Muslim preacher Nouman Ali Khan first wanted to divorce his wife and mother of 7 children in 2015. Before the divorce was final, he had at least one secret wife, propositioning several other women. After the scandal broke, he claimed to have been divorced, which was only one untruth among many.
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Married for at least 15 years
Nouman Ali Khan is one of the most famous Muslim preachers in America. He does not call himself a scholar and many Imams with a formal education would deny him such a status anyway. But he has been very successful with his preaching, reaching especially millennials, who seek to reconcile their faith with their secular environment.
Nouman was once himself in doubt about his faith, but eventually found his way back and used that as his platform for preaching and his subsequent fame. Of his personal life, we know little enough. But apparently, he was married to his wife for at least 15 years. Of her, we know even less. She was described as a simple housewife by some and is the mother of his seven children.
Since Nouman has managed to keep his private life private, we don’t even know the genders of his children, nor do we know the name of his wife. According to Muslim custom, private things should remain just that and dirty laundry should never be aired out in the open.
A secret wife
Yet, that is exactly what happened to Nouman Ali Khan. His dirty laundry was aired out very publicly, much to the chagrin of many of his fans and believers. According to what has been written about the scandal, Nouman married his secretary in secret. The ceremony was officiated by one of his students, but the marriage was never announced publicly.
At the same time, he was still legally married to his first wife. His secretary eventually wanted him to go public with their marriage and he did oblige, only to dump her shortly thereafter, reportedly even bragging to have done so.
Not satisfied with his actual marriage plus his secret marriage, Nouman allegedly propositioned several other women along the line, wanting to marry them secretly as well. All that for once purpose alone: to have sex with them.
The scandal breaks
Omer Mozaffar, Muslim Chaplain at Loyola University of Chicago and Adjunct Professor of Theology, was the one to publicly out Nouman and the investigation he was a part of. Apparently, several leaders in the Muslim community were tasked with investigating allegations made against Nouman. They mostly involved Nouman’s proposals of secret marriage as well as his exchange of illicit text messages with his victims and accusers.
Mozaffar publicly addressed the matter on Facebook in September 2017, causing a massive outcry in the Muslim community. Whilst many didn’t believe the allegations, many were also incredibly upset about the fact that such information has been shared publicly.
Sexual assault or purported misbehaviour of religious leaders are apparently something the community would rather not deal with in public. Such things should be dealt with privately, mostly in order to protect the victims and their families, who might otherwise be openly shamed. But some of Nouman’s victims came forward, usually under the condition of anonymity, detailing the exchanges they had with him.
And those exchanges were then subject to an investigation by religious leaders, one of whom (Mozaffar) decided to address the matter in public. After all, Nouman’s reach was too far and wide to let him continue as he had. He was even prohibited from giving public speeches.
Nouman denies almost everything
Nouman for his part first vehemently denied any of the accusations, but later admitted to consensual contact between adults and that his main purpose had been to search for a new wife since he has been divorced for two years already. The latter was a painful admission for him and he had hoped to keep things quiet.
Once again, his many fans and followers were disturbed, however, since his divorce surprised them. It didn’t go in accordance with his preaching and the fact that he apparently left the mother of his seven children did not sit well with many.
His divorce appeared to be a little concern to Nouman, however. He continued to decry the allegations made against him as slander and an attack on his character. His fans, followers and even those who believed the allegations struggled with the whole affair. They would, on the whole, have preferred not to know anything about it, to begin with. Which would have suited Nouman quite well.
Yet, here we are, discussing the matter and its implications to the Muslim community and the failings of their religious leaders.
At the end of the day, however, the allegations remain just that – allegations. No court of law has ever been called on to give conclusive judgement. Those who investigated the matter believe the allegations to be true. Plenty of proof (screenshots of text messages and witness statements) has been collected, but very little action was taken and Nouman has begun to speak publicly again.
Divorcing his wife
So, what do we know about Nouman’s divorce from his wife and the mother of his seven children? As already mentioned, he first wanted to divorce her in 2015. Shortly thereafter he secretly married his secretary. But the divorce from his wife was never finalized and in January 2017 he apparently petitioned for proceedings to be halted, though he did claim by the end of 2017 that has already been divorced for two years. Apparently not.
As far as we know he filed once again in March 2017. But it does not appear as if the divorce had been finalized by the time the scandal first broke. Nouman was only divorced according to his own statement. But there’s no legal proof that he was divorced according to the law of the land.
It’s interesting to note that some claimed the divorce was his wife’s fault because she couldn’t handle his fame or his female followers. Considering the details that came to light during recent months, it would appear that his own motives compelled him to leave his wife – reportedly a simple housewife – to pursue more exciting prospects.
Whatever the truth may be, it does not speak for Nouman and his intentions.