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Interview with Karim Shabazz

He is a highly decorated retired U.S. Navy veteran and a native from Brooklyn, New York. His extensive military tenure afforded him the unique ability to travel and sojourn to such places as Spain, France, Portugal, the Philippines, Japan, as well as Israel. He is a vibrant advocate of religious interfaith activity, not for the purpose of converting others but for the higher purpose of identifying sacred connections and building friendships for community and world peace.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
At the age of 19, during one of my scrupulous reviews of the New Testament and the Quran, I had an invigorating discussion with a prominent Christian pastor, Paul Nordeen, in Brooklyn, New. During this discussion, sacred connections and shared perspectives were surprisingly discovered. Subsequently, the Christian pastor offered to come to the Mosque (house of worship) that I frequent for Jumah (Friday prayer and lecture service). During the service, the Christian pastor listened attentively to the lecture of Imam Siraaj Wahhaj and then prayed with me and the entire congregation by bowing down in humble prostration.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books? What are you currently working on?
Yes, I do. I am currently working on a new manuscript discussing racial tensions, their causes, and possible remedies. I also have another manuscript on my bucket list which discusses Science, Technology, and the wonders of human ingenuity.

Q.3 When did you decide to write Jesus and Muhammad 2 Rays of The Same Light: Profound Similarities, Shared Perspectives and Congruence in their Teachings?
The initial idea for writing this book dawned on me as far back as 1988, during my military service and subsequent travels in Israel. Numerous discussions with some of the indigenous people of Israel, along with discussions with fellow U.S. Navy and Marine Corps servicemen at the time, provided me with many notes and ideas for one day writing a book of this magnitude. The actualization of this idea, however, came after I listened to a profound lecture from Imam WD Mohammed (RAA) who was making some strong connections between Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them). It was at that moment my epiphany came, and I knew it was time to write this book.

Q.4 Did you face any difficulties while writing this book?
Difficulties, no….but challenges, yes! I did not encounter any “difficulties” per se while writing this book, but I was slightly challenged at times! Perhaps the greatest challenge was finding the best words to convey my ideas, as well as the challenge of writing about Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them) without showing bias. There are several other authors on the internet and Amazon who have books comparing Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them); however, I have found most of them negatively biased against Islam and Muhammad.

So, unlike the status quo, I did not want to be biased and underscore the significance and merit of the teachings of Jesus by “exaggerating and hyperinflating” the significance of the teachings of Muhammad during my comparison. Another similar challenge was to write from an approach that did not seek to “entice or persuade” followers of Jesus away from Jesus, at the expense and while showing the similarities and shared perspectives of his teachings with the teachings of Muhammad.

Q.5 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell my younger writing self to consider deeply who the target audience is to whom I am writing; and to utilize the best expressions, the best figures of speech, and the most excellent word selection to convey my ideas. I would also tell my younger writing self to be mindful of certain stereotypes some people may have and any misinformation about my topic.

Q.6 Why did you write your book in the third person? Is there any specific reason behind it?
I wrote this book in the third person because, considering the complexity of this delicate subject and the various mindsets of my target audience, I wanted to project an “outside perspective,” that is, from the outside, looking in. Another reason is that a topic of this magnitude, I felt, deserved a more “authoritative presentation,” which is consistent with academic writing, as opposed to writing in the first person, which is more personal.

Q.7 What are the main things a reader can expect from your books?
Topics that provoke thought, discussions that seek to expand perspectives and outlooks, and content that fills each person’s quest for knowledge and insight. In order to affect change in the world, we have to change attitudes, but in order to change attitudes, we have to positively influence thoughts and ideas. Thoughts and ideas are heavily influenced by brighter perspectives, broader outlooks, and truths that not only make us feel good but prompt us to be good. For any manuscript I have the opportunity to pen, I am seeking these objectives.

Q.8 As an individual, how much you grow on a religious level? How was your life before you delve into this subject?
I believe on a “religious level,” I have grown tremendously. My faith in The Highest and trust in His plan for my life has been resolute and unrelenting. Having said that, my “religious growth,” however, has not made me a “space cadet,” that is, I am not over-dosed with spirituality or religious rituals, such that has detached me from the tangible and material reality. Before delving into this subject, my life was essentially the same, admittedly though I have much more inner peace and a sense of fulfillment from using gifts and talents from The Creator to write enlightening books.

Q.9 What were your feelings when your novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
I was honored but yet humbled, and I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude to The Highest for giving me the inspiration and clarity of mind to pen this book. I was inspired to write this book, and though I feel a great sense of accomplishment, I know this could not have happened without the help and guidance of The Highest.

Q.10 Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I have a natural affinity and attraction to the philosophical/spiritual explanation of things, and I believe by default that most of us will make better decisions when things make more sense. That said, I felt somewhat of a responsibility to help clear up much of the ambiguity and misconceptions concerning Jesus and Muhammad and contribute some constructive views on this profound subject.

Another reason I chose to write in this genre and on this subject, in particular, is because I believe I have a moral obligation to help set the record straight regarding a comparative look at Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them). Numerous other authors have written on this subject. However, in my honest opinion, most of those authors have sought to present Jesus and Muhammad as religious adversaries and estranged opponents, overlooking and underscoring the abundance of evidence in their teaching indicating they were like 2 Rays of The Same Light. This is why I used the word “congruence” in the subtitle. Congruence means that there is agreement, harmony, consistency, and balance.

Q.11 Is there a difference between being religious and being spiritual?
Yes, when most of us hear the word “religious,” we think of someone perhaps going to a house of worship, performing some ritualistic expression, someone who carries out acts of devotion and worship at home and abroad; and someone conforming to ethical and moral rules of right and wrong. Spiritual is more descriptive of our psyche that relates to the soul that is in each of us, and how that soul relates to everything in existence. There are many people, for example, who are highly spiritual; their soul/psyche recognizes the existence of a higher power, a supreme being, they generally seek to be kind, respectable, and courteous to their fellowman - but they may not subscribe to a “religious orientation”; for example, they may never go to a specific place of worship, they may never pray, they may never identify with a religious fellowship of any sort, but they are very much alive spiritually!

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Yes, every writer gets writer’s block at some point. Often, writers are like everyone else who is distracted and influenced by circumstances in their personal life, such as health factors, relationship, and family matters, financial pressures, chatter ideas (racing thoughts with difficulty on focusing), etc. To deal with it is to first recognize the problem. You have to be honest with yourself and identify what is “blocking” the flow of abstract thoughts and ideas moving from your head onto the paper in a coherent fashion. There is no one simple answer; at some point, however, every writer has to come back to what was the initial idea for writing their manuscript and build from there.

Q.13 What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Good question, I think what makes my book stand out from the crowd is its writing style, depth of the subject matter, and unique ability to highlight many of the profound similarities, shared perspectives, and the congruence found in the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them). Considering much of the tensions, hate, ill-will, and divisiveness among people of various faiths and in society, this book seeks to build upon commonalities noted in the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad - to promote peace, understanding, and mutual respect. 
Albeit, there are differences. However, the commonalities we share tremendously outweigh the differences and are definitely worth investing in and exploring for world and community peace.

Many of the other authors comparing Jesus and Muhammad are more concerned with advocating and arguing theoretical and alleged scriptural differences that promote strained relations amongst people of faith, unease, and division; while my book seeks to prioritize commonalities over differences in order to build bridges of friendships for peace, mutual regard, and goodwill based upon our shared values.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
I have a plethora of mind-stimulating and heart-warming books, but one of my favorite books is entitled The Promised Human Destiny: Reflections of W. Deen Mohammed. It is one of my favorite books because its content, among other things, speaks to our human condition on this planet and makes some critical and sacred connections worth pondering. At its highlight, the book offers some highly valuable observations while illustrating the synergy and dynamism of Jesus and Muhammad that many should consider.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
Family and friends are highly zealous, congratulatory, and happy to see this literary work come to life. They are very much aware that this subject comparing Jesus and Muhammad would be somewhat controversial and challenging to many people of faith due to previous views. Additionally, I am the first amongst my family and circle of friends to embark on this journey of self-publishing; as such, some were hesitant and slightly doubtful as to its possibilities and merit. However, that has changed, and there is nothing but good vibes, much support, and high expectations.

Q.16 What would you share with folks who are skeptical of reading Non-Fiction, especially Religious books?
In the absence of having correct knowledge, understanding, and the ability to distinguish what is true from what is false, it is plausible and very understandable for anyone to be skeptical; believe me, I get it. In the absence of correct knowledge, having a comfortable understanding, and the ability to discern what is true from what is false, and then simultaneously being bombarded by so many contrasting views, skepticism becomes the automatic defense mechanism! What I would say is, keep an open mind, read, listen, and look for what makes the best possible sense to your brain, and follow what appeals most naturally to your heart.

Q.17 What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Study and research your niche, study the market, take note of the pros and cons of the numerous authors who are already published. Invest in establishing your own individual brand and identity, embellish upon your own unique ideas and perspectives; however, remember that you don’t have to completely re-invent the wheel trying to become a lone island! There is plenty of room amongst the crowd while simultaneously branding your unique style and content.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
I would like to meet Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey. They both have been abundantly graced with an enormous social platform, such that my meeting them might provide exposure and support of my book to millions of people. Many people are positively influenced by their views and perspectives, as well as by the individuals they help showcase. Meeting Oprah Winfrey and/or Steve Harvey could result in much exposure to help market my product tremendously.

Q.19 Who designed your book covers?
A very talented graphic illustrator and author himself, by the name of Mubaashir Uqdah. As an accomplished author himself, he understands the need to make graphics tell a story!

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
The quest to pen this book showing the profound similarities, shared perspectives, and congruence found in the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them) had been on my “bucket list” of things to do for quite some time. With humility, my journey has been fantastic and highly rewarding. Whether I sell millions of books or several hundred, which is my current pace, I am fulfilled in knowing I have contributed something of immense value to a subject filled with ambiguity and complexity. But at the end of the day and at the beginning of the morning, I believe I have helped make a brighter day for someone!

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