Sexual Harassment: A Chain of Transmission

I know I have been quiet for a while. There is so much to say, yet I am so busy. I wanted to add one small observation about the Hassan Shibly scandal.

In Islamic scholarship, the Isnad linking scholars back to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has always been an important way for preserving tradition. The chains of transmission have enabled our scholars to maintain detailed knowledge throughout many eras of crisis, preserving original lessons and connecting new generations of students back to our founding values and approaches. It is a unique aspect of Islam that always inspired me.

But buried in the NPR story on Hassan Shibly is the revelation of a much more nefarious chain of transmission between teacher and student. Reporter Leila Fadel describes a formal review CAIR National conducted on Shibly several years ago in response to complaints from a family that they were being harassed:

The review said the alleged harassment started after the woman called the organizer of a religious conference to warn about an invited cleric who had been accused of having sex with a student. She also sent texts to other religious leaders. The accused cleric was a teacher of Shibly’s, according to the internal review. Shibly called the family’s home, repeatedly called their cellphones and sent a series of aggressive texts. One threatened the family with civil and criminal charges, according to the review. Shaken, the family turned to CAIR National…

CAIR’s report reportedly called the allegations a “serious matter” and it was shared with CAIR Florida, whose board supposedly took “corrective action” – though nothing actually seems to have been done.

What struck me as I read this is that Hassan Shibly likely learned his sexist behavior from his teacher. Shibly’s behavior shows he was a devoted student, ready to go out of his way to aggressively intimidate anyone who might expose his teacher. And Shibly’s own philandering reflects his belief that talented teachers are allowed to avail themselves of impressionable students. Any outsiders who dare to interfere face his wrath.

It seems there is a chain of sexual abusive. Hassan learned a model of behavior from his teacher, who may have learned it from his own mentors. However far this stretches back into the past, we need to stop it in the present. This is one tradition that must be stopped in its tracks. And that means making sure Hassan Shibly can’t victimize any more women and intimidate any more families.

“وَإِذَا الْمَوْءُودَةُ سُئِلَتْ بِأَيِّ ذَنبٍ قُتِلَتْ”

صدق الله العظيم


  1. Missing in this article is that he threatened an autistic minor with going to jail with Shibbley calling himself an investigative attorney. All this to intimidate his mother from reporting his teachers behavior with student.

  2. Chain of transmission is a beautiful principle in our religion across the board, I don’t think a few bad apples undermines the whole thing. Maybe Hassan Shibly did some bad things, maybe his teacher did, that doesn’t really necessitate that the two are linked at all.

  3. It is interesting that you didn’t write and give credit to Abdullah Nana.and his wife for calling his behavior out years ago. Oh, and if you are going to write about my minor son getting threatened by you should have given Abdullah Nana credit for warning the men, no just me calling Samir. You like to backbite and leave out important facts about people who are actually standing up for the victims. Next time, call me so that the story is accurate. This is not. Every scholar has my number. There is far more then the few things you have published on him AND a balanced view of giving credit even if it is someone you hate.

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