Professor Joel Hayward: A Scholar Who Found Islam and Wisdom in Warfare

In a world filled with diverse voices and remarkable individuals, Professor Joel Hayward stands as a testament to the power of transformation and the pursuit of knowledge. His journey from a military historian to a respected authority on Islamic history and diplomacy is not only fascinating but also profoundly inspiring.


The news that Professor Joel Hayward has been included in the 2023 edition of The Muslim 500, a prestigious publication featuring the world’s 500 most influential Muslims, might have surprised him, but it’s a well-deserved recognition of his remarkable contributions.


A British-New Zealander by origin, Professor Hayward is a distinguished historian of warfare and military strategy, a field he was drawn to in part due to his father’s military background. He saw warfare as a crucible where human character is tested under the most extreme conditions, revealing qualities such as self-sacrifice, comradeship and courage.

Professor Hayward with one of his books (Image: Victor Besa / The National)


After completing his doctorate at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, focusing on the Luftwaffe’s operations during World War II, Professor Hayward continued his academic journey in the UK. He lectured extensively, including at a military academy, and authored books on military history.


However, the trajectory of his career took an unexpected turn following the 9/11 attacks when a senior military officer suggested to him that there was a militarism inherent in Islam. This assertion ignited his interest in Islam, leading him to embark on a journey of self-discovery.


To deepen his understanding, Professor Hayward took evening classes in Arabic so he could read the Quran in its original language. Nearly two decades ago, he embraced Islam. This transformation not only changed his personal life but also set the stage for his remarkable contributions to Islamic history.

Professor Hayward is a scholar, writer and poet


In early 2010, Professor Hayward relocated to the United Arab Emirates, where he has been a faculty member at various academic institutions, including the Rabdan Academy. There, he imparts knowledge to young Emiratis who are eager to learn.


His unique background, blending Western source-critical historical methodology with his expertise in Islam, has allowed him to offer a perspective few other historians possess. His books on Islamic history, including the award-winning “The Leadership of Muhammad: A Historical Reconstruction,” have earned him recognition as a leading authority in the field.


One of his latest works, “The Warrior Prophet: Muhammad and War,” reflects years of meticulous research and a deep understanding of Islamic history. 


Currently, he is turning his attention to the Prophet’s diplomacy, uncovering insights into how the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) understanding of human motivations and desires allowed him to navigate complex diplomatic challenges.


Professor Hayward’s journey into Islam has also revealed a profound sense of kinship with his fellow Muslims, transcending backgrounds and socioeconomic status. 


In his words: “That’s the thing about Islam – it transcends race, it transcends ethnicity, it binds us all together regardless of our backgrounds and also regardless of our socioeconomic status.”


Living in the UAE, a country that has gracefully embraced modernity while preserving its Islamic heritage, Professor Hayward considers it home. His decade-long experience in the UAE has left an indelible mark on him, and he expresses his deep affection for the nation.


In an era marked by division and misunderstanding, Professor Joel Hayward’s story reminds us of the transformative power of education, empathy and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. His contributions to the field of Islamic history and diplomacy serve as a bridge between cultures, fostering mutual respect and understanding in an increasingly interconnected world.

Professor Hayward will be in the UK at the end of September


Professor Joel Hayward will be on stage at the Life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ Conference on Saturday, 30 September 2023 at The ICC in Birmingham. This event is in partnership with ILM UK.

Book your spot now:


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