Nouman Khan: The one-man Qur’an movement

Updated 05 April 2013
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Nouman Khan: The one-man Qur’an movement

WHETHER it’s tafseer of Surat Al-Rahman, fundamentals of classical Arabic course, or ‘Story Night,’ it’s always the same — hundreds of men, women and children line up to listen to Nouman Ali Khan. His eloquence and humor as a Qur’an and Arabic teacher motivate and inspire people to learn the Book of Allah.
Khan hopes to bring a basic understanding of the Qur’an to every Muslim household. His lectures and speeches, often witty and wise, have garnered attention from YouTubers across the world. The father of six relates well to youth, discussing important but often under-addressed topics like gender relations, peer pressure, partying and losing interest in religion.
Khan is the CEO and founder of the immensely popular Bayyinah Institute for Arabic and Qur’anic Studies. Spread over 11,000 square feet in Irving Texas, Bayyinah is the first brick-and-mortar Islamic institute that does not rely on ‘fund raisers.’ Khan is confident that his school is good enough to sustain itself. “I want top notch,” he says. He pays his fulltime instructors salaries at par with those in Harvard, NYU or Columbia. Khan believes that if a program is good enough people will pay for it and it will continue to improve. The Bayyinah Institute also offers Bayyinah TV, an online repository of videos and notes for self-study.
Knowing the importance of teaching Islam to children when they’re young, Khan will soon add a carefully crafted children’s curriculum to the website as well. The Bayyinah TV already has over 4,000 subscribers and has been dubbed by some as ‘Netflix for the Mu’mins.’
Talking to Arab News, Khan recalled the time when he would live with his family in Riyadh. His father worked for the Pakistan Embassy, and Khan attended the Pakistan Embassy school from grades 2 to 8.
“I have predominantly good memories. It was a very innocent society for children. A fairly sheltered lifestyle. I don’t think the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is anything like that anymore.
The media and Web explosion has affected every society including Saudi Arabia,” he said. Khan commented on an increasingly common phenomenon: Children of religiously committed parents become sneaky, often taking off their hijabs and dating in secret.
The Bayyinah chief pointed out, “Islam is not a set of rules. It’s a way of seeing life and the world.” He finds that people do not incorporate this concept into their children’s education. Children memorize ‘duaas,’ ‘surahs’ and learn what’s ‘fardh’ and what’s ‘haraam.’ This distant and uninvolved relationship with Allah is not enough. “We must transform their personalities. The way we introduce Islam to our families needs a fundamental change. We must teach them morality, courtesy, responsibility. We are not empowering our children with these principles. Doesn’t matter whether you are living in Saudi Arabia or America; the opportunity to do the wrong thing is there, but so is the opportunity to teach the right thing. We really need to start talking to our children about stuff that was considered taboo. If parents don’t talk to their children about controversial stuff, they will get their education somewhere else. We have to have complete transparent communication between parents and children,” said Khan.
The CEO of Bayyinah Institute understands the struggles of the young because he has been there. At one point in his life, Nouman Khan was an atheist. When his father was transferred from Pakistan Embassy in Riyadh to New York, he was in teens. As a typical teenager living in the Big Apple, he lost all interest in Islam. But Allah is the ultimate planner. He had big plans for this once-an-atheist guy! First came the ‘lift.’ A fellow Muslim student at the college offered Khan a ride in his car, but he stopped to pray. Out of embarrassment and gratitude to the driver, Khan decided to pray too. It was then he felt bad for not having prayed in years.
After that incident came Ramadan, the month in which even Muslims who do not pray regularly line up for taraweeh prayers. Khan decided to do the same. Little did he know that Ramadan would become the turning point in his life. After taraweeh prayer each night, Khan decided to stay at the masjid to attend a Qur’an translation lecture about the verses that had been recited in prayer. The visiting Pakistani speaker, Dr. Abdus Samee, deeply moved Khan. He fell in love with the Qur’an, and wished to learn classical Arabic to understand the words himself. Khan soon achieved his goal, with teachers and self-study.
The more Khan studied, the more he realized the beauty and miracle of the Qur’an. He realized that so much is lost in translation. A person reading a translation could get the message, but not the miracle. Khan wanted every Muslim to undergo the transition that he did. He wanted to scream Qur’an from the rooftops. He left his Information Technology job to pursue his dream of making people understand the Qur’an first hand.
The Bayyinah Institute is helping Khan achieve his goals, and helping every person know his/her ‘Rabb.’
“After diving into the Arabic language, the Qur’an started becoming very clear to me, so I wanted that clarity for as many Muslims as possible,” Khan said.
That’s why he chose the name Bayyinah, since “It is an adjective which means something which in itself is very clear.”

n For more information on Khan, his mission and activities, visit www.bayyinah.com