Mustafa Briggs: These Are Just Tools To Reach God


It’s easy to get lost in the names, numbers, and contexts that inform who we are. In this podcast, we hear how Mustafa Briggs conceives identity as something that both illuminates and conceals. Piecing together aspects of identity and experience, Mustafa and other like-minded U.K. based Muslim millenials are creating a niche cultural conversation using Instagram and YouTube as tools to connect. We hear about ‘Beyond Bilal,’ a talk that Briggs designed to foreground black history in Islam, and how this project has taken him to forty different colleges and venues in a single year. As these identities enrich our understanding of who we are and where we come from, Mustafa reminds us that there is no one way to embody them. These identities are only the beginning of our journey. How we use them to manifest the truest version of ourselves is the work that must not be left undone.

A few highlights from our conversation:

Mustafa: It’s up to us to educate people about our experiences the same way everybody else educates everybody else about their own experiences. So I created Beyond Bilal: Black History in Islam… just to bring people to a different understanding, and a different perception of black Muslims and Islam in the West, it was more for black Muslims themselves to know… they have a place within the Islamic narrative.

Mustafa: I feel like it’s up to us, as young people who live in this new world, and live with this new technology and live within this globalized monoculture, and live within the societies to think about what aspects of the Islamic tradition are the most relevant to our context today? And what do we need to connect to? Because this is this whole concept of being connected to the tradition? But what part of the tradition?

Whatever you emphasize, that’s what gets spoken about.

Imran: The word you use emphasis I think that’s, that’s an interesting word. Because a lot of times it’s like, it’s either this, or it’s that. But to say, ‘what are we emphasizing’ — Emphasize what we need right now. Let’s not focus on the things that may not be helpful. It’s an attitude rather than a paradigm, or an epistemology, or something like that.

Mustafa: All these identities and all these different strains… I feel like instead of you seeing yourself being put into different boxes, you should just see yourself as a well that has different streams of water flowing into it from different places. I have my influence in Fiqh (Islamic Law) from the School of Imam Malik, then I have my influence in Tassawwuf (Islamic Spirituality) from Sidi Ahmad Tijani and Shaykh Ibrahim. And then I have my cultural influences from being born in inner-city London. And all of that just makes up me, as a person. And then even all of that is just majāz, like, it’s just allegory. Because in reality, I’m not even any of these things. I’m, you know, I was that soul that said, balā’ before I came into this world. And I’m going to return to a state where there will be no family ties, and there will be no identities, and there will be no politics, and there will be no pronouns, and there’ll be nothing except— were you good? Did you believe and did you make the best of that part of a day that you were in this world? Like, Pre-eternity, abad, and Post-Eternity, azal, those are the real days. Those are the real times. because Allah describes the Qur’an… When you’re brought back Allah says, how long were you there, and you say, ‘a day or bit of a day.’ It’s a flash— it’s an allegory. It’s so minute that I feel like we shouldn’t kill ourselves trying to figure out what box to fit ourselves in and what to do. All of these minute details when there’s the bigger picture of inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun—you belong to Allah and you’re gonna return to Him. You come from him and you’re going back to him.

So just using Islam, imān, and iḥsān as tools to access Allah, I think, is the goal.

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Creatively Righteous, Haroon Sellars

Free-styling prayer, intentionality in craft, and creativity in devotion to God—these are a few pearls you’ll find in this conversation with my mentor and dear friend, Brother Haroon Sellars. Though not a native to the Bay area, you could say his journey to the Bay has changed the course of both institutions and every heart he has encountered. On this blessed Friday, I hope you are rejuvenated by the intensity of Brother Haroon’s radiant spirit and that you too take the time to find your God-given gifts and bring to life, your creative righteousness. 

Produced by Imran Ali Malik and Zahra Parekh. Special thank you to the Hayward Museum for offering a quiet-ish place to record.

Buy the Content of Character here and listen to Shaykh Yayha Rhodus’ commentary on the Content of Character here.

The Supplication For Light: 

Submitter Circle

Azhar Usman: We’re Not Serious

This is a conversation with my friend Azhar Usman, a man I call the most serious man in comedy. Azhar asked me to watch Ramy Youssef’s show ‘Ramy’ on Hulu, and when I begrudgingly did, I was floored. This happened again with Aziz Ansari’s comedy special ‘Aziz Ansari Right Now’ on Netflix. As we began to unpack the significance of these two shows, we found ourselves wrestling with modern dichotomies: Good Muslim/Bad Muslim; Artists/Awliya’; God’s Estate/Our States.

In this hour and a half, I hope you feel the love I have for this brother, and just how his sobering words help put into perspective the beautiful and flawed world which ultimately, points us back to God. This week’s Submitter Circle Podcast, the podcast for patrons of I. A. Malik Studio has also been made public; for those of you are not patrons, we hope you enjoy this extended auditory experience.

Go deeper and become a patron here:

Books mentioned:

Rene Guenon’s Crisis of a Modern World

Produced by Imran Ali Malik and Zahra Parekh


Time To Widen And Deepen Your Circles

“You plan And God laughs.” That’s something I heard yesterday from a young lady who allowed my Studio team to use a room at her POC owned co-working space in Oakland. I was explaining to her that I was supposed to have an episode out by now, but that the pitch we just gave at that meeting went incredibly well, and the work load is about to sky rocket. Good news is that we are getting closer to the dream of our own office space, hiring audio and video editors, and making the dream of our studio a reality.

I explain a little about what’s transpired this week, play a clip from our patron-only podcast, and end with a clip of Amir Sulaiman from the 10 hours of recording I did with him this week. Next week will be a proper episode with him about our day together.


Hidden Treasures (They Want To Be Known)

This week’s episode is a look at the hidden treasure of children, and trying to see the world from their eyes.

Unless we are parents ourselves, we rarely hear the voices of children, let alone spend the day with them. This is a look inside the challenge of being a working mother and the beauty that can emerge when people from the community respond with their hearts and limbs.

Produced by Imran Ali Malik

Featuring Kari Rott, Asma Saud, Safiya, and Umar.


Adam (There Is No Such Thing As A Divine Accident)

This week we meet Adam, and we learn what it means to be a spiritual brother to someone, and listen to the journey of two friends on the path. Later they meet up with a teacher of theirs, Shaykh Adeyinke Mendes, before Imran has to rush to the airport to fly back to California.


Learning From Experience: Ubaydullah Evans

AMERICAN SUBMITTER returns after a three year hiatus with a conversation with Ubaydallah Evans, an old friend and recent commencement speaker. We talk about the things that have animated our friendship from the beginning, discussing what beauty is for, how wisdom encompasses all things, and what it’s been like for both of us as seekers of knowledge.

To hear the unedited conversation head over to to become a patron and get access to our interviews well before the episodes come out, and give us feedback about what you hear. New episodes every Friday morning. AMERICAN SUBMITTER is an independent production and relies on your support for us to continue to bring you episodes every Friday.

Produced by Imran Ali Malik

All music composed, recorded, and produced by Mikhail Latif.

Thank you to Zahra Parekh, Asma Saud, Ubaydallah Evans, and Mikhail Latif.

All Rights Reserved, I. A. Malik Studio LLC 2019.


The Key to Knowledge

The first episode of American Submitter, released January 2016.

The Wikipedia entry of Menlo Park, California literally begins with the words “Menlo Park is an affluent suburb”. Apparently 21% of Menlo Park residents work at Facebook. In any case, it’s still in many ways a typical nice and quiet suburb of America. I know this because I’ve been there. I went there to visit my friend Scott.

Scott grew up in Menlo Park and he and I currently study at an Islamic liberal arts college in Berkeley, California called Zaytuna College. In this episode we get to hear about his life, his existential struggles,  and the journey which eventually led him to Islam and now to Zaytuna College.