In a celebrity-obsessed culture, we regular people love to know everything there is to know about our favorite Hollywood stars, from their daily diets and beauty rituals to their current dating life and even spiritual affiliations. If you ever wondered whether your dearest celebs were Muslim, we’ve got the topic covered – check out our list of 15 celebrities you didn’t know were Muslim!
15. Ellen Burstyn
This highly talented actress is a veteran in Hollywood land: 84-year-old Ellen Burstyn, who makes a surprising appearance on our Muslim Celebs list. The “Requiem for a Dream” star was raised a Catholic but decided to switch faiths and converted to Islam later in life, after years of studying the holy books. The sophisticated actress, who converted to Islam in her thirties, was inspired by her Sufi Muslim teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, who taught her everything about the Muslim faith and later even gave the actress an Arabic name: Hadiya, which means ‘the one who guides.
The 44-year-old singer/rapper rarely shares anything private about his life. Akon’s name is Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam and while he was born in the USA, he did spend the majority of his childhood in Senegal, only to return to the States before making his debut on the music scene. The rapper has stated that he has always been practicing the Islamic faith, although certain critics have raised their eyebrows at his statements, considering some of the artist’s racier music videos.
13. Dr. Oz
Who hasn’t heard of Dr. Oz? The know-it-all (in the best sense) TV personality seems to be informed on all health-related topics. And if you ever wondered whether Dr. Oz is his real name, then the answer is YES, the charismatic star, under his full name Mehmet Cengiz Oz, is actually of Turkish-American origins with a very eclectic family – his mother’s side is very secular, while his father’s side is very religious. While Dr. Oz grew up with a strong religious influence from his Turkish father, he now identifies his beliefs as “a mystical form of Islam, closely related to Sufism.”
This stunning supermodel of the golden era (when models were not created on Instagram) is of Somali heritage. The statuesque beauty was born under the name Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid (where Iman means ‘faith’ in Arabic), as the daughter of a diplomat’s father. Iman was raised in Somalia along with her four other sisters and her grandparents were the ones that gave her a Muslim-focused education. Even though the beauty later married David Bowie back in 1992, she never changed her faith and was quoted saying: “Getting married did not convert me from a Muslim to a Christian.”
11. Busta Rhymes
Busta Rhymes is one of the many artists of the hip-hop music genre that adheres to the Muslim faith. The 45-year-old artist, who also works as a music producer and as an actor, received lots of Grammy nominations during his long career for his unique work – and while Busta does enjoy fame, he says that the one thing in his life that gives him strength and inspiration is his faith. In his own words: “I live my life by Islam and at the end of the day I think that’s pretty much what grounds me.”
10. Cat Stevens
Acclaimed British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens surprised everyone when he converted to Islam back in 1978 – but few know the story that led to his decision. In his younger years, Cat visited Morocco, where he fell in love with the call to prayer. After his visit, the artist was quoted saying: “I thought, music for God? I’d never heard that before – I’d heard of music for money, music for fame, music for personal power, but music for God!”. A few years later, after a near-death experience in Malibu, the artist felt touched by ‘divine intervention’ – and that determined him to embark on a soul-searching journey that eventually led to his conversion to Islam.
9. Dave Chappelle
Dave Chapelle is not only about the laughs – the stand-up comedian/actor has a serious side; so serious in fact that he rarely if ever talks about it. Back in 1998, the charismatic actor who rocks on “Comedy Central” converted to Islam, but he avoided the topic of his faith in his interviews numerous times. Not only that, but David’s religious beliefs are never the topic of conversation in his stage skits. A few years back, the now 43-year-old actor explained why the topic of his faith is not up for discussion: “I don’t normally talk about my religion publicly because I don’t want people to associate me and my flaws with this beautiful thing. And I believe it is beautiful if you learn it the right way.”
8. Aasif Mandvi
You loved him on “The Daily Show” and on “Funny or Die” and these days, you can watch him in “Halal in the Family” – we’re talking about 51-year-old Aasif Mandvi, who identifies himself as a cultural Muslim’. Unlike other comedians who rarely talk about their religious affiliations, Aasif, who is of Indian-American origin, constantly tackles the topics of stereotypes and Islamophobia in his shows. Besides his funny skits and appearances on comedy shows, the talented comedian is also devoted to his wide range of charity projects – back in 2010, the actor hosted the “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” comedy event to help raise money for the foundation.
7. Zayn Malik
This teen heartthrob is known for his great vocal talent just as much as he is famous for his amazingly good looks. These days, he can be seen next to his stunning girlfriend of Dutch-Palestinian-American origin or delighting his fans with new singles and appearances. You guessed, we’re talking about One Direction’s former member Zayn Malik, who has raised a Muslim. While many criticize the artist for not practicing a Muslim lifestyle, the singer defends himself, saying: “I believe that your religion should be between you and whoever your belief is in. I don’t think you should stick it in people’s faces.”
6. Shaquille O’Neal
You might not have expected it, but he is here on our Muslim Celebs list – we’re talking about no other than basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal! The ultra-talented star, who measures no less than a whopping 7’1’’ in height, spoke about his religious beliefs in a few interviews, even mentioning that he was getting ready for a trip to Haji in Saudi Arabia (where all non-Muslims are prohibited from entering) back in 2010. Shaquille also has a unique middle name: Rashaun, which stands for ‘little warrior’ in Arabic.
5. Janet Jackson
There are quite a few surprising facts when it comes to pop icon Janet Jackson – firstly, she gave birth to her first child at the age of 50, and secondly, she identifies as a Muslim, just like her brother Jermaine. In her younger years, Janet proudly rocked her sex symbol status, complete with racy appearances and even racier stage outfits – but that didn’t stop the star from converting to Islam once she wed her now estranged billionaire husband Wissam Al Mana. Once she made the transition towards a Muslim lifestyle, Janet also opted for tamer lyrics as well as more modest outfits and she was often spotted wearing clothing similar to the traditional hijab.
4. Shohreh Aghdashloo
This Best Supporting Actress Oscar-nominated star of Iranian origin is yet another talented stunner who identifies as a proud Muslim. The 65-year-old actress, who appeared in “House of Sand” and “Fog”, received acclaim in the United States only in her fifties, after establishing a film and stage career in her native Iran. As the winner of the Primetime Emmy Award for her role in the HBO miniseries “House of Saddam”, Shohreh has always been very vocal about hating stereotypes and actively avoiding any roles that portray Muslims in a negative light.
3. Nazanin Boniadi
You might have seen her in “Homeland”, where she plays the role of a smart and hot CIA analyst and you might have also seen her in 2008’s “Iron Man”. We’re talking about actress Nazanin Boniadi, who won both Emmy and Golden Globe awards in the Drama TV Series category for her outstanding acting skills. The Iranian-born British-American actress used to be a Scientologist, following her mother’s beliefs. Even more, the now-37-year-old beauty also had a brief relationship with Tom Cruise, right before the actor married Katie Holmes. Later on, Nazanin left the church and made a turn back to her roots – and these days, she identifies as a “non-practicing Muslim”.
2. Mahershala Ali
Actor and rapper Mahershala Ali is another celeb on our list who converted to Islam in his youth. The actor, who is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has a fascinating story when describing his spiritual epiphany that occurred while visiting a mosque. In his words: “I just had this really strong response where this prayer is resonating in my body, and I’m, like, crying. I woke up a week later, and I get up and I go, ‘I gotta go to the mosque.’ Long story short, I converted that day.”
1. Bella Hadid
She and her sister Gigi are two of the most in-demand models of the moment. And when you think of their mixed heritage and gorgeous mom, you can understand just why. Bella has based her entire career on her good looks and perfectly proportionate hourglass figure and certainly hasn’t been shy about wearing ultra-sexy outfits, which is why many were surprised to find out that the beauty identifies with the Muslim culture. Last year, the stunner was quoted saying, about her father Mohamed Hadid: “He was always religious, and he always prayed with us. I am proud to be a Muslim.”