SHAFAQNA- “The Ahlal-Bayt (A.S) gave Da’wah from many different angles. In doing so one’s foundation is stronger because you’ll have many reasons on why you do something. I like using artistic fields to accomplish this because the average person is more likely to wear, watch, or listen to something before reading books about it”.
Mukhtar Ali is a Muslim American and a lifestyle designer. In an exclusive interview with Shafaqna, he explains about his journey to Islam and his current artistic activities to introduce Islam.
Shafaqna: Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Mukhtar Ali: Bismiallah-e-Rahamanar-Rahim. Allahuma Salle A’ala Muhammad wa Aale Muhammad. Salaamu Alaikum to all the respected readers.
I’m a servant of ALLAH (SWT), the prophets (peace be upon them), the twelve Imams (peace be upon them), and the Maraj’a (Islamic Jurists). I’m a lifestyle designer. My personal story has been broadcasted on the Tyra Banks show generating over 30 million views. Some companies I’ve worked with include: Universal Music Group, Interscope, Sony, MTV, VH1, Frankie B., Parasuco, and others. I’m formerly VP of A&R for Uprising Records. I’ve worked with everyone from Paris Hilton, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, George Michael, Jessica Simpson, DMX, Pamela Anderson, Eminem and more as a wardrobe stylist.
I am the author of the book “Live Free” and I’m involved in real estate as an investor and agent. I have a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design and Marketing from American Inter Continental University, and have studied and traveled to Los Angeles, New York, London, Milan, Paris, India, China, Japan, Iraq, and Iran. I’m currently pursuing Masters and Doctorate Degree’s in Business. I’ve directed, wrote and produced the documentary “Hijab and Sneakers” and directed videos for Tila Tequila, Raekwon, Game, and others. I’m a life student of theology and self-development, straight edge, vegan, and a practitioner of kung fu, tai chi, and yoga.
Shafaqna: How did you get familiar with Islam? Why did you choose Shia doctrine?
Mukhtar Ali: I decided I would become Muslim at age 9, I took shahada at age 16, and I became Shia at age 20. I read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” at the age of 9 while on punishment. After finishing that book I decided I was going to be Muslim one day; I didn’t know anyone that was Muslim at the time. Years later at the age of 16 while in summer school I told a Cambodian brother I was going to be Muslim one day so he took me to Jum’a and I took shahada the same day. At the age of 18 I became vegetarian and started looking up fatwa’s from all the Islamic schools of thought on being vegetarian – I wanted to know whether it was permissible or not permissible for me to continue to be Muslim and vegetarian.
This is when I found out about Jafari Fiqh (Jurispudence). I’ve always enjoyed reading history so once finding out about Jafari Fiqh, I started having questions about what happened to Hazrat Fatima (SA), Imam Hassan (A.S), Imam Hussain (A.S), and the demise of other notable characters. Which people don’t generally know, or know thoroughly. I read Peshawar Nights and about 20 other books on Islamic history and I was convinced that the Ahlal-Bayt (A.S) were correct from all perspectives – historically, legally, morally, philosophically, etc… I believe a gift of comparative theology is one being able to prove your point from the other person’s primary sources.
Shafaqna: After converting to Islam, what changes happened in your life?
Mukhtar Ali: After I took shahada at 16, even at that age most of my behavior was already Muslim like. I had no knowledge of the legal components of Islam. I was already not eating pork, not drinking alcohol, or doing any kind of drugs, which was also normal for the people around me. So it was more of the legalistic stuff I needed to learn. I needed to learn about the different methods of prayer – Salaat, Duas; supplications , Dhikrs; spiritual remembrance etc.… properly using water and wiping oneself after using the bathroom, ghusl – washing oneself after being in a impure state, types of marriages; Muta’, Nikah, etc… I understand Muta’ is controversial, however 60% percent of western births are born out of wedlock, in the African–American community the numbers are approaching 70%; this is a religious answer to a western problem, without it religion has a problem.
Imam Ali (AS) stated if Muta’ wouldn’t have been banned there would not have been fornication. Even without intimacy it’s a solution – Things that would be practical for a young person growing up in a western world, not surrounded by Muslims, would need to know. Not having a thorough understanding of this could be very problematic. The main change for me at the time was starting to pray 5 times a day, other than that I already was a pretty observant person of religious principles. Then later it became leaving the music, fashion, and film industries and later coming back only operating under Islamic guidelines.
Mukhtar Ali: Absolute monotheism, the belief in one GOD, and there being no comparison to GOD. The universal message and it being for all of humanity. The infallibility of our Prophets and Imams and their messages is very special; also their mention in most of the major holy books.
Shafaqna: You have a book, a project entitled “Live Free”. Would you please tell us about the subject, the objectives and achievements of this project?
Mukhtar Ali: The book is about never paying rent or mortgage again through the tools of property management and real estate investing. Most likely I will turn it into a series of 6 books. Most of us want to live free in all components of our life – spiritual, health, creative, financial, family, and business. So what I’m doing is taking the best practices from each category and making them books. I’ve read over 1,000 books in my lifetime and I want to consolidate that information, because the average person is not going to do that much reading. I want the best practices of that group who are free as Imam Ali (AS) indicated in his statement about the three worshippers.
Shafaqna: How do you introduce Islam to the people in the US? How do you apply your skills; fashion design, lifestyle design, music, film-making in this regard?
Mukhtar Ali: The introduction has to come from many approaches. Historically people took shahada for various reasons. So the approach should be comparatively, ethically, legally, scientifically, socially, artistically, etc… The Ahlal-Bayt (A.S) gave Da’wah from many different angles. In doing so ones foundation is stronger because you’ll have many reasons on why you do something. I like using artistic fields to accomplish this because the average person is more likely to wear, watch, or listen to something before reading books about it. The average person reads less than 3 books their entire lifetimes after graduating high school. Messages have to be brought to people in different ways – you have to reach the people in the language they speak. Prophets (PBUT) where sent to every nation speaking the language of the people. So the messenger should talk to the people in a way or medium in which they will hear them.
Shafaqna: You have produced several documentaries about Islamic matters such as “Hijab and Sneakers”. Please explain us about these productions, their messages and their influences on the society in the USA.
Mukhtar Ali: The movie involves young, energetic women from different walks of life and backgrounds as they trade their usual attire to wear avant-garde hijab fashions paired with this season’s freshest footwear. Surrealistic photography meets Middle Eastern modesty. By showcasing funky, unique sneakers from a variety of top brands in this manner, Hijab and Sneakers is creating new juxtapositions in the fashion world, exploring ideas of modesty, trendiness, and how they relate to one another. What role does modesty play in fashion? How does the desire to be beautiful transition from culture to culture? Hijab and Sneakers employs a dynamic platform to explore the boundaries of the sneaker culture, modesty, Islamic dress, and ideas about modern fashion. We are filming and photographing fun and energetic young celebrity women from twelve different ethnic backgrounds who will bring a fresh energy to the shoot. We will be using celebrities to highlight the project and seventy-two influencers interviewees to add commentaries.
Shafaqna: You have travelled to Iran and Iraq. What’s special about these two Shia countries?
Mukhtar Ali: It’s the birth and burial site of many Prophets and Imams, many of whom you can go and visit and show your respect for them. The special thing of these countries is the etiquette, discipline, hospitality, and adherence to religious principles. Iraq is literally my favorite place in the world and I have been all over the world. Before going for the first time, in typical American culture of misconceptions of that region, I thought what if I die there. I quickly reconciled that by saying it would be an honor to die and be buried in a place where I know Prophets and Imams are buried.
Shafaqna: You have participated in Arbaeen walking in Iraq. What’s your idea about this ceremony?
Mukhtar Ali: It’s one of the most revolutionary things I’ve experienced. It’s spiritual, physical, and a great self-assessment check. You’re thinking of life, death, good, bad, history, and many other things all at the same time. I cried like a baby while walking many times. Walking 40 + miles is very physical and you have young, old, and crippled doing it. It’s a tremendous blessing participating in the largest annual pilgrimage with 20 – 30 million people. What’s beautiful is there are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindu’s, agnostic, atheist, and many others all doing it – from all different ethnicities from all over the world. Simply amazing.
Shafaqna: In your view, how much are the youth in the West ready to embrace Islam? How can Islamic teachings promote the quality of their life?
Mukhtar Ali: It depends on many things; how presented, whose presenting, how much reflecting the person does, their background, their level of exposure to things, and several other things. I embraced Islam as a teenager and may have done it sooner if I had been exposed to Islam earlier. I don’t have Muslim family members nor did anyone give me Da’wah directly and I became Muslim. I was self-initiated. Islamic teachings promote having legalistic structure in ones life with proper balance. Youth very much need this because they’re seeing the opposite of balance.
Shafaqna: Shafaqna appreciates you for giving us some time and attending this interview. Thank you.
Mukhtar Ali: Thank you, and I thank ALLAH (SWT), my salaams to everyone at Shafaqna and its respected readers. For more info about me I can be reached at www.MukhtarAli.com