It was the late 90s and I was in my late teens, a confused lad with honest intentions of becoming the best Muslim I could. Zakir Naik had become a sort of a folk hero by then, and it was with great hope that I visited him at his office in Mumbai. There was an informal session between the many young visitors and Dr. Naik. At one point, my friend raised his hand to slightly disagree with Dr. Naik on some point. I am still dismayed at Dr. Naik’s response. He raised his voice a few octaves, his face went red, he started arguing with my friend, and for all practical purposes just asked him to shut up!
Some years later I was dragged to a program of his by my bother-in-law. There, a Christian man in attendance asked a question to which Dr. Naik didn’t have a proper response. The outcome was the same: his voice got higher, and the arguing got childish. The Christian man ended up specifying that he was not convinced of the answer, and most honest Muslims must have also admitted as much. It was then that I realized that Dr. Naik is a stubbornly self-righteous individual who has no room for disagreement, and who loses his patience when the going gets tough. His mentor, Ahmed Deedat, who I also had the pleasure of seeing, radiated a warmth throughout the room which put the Muslim and non-Muslim attendees alike at ease. There’s no such thing with Dr. Naik.
Dr. Naik, in my view, is quite frankly an overrated N2I evangelist who is only popular because of the lack of legitimate, genuinely good speakers on the scene. How else do you explain the popularity of someone who keeps coming up with gems like the following: “Eating pigs is forbidden because they commit adultery”.
Even the doyen of Indian journalism, Khushwant Singh, has this to say about Dr. Naik:
“I find Naik’s pronouncements somewhat juvenile. They seldom rise above the level of undergraduate college debates, where contestants vie with each other to score brownie points.”
In fact, Singh’s full article will tell you a lot about Dr. Naik. You can find it at: wwwDOThindustantimesDOTcom/News/viewscolumnskhushwantsingh/Why-Muslims-lag-behind/Article1-255454.aspx
That said, however, I hear that his organization, IRF, has been doing great work in promoting education amongst Muslims in Mumbai
Also, last year, he had the courage to openly say that Karbala was but a political battle and that Yazeed (R) was a good caliph. He also said that tombstones are not allowed and should be demolished. The tombstone statement drove all the grave-worshippers crazy. He was even pulled instantly from the Barelwi-backed channel, QTV. This gives me hope that he might be drawing closer to N1I.