When I met my role model

( My meeting with Dr Zakir Naik )

“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example to follow for him who hopes in (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (Surah Al-Ahzab, Verse 21)

What people become over the course of time is a combination of who they choose to be, what their surroundings were like, what they experience during their lifetime and the people they idolize. Every person has that one special role model who they look up to, admiring their achievements and secretly dreaming to become successful like them. These role models inspire their followers to do extra ordinary things by simply being the best versions of themselves. All of Allah’s prophets were the best humans in terms of character and portrayed the best form of faith. Their actions and reactions to circumstances were priceless and will serve as an example for all until the day of judgement. To further ease things for us, Allah sent our beloved Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) and his companies who serve as our ultimate role models. Their sacrifices and dedication for Allah’s cause was firm and unwavering.

Though these examples are fulfilling, a person who one can see with their eyes and follow as an example are always welcomed. They are public figures who re-establish the mission of a cause. They have created a space for themselves in the public eye and are connecting to like-minded people while those observing them are still struggling to find their purpose in life. These icons have achieved what some are striving to achieve.

As a 13-year-old, I too found myself idolizing many successful people. Childhood being confusing and overwhelming, sometimes I did idolize wrong people as well. Luckily with every wrong comes a right and one such person who shaped my opinions was Dr. Zakir Naik.

All those youngsters who watched his lectures and debates back in the 90’s know well that, getting inspired was one of the end-product of it. His goal was to spread Islam as a result of which many were enlightened towards the beauty of Islam. For a time where social media wasn’t as progressive as today, his achievements were remarkable. Personally, I loved his debates. They were mind blowing. Every time someone would question him regarding a topic unknown to me, I would keep everything aside and listen attentively. Back then, it was more to see if anyone wins an argument against him. As a teenager, it gave me an adrenaline rush and also an insight into other religious beliefs. It also served as the best way to enhance knowledge of Islam.

During the era of limited social media, he came as a force for change. In today’s time, no one can argue that one gets a good insight or rather every possible insight into what Islam is and how it is the right religion.

He would answer the question in the best way possible, with precise facts and energy. He was a source of inspiration and a strong Islamic figure who motivated thousands and millions of youngsters including me. ‘How would it feel to meet him in person,’ I thought enthusiastically and eagerly. ‘To witness him in action and ask a question which he would eventually answer. It would be once in a lifetime experience.’

I was 22, when at a press conference (in the photo: I am wearing a pink top and a white scarf) I met Dr. Zakir Naik. I was working for a daily newspaper back then and had the privilege to interview him. He was as he looks on camera – very active, straight forward and always in the act of spreading Islam and its positivity.

As the interview proceeded, I asked him several questions. All for which I didn’t really need an answer for but wanted to do it anyway. What an honour I felt in getting a reply from him. While interacting he realised I was a huge fan and that this was an amusing moment for me.

‘You are doing great work sir,’ I said. He smiled. He knew I was one of those people who would go all excited upon meeting someone as famous as him. ‘Someday I would like to do something similar to your work,’ I added. He smiled again and the conversation went on for some time.

I still don’t know what made me say this. I had never really thought about what my subject of work would be. I was a writer who wasn’t passionate about any topic I wrote about and it took me a very-very long time to realise what my subject of interest was. I wasn’t even studying the Quran back then. To this very day I don’t know what made me say that but today, as I look back at that meeting with Mr Naik, I think to myself – maybe I was always meant to do what I am doing. And that was a defining moment.

One of the questions asked during this conference was about how the world is in constant chaos and if there is any solution for this. To which he replied – ‘the world can become a better place if people unite on one common ideology and that is Islam’. This quote formed the essence of the article I was writing for my newspaper. But truth as we know doesn’t go well with many people, especially those living a lie. My Editor most definitely could not digest this fact and the report was removed. ‘Let’s only inform our audience about the event where Mr Naik will be speaking,’ he added haughtily. Only details about the event were reported and no extra additions were allowed.

I was a little heart-broken till on the day of the event, my spirit was ignited once again. It was a big hit with 20,000 people attending the event. Generally, newspapers would report any event which had 200 to 300 people attending. So, this was huge. However, I wasn’t allowed to cover it at all. At the newspaper where I was working, the event didn’t get the credit it deserved. Nevertheless, other media groups covered it and this only infuriated those who thought removing one article can do any harm to the message he was trying to spread.

People tend to forget that they aren’t standing against those spreading Islam, they are standing against Allah (swt). And Allah’s work, no one can curb it.

“Our Lord! Do not make us a test for those who disbelieve. Forgive us our Lord, You are All-Powerful capable of defeating anyone and You are All-Wise” (Surah Al Mumtahinah, Verse 5)