most esteemed Rightly Guided Islamic Scholars of our time, and continues to be a student of Sacred Knowledge. He has also travelled to Cairo, Egypt for further studies in Islamic Jurisprudence with Scholars at al-Azhar University and is on the Board of Advisors at Markaz Aleem in Cairo, Egypt.
He is also a corporate trainer in personal leadership and provides training on Team Building, Personal Leadership, Change Management, Business Strategy Development and Corporate Ethics. Further, Imam Afroz utilises his corporate training skills to mentor and train community organisations in Community Sustainability Programmes, Personal Leadership and Interpersonal Skills, Spiritual Development, Motivation and Goal Setting. He has initiated philanthropic as well as sustainable environment projects in Australia and abroad, and continues to advocate for peace, acceptance, justice and interpersonal rights.
Imam Afroz is a Managing Director and senior instructor at SeekersGuidance. He is a founding member of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. He is also the recipient of the International Ambassador for Peace award and is an Australian Ambassador for the Charter for Compassion.
Imam Afroz makes this retreat possible through his selfless efforts as a teacher of Islamic sciences, amazing vision and untiring efforts as a scholar, community mentor, adviser, and as a humble but unrelenting servant within the Oceanic community. He first began planting the seeds of knowledge of Islamic sciences in New Zealand in 2005. Over the years, his amazing efforts have seen relationships built with long-established community links in all of New Zealand’s major cities, and the establishment of organisations dedicated to serving the community through the learning and application of authentic Islamic knowledge. Through that service, Imam Afroz has articulated Islamic principles in NZ never spoken of by a Muslim speaker, let alone articulated from an Islamic perspective. Topics such as food ethics, prophetic evidence for interfaith dialogue in Islam, interfaith environmental initiatives, have been taken to new heights, as have more familiar topics such as parenting and marriage, through workshop series staggered over months and years.
Most importantly for New Zealand, Imam Afroz has constantly provided an on-call service of scholarship, counsel, social and community service provision, virtually free of charge, for the past six or seven years at an intense level yet at a standard unknown in New Zealand. His students in New Zealand have also deeply appreciated his ability to apply his knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence to relevant, contemporary issues, which he clearly takes the time to study in great detail and is always up to date with. As such, Imam Afroz has become a pillar of support for those in New Zealand who wish to keep Islam as a relevant guide to the living of their lives. New Zealand’s debt to him could not have been repaid before he made this retreat possible for New Zealand, and it certainly will not be able to be repaid after the great gift of SeekersRetreat 2012.
Singapore Haqqani Ensemble
One of the premiere reciters of Singapore, the Singapore Haqqani Ensemble, in collaboration with SimplyIslam, will be at the Retreat reciting Mawlid, Qasidas and Nasheeds under the southern stars of New Zealand for the first time. They have led recitations for some of the most honourable Scholars of our time, including Shaykh Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz, Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, Shaykh Afeefuddin al-Jilani and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus to name a few.
Those who were fortunate enough to be in the midst of this delightful group of spiritual yet easy-going brothers from Singapore, will confirm that no retreat is complete without their presence. They provide a very high level of nasheed and qasidah singing, evoking love for Allah and His Beloved through the words of our scholars and predecessors who wrote so passionately about their Lord and beloved Prophet and whose words we now listen to, inshaAllah to bring about a similar sense of love and yearning for our Lord and prophet (peace be upon him).
Those who attended the Melbourne retreat in 2011 will confirm that the retreat could not have been so successful in softening our hearts without the emotional contribution of this ensemble. So be ready not only to learn, but to be inspired towards Allah and His beloved prophet.