The Controversy of Nouman Ali Khan


Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) is a popular Islamic Scholar in the West. His main subject of interest is Qur’an. He has been in the field of teaching Qur’an for nearly two decades. Recently he came into the news because of a post from another Islamic Scholar–though not as popular–Omar M Mozaffar accusing NAK of predatory behavior against his students. On the same day, another Scholar–Navaid Aziz–posted on the same topic confirming the allegations stating that accusations against him have been verified by multiple people.

One common theme which ran in both the posts was the purpose. It was said that it was being done for the sake of protecting our sisters and communities. And this is where the problem lies. These posts sent the entire American Muslim Community in a sort of panic turmoil. It divided them into two halves. One-half was defending NAK–blindly–the other half started questioning his knowledge of Islam and if he ever had the required qualification to represent it. So the purpose for which this news came out–to protect the community–wasn’t even met but rather, it served a catalyst for the opposite, harm the community.

This begs the question as to what was the actual purpose of these posts. Here, Noam Chomsky’s insight may be helpful.

..professing benign intentions is the norm for those who carry out atrocities and crimes, perhaps sincerely..

This is something which we should consider very seriously. It’s very easy to profess a puritanical intention. Remember, When Jesus was crucified it was done in the same name, to protect the community. Hence one should never rely on the statement but study it, analyze it, critique it, question it and then derive a conclusion in cases like this.

We live in the era of Social Media and Tabloid World. News spread like wildfire. Character Assassination has got a whole new meaning in this era. It’s very easy to make up stories out of thin air and start cyber lynching people irrespective of their crime. This is exactly what happened with NAK. The first two posts and the posts which followed kept his alleged crime vague, but used words like Victims, Abuse, Predator and talked how it was being done to “protect” the community and this enabled people to go with their wild imaginations. Even though these scholars later posted that none of such stories are true and their original posts were blown out of proportion and they had no idea this will happen, I genuinely doubt if they are speaking the truth. These are Facebook, Instagram Scholars from the West, not someone from the suburbs of the subcontinent who isn’t aware of the power and dangers of Social Media. They used the Media to become famous, they used the Media to earn money, and they are very well aware of what happens in this dark side of the World.

Another thing which was very interesting to notice was the Muslim reaction. It’s but rare that such a large set of people become so desperately naive. As soon as they read the post, there was no questioning, no thinking, just blind acceptance and the rumor mill started running. Remember, these are not just normal Muslims, they are the ones who follow these Scholars, like their Facebook page, watch their videos, attend their conference. These are the pious practicing Muslims, very conscious of their “Deen”. And their reaction was no different from that of teenage girls fighting, gossiping when they learn about their latest celebrity American Idol star.

Lastly and most importantly the question remains as to what if these allegations are true. what are some lessons we can learn from this Saga? In my opinion, there are three

  1. Having a very good understanding of Religion or Religious book doesn’t necessarily mean you will have good ethics. The book doesn’t claim so. On the contrary, it claims the opposite. The book says that every human being is tilted to do evil things, it claims that–forget a scholar–even the prophet once would have fallen for Lust if it wasn’t for God’s intervention. So an accurate religious Understanding may help in our path of improving our ethics but it doesn’t make us bulletproof from any sinful thing.
  2. Since time immemorial and more so now there are two things which have caused men to fall and in the future, these two will continue. Lust and Arrogance. Both these are very powerful things. If there is one thing we can take from Abrahamic religion it’s to be conscious of these two things in our life. To remember that no matter how conscious we are we will fall to one or another it may come in the form of sexual attraction to someone who isn’t one’s spouse, or as a power pursuit in a false justification of a better good.
  3. We are no Saints. No one is. No one should act like one. When God himself has said that every human’s natural inclination is to do Evil, who are we to prove otherwise. Who are we to think otherwise. So if we are no Saints, we have no right to point fingers at others. When we see cases where people’s sins come out we should take this to be grateful to God who has kept our sins hidden. It should serve as a reminder for us to reflect within and start healing within and correcting ourselves.

I have seen people calling NAK a hypocrite. I was genuinely very hurt by this. I came across this quote by Gai Eton–an Islamic Scholar–which I feel is worth reflecting

For a man to try to cover and inhibit those elements within himself which he would like to overcome and to bring forward those which he would like to see triumphant is not ‘hypocrisy’. If he would like to be better than he is, then he deserves to be encouraged in this aim, and there is something very peculiar about the contemporary tendency to regard a person’s worst qualities as representing his ‘true’ self, although it goes hand in hand with the common belief that ugliness is in some strange way more ‘real’ than beauty and that to discover a shameful secret is to discover the truth

Every human is different and every human commits different Sins. As soon as we judge others for their sins we are either being delusional or arrogant. For example, the only reason why you never had a sexual chat with a girl could just be because you are ugly as fuck. To think that everyone who is doing this is more sinful than you are just delusional. Second, you can be doing other things which are 1000 times more bad but you could be ignoring that completely and then pointing the finger to another person who is doing just this, thinking how godly you are to not be committing that one sin, that my friend, is pure arrogance. There were many scholars who posted about how one should rely on God and not scholars, imploring Muslims to not lose faith in God, trying to disassociate NAK and religion. Posting popular Hadith about Abu Bakr

Whoever from you worships Muhammad, then know that surely Muhammad has died. And whoever from you worships God then know that He is the Eternal and does not die.

Though, there is fundamentally nothing wrong with it, but it’s sign of same arrogance just presented in a humble pill.


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