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Staff Success: Adeel Zeb

When one thinks of a chaplain, the general stereotype is an older man with gray hair and a white sash. However, American University’s Muslim Chaplain Adeel Zeb is a 27-year-old  volunteer chaplain who sports a pinstripe suit daily. Zeb’s career goal involves being among one of the first generation of American-born Imams. An Imam is an Islamic leader of a mosque and its’ community.  

Zeb was born in New Jersey and moved to Dallas, Texas shortly thereafter. After a visit to Mecca he felt passionate about his Islamic culture and began worshipping at a mosque everyday. Upon graduating Baylor University with a management degree, he decided to pursue a degree in Islamic studies. Although Zeb has many things to fill his resume, he explains that he has had a difficult time finding work because no one is willing to hire a 20-something-year old Imam. 

Even though there are several obstacles standing in his way, Zeb explains to the Washington Post, "I try to turn every weakness into an opportunity. I say, 'Have I memorized the whole Koran? No, but I'm continuing to learn more every day. I'm not fluent in Arabic, but I understand the importance of learning it.' I try to promote my strengths: I know how to fundraise, I know how to talk with people. I sell myself.”  

Zeb explains that what is now needed is an Imam who is knowledgeable in U.S. culture because in order for them to advocate for Muslim civil liberties and to talk to the media about Islamic culture, an Imam in America must understand the culture here. He says that most Imams are not fluent in English and that their knowledge does not exceed that of the Koran.  

Zeb’s other goal is to reach American-born Muslims in order to prepare spiritual leaders in America. “You have to reach them at high school level, at the college level when they are exploring. When they are learning, when their mind is still young and receptive,” explained Zeb.