The Blog

Thank You, Steve Jobs, From a Muslim Innovator

I thank God for the idea and thank Steve for enabling me to do it. As Prophet Muhammad has said, one cannot be grateful to God unless he or she is thankful to people.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The first time I visited the offices of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, I noticed Apple's Macs all over the place. "Some people are trying to change the world!" I thought to myself. Here were individuals committed to engaging otherwise warring religious groups for the common good -- a revolutionary idea indeed. It was just those types of "crazies" who embraced Macintosh early on. I was one of them.

It was an Apple publicity campaign that included images of Einstein, Gandhi, Jim Henson and Muhammad Ali all stating: "Only those who are so crazy as to think they can change the world can truly change the world."

Steve, born Abdul Lateef Jandali, was the son of Abdul Fattah John Jandali, a Syrian Muslim, and Joanne Schieble, an American Christian mother whose conservative father refused to let them get married. So Steve was given up for adoption. As a school dropout, sometimes, the only full meal he had was at a Hari Krishna langar. Later he converted to Buddhism. And many wonder why he would walk around without shoes at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA.

In the United States, where diversity is becoming as American as apple pie, Steve Jobs' story must be inspiring to all who believe in our nation's future and its contribution to humanity. While our country was going downhill because of wars and the economy, Apple was rising to become the number one company in the world, giving clues to America of what needs to be done to turn things around for all of us.

Our lives have multiple influences. One major influence which helped shape quite a bit of what I do is Steve Jobs and his company, Apple.

Thanks to Steve, Sound Vision, a not-for-profit I founded and lead, was featured on the science and technology page of Newsweek in the early 1990s. Then, ABC News covered it on its prime time evening news because in those days, everyone was talking about the wonders of multimedia, but hardly anyone was using it to develop programs. Sound Vision was able to do that thanks to Apple. That was why Newsweek put our story on the science and technology page instead of the religion page, despite the fact that our product was focused on teaching Muslim kids how to read the Quran in Arabic.

That program may not have been conceived if it were not for Steve Jobs' Macintosh. I remember sitting on my prayer rug, contemplating after fajr, the pre-dawn Islamic prayer, when I noticed my Mac on my desk. The whole idea of a product came right then and there because only the Mac computer could produce hyperlinks in those days. Only a Mac could write Arabic and other non-English languages at that time, or record and play sound, or link sound, graphics and text together without requiring complex hardware or programming skills. These are the things which we now take for granted on all computers.

The idea was born in a few seconds. I test implemented it the same day all by myself while I had never taken a computer class in my life or opened a manual. A prototype was completed in a week while neither my team nor I held programming degrees. In a few months, it was ready. We then waited years for PCs to catch up to the same capability.

That one multimedia Quran program sustained Sound Vision for more than a decade. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have learned to read the Quran throughout the world with Al-Qari, including the guy who started Aljazeerah English. A Saudi University had Al-Qari installed (pirated copies) on all its computers, to teach the students how to read the Islamic holy book in Arabic.

The same simple implementation of linking text, graphics, voice, video, etc., eventually became second nature as we all clicked on the web through our computers and PDAs.

I thank God for the idea and thank Steve for enabling me to do it. As Prophet Muhammad has said, one cannot be grateful to God unless he or she is thankful to people.

Thank you Steve for thinking out of the box and keeping it simple, inspiring creativity.

I will keep following your advice of "Stay hungry. Stay foolish," while I submit myself to the Greatness of my Lord Who created us all.