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Interview with InFocus: Imam Anwar al-Awlaki Reflects on Vacation from this World : Anwar al Awlaki On-Line

Interview with InFocus: Imam Anwar al-Awlaki Reflects on Vacation from this World

September 17, 2008 - الأربعاء 17 رمضان 1429 by Anwar alAwlaki  
Filed under In the News

By Saaqib Rangoonwala, Staff Writer

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki is a Muslim scholar of Yemeni heritage, born in the United States. He earned his Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University and served as an Imam in San Diego, and later in the Washington, D.C. area, where he headed the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center. Imam Anwar was also the Muslim Chaplain at George Washington University. He is the author of many audio lectures, including the popular series on the “Lives of the Prophets.”
In 2004, he returned to his native Yemen and was banned from re-entering the U.S. despite having American citizenship. According to reports, he was illegally detained by Yemeni police at the behest of the U.S.
Imam Anwar was released from custody on December 12, 2007, having spent a year and a half behind bars. In this interview with InFocus, Imam Anwar spoke from Yemen, reflecting on his past, and talking about the present and future.

InFocus: It’s been nearly a year now since you were released from custody. Upon being released from custody, you called the time you spent in detention a “great blessing from Allah.” Why do you feel that way?Imam Anwar: It was a chance to review Qur’an and to study and read in a way that was impossible out of jail. My time in detention was a vacation from this world.

IF: Have you taken a moment to reflect on that whole ordeal? What did you take away from it?
IA: I still see my detention as a blessing and I believe that I am still enjoying the fruits of those blessings until this moment.

IF: Do you have an even greater appreciation for things that we all maybe take for granted?
IA: Yes, everything is a blessing from Allah. For example I never really liked beans. However in prison I would have beans for breakfast and dinner and they just tasted wonderful. Another example, in my cell the light was on 24 hours a day so when the light bulb went off it was such a blessing to be in darkness for a few days until the bulb was fixed. Even darkness is a blessing we take for granted

IF: What were the conditions like for you in prison?
IA: In general, they were okay.

IF: My understanding is that you were actually just being “held” during the entire time in prison. You were never even charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one, yet you still served time in prison. Is that accurate and if so, do you even now wonder exactly why you were imprisoned?
IA: Yes that is true. I was taken into custody without any explanation and released without any explanation.

IF: You’re an American, born in New Mexico , but according to numerous reports, your detention was ordered by U.S. officials. Do you believe that?
IA: Yes, I believe that I was held at the request of the United States government.

IF: You’ve said in your lectures that the U.S. government has made false accusations against a number of Muslim leaders in America, so you’re not the only one. In your opinion, why does the U.S. feel threatened by Muslim leaders?
IA: The US has taken Islam as its enemy just like Abu Jahl did and for the same reasons. I do not see much of a difference between the US on one hand and Pharaoh, [the] A’ad, Thamud, and the people of [Prophet] Noah on the other. They’re one and the same.

IF: One of your most recent lectures is titled “Battle of the Hearts & Minds,” in which you talk about lies and propaganda. Would you briefly summarize the point of this lecture for our readers?
IA: There has been a plethora of reports from governmental and non-governmental sources on how to defeat what they perceive as the Islamic danger. For example RAND Corporation, which is a think tank affiliated to the Pentagon, has issued a couple of reports on this. They have openly stated that they are unhappy with the way Islam is and want to change it. They then proceed to delineate the characteristics of their version of Islam and how to promote it. They also describe the type of Muslims that they think might be willing to prescribe to this “Rand Islam.” Because they understand that the masses in the Muslim world have lost trust in the US, they state that the US hand in this effort should be hidden and that their Muslim stooges should be in the forefront.

IF: What tips would you give to Muslims living in the U.S. to win this battle of the hearts and minds?
IA: Muslims need to be able to tell the difference between the real Islam and the RAND Islam and they need to know who their enemy is. Living in the West, they also have a responsibility of refuting such attempts of changing the religion of Allah.

IF: Please talk about another recent lecture you delivered, “The Dust Will Never Settle Down.” Was it your response to all the recent attacks on the character of Prophet Muhammad? It caused quite a bit of controversy – so much so that you had to address many questions about it on your blog.
IA: Yes that lecture was in response to how the West has been dealing with the great person of Muhammad lately. As you stated, it did cause some controversy and a lot of responses. Some were staunchly in support of what I have said, while others were angrily against. I have backed up everything in there with solid evidence from Qur’an, Hadith and statements of scholars and I stand behind every word in it.

IF: What can we look forward to from you in the near future, insha’Allah (God-willing)?
IA: I am currently working on the last part of the Seerah of Muhammad. Insha’Allah it should be done within a few months. For a long time I have wanted to do a series on the Crusades and on al-Andalus so these are some ideas for the future.

IF: Are you allowed to travel outside of Yemen? If so, do you have any intention to return to the U.S. ?
IA: There are no official restrictions on my travel. However, I do not intend on doing any travelling at the moment.
IF: You must know by now the outpouring of support during your incarceration and since your release. How does that make you feel?
IA: Alhamdulillah I am very grateful to my Muslim brothers and sisters for that. I was also amazed by the amount of email that I received after my release. I thank all my brothers and sisters and ask Allah to reward them abundantly.
IF: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
IA: We need to take our religion more seriously. Islam is not something that we use to fill in the spiritual compartment of our life while we leave everything else to our whims and desires. Islam should rule over every aspect of our life.


33 Responses to “Interview with InFocus: Imam Anwar al-Awlaki Reflects on Vacation from this World”
  1. MuhammadNo Gravatar says:

    Aslaam-o-Ahlakiom Sheikh,

    Nice concise interview. Its good to know that the last part on life of Muhammad (pbuh is coming soon. I am eagerly waiting for the sheerah. We all love you for the sake of Allah. May Allah keep your heart firm on the Islam inshAllah and you keep on delivering us the valuable lectures.


  2. Kazi RizwanNo Gravatar says:

    So true ! We need to take our religion more seriously…specially during the times we are in.

    Happy to hear that…the Last Part of “Seerah” will be available soon ! InshaAllah.

    May Allah grant peace to the Ummah !

  3. SalsabeelNo Gravatar says:

    Just want to share, that like the writers of the other two comments, I too am excited to hear that the last part of the seerah will be available soon.

  4. Abu IbrahimNo Gravatar says:

    Assalaamu Alaikum,

    May Allah reward you brother Anwar on your efforts to spread Islam and educate Muslims the world over. Your lectures have helped me become excited about studying Islam and learning more about Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. and the Sahaba.

    May Allah bring victory to the Ummah.


  5. Muhammad Usman AshrafNo Gravatar says:

    Asalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatulla wa Barakathu.
    Jazakallah for the interview our brother Imam Anwar al-Awlaki is a beautiful gem to us full of wisdom and knowledge, and may Allah preserve you and keep you steadfast on the haqq Inshallah. I am so happy that you are finishing off the sira of Muhammad (SAW) Jazakallah again for your efforts and may Allah reward you the reward of everyone that listens to you and grants the highest place in Jannah Inshallah. Ameen

  6. ATNo Gravatar says:

    Asalaam Aleikhum,
    Dear respected my brother Anwar,and all my bro’s and sis.
    Your naseeha “Islam should rule over every aspect of our life” – its very short but very important. With my little knowledge of Islam but this what always runs in my mind everyday,every now and then.
    I am pleased to hear from you my dear brother that you are working on the last part of Seera of Nabii Muhammad SAW.
    By the way, a year ago, Allah blessed us with a son. We named our son Muhammad, after we listened to your lectures “Seera of Muhammad SAW”. Your work did not go unnoticed.May Allah reward you abundantly.
    Last Saturday afternoon, while in the office, we heard Music and noisy outside, our area is mostly populated by Muslims and such things never happened before, we ignored but the music and noise increased and we came out to find out what is really going, the month of Ramadhan, who is invading our streets with such starnge things. We found out that the were group of Hindu Caravan celebrating one of their ritual with music,dancing in the street like hayawan. After cursing the satan, we praised Allah to make us Muslims. Alhamdulilah bros and sis we are not dancing in the streets today because of the Task and Risalah of Prophet Muhammad SAW. We are blessed Ummah.

  7. KhalidNo Gravatar says:

    Assalam Wa Alaikum Brother Anwar

    May Allah reward you for spreading Da’wah and ofcourse beautiful words of wisdom.
    I think we all need to be in some kind of situation in order to be closer to Allah. Wonderful things like hardships, imprisonment, financial difficulties, etc. I say wonderful things because they are part of the cleansing process for us in this world. I am honestly not looking forward to the Aakhira punishments.
    If we see the punishments of the after-life, we will ask Allah to punish us every second in this world till we die. Islam is absolutely not an entertainment process.

    I pray that Allah give us Taqwa and a lot of patience, and have mercy on us on the day of judgement.

  8. HaniNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu alaykum,

    May Allah give you a long life and blessing in your time so that you may benefit us with knowledge and give you Jannat Firdaws. I think the history of Andulas would be an amazing lecture series. Al-maghrib institute had a two week seminar and one of the shaykhs, Yasir Birjas went through the history of Andulus. Subhan’Allah it was an amazing place and time. It had so much richness in every aspect. Of course the ending was so sad, losing such wealth, knowledge. It as especially infuriating the way the kuffar treated the muslims and what they did to our women, may Allah give them Jannah Firdaws.

  9. Musl1mNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Alhamdulillah it’s great that we will be able to hear the last part of the “Seerah” in the near future. May Allah (SWT) bless you imam Anwar and grant you Jannatul-Firdaus.

    I hope that you will be able to educate us on the lives of the last two Khalifas, namely Uthman and Ali (RAs) too. It’s of utmost importance for the Ummah to know what really happened during their Khilafa, and why some things happened as the way they happened. Perhaps guided person like you could educate us all, otherwise there are too many information on this that can confuse the person.


  10. Ibn Na'eemNo Gravatar says:

    AsSalaam Alaikum Ustad Anwar Al Awlaki,

    I am very much looking forward to the last part of the seerah! And a series on Al Andalus would also be very good in highlighting the glorious times when the Muslims took their religion seriously,


  11. PolytykNo Gravatar says:

    One comment that we would like to share with our readers, please pay special notice to Imam Anwar’s comment about the U.S.

    “The US has taken Islam as its enemy just like Abu Jahl did and for the same reasons. I do not see much of a difference between the US on one hand and Pharaoh, [the] A’ad, Thamud, and the people of [Prophet] Noah on the other. They’re one and the same.”

    Imam Anwar compares the current U.S. Regime to 4 very distinct ‘people’. Abu Jahl who was killed by the two courageous youths at the Battle of Badr…. Pharaoh, the People of A’ad and the People of Thamud who ALL incurred the wrath of Allah (SWT) and their destruction was made as a sign for those who believe, until the Day of Judgment.

    The Enemies of Islam will be defeated, their is no doubt to that. May Allah destroy the enemies of Tawheed just as HE (SWT) destroyed Pharaoh, A’ad and Thamud. Ameen.

  12. HasanNo Gravatar says:

    as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatulLahi wa barakathu,

    I cannot wait for the rest of Seerah sheikh and most certainly the crusades. Sheikh have you considered opening up a paltalk account to give live lectures … maybe on a weekly basis … please ? May Allah (swt) reward you for your efforts and gather us all together in Jannah with His messengers (as).

  13. ahmedNo Gravatar says:

    powerful quotes
    .”Even darkness is a blessing we take for granted”.

  14. Abdul AzeezNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu alaikum Brother,

    Jazakhallah Khair for your excellent interview. I am very happy to hear about the last part of Seerah and upcoming new lectures. May Allah reward you for your truthfulness!

  15. AmmarNo Gravatar says:

    As Salaamu Alaykum wa RahmatulLahi wa Barakathu,

    May Allah reward you in this life as well as the Akirah. Im sure that you have benefited me just as much as you have benefited the rest of us. I can still remember when one of my closest brothers first gave me the HEREAFTER lectures, and ever since then I have been waiting for the next lectures. Looking forward to the The SEERAH, I learned so much about the Greatest man ever created, and it filled my heart with love for Allahs Slave & Messenger. And not just the singing and clapping love the love to follow his Sunnah.
    I think that a lecture on Al Andalus would be great, I think its alot to be learned esp. in our time.
    I really want to make Hijrah, maybe you can give me some advise. I have tried to find more information about it but it seeems most imams dont really have to much to say about it.
    May Allah give give us ease on the day of terror and make of the Shahid. AMEEN.

  16. Umm YusufNo Gravatar says:

    MashaAllah I enjoy your webpage as much as I enjoy listening to your lectures! Alhamdulillah.

    I know you are a busy person, but I ask of you if you find the time, to help spread the word of a Yemeni family in NY who suffered a gas explosion last year and are all finally out of the hospital now and trying to stand on their two feet. All four girls younger that 6 years old were badly burned and their mother died. My husband and I are trying to raise some money for them to give them for Eid inshaAllah ta’ala.

    More info:

  17. MohamedNo Gravatar says:

    As-Salaamu Alikum,

    Every believer will be tested in this world…Insha allah, with his imprisonment, we pray that allah (swt) erased his sins and forgive him…

    with the guidance of allah, Imam Al-awlaki with his series of lectures brought me and my wife closer to allah.
    Growing up in New York, we are surrounded by all these kufrs and corruptions that goes on…al-hamdu illah, all that is changed now…the “hearafter” series was an eye opener as Sheikh Anwar gives you a clear preview of whats to come.
    Sheikh by listening to your lectures alone, we’ve received to much knowledge, especially in the seerah…we’ve received knowledge that’ll benefit us for life…may allah bless you and reward you for your efforts…
    we are awaiting the 2nd part of the seerah…

  18. HasanNo Gravatar says:

    as salaamu alaykum sheikh,

    do you reckon you can work on something regarding the quilliam foundation, another thinktank ?

  19. faizaNo Gravatar says:

    as salaam alikum sheikh,
    may allah reward you brother anwar for your effort to educate muslims all over the world. i as everyone else, the hearafter series have benifited me soo much, ever since then i have been addicted to your lectures.
    once again may allah subhanatallah reward you with the highest sate of jaanah.

  20. abdullahNo Gravatar says:

    By Allah I am deeply sad that the umah of muhammad messenger of Allah are even talking about taking islam seriously may Allah have mercy on all of us

  21. abu_dharaarNo Gravatar says:

    Asalamualikum Muslimeen!

    Sheikh, Where do you get these powerful words from? Why do they have so much impact on someone’s life? Our “scholars” keep Deen of islaam confined to Fiqh of Menses and iggnore the paramount importance of Fiqh al waqiya. It is a blessing from Allah swt that he send you to us to convey the message of HAQQ …I reflected on one of your statement and i kept thinking and thinking…”We need to take our religion more seriously. Islam is not something that we use to fill in the spiritual compartment of our life while we leave everything else to our whims and desires. Islam should rule over every aspect of our life.” Islam will dominate, insha Allah.

    Sheikh , I have a earnest request- Please find 20 minutes in a month or week to come on paltalk and benefit us from yoru knowledge.
    Jazakummullahkhairan jaza’a

    Wa salam

  22. SajjadNo Gravatar says:

    Asalam alekum,
    Dear shekh awlaki

    Great to hear about new lectures comming on serah, and it would really be great if you could take out one day every week or one day every two weeks on paltalk jzakAllah

    your brother

  23. amalNo Gravatar says:

    Asalamu aleykum wrwb imam anwar
    I can,t wait the rest of seera, may allah reward you for that and all your good work we all benefited. and remember all may brothers/ sisters, rasullullah SWA said, if anyone continully asks forgiveness allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress, relief from anxiety,and will provide for him where he never realized.may allah have a mercy on us, forgive our sin and give a victory this ummah
    asalamu aleykum wrwb

  24. Abu BasimNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah forgive your sins and save you from the torment of the grave and hellfire.

  25. OMNo Gravatar says:

    AA Sheikh Anwar,

    JK for that. The idea about a series on Andalus is excellent. There aren’t a lot of good books written by Muslims in English. And to my knowledge there are only a few lectures overall in English and not with good quality either. So doing this series would be a great idea and of great benefit to our Ummah. JK. AA

  26. abu nabilNo Gravatar says:

    asalamu alaikum ya sheikh

    may Allah azza wa jall give you more knowledge to benefit us all, and thank you very much for your efforts , may Allah grant you jannatu firduws

    ya sheikh in your next al-indalus lectures could you please touch on dawlatu murabiteen
    dawlatu mowahideen
    family names of ahlu indalus
    what happened to the muslims of al-indalus after the fall of gharnata
    and how can we trace those family names that are still in indalus and in south america (mexico)

    jazallahu kula khair

  27. Muhammad Salm AimaqNo Gravatar says:

    Dear respect Imam I thank Allah(SWT) first of all to guide me to light of Islam and the rightous path and he has guided me through listening to your beautifull elequent words of wisdom, these lectures that you have produced they are priceless without a doubt.
    I am from Afghanistan living in Australia and all the Afghans that I have passed your lectures to they have absolutely loved it and we can’t wait to have more of it Inshallah.
    Dear Imam may Allah(SWT) grant you al jannat al Ferdous because you deserve it in our eyes and shaykh I would love to just travel to Yemmen to see you but if we are not able to meet you in this life May Allah(SWT) make us meet you in Jannat al Ferdous.
    Jazakallah Khair

  28. falestineNo Gravatar says:

    salaam, that was a beutiful interview. mansha’Allah. May Allah destroy all the enemies of the Muslims. May Allah protect our Shaiks and our scholars.
    i’m so excited about the new lecture. may Allah make us like long to listen the lecture. JZk sh Anwar al Awalki,

  29. sister ishratNo Gravatar says:

    salaam sheik
    mashallah listening to your lectures is bringing me closer to islam jzk salaam

  30. Umm SalamNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah grant us guidance. Ameen.


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