On June 3, the world lost a visionary, a pioneer, who shared the dream of a harmonized global halal lifestyle and worked for it to take root across a unified Islamic Economy. Abdalhamid Evans was a guiding light and thought leader in the Islamic Economy who spoke gently and wrote from a clear perspective in a most gifted manner.
Born David Evans in New York to British parents, he was primarily raised in the United Kingdom where he was educated and discovered Islam in 1978 when visiting a friend in London who had converted to the religion with other reverts in the early 1970s after their meeting with a noble Moroccan sheikh in Meknes.
He was given the name Abdalhamid, and returned to Ireland where he was living at the time, and began telling the people what he knew about the Deen. Even though it was very new to him, it established very quickly in his heart because it answered all the questions about fitra that had arisen within him while living in a remote part of southern Ireland. Many of these people also converted to Islam and they went to settle in Norwich in England where there was already an established community of reverts with their own mosque in the city center.
After many years of da’wa Abdalhamid and Salama, his wife, made a life change to work in the halal sector. They settled in Malaysia for seven years from 2003 to be at the center of the nexus of change and development for the halal movement in Southeast Asia. From there, they travelled extensively to Australia, UK, South Africa, the U.S. and Canada, inspiring people to bring forward the halal sector.
Some Muslim-majority countries saw the step into the halal sector as a diversification from oil revenues so were ready to hear his vision for halal. During this time, halal changed from the focus on slaughtering of meat to include travel, clothing, pharma and every aspect of the supply chain.
Anticipating the rise of interest in the Islamic Economy, Abdalhamid and Salama perceived that more than 20 percent of the world’s population would desire high-quality halal products and services to meet their Islamic lifestyle needs.
After attending a large Islamic Finance conference in Dubai in 2004 Abdalhamid decided they should hold a similar event for halal with the long-term goal of bringing the two industries together. He went back to the International Islamic Finance Forum in Dubai in 2005 and presented a paper entitled “Halal food and Islamic Finance—Natural Allies”. It was a very new concept to an industry, though further advanced, was still having its own regulation issues. He then helped launch the pioneer halal conference, World Halal Forum 2006, in Kuala Lumpur, where they convened industry professionals, and presented advanced concepts for expanding and regulating the halal industry.
After leaving Malaysia, Abdalhamid and Salama traveled the globe representing their company Imarat Consultants as Halal Consultants, while maintaining an online presence with their HalalFocus website to keep the global community up-to-date with the progress being made in regulation for the halal sector.
They cultivated relationships with governments, and an array of manufacturers, primary level producers, media experts, and industry giants. They then went on to give their guidance for halal business development, driven by their market intelligence. They started to see their efforts take root country by country.
As multi-national companies grew, food processing technology, consumer goods manufacturers, and conventional financing seemed to overpower and threaten the interests of the common good. The farm-to-fork concept of wholesomeness and accountability, which was conceived in the 1960s and 1970s by the hippie generation, coincided with supply chain traceability and the current evolution of blockchain application.
Abdalhamid carried on to promote the vision of pastoral purity and tied it to the essence of the modern Islamic lifestyle and tech-advanced halal ecosphere through his writings and presentations at numerous international venues and newly-launched Muslim lifestyle shows in the UK.
Abdalhamid’s expertise and belief in the halal sector came out clearly in his writings. In 2007, his article in The Halal Journal tied the mission of halal clearly to its responsibility in Islam. After attending Dubai’s Gulfood trade show, he wrote:
“What became clear at Gulfood is that among the jostling diversity of the marketplace, there are those people for whom halal is more than just a key to market access. It is a portion of God’s gift to mankind; lawful, wholesome, safe, healthy, pleasing. For these people, halal is not just about the end product; it is the entire process. It is a trust, an honour and a responsibility.”
As co-founder of the American Halal Association, while buffering the pressures of Islamophobia in the U.S., he suggested a standards and accreditation model analogous to what was successfully implemented in Australia and New Zealand. To date, several states have some legislation to protect consumers from fraudulently claiming halal on products, but halal standards are yet to be established domestically. In the association’s HalalConnect magazine, Abdalhamid summed up the sentiment at the seemingly long impotence of industry and government leaders that could not advance to fruition what he so clearly saw as the necessary steps to create real change. Yet, he had optimism and summarized the situation in the association’s magazine issue of Halal at the Crossroads:
“Within the landscape of American life, the Muslim community has so much to bring to the table … expertise, experiences, knowledge and skills. It is a community on a straight path, calling to the good, preventing harm, an influential resource in the task of building a brighter future for America.”
After being the Consultant for Halal for the first Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES) in 2013 in Dubai, Abdalhamid was witness to his strong recommendation for third party auditing of halal become a reality in the development of accreditation bodies in both UAE and Malaysia that are today making significant strides in regulating halal certification to help bring transparency to the halal ecosystem.
Abdalhamid had other talents few knew about. He had done beautiful leatherwork since his time in Ireland, photos of which you can still see on his fitrablues.com website. In his 50s he found he had songs in him that needed to be written and played. He proceeded with learning how to play the guitar after studying many methods that top guitarists used during the 1960s. He built his own guitar and started playing and recording songs with deep meaning. One was a tribute to the legendary boxer Mohammad Ali who died on the same day he did, two years before, because, in Abdalhamid’s own words: “No one has written a song about him.”
The love, honour and respect that people had for him, and the knowledge he gave to each of them individually, has been flooding non-stop into his wife’s inbox from the global halal community.
Abdalhamid was a creative, a scholar, and a visionary who shared his outlook for a healthier, more ethical and dignified life for all through his writings and eloquent speech. May he be rewarded and blessed for his service to the Ummah.
(Our deepest thanks to Salama Evans who gave valuable insights to this article.)