Should Zakir Naik be ‘stopped’?

Rohit Dhankar

There is a debate in the media whether Zakir Nail should be ‘stopped’. It is not clear what stopped means here: is it banned? Or should not be allowed? Or should be countered through argument? There also seem to be a hashtag #StopZakirNaik. I tried to see on this what people are saying. But found it too much in snippets which require a history of following to make sense of it. Therefore, it was useless for me.

Zakir Naik, for those who do not know, is an Islamic preacher. His supporters (and he himself) also call him a scholar of comparative religions. One of the terrorists killed in Dhaka restaurant attach it seems was a fan of Zakir Naik, and Bangladesh is investigating if he was inspired by him. The debate has started in this context.

To just get a glimpse I looked at a few snippets of news items and also watched Arnab Goswami’s cheekh-chillahat which he calls ‘debate’, a gross insult to the term and human intelligence. In this programme the anchor as well as many other participants wanted to “stop Zakir Nair”; there are also some who are against “stopping” him. Whatever stopping might mean.

Some of the charges that I could find on the internet against Zakir Naik are listed below:

  1. His organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is registered under FCRA, it takes foreign funds and is involved in religious conversions.
  2. Zakir Naik runs a TV Chanel called Peace TV which does not have licence, and is banned, still cable operators show Piece TV.
  3. He ridicules other religions.
  4. He claims that Islam is the only true religion, all other religions are false.
  5. He supported Osama Bin Laden and still supports terrorism.
  6. Many terrorists are inspired by him.
  7. He justified ISIS terrorists using female captives as sex slaves.
  8. He converts people to Islam and shows that on TV and in videos on his site.

The first two are issues of following the law of the land. If organisations taking foreign funds under FCRA are not allowed to use those funds for conversion and political activity, then IRF should be investigated and the law should take its course, as the saying goes. Similarly if he is still airing programme on Piece TV in spite of it being banned, he should be punished according to the law.

Zakir Niak does ridicule other religions and openly says that Islam if the only true religions, and Allah is the only true God. But so says the Islamic theology, including Quran. The protestations that Islam does not consider itself the only true religion are all wrong, it does. But so does Christianity. It is only Indic religions which don’t make this claim. One does not know how long they will remain open to the idea of एकं सद्विप्राह बहुदा वदन्ति. Zakir Naik is being only true to Islam when he says that there is only one true God, Allah; and only one true religion, Islam.

This is also true that he ridicules other religions. One can take two attitudes to it: one, if his ridicule crosses the boundary of relevant law he should be prosecuted, why ask straight for the ban? If that is what is meant by “stopping”. But a more liberal stand would be that ridiculing religions is a right of all citizens. Many of them, including Islam, have plenty of things fit to ridicule, and oppose.

His support for Islamic terrorism is somewhat circuitous, but it is there. Even his explanation in the media to absolve himself proves that. There is a clip in which he says that he supports Osama Bin Laden as the twin tower was an “inside” job by America and Osama is only terrorising the terrorist. His explanation: “This clipping, yes it is me saying it but it is out of context. I said a terrorist is a person who terrorises someone. I also gave an example that a policeman terrorises a robber. So, for a robber a policeman is a terrorist. In this context, every Muslim should be a terrorist to the anti-social element.” This is a spacious argument, and also shows the level of Dr. Naik’s logical acumen. America according to him is terrorising Muslims, therefore, Muslims should terrorise America. One hears similar arguments about India. It is simply a more ganwaroo version of the relatively sophisticated argument Indian intellectuals use all the time: that Islamic terrorism is a creation of structural injustice, that it is an expression of Muslim rage against injustices mated out to them. Poor Dr. Naik does not have that sophisticated language and those spacious theories to buttress his claim. This idea cannot be defeated by banning. Nor is it justified to ban such claims, they have to be examined and defeated in a fair public debate.

One does not know how far the claim that many terrorists are inspired by him is true. But as long as he does not directly abet, add and train terrorists it would be unfair to ban his speeches simply because some terrorists were his fans and said that they were inspired by him. A Hindu terrorist may be inspired by Gita (I know no such example of anyone saying this, but it is theoretically possible), and scores of terrorists actually say that they are inspired by the Quran. Would one ban Quran for that? Would one start a campaign to ban Gita if tomorrow someone says that he is inspired by Gits to commit a terrorist act? This is as good a logic as Zakir Naik uses.

He does justify ISIS terrorists making captured women sex slaves. But he justifies it on the basis of Quran. Chapter 23 of Quran begins with describing how the believers should behave and “who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise)” 23.11. In this description it says: “And those who guard their chastity (i.e. Private parts, from illegal sexual activity). Excerpt from their wives or (the slaves) that their right hand possesses, –for then they are free from blame”. (Verses 5 and 6). Maulana Azad claims that it is only after marrying the slave women. But then why mention them separately? After marriage they are “wives”? Dr. Naik also claims that the Quran’s treatment of slaves and prisoners of war is much superior to the UN charter.

In India one has the right to preach one’s religion and to convert people to it; as long as no force (and perhaps material enticement) is involved. Unless one proves that he used force or enticement (in case it is illegal, I am not sure) or cheating one cannot ban his conversions, even if they are shown on TV. Yes, in investigation can be started if what he shows on the TV is only a stage-managed drama (it looks like that) or real conversion. If it is found that it is only a drama, then he can be prosecuted for cheating people.

Zakir Nair’s arguments and logic

One example of his logic I have already given above, the policemen being a terrorist for a robber, etc. will just give one more, one can collect hundreds in his videos. Someone asked him that he preaches his religion and converts people to it freely in India, and most of the democracies allow this. But the Muslim majority countries do not allow preaching of other religions in their domains, what does he say on this? His answer is a classic of stupidity. In about 15 minutes circuitous laffajji what he says is this: In a classroom when a teacher teaching mathematics allows only one answer to 2+2, and that is 4. He does not allow it to be “5” or “3” or anything else. Because it is certain and it is the only truth. In a country once Islam is established no other religion can be allowed and the country has now achieved the truth. Allowing anything else will be deviating from the truth. This is exact meaning of that he said but not exact words. This shows the man’s quality of mind and level of understanding. He is not even honest. When the same question was asked after his video lecture in Oxford union all he sad is that yes, some countries do not allow, but it is their matter. He did not have a courage to repeat what he openly says in Bombay in a video lecture being transmitted to Oxford.

He is most famous for quoting from scriptures of religions other than Islam. Mostly to show that Muhamman is mentioned of predicted in Vedad, and other religious books. Actually all his quotes, verse numbers including the order in which he rattles them out come from only one book “Muhammad in World Scriptures”. It is written by an Ahmadia Muslim Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, and was first published in Urdu in 1936. The only credit Dr. Naik can take for these quotes is that of cramming it very well and rattling it very fast. None of the quotes actually support what he is trying to prove, this is only a trick for cheat gullible public.

But in spite of all this the most that can be demanded by the public is an investigation into his illegal actions related to his TV channel, his use of foreign funds and if he has any direct link with the terrorists. Banning his lectures or arresting him (on the charges and evidence that is in public domain, as far as I know) would be an attack on freedom of speech, and against the right to preach one’s religions. Zakir Naik’s views are ill-argued, bigoted, and obnoxious. His ‘scholarship’ is just a pretention. Zakir Naik is a bad news for humanity. But curtailing his freedom of expression would be a worst news for democracy and for humanity. Therefore, such people have to be allowed and youngsters have to be helped in seeing through their ill argued proclamations.


9 Responses to Should Zakir Naik be ‘stopped’?

  1. Reena Das says:

    This article is written very logically with appropriate examples at places.But still I feel the author is diverting from the main issues and concern.


  2. yashvendra says:

    I think this is very logically build thought…
    We need to rationalize things before going down to any perception or belief..
    Religion is one thing which need to be relook in the current scenario where we see redefining process of being human and living in a more liberal world..


  3. Out of curiosity I viewed some videos on the net. I only find that zakir tried to find similarities between Islam and Hinduism. He is trying to build a bridge between two big communities of India. He condemned terrorism in clear terms. One should see his videos in the context.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Zakir also said that terrorising the terrorist is alright, and every Muslim should do that. He is not looking for similarities but is trying to prove that Islam is superior and even Hindu scriptures accept Mohammad. He also says that where Islam is in minority Muslims should be free to preach their religions, but in Muslim countries no other religions should be allowed to preach. He also says that Marring a girl at 6 and consummating the marriage at 9 is alright. he also says that making sex slaves out of female prisoners of was is fine.

    Do you think all this is looking for similarities and trying Hindu-Muslim unity?


  5. skm20154 says:

    Rohit Dhankar writes always scholarly and objectively in a dispassionate manner. I like him. In fact, I have never watched the programs of Dr Zakir Nayak except two or three times casual watching at someone else’s home. Many years back, what I remember, his style was somewhat ridiculous for other faiths like old fashioned Munazirabaz. But when I watched his a few video clips recently on Facebook I found him more rational and objective. Having not watched extensively nor read his published books, I am not in a position to approve or disapprove the comments of Dhankar on Zakir Nayak argumentative skill or depth in comparative religion. Yes, I am aware of one time highly acclaimed book which Dhankar has referred. No doubt, this book might have been one of the references of Dr Nayak, but as Dhankar says, this is not the only source. In fact, the topic of prophecy about coming of the last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has been consistently dealt in various genres of Islamic scholarship during past 1400 years. One may agree or disagree with the explanation of relevant historical religious texts extracted from old scriptures in support of Muhammad’s prophecy. However, treatment of the issue of Dr Zakir Nayak by Dhankar is balanced. But one point he missed. The point is that of partisan attitude. We are living in a democratic country where so many scholarly and non scholarly, rational and irrational religious and ideological preachers are delivering sermons and lectures through various channels of mass communication. Why it is so that a particular tv channel is banned? Why it is so that a renowned preacher of a particular community is targeted? Why not investigation is done again open hate orators mobilising people towards violence in open words? This is not equality of people irrespective of caste, creed or religion as guaranteed in the Constitution. This partisan treatment is the matter of concern. If it would have been the case that the State agencies or media initiated the issue for screening of hate-mongering, inflammatory or terrorism supportive speakers as a matter of general policy with transparent and non partisan mechanism, the minorities wouldn’t have expressed their concern. This point is missed by Dhankar and as such, his advice to screen the speeches of Dr Nayak is not logical.


    • Anonymous says:

      “This point is missed by Dhankar and as such, his advice to screen the speeches of Dr Nayak is not logical.”

      No. I am commenting on Zakir Naik in the context of the debate that is going on. I need not necessarily mention all ridiculous preachers when I talking of any one of them.

      I have not advised for any screening of Zakir Niak in addition to the issues which are raised regarding FCRA and support to terrorism etc.

      also, I my view there is not enough evidence available in public domain at least in the public domain to initiate a ban on Zakir Naik. and I have said that.


  6. LearningHumanity says:

    Dhankar must have read Quran and other religious books that Zakir Naik refers and that why he says none of the quotes matches what he always try to explain.

    I have seen his many videos and can confirm that he never promoted terrorism that’s the different thing that our country has lot of people who does not understand the context. In fact I have seen many educated people or seeing everyday that there are many who does not know or understand the contextual discussion or debate. Such people if gets misguided there should not be any surprise regardless of the religion.these people does not deserve a quick PJ even.
    Sometime I also felt he was not so polite that he should be but it’s not surprising if it happens rarely. At the end he is also a human being with some dedicated nature.
    What he is doing is not new in the country. Daoud Ibrahim, Chota Rajan must have gone to some school, so school to be blamed? In fact they were Indian by birth too 😀
    Many Indian even educated does not understand the context. The best example, if I say above mentioned two guys are not Indian(at patriotism level), they will start searching the birth country of above mentioned two guys.

    We should understand it very well that for living happily with humanity, religion knowledge or practice is not needed at all. Country’s constitution is enough and we don’t need more than that for being a true Indian if we follow the Indian constitution. Religion is needed for oneself to have a life with peaceful mind but again this needs high intellectuality and capacity to understand the meaning of a word or sentence in the particular context.


  7. Shakeel Ashraf says:

    My dear Rohit Sir

    How are you?

    This refers to the following passage from your write up “Should Zakir Naik be ‘stopped’?”.

    “He does justify ISIS terrorists making captured women sex slaves. But he justifies it on the basis of Quran. Chapter 23 of Quran begins with describing how the believers should behave and “who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise)” 23.11. In this description it says: “And those who guard their chastity (i.e. Private parts, from illegal sexual activity). Excerpt from their wives or (the slaves) that their right hand possesses, –for then they are free from blame”. (Verses 5 and 6). Maulana Azad claims that it is only after marrying the slave women. But then why mention them separately? After marriage they are “wives”? Dr. Naik also claims that the Quran’s treatment of slaves and prisoners of war is much superior to the UN charter.”


    Sir, I don’t know what Dr. Zakir Naik has said on this subject. Nevertheless, I would like to thank you for mentioning Maulana Azad’s viewpoint about slave women in Qur’an. [And those who guard their chastity except from their wives or (the slaves) that their right hand possesses, -for then they are free from blame. 23:5-6]. I am convinced with Maulana Azad’s viewpoint. However you have raised a genuine question if wives and slave women are same then why are they mentioned separately in Quran?
    Slavery is a curse for humanity and at that time of Qur’an’s revelation, it was a worldwide common social phenomenon, deeply rooted in every society. Apart from different scholarly opinions, I can’t imagine that Qur’an can endorse it in a way some people try to interpret. It is difficult for me to write my own understanding and luckily I have got an awesome write up which I am going to append here.



    To get a proper understanding of this topic, one has to rely on the Quran first and foremost. Any good Muffassir (Quranic exegetic) takes this approach whether modern or classical.

    The common interpretation of the term ‘those that your right hands possess’ as captive girls (with whom one can have free sex) is not warranted by the Quran.

    To enable a truer understanding of the Quranic position, one must be willing to divorce themselves from the plethora of extra-Quranic material which not only poses theological problems but also at times stands contradictory to the Quran itself.

    Firstly, the term ‘ma malakat aymanukum’ (Literally: What your right hands possesses) is not gender specific and as an idiomatic expression, applies to ‘those that one keeps in protection and honour’. This can include captives, slave girls, maidens, servants (fatayatikum 4:25) etc. Please note that the ‘right hand’ has a somewhat glorified meaning in the Quran which is apparent from its usage in different contexts (e.g. those on the right hand in heaven; books of one’s deeds given to the right hand etc).

    It is also apt to note that affluent women would have also most likely to have possessed men slaves. This is confirmed by the usage of the idiomatic expression ‘ma malakat aymanuhunna’ when used in reference to women’s possession. It would be inconceivable to conclude on the basis of this expression, the permissibility of women to engage in ‘free sex’ with their male slaves or captives.


    ‘Malakat aymanukum’ which can literally be rendered as ‘right hands possess’, appears many times in the Quran and in a variety of contexts.

    Ma malakat aymanukum
    What your right hands possess (2nd person masculine plural) *
    (4:25; 4:36; 24:33)

    Ma malakat yaminuka
    What your right hands possess (2nd person masculine single)
    (33:50; 33:52)

    Alazeena malakat ayymanukum
    Those whom your right hands possess * (2nd person masculine plural)

    Ma malakat aymanuhum
    What their right hands possess * (3rd person masculine plural)
    (16:71; 23:6)

    Ma malakat aymanuhunna
    What their right hands possess (3rd person feminine plural)
    (24:31; 33:55)

    * Please take note that masculine plurals can also be a reference to a group of both males and females. Therefore, restricting the interpretation of the term to just ‘females’ is unwarranted from the Quranic Arabic.

    The following points must be noted with regards to ‘those that your right hands possess’ from the Quran.

    (1) Be good to them as you are with your parents, orphans, needy, neighbours and free them if you can
    (2) Do no compel them to whoredom or force them
    (3) You can only have sex with them through marriage / wedlock


    And serve God and do not associate anything with Him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbour of (your) kin and neighbour who is not of kin, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess; surely God does not love him who is proud, boastful


    “Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until God gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing, give them such a deed if you know any good in them and give them from the wealth of God which He has given you. But force not your slave girls (Arabic: fatayatikum) to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is God, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them)”

    Note: Those that cannot marry need to stay chaste, attempt to free those that their right hands possess and certainly not force them to sex or prostitution. However, if the poor unfortunate slave girls are forced, they will still find mercy from God, bounties which extend to all His creatures.


    “If any of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women, they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess: And God has full knowledge about your faith. Ye are one from another: Wed them with the leave of their owners, and give them their dowers, according to what is reasonable: They should be chaste, not lustful, nor taking paramours: when they are taken in wedlock, if they fall into shame, their punishment is half that for free women. This (permission) is for those among you who fear sin; but it is better for you that ye practise self-restraint. And God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

    • It was better if one practiced self restraint. But if one couldn’t marry free believing women, then the directive was given to marry from what their right hands possessed. Not for prostitution, not for lust, but for wedlock.
    • Notice here that although one can ‘marry’ a woman from one’s right hands possess, her status is not that of a ‘Free believing woman’ (as can be seen from the half punishment she can potentially exact for the same sin). This is the reason why women that form part of those whom your right hands possess are referred to as a separate category. However, they do not form an exception to the marital rule in terms of who is lawful for sex. See 23:6 & 70:30. In other words, they still have to be married.
    • One logical question bears asking keeping in view any appetite for carnal desires. If one has wives along with many hand maidens with whom one could potentially have free sex, then what kind of sexual predator and maniac does one have to be to still commit adultery? The Quran imparts a consistent message with regards abstention from any unrighteous lust. What is the purpose of having sex with captives if it is not for lust?

    “Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess”

    • From this verse, it is clear that one can marry women who are already married if they constitute those from what your right hands possess (taken captive). Again, focus is on marriage, not sex for lust and they have to believing captives (Not pagans). See 4.25 above.

    (Continued 004.024) “…Thus has God ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers as prescribed (Arabic: faatuhunna ujurahunna faridatan); but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree mutually, there is no blame on you, and God is All-knowing, All-wise”

    This verse makes it clear that all married women are forbidden apart from a specific exception.


    Those women who are married but have come to be captured or possessed (Ma Malakat Amanakum) are lawful are in marriage. Note this exception. But the question still remains – lawful to one in what way?

    The rest of the verse clearly states that all women (including the exception – Right hands possess) have to be married (in wedlock). The legality being wedlock.Note the Arabic term: faatuhunna ujurahunna faridatan (give them their bridal due as obligation).

    It is clear therefore that the intention is of wedlock not of fornication, or lust.

    This seals the fate of sex with women from the category of ‘right hands possess’ outside marriage. These women are only lawful to one in marriage.

    “If you fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice”

    • Marry one if you cannot deal justly or from what your right hands possess, but still take those whom your right hands possess in marriage.

    “And marry those (Arabic: wa-ankihu) among you who are single and those who are righteous among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, God will make them free from want out of His grace; and God is Ample-giving, Knowing”

    “And those who guard their chastity”

    “Except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess (in wedlock), for (then) they are not to be blamed”


    Women who are from the category of ‘right hands possess’ are not ‘free’ women in the same sense. They are either slaves or captures. When one takes them in marriage, all the rules of responsibility of wedlock on part of the male applies to the one he marries. However, this spouse still has reduced answerability such as her punishment in the case of ‘Fahisha’ (lewdness).

    There remains a crucial difference between a marriage based on complete freedom of choice exacted by a ‘free believer’ without circumstantial influence and one based on compromises, incentives such as freedom, status and financial stability gained through a compromise marriage. These differences in choices based on free and non-free parties are clearly recognized. Hence the noted difference in answerability as well.

    “And whoso is not able to afford to marry free, believing women, let them marry from the believing maids whom your right hands possess. God knows best (concerning) your faith. Ye (proceed) one from another; so wed them by permission of their folk, and give to them their portions in kindness, they being honest, not debauched nor of loose conduct. And if when they are honourably married they commit lewdness they shall incur the half of the punishment (prescribed) for free women (in that case). This is for him among you who fears to commit sin. But to have patience would be better for you. God is Forgiving, Merciful”


    Scripture has never permitted men to engage in sex outside the institution of marriage whether this is from the category of free believing women, or from the category of ‘right hands possess’.



    With profound regards,

    Shakeel Ashraf


  8. […] Should Zakir Naik be ‘stopped’? […]


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