Sheikh Shady: An Inspiration In Tough Times

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman

You don’t need me to tell you that what we are currently experiencing is a once in a lifetime occurrence….with the onset of COVID-19, which is wreaking havoc in most parts of the world at the moment.

Living in Australia, we are fortunate that we never experience the devastation of war, poverty and hunger face to face…and while the bushfires hit us hard just last summer, we have no active volcanoes – and earthquakes rarely register high enough on the Richter Scale to cause any damage.

But we certainly haven’t ‘escaped the clutches’ of the dreaded Coronavirus!

As of yesterday (Saturday), the death toll in Australia had sadly risen to 30, with well over 5,000 infected.

Already 10% of the infected are known to have recovered and we pray that God willing, as many of the others as possible will soon be on that same road to recovery.

The mood of the entire community is sombre, and understandably so, as this kind of catastrophe is unknown to Australia.

None of us has previously experienced the restrictions currently being imposed on us by our lawmakers, and most of them with good reason.

Sudden, massive unemployment, lockdowns and the inability at times to purchase even the most basic essentials like toilet paper, pasta, rice, longlife milk and hand sanitiser are among the bi-products of this terrible plague which has swept the globe.

While the long-term economic effects of the crisis will be something that it takes the world many years to recover from – if at all.

Looking closer to home, and this is just as an example if you had told me six weeks ago that I needed to seek clarification – or even PERMISSION – for my kids to visit their grandparents – or to kick the football around the local park, I never would have believed it!

If you had said that pilgrimages to Makkah would be put on hold, that Masjids would be closed (even during Ramadan) and that funeral and wedding numbers would be restricted to single figures, again, I could not have even contemplated it.

Then there’s the cancellation or at the very least the postponement of world famous sporting events like Formula 1, the English Premier League, the NBA in America, our very NRL and the jewel in the crown, the Olympic Games.

It’s sad times like these that we are all looking for inspiration, to bring back our positivity and to bring back our focus, especially now with Ramadan less than three weeks away.

And there is no better person to draw on for inspiration than your role model.

I am indeed fortunate to have some wonderful role models in my own life, none closer to me than my amazing parents.

But today I want to talk about a man who has had an exceptional impact on not only my life but the lives of countless other Muslims.

That gentleman (whom I’m sure all readers would already have heard of owing to his amazing impact on our community and beyond) is Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman.

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman – Kissing his beloved mother.

Sheikh Shady’s achievements and accomplishments are many.

He is a remarkable scholar, a forward thinker who is always looking to the future, and a man who is admired and respected by all who know him.

At present, his roles include being the President of the Australian National Imams Council and Chairman of the Australian Muslim Community National Summit (which represents over 200 Muslim organisations across the country).

Australian National Imams Council

Back in 2002 he founded the United Muslims of Australia, an organisation bringing together communities under shared values, with a focus on serving the community in Australia.

Sheikh Shady runs the United Muslims of Australia (UMA) from the thriving UMA centre on Enterprise Avenue at Padstow in Sydney’s south west.

I was privileged that the Sheikh took time out of his very busy schedule to recently taking me on a full tour of this magnificent complex, and a link to the Youtube video of our walk-through appears on this page.

19 Enterprise Ave, Padstow NSW 2211, Australia 

Please take the time to watch it, as I’m sure you will be as amazed as I was….as to say that the UMA Centre is an eye-opener is a complete understatement!

A converted warehouse spread over several acres, the upmarket complex comprises the state of the art Brotherhood gymnasium (far superior to any gyms I have ever visited including Fitness First),  a massive recreational complex, prayer hall, cafes, offices, meeting rooms and 10 classrooms.

While hundreds of young people visit the Centre every day, attendances of more than 1,000 per day are not uncommon.

When Sheikh Shady speaks of the UMA Centre, he speaks with pride and a glint in his eye.

“We offer Spiritual, Community, Social and Recreational Services,” he points out.

“We are targeting the second and third generation Muslims and our aim is to have a one stop Islamic centre.

“However, we welcome everybody….Muslims and non-Muslims.”

“However, we welcome everybody….Muslims and non-Muslims.”

The wall chart (which you will see on the video) is a feature of the massive and impressive reception area,  showing that the UMA has almost 60 departments.

The Dawah group is definitely the hub and the engine room of the Centre though….it’s the entry point into the system for newcomers to the Centre and provides both brothers and sisters with many opportunities to decide which path/course they are best suited to, with the eventual aim being to give back to the community.

To give you an idea of the magnitude and excellence of the UMA Centre, a renown Muslim scholar and cleric Mufti Ismail Menk (3.6 million Facebook followers) has described the complex as the best he has seen in the world.

But despite the success of the existing centre, Sheikh Shady has never been one to rest on his laurels.

“The current complex is just stage one….stage two, for which the plans have already been drawn up, including building a massive Masjid and Islamic museum and the first Islamic university, which along with the education facilities and youth centre will mean we will really have the one stop Islamic Centre that I referred to earlier.

“We have only been at this site at Padstow for 18 months; we were up and running within five months and are now almost running to capacity.

“We need to look to the future and my message to our community is: Islam is big…we have to think big and act big.”

“We need to look to the future and my message to our community is: Islam is big…we have to think big and act big.”

One of many other important  ‘hats’ worn by Sheikh Shady is that of long-standing ANIC President.

The Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) was formed in 2006 and is the peak body representing Imams and Muslims in Australia, also electing the Grand Mufti of Australia.

The ANIC executive comprises 20 Imams elected from the various states, and in 2016, Sheikh Shady was elected president of ANIC.

He was subsequently re-elected President of ANIC in 2019 and is also Chairman of the Australian Muslim Community National Summit (which represents over 200 Muslim organisations across the country).

Both ANIC and the Australian Muslim Community National Summit continue to do great work, and it was at the meeting of the 2019 National Summit that representatives of over 150 state and national Muslim organisations signed off on a list of proposed additions and changes to the controversial Religious Discrimination Bill, which is currently before federal parliament.

(You can read more about this in a separate article I wrote on this website last October, headed: “Religious Discrimination Bill: Time For Action”.)

One man who holds Sheikh Shady in the highest regard is Imam Ibrahim Dadoun, ANIC’s hard working public relations officer.

Ibrahim Dadoun – Public relations officer

Ibrahim offered the following observations and comments about Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman when we spoke with him late last week:

“Sheikh Shady has been an inspiration to the Muslims of Australia and works tirelessly and selflessly for the betterment of the Muslim community. 

“I see him walk through the doors of the United Muslims of Australia Centre at dawn, to lead the dawn prayers.

“He then sits in his office and begins his day: working, strategising and brainstorming. 

“He has been successful in gathering the Imams from across Australia with his leadership as President of the Australian National Imams Council. 

“Sheikh Shady also chairs the Australian Muslim Community National Summit, which represents over  200 Muslim organisations across the country. 

“He founded the United Muslims of Australia and is the driving force behind the success of the UMA Centre at Padstow.

“In spite of all of his incredible achievements, Sheikh Shady remains a very approachable man, with a great sense of humour. 

“Sheikh Shady is my personal mentor, guiding me through my journey to become an Imam, and offering me a scholarship to study in Malaysia and Turkey.

“I continually learn from his upright character as he leads the Muslim community to become a community with a strong sense of Islamic identity. 

“His hard work pays off and I ask Allah to bless him and grant him the highest rewards. 

“Sheikh Shady, we are grateful for what you have done for the community and support you in your leadership moving forward In Sha’ Allah.”


I thoroughly and wholeheartedly endorse Ibrahim’ Dadoun’s comments about Sheikh Shady and I will be forever indebted to him for his massive influence on my life.

Since meeting him almost 10 years ago, The Sheikh has taken a keen interest in me as a person and has inspired me to focus upon upholding Islamic principles.

He has also inspired me to be a proud Muslim in Australia, and overall into becoming a better person.

Sheikh Shady has achieved so much a man in his early forties, and his influence is certainly not restricted to the Muslim community in Australia.

I will never forget when I visited Makkah in 2009 for The Hajj, and I was sitting in my hotel room and there on prime Saudi TV was Sheikh Shady….such is the level of respect for him in the Muslim community worldwide.

And as well as endorsing Imam Dadoun’s comments that The Sheikh is a tireless worker for our community, I can also tell you that he is also both a courageous and thoughtful man.

Courageous and principled to the point that in 2017,  he successfully launched defamation action against the might and the dollars of the worldwide media conglomerate News Corp for a series of articles which appeared in the Daily Telegraph and the Courier Mail 12 months earlier.

As for thoughtful, I could relate any number of kind and considerate gestures that Sheikh Shady has done towards me in the decade that I’ve known him.

Certainly, one which comes to mind was when he was visiting Makkah several years ago for The Hajj and he was getting ready to do Umrah, already dressed in the Ihram.

Yet The Sheikh still found time to send a message to me at home in Sydney, saying that he was thinking of me and wishing me and my family well!

It begs the question: who does this kind of thing?

The same man, I guess, who sent me another kind and thoughtful message just yesterday afternoon, when I was putting the finishing touches to this article – an article I can promise you that Sheikh Shady does NOT know I am writing!!

But given the state of the world at the moment, that I reflected upon at the commencement of this story, I am sure that this great man and great Muslim will not mind me sharing extracts of his message to me, which indeed is a message for us all…….

“We are going through tough times but In Sha’ Allah, with our Iman and our Islam, with the guidance from our Qur’an and Sunnah, we are strong and we will come out of this stronger with Allah, stronger in our faith and stronger to one another.

“Stay strong, stay fit and stay connected…we will get through this together.”


LIFE & TIMES OF A GREAT MAN……

  • Now in his early 40s, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman was born in Sydney to an Arab-Palestinian family which migrated to Australia in the late 1960s.
  • After completing his schooling, he began an eight year journey to seek knowledge in the Islamic world, and initially obtained an Ijaza with Sanad (complete chain back to the Prophet S.A.W.S.) in complete and sound memorisation of the Qur’an in Sind, Pakistan. 
  • He then travelled to Damascus, Syria, where he spent six years studying Islam and Arabic at numerous Islamic institutions and was under the mentorship of many well-recognized scholars.  
  • His studies resulted in the specialisation of Arabic and Comparative Fiqh (Islamic Law/Jurisprudence), as well as receiving numerous Ijaza’s in Fiqh, Usul Al Fiqh, Hadith and other Islamic sciences. He also holds a Masters in Islamic Studies.
  • Sheikh Shady currently lives in Sydney with his wife and two children and is heavily involved with the Muslim community, primarily with Australian Muslim youth. He is the founder of the United Muslims of Australia (UMA), Australian New Muslims Association (ANMA), Sydney Islamic College, the Message Magazine, Islamic Media International and other active Dawah organisations. 
  •  He held the position as Secretary of the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) from 2006 to 2015 and has been the President of ANIC since 2016.
  • He is also the Chairman of the Australian Muslim Community National Summit (which represents over 200 Muslim organisations across the country).
  • Sheikh Shady is also an international speaker who frequently travels interstate and internationally, delivering lectures and participating in many global Islamic conferences and major events. 
  • Sheikh Shady also appears on many different Islamic satellite channels such as Islam Channel UK, Huda TV, Iqra International TV, TV AlHijra, and Alrahma TV.

Watch the full tour of this magnificent UMA complex here:

UMA Centre Sydney Tour with Br Steve Dabliz & Sh Shady Alsuleiman