Tim Winter or Abdal Hakim Murad, as he is known to Muslims, is an academic at Cambridge University, an Islamic scholar and one of Britain’s most influential Muslims. Strangely, and this is something he admits, the majority of British Muslims have never heard of him.
One of the obvious reasons is because he is an intellectual giant, the sophistication of his language makes him largely inaccessible to the masses and his calm and composed voice doesn’t appeal to those who want to hear an angry Imam shout about the evils of the West.
I’ve met Abdal Hakim on two occasions. The first was in 2012 at a charity event in East London where he gave a talk about how we should all help orphans. I will never forget that experience. He stood in front of me but it was as if he wasn’t really there. Bodily he was present but spiritually he seemed to be somewhere else, in another world. He had an extremely light presence. I also noticed him drifting off into his own spiritual world while he was sitting by himself, closing his eyes and saying something, perhaps some kind of dhikr, rememberance of God.
The second time I met him was in July 2013, in Konya, Turkey. It was on a spiritual retreat called the Rihla, which you can read about here. Again, I noticed his light presence. The most striking feature about him is that he epitomises the idea of being a spiritual wayfarer. He is on this earth, but he doesn’t seem to be attached to it. He is in this world, but not of it, as the saying goes. His face also seems to be at ease and anyone who has met him will probably attest to this. The British Muslim scholar Abu Aaliyah has also talked about the serenity he sees on Abdal Hakim’s face, even when Abdal Hakim expresses a deeply unpopular opinion – in other words, other people’s contrary opinions doesn’t bother him.
You can read his confident and unperturbed reply to those who accused him of homophobia earlier this year here.
Anyway, here are some of Abdal Hakim’s thoughts on the current state of Islam and its future.
“I don’t accept there is a crisis of Islam. Actually, I think Islam is the great religious success story of modernity. Ultimately you judge a religion and the validity of its truth claims on the basis of whether it is still appealing to people or not. And people keep converting to Islam.”
“In fact, it would be a worrying inditement of the legitimacy of the religion [Islam] if the modern world approved of us. We complain of negative stereotypes and hostility but in fact that’s always been the way of the believers against the uncomprehending outside world. That’s a sign of our legitimacy… Those religions that are approved of and patted on the head by secular, consumerist, capitalistic, modernity are by that very same token…a source of worry from the point of view of legitimate traditional perspective… So we should be proud that the modern world doesn’t like us, it’s a sign of authenticity.”
“In an age which has avowedly given itself to dunya [the world] and materialism, you will expect the people of truth to be despised.”