AlMaghrib & Zaytuna

It’s ok to like both as I do. I have long benefited from the lectures and classes offered by the instructors affiliated with both organizations. And I have an intense dislike of people bashing either AlMaghrib Institute or Zaytuna Institute.

I can’t even count the number of times people have tried to warn me about listening to or benefiting from these wonderful shuyukh. When AlMaghrib had a class the same weekend as Zaytuna’s Minara program I attended both. Recently, Safi Khan, Zaid Shakir, and Hamza Yusuf appeared together at the fundraiser for Al-Qalam Academy.

It is a minority of the students of these institutes or from the outside that have little knowledge that continue to try to divide the Muslims in sectarian groups by promoting their favored institute and teachers and dissing the other institute and its teachers.

A sister told me and Nihal Khan posted it on his site that Irtiza Hasan, the former AlMaghrib Institute manager has written about the AlMaghrib/Zaytuna divide:

This piece was to change mindsets and hearts and insha allah people will benefit from it. I would like to thank all the students and the Shaykhs who took the time to read this and advised me before my releasing this message. Jazak allah khairan.

Bismillah arRahman arRaheem

I pray everyone is having a fruitful and beneficial Ramadan.

This is a message for my brothers and sisters in the AlMaghrib Institute and Zaytuna Institute and other Islamic studies organizations insha allah. Ramadan is a time when we are fasting to purify ourselves and I pray to Allah subhanu wa ta ala that we can purify our hearts and bonds of brotherhood this Ramadan.

Allah says in Surah AlBaqarah, “O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun”

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

Abu Hurairah radhi ullah anhu reported that the Messenger of Allah, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam had said: “The Muslim is the brother to the Muslim. He should neither deceive him, nor tell a lie on him, nor disgrace or shame him. Everything (of these three things) of a Muslim is (sacred, and thus) inviolable by another Muslim: his honor, blood and property. Piety is here (and he pointed out to his chest thrice). A Muslim can be sure that he has committed a grievous sin, if he degrades his Muslim brother.”

An active volunteer and worker from amongst the AlMaghrib Institute students recently told me “The Ameers and volunteers and our students need to be reminded of the issue of speaking about and criticizing other institutes, in particular Zaytuna Institute.”

He said, there are some negative feelings between the students of the two institutes and that he feels some of our students have forgotten the purpose of the AlMaghrib Institute and are engaged in talk and criticisms about different institutes and groups.

Now we are not suggesting this a widespread problem or even a popular opinion amongst students at the AlMaghrib Institute or amongst Zaytuna Institute students towards the AlMaghrib Institute, but insha allah it would be good to address this issue before things get out of hand.

We have heard similar concerns from Houston, Dallas, Washington DC, New Jersey, Chicago and basically many places where the two institutes are active. Even in some of our promotional programs people would ask me of such concerns.

And so today, we want to address this matter for all to know the genuine and heartfelt position of AlMaghrib Institute towards other institutes including our brothers and sisters at the Zaytuna Institute.

Why Zaytuna Institute? Why not keep this message general?

The issue is always Zaytuna Institute! And we believe one reasons the names of these two institutes come up together so often is because both of them are successful, alhamdullillah. Some of the bad talk that surfaces seems to come from miscommunications, jealousy and fanaticism (we pledge allegiance to our Institute).

We believe some people, whether students of these institutes or outsiders make this hype, this sort of battle between institutes. AlMaghrib versus Zaytuna – the battle continues!

Is AlMaghrib the anti-Zaytuna? Is Zaytuna the anti-alMaghrib? We have heard people use such bizarre terms in describing the two schools.

I used to think it was just my imagination or just a few fanatical youth in Chicago and California, but in this age of bloggers and online forums, you can just browse the internet to see this is something very real in many people’s minds.

Some blogs are boycotting AlMaghrib Institute instructors, often times unfairly and irresponsibly and you will find some blogs are bashing Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Shaykh Zaid Shakir unfairly and unethically. There are absolute smear campaigns being propogated by some people and it is sad to see – complete disregard for the honor of their Muslim brother.

Allah said about His Prophet salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam: And you have exemplary manners [Al-Qur’an: Surah Al-Qalam (68:4)].

Prophet Muhammad, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam also said: I am sent to complete (perfect) the good manners (Ahmad and Al-Muwatta’).

Do we have exemplary manners today? Do we have good manners with one another? Do we protect and honor our brothers and sisters when they are not present?

I remember one brother praising how President Clinton was a better president in terms of his foreign policy for Muslims than our current President, George W Bush. And later in the same conversation he mentioned one of the personalities from one of the institutes we are discussing today and he said, “he is a Shaytan!”

Is that appropriate behavior towards these Muslim brothers of ours? These men are teachers, students of knowledge, they excite people and call people to Islam and morality. We can praise President Clinton, and in the same sitting curse one of these teachers?

The Founder and Director of the AlMaghrib Institute, our beloved brother Muhammad Alshareef has consistently said, most recently in Houston last month, “We do not speak about any Muslim person or organization and this is what I have seen from the manners of the ‘ulema.”

He continued, “If a name is mentioned we do not even discuss the issue because the person mentioned will not be there to defend themselves.”

In Code of Scholars, the Usul ul-Fiqh class he said, “Once people asked one of my teachers about Rajih Bank in Saudi Arabia, and immediately they said, this question will not be addressed because you have mentioned the bank by name.”

He also said he does not like for him or any of the Institute’s teachers to use vague language, for example if one of the teachers was to say, “there are islamic institutes right here in America who teach bida’h” which would cause the students to speculate – what institutes?

One brother reminded me as I am writing this piece that in Fiqh of Dawah Shaykh Muhammad said, “especially in the west we should not try to run down any Muslim organizations… the best we can do (and should do) is advise them…”

And alhamdullillah knowing brother Muhammad Alshareef and working with him as a friend and colleague I have never seen him even in private entertain any questions about any people. Sometimes people will criticize him or ask him, “What do you think about such and such person” or “Why did you quote such and such Shaykh, doesn’t he have issues?” and he has never engaged in such ridiculous and wasteful conversations.

And for me this seperates him, among other things, from many other “students of knowledge” and educators who may be guilty of having a public face and a different attitude in private when it comes to speaking about people and criticizing them.

All the other teachers have adhered to and respected this policy alhamdullillah to the best of my knowledge and if any of them have not or do not, then we frown on such behavior and do not encourage it.

As for Zaytuna Institute and AlMaghrib Institute and the suggestion that there is a problem between the two institutes at an official level, Shaykh Muhammad downplayed this when I mentioned people make this hype about us versus them, and he said, “So many of our students overlap … people just want to learn Islam and they enjoy hearing good speakers. There is no issue between us, alhamdullillah.”

At ISNA in 2004 Shaykh Muhammad Alshareef and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf spoke alongside one another during an MSA National lecture and it was a wonderful session for all who attended. Shaykh Muhammad after finishing his talk embraced Shaykh Hamza and made small talk with him before it was his turn to speak.

I remember some college students saying “I was shocked to see a Salafi and Sufi speak together on the same stage.”

Subhan allah, we have never heard Shaykh Muhammad or Shaykh Hamza ascribe such labels or titles to themselves and I do not think it is proper for other people to do that either. We should have more honor and respect for these men than to treat them that way.

Shaykh Yaser Birjas and Shaykh Mohamed Faqih have visited the Zaytuna Institute location in California to meet the administration and give salaams to the brothers and I believe they met some of the teachers there when visiting.

Shaykh Gyasi Mckinzie, former AlMaghrib Institute instructor, accompanied me to a Zaytuna Institute fundraiser in Virginia, at the ADAMS center as he was in town the same weekend teaching a class for the AlMaghrib Institute late in 2005. We met with Shaykh Zaid Shakir there and gave him salaams and had dinner with our brothers from Zaytuna Institute.

Shaykh Mohamed Faqih presented a whole class dedicated to the topic of manners and warned and advised students to never speak negatively about any Muslim, male or female, especially Muslim scholars. We remember the Shaykh saying so many of the past Muslim scholars made such big mistakes yet we hold them in high esteem and read their books and benefit from them all the time, but today if somebody makes mistakes or says something we disagree with, we are ready to boycott them or disassociate from them.

The number one cause of Muslims fall as described by Dr. Ashraf Ismail in his brilliant history class was internal problems among Muslims. Islam teaches us best of adaab. Today in the world, our Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam is being attacked, many young Muslims are not praying or practicing their religion and we are focusing on our differences and disputes between Islamic institutes?

The challenges and hardships have to come to us and will come to us, as in the Muslim Ummah, but let them come at the hands of non-Muslims and let us not make hardships on each other or act unfairly with each other.

Some of our Ameers and most dedicated volunteers are regular students at Zaytuna Institute organized programs and they benefit from those classes as well as AlMaghrib Institute classes.
Many of the students are regular attendees to the programs of both institutes.

I myself met with the management of Zaytuna Institute when they visited Houston in December 2005 and we had a productive and warm meeting, greeting each other and wishing the two institutes well, and congratulating one another on the successes of the institutes and discussing other matters quite candidly. I was very impressed with the vision and attitude by brothers Mobeen Saifullah and Ali Hassan, who are involved with the administrative management of Zaytuna Institute.

So if what I am saying is true, where does the talk and the criticizing come from?

Some say: AlMaghrib students in my city backbite the shaykhs of Zaytuna, they must learn that from their teachers in AlMaghrib!!!

Some say: the Zaytuna students in our cities seem to really dislike AlMaghrib and they warn people not to come to our classes, so it must come from such and such Shaykh.

The truth is, wallahu alim, there are some students behaving badly in both institutes, and maybe occasionally even teachers from both institutes slip up and say things they should not say. However, the official policy of the AlMaghrib Institute is not to speak about any Muslim person or organization at all even if the Institute is criticized or people are trying to engage you in debate or dialogue.

As for the students behaving badly, then the mainstream students in the institutes should condemn such behavior and not allow it. So when you heard a student backbite Shaykh Zaid, or a student backbite Shaykh Yaser, you should remind them to fear Allah and not speak about their brothers in such a way.

I remember during Fiqh of Love in Houston, some students in the AlMaghrib Institute class came to Shaykh Yaser Birjas and asked if they could pass out fliers for a Zaytuna Institute program coming up, and he told them it was no problem with him at all, but to check with the administration about marketing policies. Likewise, AlMaghrib students passed out fliers for their upcoming class at the Zaytuna Minara program in Houston.

Some will say we have heard AlMaghrib students tore down Zaytuna posters and warned people “do not go to Shaykh Hamza’s lecture!” and this may be true, and it is would be sad that some students did something like that. Shaykh Hamza mentioned that in one city, that he heard some youth tore down posters for his event because that student hated the fact that the Shaykh was coming to speak in that community.

I have seen and heard similar complaints on the other end – AlMaghrib Institute was planning a class for months in a locality and a few weeks before some people organize an event with a similar title, nearby venue and adjusted tuition fee and emails are sent out to locals “beware… do not go to the AlMaghrib program!! It will brainwash you… ” And as a result both programs are harmed and there are bad feelings between the organizers naturally.

Are there differences between the two institutes? Certainly there are and at what level and how great they are is debatable but there are many commonalities and shared visions between both institutes as well and I have no doubt that we have a sincere respect for one another, and that I know our instructors at the AlMaghrib Institute all hold their fellow Islamic schools and organizations in high esteems and pray for them, and their guidance.

So to the students of both Institutes – enjoy the programs your institutes bring to you, and make du’aa for the people who work in each institute and the teachers and stop the smack talking. Maybe invite one another to sports nights or take each other to dinner or for friendly discussions.

While I do not like to see unhealthy and unislamic behavior between students of the two institutes I would love to see healthy and productive competition – competing for the pleasure of Allah, competing to do good deeds, competing to bring benefit to people.

Shaykh Suhaib Webb who is currently residing in Cairo studying at Jamiya Al-Azhar is friends with instructors in both these institutes and he said to me, “both these institutes do a great job and provide programs and services Muslims really need, and it is great to see people benefitting from them, masha allah.”

This year Shaykh Hamza Yusuf said in Houston at the Minara program, “May the best dawah win!” I think that is a lovely message, a lovely challenge and I hope both institutes will take that as a serious message and compete seeking only the pleasure of Allah.

Wasalam alaikum,
– Irtiza Hasan

AlMaghrib Institute USA Manager
(November 2003 to February 2006)

I did not write this reminder holding an official role with the AlMaghrib Institute and it is possible that not all of the students or teachers agree with everything I have said.


  1. as salaamu alaykum

    Nice letter mashallah. Before working for Zaytuna Institute, my Islam was greatly benefited by Shaykh Muhammad Faqih and Shaykh Muhammad Shareef who later became foundational Al-Maghrib Institute instructors. Since working for Zaytuna, I have had the honor of seeing them both and simply want to say that I refuse to let what joined us, separate us!
    tawfiq to all inshallah

  2. It is definitely okay to like both….I like both as well…I find both of them to be towards the moderate side of things usually in the broad spectrum of what we call Islam, not to forget my Deobandi/Nadwatul Uloom peeps. And we all have our inclinations.

  3. Assalamu Alaikum, During the ISNA convention that was in DC , the last time Shaikh Hamza Yusuf spoke there, he said something I will never forget:


    I was stopped in my tracts by the remark, and have tried to remember it whenever any conflict comes up between the followers of different groups who all follow Quran and Sunnah. All those who are truly submissive to Allah and his Rasul SAS truly try to remember not to eat the dead flesh of their brother by backbiting him or slandering the honor of their brother. And as someone who benefits from both Institutes’ guidance and lectures, I would like all students of knowledge to remember Brother Hamza’s words and implement them as those of us who are AlMaghrib’s students have also been taught by all of our scholars, especially Brother Muhammad Alshareef.

  4. Asalamu alaykum Dr. Asma,

    I think you are one of the only people that I do not mind writing comments with the caps lock button on. And I agree, truly the honor of a scholar and of every Muslim is sacred.

  5. Respect is key for scholars of Islam. Badmouthing any scholar demonstrates an immature level of understanding of our deen. Grant it, fundamental differences exist with Zaytuna and Maghrib. The difference is for the very soul of our deen when you think about it, Traditional vs. Neo-wahhabi basis for their ideas. History is crystal clear about the origin of this difference. Education is key.

  6. as-salamu ‘alaykum :

    both al-Maghrib and Jamiya al-Zaytuna have fundemental differences but both still treat each other with ‘adab. I think this is an important lesson for all of us.

    If I may. I will repeat to you a story about the Sufi Grand Muhaddith of Morroco, Shaykh Abd Allah al-Ghumari and the Salafite Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Ibn Baz. Shaykh Ibn Baz heard that Shaykh Abdullah Ghumari was coming and set up a large dinner for Shaykh Ghumari. At the dinner, one of the students of Shaykh Ibn Baz asked Shaykh Ghumari about his age. Shaykh Ibn Baz got very angry and told his student to learn some ‘adab.

    Such is the essence of al-Islam. ‘ADAB


    I pray to Allah that we all learn ‘adab

    Wa Salamu ‘Alaykum

    Sayyid Habib al-Rahman al-Qadiri
    General Secretary of the Sunni Jami`yat al-`Ulama of Zambia

    On behalf of :

    Samahat al-Mufti al-Shaykh Ahmad Sa’id al-Hanafi
    Hanafi Mufti of Zambia and Chairman of the Sunni Jami`yat al-`Ulama of Zambia

  7. As-salamun ala man ittiba al-huda:

    Firstly, there is no such thing as “the Sunni Jamiatul Ulema of Zambia”. It is a non-existent organization and nor is there a person named Habibur Rahman Qadri from Zambia. As for Ahmad Sa`id, he is no Mufti but is a person who has never studied in his life.

    Also, `Abd Allah al-Ghumari was a Shi`a rafidhi

    Wassalamun ala man ittiba al-huda

    1. Shaykh al-Ghumari was a Sunni muhaddith, the slander against him has been refuted by Shaykh Ninowy. A few posts above yours, it says that the flesh of the scholars is poisonous. Please try to remember that.

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