Muhammad Hisham Kabbani (born 13 Safar 1364 / 28 January 1945) is a prominent Lebanese-American Sufi Muslim. Kabbani has counseled and advised Muslim leaders around the world from Afghanistan to the UK to build community resilience against violent extremism. His vocal criticism of extremism has stirred controversy among some American Muslims. In 2012 the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre named him one of the top 500 most influential Muslims.
He is also the founder/chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America(ISCA), a non-profit, non-governmental educational organization dedicated to teaching personal moral excellence. ISCA has spearheaded a number of peace initiatives, hosted notable conferences, actively engages in inter-religious dialogue, and promotes traditional and moderate Islamic views.
He is the author of dozens of books includingThe Prohibition of Domestic Violence, Sufi Science of Self Realization, Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine and Beliefs, and Classical Islam and the Naqshbandi Sufi Order.
Activities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia
Among his activities outside the United States, Shaykh Kabbani has founded several organizations in the UK including the Haqqani Worldwide Educational Foundation Center for Teaching Islamic Divine Law and Spirituality, Sufi Muslim Council and the Center for Spirituality and Cultural Advancement (CSCA). In February 2010 CSCA celebrated its launch with His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, at a gala event entitled “Spirituality in Action” at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England.
In the Middle East, he is the co-developer and former General Manager of the Islamic Jeddah Medical Center in Saudi Arabia. In Southeast Asia, Kabbani has established a number of organizations including Simply Islam in Singapore, and an adviser for the Inter-Religious Organization, Singapore.
Shaykh Hisham Kabbani has also been active throughout the world in the field of disaster relief and poverty alleviation. In 2010, he developed a series of water supply projects and relief supply centers in drought-affected regions of Kenya. He has also worked with local orphanages (e.g. Mama Fatuma’s Goodwill Children’s Home, and Al-Nisa Children’s Home) in Nairobi to provide funding and material assistance.
In 2011 Shaykh Kabbani and Dr. Homayra Ziad (Islamic Studies, Trinity College, CT), wrote a fatwa using Quranic exegesis, a review of hadith, and linguistic analysis to determine that the Quran does not condone domestic violence. According to the authors of the fatwa, the broader message of the Qur'an is the promotion of harmony and affection between husband and wife so that they may develop amongst themselves a sacred bond of love and mercy.
Shaykh Kabbani has also written a fatwa on the principles of jihad, which was translated into Arabic and distributed by the US military in Iraq.
Controversy and criticism
In 1999, Kabbani came into conflict with various Muslim groups including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) after he stated that 80 percent of mosques are being run by "extremist ideologies". Muslim organizations harshly responded, stating that Kabbani's remarks "could have a profoundly negative impact on ordinary American Muslims". Kabbani plunged into further controversy when he accused Muslims who advise the United States about Islam as being "extremists themselves". When asked during a conference whether he would name the Islamic groups he believed were "extremist", Kabbani answered, "after the program". When subsequently confronted with the question during the end of the discussion, Kabbani refused to answer. In a joint statement pertaining to Kabbani's accusations, several Muslim groups said that "Mr. Kabbani has put the entire American Muslim community under unjustified suspicion. In effect, Mr. Kabbani is telling government officials that the majority of American Muslims pose a danger to our society."
In his remarks at the State Department that year, Kabbani had claimed that 80 percent of the Muslim American population have been introduced to extremist ideology. His claim was based on his interviews with religious clerics, educators, community members and young Muslims in 114 mosques in the US over an eight-year period (1991-1999).  Although the "80%" figure has been widely cited by public officials, and has been repeated by several other reports, it has not been confirmed by a quantitative, peer-reviewed study.
In his 1999 State Department speech, Kabbani claimed that while the majority of Muslim Americans have been exposed to violent extremist ideologies, "not all of them agree with it." Later in the question and answer session he reiterated that the majority of the Muslim community which is "peace loving and tolerant" does not support extremism. In a 2000 interview with the Middle East Quarterly, he clarified his position that "the problem of extremism is not confined to the Muslim community... Extremism is an unwillingness to accept any viewpoint but one's own... Ideological extremism can result in an act of violence when an individual pursues his ideas to such an extreme that he thinks only his ideas are correct and must therefore be enforced on everyone else."
Works published by Kabbani include:
- Remembrance of God Liturgy of the Sufi Naqshbandi Masters, ISBN 978-1-871031-58-4 (1994)
- The Naqshbandi Sufi Way, ISBN 978-0-934905-34-3 (1995)
- Angels Unveiled, ISBN 978-1-930409-37-8 (1996)
- Fifty Days: the Divine Disclosures During a Holy Sufi Seclusion, ISBN 978-1-930409-72-9 (2010)
- Ask the graves, the mysticism way (1995)
- Love of Auliya and their help for true sufi