Rami Nashashibi: A Profile
Born in Amman Jordan in 1972, Rami Nashashibi comes from a famous Palestinian family—Nashashibi’s have served as Palestinian leaders for centuries. On both sides of Rami’s family, relatives served as leaders of various Muslim movements in Palestine, but Rami was raised in a secular household—he was to re-discover Islam in America.
Throughout his teenage years, Rami moved around the world with his step-father’s job, and attended English-language schools. He came to Chicago in 1990 to play collegiate soccer. He was drawn, however, to leftist politics, and became involved in anti-war activities, a local Palestinian political group and Hispanic causes.
Through his involvement in leftist activities, he met a former Black Panther who took him under his wing and explained and introduced him to life in America. Hanging out with Black activists, some of whom were Muslim, Rami was often asked if he was a Muslim. These encounters forced him to grapple with his Muslim identity. At first he argued against Islam, and then started to read the Quran in order to find ammunition against it. Ultimately the Black activists led him to learn about Islam, and to finally make a choice—either reject Islam or accept it. Unable to find a valid argument against Islam, Rami took the logical step of embracing Islam fully. Because of his path to Islam, Rami felt like a new convert and identified strongly with indigenous Muslims.
Rami’s Islamic involvement started in the early 1900s while he was a student in DePaul University. In time, many of the students at DePaul began to itch for a more activist agenda—they wanted to get beyond just halal and haram, beyond (radical) rhetoric, and beyond the confines of the University. As Rami said, it became untenable “to say la ilaha illa Allah and then withdraw thinking that that was radical. How un-radical is radical rhetoric.” The idea of IMAN emerged as a vehicle for involvement in the nitty-gritty issues of struggle.
Rami’s spiritual growth was enhanced in 1997 when he heard Shaikh Hamza Yusuf, who challenged many of his ideas. Rami came to see the merit of spirituality and its ability to speak to all issues. The necessary interdependence of Islam’s morality, activism and spirituality became clear.
After graduating from DePaul in 1995, Rami has continued to pursue his education. He received a MA in Social Sciences and is currently a Sociology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago.