Who is Nouman Ali Khan?

Who is Nouman Ali Khan?

Nouman Ali Khan engages with the audience

In an emerging pattern which reveals modern Muslim scholarship shifting rapidly towards the west, Nouman Ali Khan is the latest candidate to endorse the trend.

Nouman Ali Khan is a lecturer who is extremely popular among young Muslims not only in USA but around the world. Over the last decade, he has forged his name through his informative and emotive speeches.

It wasn’t an easy road for Nouman Ali Khan. Unlike many who tread the path of religious scholarship, he did not have a religious pedigree. It was his life experiences, self determination and thirst for knowledge that helped him hone his craft.

Early Life

Nouman Ali Khan was the born to a Pakistani diplomat working in East Berlin, Germany. His father’s service for Pakistan foreign office meant flocking to pastures new every now and then.  A brief spell in Saudi Arabia followed his stay in Germany. Nouman’s family later got stationed to USA. When Nouman reached the age of 14, his family moved to Pakistan while he stayed back in the US to complete his higher studies. It is perhaps his upbringing in different countries and exposure to multi-cultural environments that aided his understanding and widened his appeal.

Next he found himself as an average American teenager, who according to his own words “behaved and lived like all teenagers in the US lived” and was far removed from religion. It was in his later teens after he joined a college  that he befriended a person who rekindled the religious zeal in him. His friend brought about the change without active proselytization.

Nouman Ali Khan during a lecture
Nouman Ali Khan during a lecture

Mr. Khan mentions that the urge to become a practicing Muslim led him to re-learn the basics of Islam. He had to relearn Salat (the daily prayer) which he had not practiced for a while. He then joined a religious society in his campus where his religious thought and practice was further consolidated. However, just like with most Islamic campus groups in the US, he become part of the “Aqeeda Brigade”. It should be noted that  teenage idealism mixes well with a divisive ideologies. And so just like his peers, through the tools that discouraged plurality, he became judgmental of anyone who practiced their Islam even slightly different from his own.

This led him to be dismissive, differentiating and hypercritical. He however was quick to realize the flaw in his own approach.

Vision Quest

It was  a Ramadan night in a  New York mosque,  that set him on the trajectory on which he is still today. That night the after the end “traweeh” prayers, the portion of the Quran read during the prayers was to be explained by a scholar from Pakistan, Maulana Abdus Samii. It was during the scholar’s lecture that Khan realized what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to learn and explain the Quran.

He went to the speaker and asked him how he could do the same i.e. explain the Quran in a manner he had just heard.  The Maulana (scholar) directed him to learn Arabic,  which he did, starting 1999.

Nouman Ali Khan’s formal education in linguistics aided his understanding of the Quran. Today most Muslims don’t speak or understand the Arabic language. They turn to translations for understanding the meaning of the sacred text. Many a times the meaning is lost in translation and if not, the subtle messages get shrouded. The tone of the Quran and not only the meaning  is essential for its understanding and comprehension. Initially Khan turned to books with commentary on verses (Tafseer books), to understand the Quran. He read Tafseer books  both in Urdu and English. He felt that his limited knowledge in Arabic is proving a hindrance for the deeper understanding and hence he decided to learn classical Arabic comprehensively.

Like a linguist who is trained in focusing on nuances, Nouman Ali Khan was able to home in on the deeper meanings of the Quranic verses.

His craft however operates on two levels. Firstly, he manages to make his audience receptive. He has learned how to open up the hearts and minds of his listeners. His second quality is that he manages to unravel and communicate quranic gems to the audience in an efficient manner.

It should be noted that over time different aspects of the Quran have been used, to fortify its sacredness. During the time of its revelation, it was revealed to a culture that basked in the glory of the complexity of their language. The language of the quran was found miraculous by even the biggest Arab linguists of that time.

During the ages when philosophy became the dominant force, a multitude of Islamic scholars from from Ghazali to Mohammad Iqbal, brought forward the Quranic philosophy to confront Plato-ism  to Nietzsche-ism. Today, the finesse of nuances is getting lost as polarization has increased between the various sects among Muslims. Nouman Ali Khan is a breath of fresh air, as he drives his messages from the core, that no sect/group in the muslim community can dispute.


Nouman Ali Khan touches subjects that others tend to avoid. This includes difficult taboos in the Muslim community (Drugs, Pre-marital sex etc). He uses metaphors that everyone can relate to and more importantly has a sense of humour. His own use of language in the contemporary idiom breaks down the most complex of ideas into byte-size and digestible concepts.

He has stories and real life examples to share that are part of everyones reality.  Nouman’s gift is making  the connections between religious teachings with our everyday experiences.  His is not just a gift of gab  but a skill that is mastered by metronomic contemplation.

“I dont give lectures” he says, “I just talk”.

His own Creed (Aqeeda)

Unfortunately there is a sickness in the modern Muslim mindset. People tend to seek allegiances of individuals so that they could dismiss or condemn them without hearing what they have to say. The same scrutiny is faced by Nouman Ali Khan  and many people are  inquisitive if not skeptical about his aqeeda (Creed).

He has learnt from Tafseer –ibn Qaseer, Muariful Quran , Tadabirul Quran and many others sources. Therefore, he hasn’t restricted his learning from books/teachers of a particular source or sect.

Nouman Ali Khan engages with the audience
Nouman Ali Khan engages with the audience

Today he stands undoubtedly as one of the most influential Muslims of our times.

He setup the Bayyanah Institute in 2005. It has two purposes:
1. To develop a curriculum for Arabic language to a standard that will help Muslims to learn Quran.
2. Muslims are disconnected from the Quran and his institute will help them to reconnect going beyond just removing the language barrier.

It is almost 100 years from the time Sheikh -ul – Hind, Maulana Mahmood ul Hassan found himself incarcerated in Burma for his revolt against British Raj. During his imprisonment, he thought long and hard on the reasons for the demise of the Muslim community. He was able to boil down the reasons to just one root factor. That one factor was the disconnect from the Quran.  Mahmood ul Hassan passed away in 1920 and ever since there have been numerous efforts to revive and repair this disconnected. All these efforts did not find as much footing as they have since the arrival of Nouman Ali Khan. Such is his significance. His boyish looks may defy the physical appearance of a Scholar but his ilk and craft place him in that very category.


There has been extremely high degree of criticism on Nouman Ali Khan. Most of it borders on derogation. He has been mocked for his Amish appearance and called an “innovator” by the Neo-Wahabis. In light of these baseless claims, only the serious and relevant criticism have been discussed here in.

Nouman Ali Khan has been criticized by some quarters for only using Quran as a source in his teaching. He has been called a rejecter of hadeeth. A term quranist/ quraniyoon is often used for him by his critics in this regard. This claim has been dismissed Nouman Ali Khan himself. He has quoted hadeeth many times in his lectures but the large body of hadith and it science is not his forte. He explains that he only holds “Ijazaat” (permission) to narrate a small number of hadeeth because he has not mastered all of them.

The second criticism that he faces is that he hasn’t formally received religious education from the known seminaries like Al-Azhar.  Therefore many noted people have questioned the depth of his knowledge and his credibility to speak on Islam. They have argued that Mr Khan is nothing but promoting “pop-Islam” using channels like Youtube to only further his popularity. This criticism is debunked by the fact that many of his followers are people who are educated, hold professional degrees  and some even in Islamic theology.

“You compare yourself with your-own self from past. That is the only one worth comparing” advises Nouman Ali Khan to budding students trying to follow his footsteps.

Please find here the link to his interview in Urdu




  1. I have been listening to most of mr Khan’s youtube messages and sharing of knowledge and details about the BOOK OF ALLAH. No one is perfect but his delivery and taught of content of Quran is going deep touching our hearts. His pure style that goes detail with love and humor make listening to Khan’s addicted. He has made millions of people come closer to Quran and live with it. At least I am one of them.
    May Allah bless Nouman Ali Khan and his beloved family till jannah. Ameen.

  2. Ustad Nouman Ali Khan’s lectures are one of my favs. But I just have a question, what madhhab does he follow?(if he ever follows any of course)

      • True. It because people get too bogged down with Madhab and dont focus on essence of Quran. His lectures therefore are on topics where Madhab doesnt matter

  3. May Allah reward brother Nouman Ali Khan For delivering the message Allah and help guide the misguided souls Ameen!
    We are from ONE umma only, no groups, no madhhab, no division to path of our deen.
    We are followers of our beloved prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w)

  4. They are right, and although I do enjoy his lectures he is not qualified as other scholars from Al. Azhar. and he is promoting pop-islam. They are true about that. His approach is a bit too pop and I understand he is trying to get the youth, but he needs to continue his education in Hadith, and Arabic to get knowledgeable enough to be able to stand these criticisms which are legit. Anyone can start doing what he is doing and call himself a scholar. He is not a scholar, he is a student of knowledge and after reading this bio, I believe he is doing a good job but he is also a business man,

  5. So far i learn from NAK, it is awasome. I was doing some bad things from my very early childhood, and reached such a position that it didnt give any matter to me.Thanks Allah i got my online teacher NAK, i am back in path of Almighty and going to mosque for my Fazr prayer. May Allah bless all mankinds as the duniya is really terrible. Ameen.

  6. He is not a scholar but he is a good speaker and knows how to promote himself. He has an engaging style and an American accent so it’s easy for him to connect with youth. I think he did some good work but I take him at his real value. He is a commercial evangelical preacher, this is how he earns his living.

    One thing that made many stop following him was his affair and second marriage right after his wife gave birth to one of his many children. He divorced her and married a coworker, nothing illegal or immoral but unethical to not remove himself from the situation where he developed attraction for someone. As a married man, as a father of many young children and as a preacher who tells others to do the right thing, he violated it himself. I feel bad for his wife and young children, they deserved a better husband and a better father, who makes them his first priority. Sadly, he is only human, not the superior being that followers believed him to be. He is a talented but hypocrite preacher.

    • Could you provide the proof of what you are saying? His alleged affair, divorce and second marriage; these are personal matters, how do you know what actually happened between him and his wife?

    • The rumors about the alleged affair causing the divorce are totally false and unfounded. Nouman Ali khan has not married after his divorce. Any comments about a non existent affair is nothing but slander on a man who spends 24 x 7 teaching the word of Allah.

      (12. Why then, did not the believers, men and women, when you heard it, think good of their own people and say: “This is an obvious lie”)

  7. It totally unrelated…..how does it stop people from taking knowledge…..if there is a treasure over there you are not in a position to stop following it….you dont have a choice as you rarely get this type of wisdom that helps you to connect to Quran. HIS personal life is totally unrelated to what we learn from his lectures….In the end its we who will be questioned in how we applied what we learned in OUR OWN personal life….

  8. its totally unrelated….how does it stop people from taking knowledge from him. when there is a rare treasure out there u dont have a choice but to follow his knowledge that takes you closer to Quran…HIS personal life is totally unrelated to what he teaches….in the end its we who will be questioned about how we applied what he taught in OUR OWN personal life.

    • That’s an interesting stance. I get it to some extent. You have someone who can relate to the masses and carries the message of our beautiful deen so well…. Why not just continue to listen to his words? But that’s just it. Our deen isn’t just a bunch of words. An individual’s validity should stem from how they try to follow their words. Yes, speakers are human and they struggle like any other person but, just like you and me, they are encouraged to take a few steps back and reflect before making life changing decisions….
      Family is the building block of our communities. We all know that. When a family is broken for no apparent reason, I would think we should feel the pain too. his ex wife, mother of 7, has a right to be treated with dignity and respect.
      And for the one who compared NAK’s life to that of the Rasul (SAW)……brother or sister, you should know who you are backing up before u empower someone.
      sometimes being in awe of a person might cloud your understanding of who he is. I know his ex wife and have seen his children. They are suffering.

      • I am shock!! At the same time sorry, to both side . There will be a big deep whole for their children development! And the kids who saffer most!
        May Allah always gUide and grant them with HIS MERCY!

  9. Asalaamualaikum all….. plzz watch strory night accused by nouman ali khan… [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcePtGOP1Gw] you will get all the answers there….. no one compares oneself to prophet saAllahu alahi wasalam…. but HIS blessed life is an example and inspiration for all muslims all over the world

    • What answers are you referring to?
      Nouman Ali khan has made poor choices when it comes to his family. He hasn’t done a lecture series on that yet…..

  10. he is not a celebrity that he has to give detailed account of his decisions in life…he has a right to privacy….i am stopping this discussion here only as i feel it is not productive and is equal to slandering a person……Allah Hafiz

    • This is not slander. Thanks for the heads up though. If a man promotes family then he should take care of his. End of discussion.

      • he is not accountable to public….he is accountable to Allah.and only his family knows the details…and if you are not one of his family…you dont have any right in any capacity to question him….now the end of discussion ….

  11. and exactly he is not a celebrity that his viewership will reduce by this accusation…he is a daeee and Allah has blessed his words and people who listen to him are not his fans and he is not accountable to them for each and every decision in his life…..personal and professional life are completely different….plzzz respect the privacy…

  12. he is not accountable to public but he is accountable to Allah….and unless you are one of family members you dont have any right in any capacity to question him…he is not a celebrity and people who listen to him are not his fans….he is daaeee and plzzz respect the privacy….

    • He divorced his wife right after they had their seventh child, a month before the baby had open heart surgery. He saw his children on and off. It’s people like all of you all that let him get away with this. When was it ever ok to not practice what u preach?
      He’s a self centered man who only cares abt his fans.

    • Why don’t u ask him directly? I’m not saying she is but even if his ex wife was a horrible person, she shouldn’t have been treated like the way she was. May Allah have mercy on them

    • I have proof. Why is it so hard to believe? It’s hard because it is a cruel act. Honestly, the fan club that knows it for a fact dismisses it as a personal choice, disregarding his family. The other half of his fan club is in denial….. Either way a public figure who claims to teach the deen get away with being a hypocrite.

  13. Agree that it is his personal choice. Our deen allow men to marry four. If he wanted a second wife, he could have married another woman without divorcing the first wife. Any divorce no matter how peacefully it is done, still has a profound effect on the children. He has not one or two but seven children. I feel bad more for the children than anyone else.

  14. I don’t know what to say about NAK but his knowledge full talks are very useful, may Allah help him for every need ameen.

  15. I was unaware he divorced his first wife I just though he married the second. Does she even have money poor thing. If only being a person of knowledge and a person of character was the same thing

  16. Salam, I have only started listening to NAK recently and as a young Muslim I just have to say that he is absolutely without a single doubt doing his part in this ummah! Ma’sha’allah he speaks only the truth, not once have I heard any negativity from him. If he has had a divorce or not has nothing to do with his lectures or his biography for that matter , and therefore the people commenting on this post with no intention but to sever his name really need a reality check. Yes humans are not perfect, we know this already, does that mean we no longer have the right to preach? Especially when he is touching the hearts of hundreds of thousands including myself Alhamdullilah. Instead of pointing fingers at others we should look at doing our own part in this ummah, may allah (swt) give our ummah guidance and knowledge ameen 😊

    • Gosh, Mona just chuck it already.
      Allah says that there are many lessons from a single fly, or Allah’s other creatures. Even the tiniest ones which people often think that they’re useless.
      If you think NAK lectures are beneficial, just learn from them. Pray for him and his family. Allah prohibits us to seek other people faults.

  17. I totally agree with Arina Hanifa.
    We should hide fault of others and Allah will hide our fault and sin from others.
    We don’t know who is fault wife or husband.
    Hardly ten days ago I listened NAK lecture very first time on Surah Nisa (Women) and his interpretation is Man is provider, protector and not a authority over Woman.
    I am always a knowledge seeker and have a broader a kind perspective of Islam.
    May Allah protect and guide the children of the family.

  18. Assalamualaikum, very beautiful article. Only one comment though.
    Shaikh ul Hind Maulana Mahmood ul Hasan was incarcerated in the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, not in Burma, as mentioned in the article.

  19. To all the worried people who can’t listen to the lectures of Noman Ali Khan, remember the story of prophet Musa a.s .. He killed a man and ran away .. He lost his status in the eyes of pharaoh but then Allah sent him back to the same pharaoh and his people with the divine message to be conveyed !! What was important in this scenario ?? The history of Musa and his character or what he was preaching ??? We all have seen teachers atleast once in our lives who were having affairs with another staff member or even sometimes with pupils .. That doesn’t mean they were not good at the subject they were teaching .. Noman Ali Khan is not an alim.. He never claimed to be .. He is an arabic language teacher and well versed in the quranic arabic specifically and luckily became popular due to this internet and YouTube and Facebook etc…. So just get the knowledge of Quran as much as you can and leave his personal matters with Allah and make Dua for them all .. May Allah reward him the best for all that he has done in his attempt to spread the understanding of Quran and also develop the love of Quran in our hearts .. Which was missing in majority before his efforts he made with the help from Allah.. May Allah guide him to be the best father for all his children and still be there for them. And may Allah make it easier for his ex wife. Ameen