Obituary: Fuad Nahdi

by
22 May 2020

Church Times/Geoff Crawford

The Bishop of Bradford and Wahida Shaffi write:

THE first Muslim to speak to the General Synod, one of the founders of the Christian Muslim Forum, a journalist who wrote widely and provided wise and challenging leadership to the British-Muslim community, Fuad Nahdi was an early victim of Covid-19. His funeral, attended in person by only a few, but followed by thousands as it was live-streamed on Facebook, showed how he had inspired generations across faiths and continents.

Hajj Fuad Nahdi was born in Tanzania on 1 June 1957 to an Indonesian mother and Yemeni-Kenyan father. The family later settled in Mombasa, Kenya, where he attended the University of Nairobi to study economics. In 1983, he came to London to study for a Master’s degree in Islamic Studies at SOAS, University of London, and trained as a journalist at City University.

It was in 1989 that he married a leading Muslim community activist and Londoner, Humera Khan, who helped Fuad settle into British life. Together, they created a welcoming and nurturing home. This was a place where scholars, musicians, community activists, journalists, aspiring young Muslims, and academics from across the UK and around the world graced their now dining-room table, and where food and edgy conversation were in plentiful supply.

It is in the UK that his discerning presence and critical precision as a writer, publisher, community activist, interfaith practitioner, and leader have been most felt. He helped to shape British Muslim media, interfaith relations, and community engagement.

As a journalist, Hajj Fuad also wrote for Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, Arab News, BBC World, Africa Events, The Economist, the BBC World Service, and many more. In the late 1980s and ’90s, he founded two of the most iconic independent British Muslim newspapers, Muslimwise and Q-News. His vision was to provide a nuanced and critical space in which British Muslims could engage with issues that were pertinent to their lived experiences.

Hajj Fuad had a deep love for the spiritual and found great joy and contentment listening to the Burdah — 13th-century odes in praise of the Prophet Muhammed. He organised several large-scale Mawlid events , including one at the Wembley Conference Centre in 2005, at which more than 3000 people took part, including UK dignitaries, Christian leaders, and artists.

Hajj Fuad was a founding member of the Christian Muslim Forum, a friend of Archbishop Rowan Williams, and addressed the General Synod in 2014, the first time a non-Christian was invited to do so. He was fond of quoting the hadith: “Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms, and prayers? Making peace between one another: enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”

In 2012, he was presented the 3FF interfaith Gold Medallion Award in Canada House by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) for his work towards integrating people of different faiths. Hajj Nahdi joined an illustrious list of previous recipients, including Pope John Paul II, King Hassan II of Morocco, and Cardinal Hume.

After the London bombings, he founded the Radical Middle Way, a community-interest company, with the aim of creating platforms for deep spiritual and critical reflection. They organised 230 programmes and events across the UK, Pakistan, Sudan, Indonesia, Mali, and Morocco, with more than 75,000 participants in the UK alone. He firmly believed that having strong and positive values rooted in religion could help tackle extremism and was often heard saying: “The problem is not too much religion. The problem is too little good religion.”

Hajj Fuad Nahdi, journalist and publisher, died on 21 March, aged 62. He is survived by his wife, Humera Khan, and children, Ilyeh Nahdi and Nadir Nahdi.

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