He’s the savviest imam you’ll ever meet. Charming, and not afraid to be a little rough around the edges. His style is to preach deen in the most relatable way. His khutbas are motivational and up to speed with all things modern and contemporary. You’ll find that he throws in pop culture references making everyone stop and take notice – even non-Muslims looked him up online when he related Breaking Bad to Islam!
Imam Suhaib Webb is inspirational to say the least. Not only for his gift of guidance, but because people get him. While some old school members of the congregation might flinch every time he makes a reference to a recent movie, TV show, or song, there is an unaddressed audience of Muslim masjid goers who feel that he’s the only imam who really “gets it”.
During his recent trip to Toronto, Lanterns had the chance to sit down with him for a candid chat which proved to be quite an experience!
Being a convert, Imam Suhaib Webb is always on the quest to learn more and appreciates everything he gains through his pursuit of knowledge. He has an undeniable amount of love and respect for his teachers, who he looks up to even today. Becoming an imam was never on the cards. He only went to the shuyookh to learn, and didn’t think that he would be teaching one day. He takes this role seriously and is afraid of the responsibility that comes with it.
Imam Suhaib Webb was always learning for himself and when asked to speak in front of others, he would turn back to his teacher and request permission first. This old practice teaches students not to get ahead of themselves and instead guides them to understand the importance of the role of a teacher, before becoming one. After a decade of learning, Imam Suhaib asked his teacher if he could speak at an event that he was invited to – and he was told he still wasn’t ready. This was a sign of profound respect for knowledge, which Imam Suhaib holds dear to his heart. According to him, he feared teaching religion incorrectly, so it was important to pay respect to his teachers and wait until they felt he was ready.
Imam Suhaib believes that not everyone who is charismatic and able to speak should just start preaching. Instead, they should learn the responsibility of delivering the message before spreading it. The weight of teaching is heavy on his heart, which is why he takes his work very seriously. In 1995, he first stepped into the world of teaching Islam, equipped with love for the deen, respect for knowledge, and a desire to reach people who didn’t feel connected to the teachings of Islam.
His unique style brought a lot of attention and a lot of criticism. When asked how he feels about the way others perceive his work, Imam Suhaib is humble yet honest. He says he works to please Allah (SWT) and bring people closer to the masjid when they feel no connection to their faith. And according to him, in order to achieve that, he has to speak their language. That is why he’s not afraid to make pop culture references because he knows what his congregation will understand and relate to. He’s unapologetic to the critics and he feels that his message is for those who understand it. If someone he loves, admires, and respects provides constructive feedback, he will be the first to make amendments to his style. But in the meantime, he is happy to address people who gain something from listening to him.
Commenting on his use of contemporary dialogue at the mimbar, Imam Suhaib said that he loves speaking the language people can understand. Learning religion should be done the way it makes sense to you, and as an imam, his role is to facilitate that. He explains that in order to teach Muslims to avoid evil, it’s important for us to know what evils are out there. We can’t hide in our masjids and give weekly sermons without knowing what people are watching, listening to, and talking about. His aim is bringing relatable references in when speaking to his congregation so they can build Islam into their lives, rather than subscribing to it once a week on Fridays.
Having all this attention on him isn’t easy, but Imam Suhaib remains unshaken. His work is what he loves to do and his passion for teaching Islam shines through words and actions. It was an incredible delight to sit with him and learn more about his approach to Islamic teaching.
Before wrapping up the interview, he gave us a little preview for what’s coming up next: a Star Wars themed khutba! We can only imagine what Imam Suhaib Webb has in store! Keep a look out for his upcoming work online at http://suhaibwebb.com/ and even a chance to see when he’ll be speaking in your home town next!