Melwin Joy
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Melwin Joy

All stories by: Melwin Joy
Peace comes calling a look into the Life of Mufti Menk, Grand Mufti of Zimbabwe.

Ismail ibn Musa Menk was born in Harare, Zimbabwe on 27 June 1975. He was the eight out of nine children. His father, Musa Menk was one of the senior Imams at the Main Masjid in Harare City Centre. Following the footsteps of his father, Menk studied secular and religious studies simultaneously from a very young age. He used to learn Qur’an from the age of three, after overhearing his father teaching other children. Such was the interest he had with learning.

Ismail’s schooling started when he started going to a government primary school in Harare- Belvedere Primary School 1981 to 1987. A young Ismail ibn Musa Menk would also attend for afternoon Arabic lessons from 1982 to 1984 at a specialised school in Harare affiliated to the Libyan People’s Bureau where Arab diplomats sent their children. He remembers how he always received the best overall student prize at this Arabic school.

He wasn’t bad at secular studies either, where he received prizes at Belvedere Primary school for being top three in the grade throughout his Primary School education. He kept a humble balance between both his studies but always found more interest in religious studies.

It was at that time he participated in Zimbabwe National Qur’an Recital and Speech Contest in Bulawayo in 1985 and won 2nd Place award. There were children much older than him. To come second in such a big contest made his parents and him really happy.

Ismail would constantly strive hard to acquire knowledge and even from a very young age, he would spend most of his time perfecting himself by indulging in studies. For his all-around performance in academics, he was appointed prefect at Belvedere Primary School in 1987. But the real joy came from when he completed the memorization of Qur’an at the same year, under the tutorship of his father Sheikh Musa Menk.

The following year, as he was done with his primary education, he was shifted to St John’s College which is a private Christian college in Harare for senior school. To this day, it is one of the best schools in Zimbabwe.

Like many of that age, this young teen also took up an interest in sports and played many sports during his time at the College. He soon found that he was good at many of them and played Rugby, Hockey, Cricket, Basketball, Volleyball, swimming, and athletics.

Ismail ibn Musa Menk was a compassionate young man who always believed in looking out for the less fortunate. He volunteered wherever he felt that he could lend a helping hand. It was then he participated in the Community Awareness Club where the College boys reached out to the underprivileged and assisted in whatever way was possible. Ismail devoted most of his leisure time to this club. By the year 1991, he completed O’ Level Cambridge GCSE.

With age, Ismail’s ambition to help the ones in need also grew. He knew that a man can do so much with the help of a like-minded group than he can do all by himself. He participated as a volunteer in the National Drought Relief Campaign in 1992 in Zimbabwe under the Council of imams of Zimbabwe. It was in a time distress that just got over. He traveled with food hampers across most parts of rural Zimbabwe. It was one of the most satisfying things that he did in his life. He found solace when he was able to do his part to share the burden of the poor and bring them some respite.

Ismail ibn Musa Menk knew that in order to serve the underprivileged, and also to do justice to his existence, he need to make use of his opportunities in hand. And that is to pursue education. And he believed the best form of education is the one which brings him closer to the Almighty. He left the country shortly and joined the Diploma Course in Arabic Studies affiliated to the University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia at the year 1992 to further improve his Arabic language. He thanks his father for this because it was he who have applied without his knowing. Later in 1993, he graduated with the Senior Secondary Certificate using Arabic as the medium of instruction in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. He also participated in the Madinah Munawwarah Inter City Qur’an Memorization Contest the same year and achieved second Place in his category.

A year later he joined the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madinah Munawwarah. The next four was certainly an enlightening experience for Ismail ibn Musa Menk. A lot of what he is today is from the training he got there. Menk reckons Madinah Munawwarah is one of the most peaceful places in the world, and he feels blessed for getting the opportunity to spend some part of his life there. He says Madinah is so pure that it kicks away all the dirtiness inside a person’s mind. In 1998, he graduated from this Faculty of Shariah.

The same year he attained fourth Place in the famous King Abdul Aziz Competition in Makkah for Memorization & Intonation of Full Qur’an 1998. It was not the prize that mattered to him. It was the opportunity that he cherished the most. Just to be there was sort of a dream come true for him.

For his Post Graduation, he tried his hand in specialization in Hanafi Jurisprudence at Darul Uloom in Gujarat in India during the year 1999. India was altogether a different experience for him. There are so many languages and culture here in India than he never ever imagined. He found the people here to be hospitable and very friendly. Till date, he still has so many friends here in India that he considers to be close to his heart. He completed the top student of his batch with the first position in the Department of Religious Edicts and Guidance.

After pursuing his education he returned to Zimbabwe in 2000 to join the only national Council of Imams known as Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe. They welcomed and accepted him with both hands. It is an Educational and Humanitarian Organisation established in 1975, that caters for the needs of the indigent Zimbabwean. Many who knew him personally was not at all surprised by this. Ismail ibn Musa Menk always cared for his country and its people, and they all knew that he will always return to be with the aid of his people.

At the AGM (Annual General Meeting) the same year, he was voted onto 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. The decision was a unanimous one. Here he began assisting the community with specialised religious rulings and guidance and well as counselling on social matters.

From then onwards he joined a roster for participation in leading the Friday Prayers as well as delivering lectures throughout the participating Masjids in the City of Harare. He still continues to do this till date. This also gave him an opportunity to volunteer as an Imam at the largest Masjid in Zimbabwe from the period 2000-2010.

Mufti Menk understood a need to educate and to look after the women in his country and particularly in his community. So he started a weekly Sisters Learning Programme under the Council of Imams dedicated to women, empowering them with religion based education and guidance on social and spiritual matters. These lessons have proven to be a great success and are still running in Harare every week with several participating scholars.

During that time, he became part of a “3 minute guidance” talk on a roster basis just prior to the sunset prayer at two Mosques in Harare. A quick point of Guidance derived from the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH is explained and made easy to apply in the day to day lives of congregants.

Mufti Menk impressed all as they noticed that he assisted the Zimbabwe National Halaal Inspector for several years in the inspection of facilities deemed to be Halaal and their registration. This was also a step to ensure that there was no cruelty done towards animals for the sake of food production.

He then took the role of a voluntary lecturer in 2000 at the Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe College. Mufti Menk’s loves
to teach, but it was the opportunity to communicate with the youngsters that he enjoyed more. His witty comments and open-minded and friendly approach made him very popular with his students. He still holds this position and enjoys making use of this opportunity, although participation has more recently decreased due to international and other commitments.

Mufti Menk was a regular traveler to the holy city, Makkah as he was a guide for pilgrims who undertook the minor pilgrimage known as Umrah and visited holy and historic sites in the Middle East in the early years after his graduation. He has been the head of three separate groups.

He has also been instrumental in the annual Hajj Guidance Class for those intending to go to Makkah each year from Zimbabwe, educating them as to what to expect and guiding them regarding the fulfilment of their duties and their interaction and dealings with other pilgrims etc.

Despite a very busy schedule, he still felt that he was not doing enough to pass on the knowledge he acquired,
to the youngsters. He then decided to take up a voluntary afternoon teaching role at the Islamic Cultural Institute in Harare during 2000 and 2001. He taught children how to read the Qur’an, and explained to them whatever details they can grasp. Soon after he was voted into the Executive Committee of the Islamic Cultural Institute in Harare Zimbabwe where he served for six years.

Mufti Menk regularly visits many areas of rural Zimbabwe during the weekends on a roster basis to guide the rural folks on social and spiritual matters. The programs are held either at Masjids or local schools or at any convenient venue. It is dubbed “Islamic Day Program” and it has become very popular among rural Muslims. The number of these events has increased tremendously over the years.

He was also appointed President of League of Graduates of Saudi Universities in Zimbabwe for one term. This really inspired Mufti Menk in many ways. He wished to do more with his time on earth and tried to open his mind in pursuing more knowledge. He wanted to understand matters that affected the mankind on a daily basis, and hence, he started researching and doing studies on matters he thought that is affecting people without many actually realizing it.

In 2001, Mufti Menk presented his research in the Arabic language entitled, “Effects of the Media on Islamic Dawah” to the Africa Dawah Committee in Saudi Arabia. He received First Prize for this research. It was to be one of the best work the committee had seen in recent years.

In 2002, Mufti Menk presented his research on “Obstacles Facing Dawah in African Continent and their Solutions” to the King Fahad Symposium held in Johannesburg, South Africa inaugurated by Nelson Mandela.

He has been leading Ramadhan Evening prayers known as Taraweeh since the age of 14. In 2002, he was invited to lead the Taraweeh prayers in Masjid Ashraf in Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa during Ramadhan. The local station, Radio Islam International, often broadcasted his leading of the prayers and the short talks on Guidance from the Qur’an that followed. Over the next few years, each of his Ramadhan’s was spent in different parts of Africa where people witnessed a rise in the number of people attending the gathering by each day.

In 2003, the Ramadhan was spent by Menk at Nurul Islam Masjid in Johannesburg with the first full broadcast of all the lectures of Guidance from the Qur’an. After Ramadhan a series entitled “Tafseer of the Qur’an” was produced on the disc. The Broadcast was on Channel Islam International as well as Radio Islam International. A series is always made up of a minimum of 29 episodes, one for each day of the month.

In 2004, the Ramadhan was spent by Menk at the NMJ Islamic Centre in Durban, South Africa. A unique development was that the prayers and subsequent guidance lessons were attended by followers of several different Muslim sects. This was something new for that place at that time. The venue was usually filled to capacity with a male and female attendance. The second series was produced known as “Reminders from the Qur’an.” It was streamed live on several local radio stations.

In 2005, Ramadhan was spent by Menk in Klerksdorp in North West South Africa. The series entitled “Reasons of Revelation of Verses of the Noble Qur’an” was delivered and later produced. It was also streamed live on several Channels. By now Menk’s lectures were renown not only in South Africa, but across the globe and people tuned in to listen to him every single time he spoke.

A weekly series entitled “Reflections” where Social Conduct of a Muslim was discussed for an hour was hosted by Mufti Menk on Channel Islam for several years. It was a very famous show at that time, and Menk’s popularity was fast rising everywhere. Menk did not care about this new found attention that he was getting, but he was happy that he was able to send a message of peace to people everywhere.

In 2006, Menk spent Ramadhan in Masjid Taqwa in Port Elizabeth in South Africa where a series was conducted on “Guidance from Revelation”. This brought together the bulk of the Muslim community and was broadcasted by the local stations. People noticed how Menk was able to bring together Muslim brothers and sisters of different sects. Moreover, he was able to get the attention of the youth.

In 2007, Ramadhan was spent by Menk at Masjidul Quds in Capetown for the first time. There, a powerful series was presented and produced entitled “Jewels of the Qur’an”. This was filled with valuable guidance. Over and above the broadcasting on Radio and Television it was uploaded onto YouTube for the first time as there was a demand of people from different countries and it immediately proved to be popular worldwide.

In 2008, Ramadhan was spent by Menk in Durban South Africa again at the NMJ Islamic Centre. A series was produced and presented entitled “Points to Ponder.”

In 2009, he spent the Ramadhan at the Masjid of Woodlands in the Suburb of Mitchell’s Plain in Capetown. A series entitled “Subjects within the Qur’an” was produced, broadcasted and uploaded onto YouTube. He brings together verses on one topic and delivers them in one lecture.

In 2010, Ramadhan was spent in Durban once again at the NMJ Islamic Centre as there was a constant request of Menk, which he couldn’t turn down. Menk usually would look to spread the teachings to all parts of Africa. The series was entitled “Reminders from Revelation.”

Ramadhan in 2011 was spent at Masjid Zeenatul Islam on Muir Street in Capetown. A series entitled ” Stories of the Prophets” was delivered. The guidance derived from these lessons was simplified and made applicable to the current times.

The next year, Ramadhan was spent at Masjidul Firdose in Polokwane where a series on the biography of the Life of the Noble Prophet Muhammad PBUH was delivered, broadcast and uploaded on Youtube.

In 2013, Mufti Menk returned to Masjidul Quds in Capetown with the series “Pearls of Peace” which proved to be extremely popular globally. Several young children began to imitate his lectures. This style of preaching was something they haven’t seen before, and they were able to connect with it easily.

In 2014, Mufti Menk flew to the Steel Mosque in Putrajaya in Malaysia. A Series was broadcast with live streaming entitled “Lessons from the Lives of The Companions RA”. Mufti Menk leads the Eid Prayers Malaysia
at the end of the Ramadhan which was attended by over 30,000 people.

Ramadhan in 2015 was spent at the largest Mosque in Southern Africa with a capacity of 5000 congregants. Known as the Nizamiye Complex a series was broadcast via radio, television and live streaming entitled “Reasons Revelation of Verses of the Noble Qur’an”. Mufti Menk is a Trustee of Al Falaah Islamic Centre in Harare Zimbabwe. He lectures part time at the same Centre and currently serves as Imam on a roster basis. Many young scholars have been inspired by his style, approach and engaging way of delivering his messages that are always current, and presented in a very approachable manner.

Mufti Menk uses Social Media for several years very consistently to guide people of all faiths towards great mannerisms and beautiful conduct, reaching out to one another, respect and tolerance and a nonjudgemental attitude. He has openly denounced terrorism and extremism and believes in peaceful coexistence with all. He has also spoken out against violent groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. His interview on ISIS matter has proven to be very popular. His posts are very popular across all ages of social media users. His following consists of Muslims and nonMuslims, devoted and nondevoted, celebrities and world leaders, businessmen and women and the influential and people of all races and nationalities. The guidance is there for all to see and learn from. He believes in short daily doses of reminders to humanity. A printed version of the Guidance from Social Media is being produced currently.

Menk reckons most of his lessons to his Muslim counterparts is a message of peace and harmony, and to co-exist with people from all beliefs. He believes that for a peaceful world everyone should work together towards achieving it. He said he has noticed how people from different beliefs criticize their own kind because they don’t agree on few terms. Menk says all individuals have a right of their own, and as far as they do no harm to none, we have no right to point a finger at anyone.

When asked about Islamophobia and its close connection with extremism, he said that whoever started this has done some damage. He says today people get worried when they see a Muslim in hijab or with a long beard. He says those are the ones that need not be feared, because if you look at the pictures of the people who perpetuate crimes are those who have something to hide, and hence they shave off their beard or take away their Hijab. They are the ones who have something to hide.

There is no reason to fear a real Muslim who has a long beard or dressed in a hijab because he only means good to all. He says in this particular age and era we need to be careful of people who label others. Because they are doing it just because of hatred, and nothing good ever came from hatred.

However, he says the non-Muslims today want to know more about Islam these days. Whenever they meet a real Muslim they always approach with questions—which is a good thing. When they hear the answer, most times they leave happy, because they understand more of the religion that just hopes for peace for all. He says but that is another story altogether, and the bigger picture is we should not judge people by their appearance or anything of that matter.

When asked about ISIS he said ISIS has more or less overtaken the good of Islam, and the media also don’t help much as they advertise more of the wrong doings of these people. He says that to say ISIS is a part of Islam is wrong because if one takes the teachings of prophet Muhammad SAW or the time of caliphate, the nonmuslims always felt safe. They were never harmed. What ISIS is doing is they kill anyone who disagrees with them no matter who they are. So that itself exposes ISIS as not Muslims, because the Almighty said in the Qur’an, “If you kill one person, you kill all of humanity.” This contradicts all of their actions. They are nothing like a Muslim as it is prohibited in Islam to kill or destroy the infrastructure of a place, or harm trees, women, children etc. The reality is you cannot kill innocent people and call yourself Muslim.

He feels ISIS probably uses the internet to lure in youngsters to them from different parts of the world. So just like countries like Saudi Arabia blocks pornographic sights, other countries also need to monitor what all are harming the youngsters of their country. He says what ISIS is doing is they are making a scenario out of all those violent video games that west is making and offering the children to do the same in real life. They are offering these kids to train to kill like in those games. As an Islamic leader, Menk says such games also should not be made for kids as they have a negative impact on the children’s upbringing.

He says Muslims should also stop fighting against themselves, and be tolerant of each other. Menk says that just because one doesn’t agree with each other they shouldn’t label them as bad or be pejorative like that. He particularly pointed out to us the incident of Junaid Jamshed, a Pakistani singer who turned to faith recently. Someone proclaimed that Junaid blasphemed Aisha RA (wife of the Prophet) by picking out something from what Junaid said earlier. Junaid did apologize, and said that he was misinterpreted. But the people retaliated by beating him up, and the man had to run for his life. This is despite that he apologized. Menk reckons that the real wrongdoers are the ones who took the law into their hands and beat him up. They have no right to do so, and he strongly condemns the act. He says people should not judge one another no matter who you are. He asks people to reach out to all and not be shallow.

Mufti Menk is the kind of person who uses all the media to spread a word of goodness. He has almost 1, 5 million followers on Facebook, over 750,000 followers on Twitter, 250,000 in Instagram, and more than 144,000 subscribers on YouTube. His retweets, likes, shares, and views usually go into the millions. To top it all he also has Short videos produced for applications such as WhatsApp that have proven to be extremely popular too. One can also reach him on his web page muftimenk.com

MuslimCentral.com which is 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 apple and android platforms. The android app specialised for Mufti Menk lectures alone has surpassed 100,000 downloads which are the highest for an English speaking Muslim scholar. Talks are usually recorded and uploaded via his mobile device immediately after they are delivered. Downloads of talks over the years have exceeded approx 12 million average per annum.

Menk has no copyrights and does not charge for any social or spiritual work or guidance. All this is done totally free of charge. He believes in spreading the message, and his message is that of peace.

Over the years, he has also been on many tours internationally upon invitation. These include universities, colleges, schools, Mosques and corporate companies etc. Some of the countries visited include major cities of The United Kingdom, Scotland and Wales too. He is also a frequent speaker in more than 20 other countries with South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, and India being some of them.

He has also attended many Islamic Conferences representing Zimbabwe. These include Muslim World League Makkah, Ministry of Awqaaf Egypt etc. For his act of goodness, he has won several laurels, Awards, and Certificates of Acknowledgement and Gratitude. Some of them are Leadership in Social Guidance by Cochin Herald, Fanar Qatar, Zayed bin Muhammad Family Gathering in Dubai, Al Manaar Dubai etc.

Mufti Menk has been named as one of the Top 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World for the last six years in a row by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in the Kingdom of Jordan. He asks people across all part of the globe to live with peace towards one another. He reckons a lot of this can be achieved with the active involvement of their respective governments. Menk says that the minority should always be protected as that is what the Messenger PBUH has taught his followers.

Melwin Joy
AUTHOR

Melwin Joy

All stories by: Melwin Joy