By Badees Nouiouat
Born and raised in Queens NY, Mufti Muntasir Zaman had a “typical New York City upbringing.” However, in addition to playing sports and hanging out, he developed a sense of Islam from an early age. His parents entered him into hifdh school at the age of 9, and he completed memorization of the Quran when he was 13.
In his youth, Muntasir frequented a local Masjid started by some Bangladeshi families that was operating in a small rented facility. This was where he studied Quran and eventually started to lead taraweeh prayers.
After completing his hifz, Muntasir decided he wanted to study Islam further. Inspired by neighbors and friends who also went abroad to study, he enrolled in Al-Rashid Islamic Institute near Ottawa, Canada.
Muntasir studied at Al-Rashid for 3 years in which he completed revision of Quran as well as the preliminary stages of the seven year Alim program. At the age of 15, he decided he wanted to travel again, this time to a more prestigious institution where he could take his studies more seriously. He had a friend who had a brother studying in South Africa, and along with two other peers he decided to move there.
South Africa proved to be a big culture shock for young Muntasir. Being in a different country, on a different continent, and adapting to a different way of life were all adjustments he dealt with. However, there were a lot of similarities he had with the people of the institution. For example, the style of teaching was one that he was familiar with from his studies in Canada as well as in New York.
From 2008 to 2016, Muntasir studied mostly in Johannesburg but he also spent some time in Durban. “We had people from 35-40 different countries at the school,” he said. “I had the opportunity to connect with and learn from people from all over the world.”
While in South Africa, Muntasir noticed some lasting effects of Apartheid. “The country as a whole was still recovering from a lot of the devastating consequences of apartheid. I could sense that the indigenous South Africans were still building trust in the system. It was also easy to notice the economic disparity between different ethnic groups.”
In 2016, Muntasir moved to the UK to further specialize his studies. In between semesters, he had the opportunity to attend a da’wah event in Texas where he crossed paths with Shaykh Abdulnasir Jangda. They met at a Quran Intensive program where Shaykh Abdulnasir requested Muntasir to substitute for a Qalam class. Being on break from school, Muntasir accepted the opportunity and had a positive experience teaching the students of Qalam.
After 2 years at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education, he received his Masters in Islamic Studies. Upon returning to New York, Muntasir got married and started to settle down. A few months later, he got a call from Shaykh Abdulnasir with an offer to be a full time instructor at Qalam. At the time, it was a daunting request because he was just starting to get settled with his new family. He decided to accept the offer after much thought and prepared to move to Dallas.
With so many choices of Muslim communities to live in, Muntasir chose Irving for a few reasons. Firstly, he had some family in Irving. The location was also very central to the different areas he knew he’d be frequenting. Finally, he had previously visited ICI where he had the chance to meet members of the community, and he remembered feeling very comfortable with the people there.
Mufti Muntasir still aspires to continue his studies by achieving a PhD. As a contributor to Yaqeen Institute, he strongly believes in the importance of creating academically stimulating Islamic content. “Due to the prominence of atheism and agnosticism in our society today, it is essential for Muslims of the upcoming generations to have resources that can respond to these challenges,” he says.
His advice to the youth: Never be content with what you have in front of you. Always strive for excellence. Whatever career path you are planning to follow, make sure that you always have Islam centered around it. Put in the time and effort to study Islam in addition to anything else you decide to do.
One of his hobbies is studying old Islamic manuscripts. “In this modern age, we’ve become so accustomed to clean neat writing where everything is printed out for us. We don’t realize that as Muslims a lot of our heritage – even in secular fields – are still in the form of manuscripts. If I’m not able to read classical arabic or understand scribal methods of writing, then I’m depriving myself from a treasure trove of knowledge. So to me it’s very important to learn how to read them and teach others how to do the same. I’m currently working on a booklet on how to read manuscripts which I plan to teach my students at Qalam.”
Check out Mufti Muntasir’s blog where he posts academic articles, book reviews, and translations at www.ahadithnotes.com.