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Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid American Born Muslim Second Generation

Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid is a former social worker and Arabic language instructor at Georgia State University. After

teaching there for some time, Imam Khalil consulted his private teacher in Islamic law about what he should do with his life. He already had a bachelor’s degree in social work, yet because he did not possess a graduate degree, his time as a teacher at Georgia State was restricted to three years. Khalil’s teacher in Islamic law had just completed his PhD at Columbia University and was living in Atlanta completing his post-doctoral research at Emory University. The two were introduced at Khalil’s fiqh class at Masjid Ihsan in Riverdale. From then on, Khalil would read with him privately a few times a week. He advised Khalil that he should pursue a graduate degree, and that it would be better to do so in the field of Islamic law, which was already of interest to Khalil. He suggested that he come to Istanbul, Turkey and learn Turkish in order to consider do graduate work there. Turkey was also strategic, as Khalil’s teacher was Turkish himself and politically, it was less controversial. Khalil ended up accepted the offer and in the fall of 2006 Khalil traveled to Istanbul, Turkey.

He enrolled in the language school and studied the Turkish on scholarship. After one year of language study, Khalil applied and was accepted to Marmara University’s Master of Islamic Law program. The entire program was conducted in Turkish; no English was used at all. Khalil completed the program and wrote his master’s thesis in Turkish, which is entitled, “A Comparison between Islamic Law and American Law Regarding the Rules of Child Custody”. During Khalil’s last year, at the advice of the same Turkish instructor that advised him in the first place, Khalil applied to several PhD programs in the United States, hoping to return home after living abroad for almost 4 years. During his stay, Khalil would pursue academic Islamic law studies during the day, and traditional Islamic law training at night and on the weekends with private teachers. In March 2010, Khalil would receive the news that he had been accepted to the PhD program of Islamic Law at Columbia University. Out of 156 applicants for 6 spaces in the PhD program, Khalil was informed that he was the top pick in his field.  At the same time, he had completed the requirements for his master’s degree, along with the requirements for his traditional doctoral (ijaaza) in Islamic sciences. Before leaving Turkey, Khalil would attend a ceremony for him in which he had 50 Turkish men witness his receiving ijaaza (the traditional doctorate of Islamic law) going back to the prophet Muhammad (saaws).  He also would later receive another ijaaza in the Islamic spiritual sciences, qualifying him to take personal student and teach the spiritual path in Islam. The Shaykh who gave both ijaazas to Khalil was Muhammad Emin, the 107 year old scholar who was born and educated under the Ottoman Empire. Khalil would arrive back in the US, in New York City and accept a position as Imam of Iqra Masjid in Brooklyn, NY. Iqra is a historically Turkish Masjid, having been established 15 years ago, by the same Turkish teacher who motivated Khalil to come to Turkey for graduate study in the first place. This scholar had established the masjid while he himself was a doctoral student and trained many students after him. Khalil continues his work today as both Imam of the Masjid and continues his primary work as a full time PhD student. He has just successfully completed his first year, and has now been approached by New York University to teach the Islamic Law course next year, the first of its kind at NYU.    

He has become known around New York City as the African-American Turkish Imam of New York. A graduate student in the journalism school at Columbia University has written her Master’s thesis on Khalil and how he’s part of the new trend of young Imams with an entirely immigrant congregation. Her thesis is being published and is currently titled, “The Creeping Americanization of Islam”. Khalil was recently named a “Muslim Leader of Tomorrow” by the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA).  He lives in Brooklyn.



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