Born in Kuwait in 1948, Feisal Abdul Rauf is the Imam of Masjid al-Farah (a New York City mosque). He teaches Islam and Sufism at the Center for Religious Inquiry at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan and at the New York Seminary. Rauf is a member of the World Economic Forum Council of 100 Leaders (Islamic West dialogue); he sits on the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Center of New York; and he is an adviser to the Interfaith Center of New York. In 1997 he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA).
Rauf’s father, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Rauf (1917-2004), was an Egyptian contemporary of Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949), founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. The elder Rauf attended Al-Azhar University and later became a professor there, before fleeing Egypt in 1948.
In 1965 Feisal Rauf’s father moved (with his family) to New York, with the intent of establishing a large Islamic Cultural Center there. Toward that end, he purchased – with $1.3 million in funding from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Libya – approximately two-thirds of a Manhattan city block located along 96th Street and 3rd Avenue. Nineteen years later, in 1984, the elder Rauf broke ground on a $17 million mosque whose construction costs were financed by sources in 46 Islamic nations, though Kuwait supplied most of the money. In addition to the mosque, Rauf built an apartment unit reserved exclusively for Muslims. By 2010, two more buildings had been erected as part of this expansive Islamic complex.
In 1965, Feisal Abdul Rauf (Muhammad’s son) enrolled at New York’s Columbia University, where he proceeded to earn a bachelor’s degee in physics. He later received a master’s degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. In 1971 the Rauf family moved to the District of Columbia, where Muhammad headed the Islamic Center of Washington, which had been established 14 years earlier.
In 1990 Feisal Abdul Rauf opened a small house of worship known as al-Farah Mosque at 245 West Broadway in lower Manhattan.