Zakir Naik, a prominent Islamic preacher and the founder of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and Peace TV, is renowned for his extensive comparative study of religions and engaging public debates with scholars and leaders of various faiths. Attracting a substantial following, particularly among Muslims in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, he has made a significant impact in the Islamic world.
However, Naik is also a controversial figure, facing accusations of spreading hate speech, radicalizing youths, and supporting terrorism. Currently considered a fugitive in India, he is confronted with charges of money laundering and incitement of communal violence. Due to these allegations, he has been prohibited from entering several countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The polarizing nature of Naik’s influence has sparked debates about the boundaries between religious freedom, free speech, and national security concerns.
Zakir Naik Biography and Early Life:
Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, a prominent Islamic preacher, was born on 18th October 1965 in Mumbai, India, into a Konkani Muslim family of the Dawoodi Bohra sect. His father, Abdul Karim Naik, was a physician and former president of the Indian Medical Association, while his mother, Roshan Naik, was a homemaker. Growing up with a brother, Mohammad Naik, and a sister, Nailah Naushad Noorani, Naik demonstrated early brilliance at St. Peter’s High School in Mumbai.
In his youth, Naik’s intellectual curiosity led him to delve into both science and religion, reading extensively on both subjects. Influenced by the works of Ahmed Deedat, a renowned South African Islamic preacher, Naik met Deedat in 1987 during his visit to India. Inspired by Deedat’s approach, Naik earned the title of “Deedat plus,” signifying his elevated understanding.
Naik pursued higher education at Kishinchand Chellaram College in Mumbai, earning a Bachelor of Science degree. Subsequently, he enrolled at Topiwala National Medical College and BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, completing his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) degree in 1991. Although a licensed physician, his passion for preaching Islam led him away from practicing medicine.
In 1991 Zakir Naik established the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), a non-profit organization promoting Islamic awareness and education. His eloquence in English, Arabic, Urdu, and Hindi and a profound knowledge of scriptures made him a sought-after speaker. Naik’s lectures on Islam and comparative religion, often accompanied by public debates, showcased his ability to quote verses and references from memory. He aimed to challenge opponents and clarify misconceptions about Islam using scientific facts and logic.
In 2006, Naik extended his reach by launching Peace TV, a satellite television channel broadcasting his programs and other Islamic content in English, Urdu, Bangla, and Chinese. Claiming a global viewership of over 200 million, Peace TV became a significant platform for spreading Naik’s message. Additionally, Naik founded the Islamic International School in Mumbai and United Islamic Aid, offering scholarships to underprivileged Muslim youth. He authored several books on Islam and comparative religion, such as “The Quran and Modern Science” and “Answers to Non-Muslims’ Common Questions about Islam.”
Despite receiving awards like the Sharjah Award for Voluntary Work (2013) and the Dubai International Holy Quran Award (2013), Naik faced criticism for controversial views. Accusations of misinterpreting scriptures, promoting hatred, endorsing violence against non-Muslims, supporting terrorism, and radicalizing youths surrounded him. His remarks on sensitive topics like apostasy, homosexuality, and international events drew severe condemnation.
Legal Issues and Controversies:
Naik’s speeches and activities led to bans and restrictions in countries like the UK, Canada, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. Denied entry or visas to the US, Australia, and France, he became a divisive figure criticized by both religious and political leaders, as well as some Muslim scholars and organizations.
In 2016, Naik faced scrutiny from Indian authorities after his speeches reportedly influenced terrorists involved in the Dhaka cafe attack. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a case against him and IRF, accusing them of inciting communal hatred, promoting enmity between groups, and funding terrorism. The NIA also alleged money laundering and violations of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Naik, maintaining his innocence, sought asylum in Malaysia, where he obtained permanent residency.
Despite the Indian government revoking his passport in 2017 and requesting Interpol’s intervention, the Interpol rejected the request, citing a lack of evidence. Malaysia also refused extradition, providing Naik security and protection. Throughout the legal battles, Naik continued delivering speeches online and via social media platforms, expressing a willingness to cooperate with Indian authorities under fair trial conditions.
Zakir Naik is married to Farhat Naik, the president of the women’s wing of IRF. The couple shares two children – a son named Fariq Naik and a daughter named Rushdaa Naik. Fariq, following in his father’s footsteps, is an Islamic preacher and a student of Islamic studies, while Rushdaa is pursuing a career in medicine. Although Naik’s family resides in Mumbai, India, he resides in Malaysia.
Known for his simple and modest lifestyle, Naik avoids luxury and extravagance. He is a vegetarian and refrains from smoking or consuming alcohol. His interests include reading, writing, and listening to Islamic spiritual music. Fluent in multiple languages, including English, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati, Naik adheres to the Quran and the Sunnah. Not aligning with any specific school of thought or sect in Islam, he considers himself a perpetual student of Islam and a servant of both God and humanity.
Estimates place Zakir Naik’s net worth at approximately $25 million. His income sources include earnings from speeches, book sales, donations, and investments. Naik claims not to charge fees for his lectures and asserts that he allocates his earnings towards charitable and educational initiatives. Denying any involvement in money laundering or illicit transactions, he maintains transparency by expressing his readiness for scrutiny or audits of his accounts and assets. Naik affirms his unwavering faith in God and justice.