When we studied together at a madrassa, Rashid Moosagie had a very low opinion of my politics. I was disenchanted by the academic, abstract nature of our curriculum at the Deoband seminary, some 100 miles from New Delhi, where I was enrolled in 1978; I desperately wanted the wisdom of my faith to help shape the world, and I had begun to lose myself in the writings of political Islam.
Rashid had just arrived to apprentice under some scholars after completing his religious education elsewhere, and he thought my notion of "applied Islam" was nonsense. The ideas I loved offered heady rhetoric but little substance, he argued. And eventually I came to agree with him that the madrassa approach, focused on tradition and piety, along with an infusion of new knowledge, was the best way to revitalize Islam. By that time, Rashid had become a successful imam in his native South Africa.