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Yahya Rhodus was born in Kansas City, Missouri. At the age of 19, he embraced Islam in Santa Clara, California. He began his study of Islam with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and visiting Mauritanian scholars, Shaykh Khatri wuld Baybba and Shaykh Abdullah wuld Ahmadna. In 1998, Yahya traveled to Mauritania to pursue a full-time course of study, where he learned from some of Mauritania's greatest scholars, including the distinguished, Murabit al-Hajj. He also spent an interim period in Damascus, Syria where he received formal education in the Arabic language, grammar, and Qur’anic recitation.
In 2000, Yahya moved to Tarim, Yemen to continue his studies at Dar al-Mustafa. There, he spent his formative years studying with the renowned scholars, Habib 'Umar bin Hafiz and Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri, along with other local scholars. He studied various sciences including Tafsir, Hadith, theology, jurisprudence, legal theory, the Prophetic biography, and Arabic poetry.
In the latter part of 2005, Yahya returned to the U.S. and served as a full-time teacher at Zaytuna Institute. He subsequently returned overseas to further his studies while he also participated in religious programs worldwide, lecturing, teaching, and translating. In 2008, he was the official translator for Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri at the Common Word Conference held at Yale University and he has translated for Habib 'Umar bin Hafiz at speaking engagements internationally.
In 2010, Yahya returned to California and completed his Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Yahya became a full-time instructor at Zaytuna College and in 2012 received his Masters Degree in Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Starting in autumn of 2012, Yahya and his family will be moving to the United Kingdom to pursue his PhD under the study of Dr. Timothy J. Winter, Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad, at Cambridge University for three years.
I was born and raised in the Bay Area in Northern California. After attending college where I studied English and Photojournalism, I traversed overseas in search of ecstatic truth in art and independent stories to tell. Armed with my camera and a notepad I set out to find those obscure stories that I felt needed a voice. After nearly seven years of travel through Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, I ended up in Yemen where I met acclaimed German documentary filmmaker Stefan Tolz who was shooting his film “Adobe Towns – Shibam, Manhattan of the Desert.” Stefan took a liking to me and trained me in the art of documentary filmmaking.
There, I studied with renowned German cinematographer Sorin Dragoi (Winner of 2004 German Cinematography Award) and further developed my deep love for the camera. In 2003, I returned to the USA and continued my studies in the art of filmmaking at the New York Film Academy (Universal Studios – Hollywood, CA) and graduated at the top of my class with my thesis film “The Champ.”
I co-founded the media production company Guidance Media and also created my own production company Grazroots Films. I relocated to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and established the Media Division of the Tabah Foundation. I also established the production company Tabah Films (which focuses on feature films and documentaries) as well as Tabah TV (a television production company). There I held the executive positions of Media Division Director, Film Producer/Director and Media Advisor at the Tabah Foundation.
I left the Tabah Foundation in 2008 and relocated to Hollywood, California and founded the award winning production company (Cinemotion Media). Cinemotion Media produces feature documentary films (including the award winning films Common Ground, Deen Tight and The Warm Heart of Africa) as well as music videos, commercials, educational films, corporate videos, and short films. Cinemotion Media provides film and photography services as well as official media consulting to several companies and non-profit organizations globally.
My work has been showcased internationally on MTV, PBS, iTV, Rotana, Al Risala, Abu Dhabi TV, Dubai TV, Channel 1 Yemen TV, IQRA, TV Sudan, MBC, Al Aqariyya, KBC, Dream, and at international film festivals, screenings and exhibitions. Cinemotion Media incorporates the expertise and consultation of acclaimed award winning and four time Oscar nominated producer Robert Richter (Woman Rebel, The Last Atomic Bomb, In Our Hands), award winning editor Ruth Schell (A Life Apart, A Letter Without Words, The Last Ghost of War) and many other professional filmmakers and photographers worldwide.
I also founded Mustafa Davis Inc which is the production company that produces the majority of my fine art photography.
Cinemotion Media and Mustafa Davis Inc, have offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, California and Santa Monica, CA.
Canadian born poet and songwriter Dawud Wharnsby began sharing his music with audiences as a street performer in his late teens.
Two decades later, his career as a troubadour has yielded a string of over fifteen solo albums, two poetry anthologies, numerous sound-track credits, collaborations with several of the music industry’s most talented artists and performances in some of the world’s most prestigious theatres.
In true folk-music tradition, Dawud’s songs have spread around the world ~ his lyrics treasured by listeners of all ages, and his refrains ringing out in primary schools, universities, places of worship, festivals, rallies and conventions internationally.
One of the most prominent spiritually and socially conscious writers of our time, Wharnsby's work has been referenced in publications affiliated with both Harvard University in the USA and Cambridge University Press in the United Kingdom.
Dawud’s writings of English language nasheed (spiritual hymns drawn from Qur’anic philosophy) were among the first of their kind written and distributed professionally around the world.
As a voice for the socially-conscious and spiritually-driven, Dawud’s poetry, songs, artworks, intimate live concerts have inspired a generation of educators, musicians, poets and artists.
Though he continues to write, record and offer live performances ~ in recent years Dawud has become a strong advocate of Simple Living and more actively involved with educational initiatives promoting artistic expression as a means to achieving positive social change.
He manages his own music publishing company (Enter Into Peace) and his own independent music production/indie-label (Silk Route Media) ~ both of which help fund several humanitarian and educational initiatives.
As a result of his global efforts in community bridge-building, Dawud Wharnsby (also an avid hiker and lover of the out-doors) was declared an Ambassador of Scouting by the UK Scout Association as of June 2010.
Dawud and his family reside seasonally between their homes in Pakistan and Canada.
Muhammad Adeyinka (pronounced: ah-day-yin-ka) Mendes was born in the United States and raised there and in Nigeria. At the age of 17, he embraced Islam after a life changing journey to Israel. While in college pursuing a BA in Arabic, he began studying the sciences of Islam with scholars from various countries around the United States, among them were Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Muhammad Shareef, Shaykh Nuh Keller, Ustath Ahmad Abdur-Rahman, Ustath Hamidou Taal, and Ustath Amr Khalifa.
Upon graduation, he traveled to the Middle East and West Africa to sit at the feet of a number of notable scholars who further acquainted him with the major Islamic sciences of Koranic Recitation, Prophetic Narrations, Arabic, Theology, Jurisprudence, and Purification of the Soul.
Among the scholars he was blessed to learn from were Shaykh Fareed Azuz, Shaykh Mustafa Turkmani, Shaykh Abdul-Halim al-Jaza'iri, Shaykh Murabit al-Hajj, and Shaykh Ibrahim Makana. He also studied at Ma'had Abi Nour in Damascus, Syria, and has received licenses to teach (ijazat) from Shaykh Uthman al-Imam as-Sakkwatuwi, Shaykh Ibrahim Makana, Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya'qoubi, and Shaykh Muhammad an-Ninowy.
After returning to the United States, he established the Annual Rawdah (www.therawdah.org), a grassroots educational initiative, continued his studies with various scholars in Houston and Pittsburgh, and has focused on translating and teaching rare Arabic manuscripts concerning theology, jurisprudence, ethics, spirituality, and the upliftment of the weak and oppressed authored by some of West Africa's greatest spiritual and intellectual giants. Most recently, he partnered with the Travelling Light film project to film a documentary highlighting the spiritual and intellectual legacy of Senegal in which he taught chapters from Imam al-Gazzali's Ihya Ulum ad-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences).
He and his family reside in Atlanta, Georgia, where he serves as founding director of Sacred Service, an organization committed to the spiritual healing of humanity and a lived articulation of Islam rooted in the socio-cultural realities of indigenous Americans. He also serves as Director and Chief Instructor of the Tahfeez al-Qur'an Program at Mohammed Schools of Atlanta, is co-founder of the youth mentorship program, Kombutsu Boys To Men Rites of Passage, and continues his studies with various scholars in and outside of Atlanta, among them Shaykh Muhammad an-Ninowy, Shaykh Zo Abdullah, Shaykh Bashir Niasse, and Shaykh Khalil Abdur-Rashid.
Hisham Mahmoud is an Arabic Lecturer at Princeton University, where he teaches all levels of Modern and Classical Arabic. He has studied Arabic and its ancillary sciences with scholars in Egypt, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania, where he pursued the disciplines of grammar, morphology, and rhetoric. He has held positions in Arabic at UCLA, Middlebury, and Yale University. He has translated and edited several classical Islamic works on issues pertaining to ethics, jurisprudence, and legal theory, and has also lectured at dozens of universities nationwide on subjects pertaining to comparative religion. Mr. Mahmoud is an advisory board member of al-Madina Institute and the Executive Editor for the Zaytuna Curriculum Series, which serves the four-year Bachelors Degree program for Zaytuna College, the first Muslim Seminary in North America.
Dr. Kamran Riaz has a uniquely indigenous background in Islamic studies. Before high school, he completed memorization of the Qur'an within nine months at the Institute of Islamic Education, based in Elgin, Illinois. Since then, he has continued studying the sacred sciences with some of the most respected and renowned scholars in the Chicagoland area.
He attended the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) for undergraduate studies where he was the president of the Muslim Students Association and graduated magna cum laude from the prestigious GPPA program with dual degrees in Economics and Middle Eastern History.
Kamran also leads Taraweeh prayers in Ramadan and teaches weekly seerah classes at the Downtown Islamic Center. He teaches Arabic classes at Darul Qasim, an institute of classical Islamic learning in the suburbs of Chicago.
In addition, he has spoken at various events including the Zaytuna Minara Program, Sacred Time Project, interfaith dialogues, and the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention. Kamran has also been featured in author Pearl Gaskins' book, "I Believe In…"
He graduated from the UIC College of Medicine and is currently practicing surgery in Dallas, Texas.
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