- Former president of the Islamic Society of North America
- Former member of the now-defunct Shari’a Scholars Association of North America
Muhammed Nur Abdullah was born in Sudan on September 9, 1946. He completed high school in 1968, and two years later he made a pilgrimage to Mecca during the annual Hajj. While in Saudi Arabia, Abdullah enrolled at the Islamic University of Medina, a sharia school founded in 1961 by the Muslim Brotherhood. After earning the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in Islam, Abdullah attended yet another Muslim Brotherhood school, Mecca’s Ummal Qura University, where he obtained a master’s degree in that same discipline.
Next, Abdullah served for some time as an aide to Kuwait’s Minister of Religious Affairs before migrating to Chicago in 1978 at the invitation of the Nation of Islam‘s (NOI) Supreme Minister, Warith Deen Muhammad. Abdullah remained with NOI for twelve years, during which time he played a key role in helping Muhammad transform the original NOI into an orthodox mainstream Islamic movement, which eventually became known as the American Society of Muslims. Moreover, Abdullah earned a master’s degree at the University of Chicago and reportedly pursued a PhD as well, though he never completed the doctoral requirements.
In 1982 Abdullah became a member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), whose mission is “to provide guidance to the Muslims of North America in all matters related to Sharia,” and for awhile served stints as its vice-chairman and chairman.
From 1990 through mid-2006, Abdullah was Imam of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis (a.k.a. the Daar-ul-Islam Mosque), where he continued to adhere to the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood. He also served for some time (in 1999 and thereabouts) as principal of the local Al Salaam Day School.
In October 1997 in St. Louis, Abdullah was aguest speaker at the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) national convention, whose slogan was “2,000 by the Year 2000”—a reference to the organization’s goal of helping to recruit 2,000 Muslim candidates to run for elective office in U.S. political elections by the turn of the century. Among those present at this event were Nihad Awad, Amir Abdel Malik-Ali, and Sami al-Arian. Also in attendance was Farooq Ansari, former president of the AMA’s Massachusetts chapter, which in 2000 held a large fundraiser for Hillary Clinton‘s U.S. Senate campaign.
In September 1998 in St. Louis, Abdullah spoke at the 35th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Also participating were Sayyid Syeed, Muzammil Siddiqi, Omar Ahmad, and Nihad Awad. Abdullah subsequently served as ISNA’s president from 2001-05. In addition, he spent some time as chairman of the organization’s Training Program for Imams and its Fiqh Council, and as a member of its Board of Directors.
In the wake of 9/11, Abdullah insisted that the terror attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon could not possibly have been carried out by Muslims. In the course of speeches he delivered after the U.S. subsequently became involved militarily in the Middle East, Abdullah often referenced the violent Quranic verse, 5:31, which says: “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.”
Around this time as well, Abdullah served on the fatwa advisory board of Islam Online, a Muslim Brotherhood website founded by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. On March 24, 2003, Abdullah and fellow Islam Online fatwa scholars Jamal Badawi, Yusuf Ziya Kavakci, and Muzammil Siddiqi condoned a recent fatwa titled “Seeking Martyrdom by Attacking U.S. Military Bases in the Gulf,” wherein an anonymous group of muftis had declared that: “[A]ttacking American soldiers who came to launch war against Muslims [in the Middle East] is an obligation and Jihad, as they are true invaders…. Any Muslim killed while resisting aggression will be in the highest degree of martyrdom.”
In April 2003 at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Abdullah participated in “Let’s Make the World a Better Place,” an Islamic Internet University event that featured appearances by numerous anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speakers.
In March 2005, Abdullah declared that women should not be permitted to lead men in Muslim prayers.
In April 2006, Abdullah and Jamal Badawi co-authored a fatwa permitting Muslims to proselytize to Christians and Jews, but declaring that Muslims’ conversion out of Islam constituted “the worst form of sin” and “high treason” (punishable by death).
In September 2007, Abdullah was a signatory to a “Muslim Code of Honor,” which stated that Muslims should “protect the future of Islam in America and curb the spread of harmful and misleading propaganda.”
When the organization Former Muslims United asked Abdullah and his FCNA peers in 2009 to sign a pledge permitting freedom of religious choice to ex-Muslims, the request was ignored.
In September 2015, Abdullah was a signatory to the “ISNA Statement on the Inclusion of Women in Masjids,” which states that “women have a prayer space in the main musalla which is behind the lines of men but not behind a full barrier that disconnects women from the main musalla and prevents them from seeing the imam.”
In addition to his aforementioned activities and pursuits, Abdullah over the years has also worked as an instructor of Islamic Studies at the American Islamic College in Chicago; an advisor to the Bureau of Guidance for the Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs (in Yemen); a lecturer in fiqh at the Masjid al-Rawdha mosque in Kuwait; a lecturer in the Saudi Arabian cities of Medina and Mecca; and a member of the now-defunct Shari’a Scholars Association of North America.
Further, Abdullah has authored a number of articles on Islam’s teachings regarding family, marriage, divorce, and shura (decision-making). He also works as a marriage counselor.
Further Reading: “Muhammad Nur Abdullah” (BrotherhoodUnmasked.net); “AMA Raises Political Consciousness and [Money] at St. Louis Convention” (WRMEA.org, Jan-Feb, 1998).