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Fri 30 October 2020:

Top American comedian Dave Chappelle revealed the moment that led to his conversion to Islam, as well as his experience at the holy Zamzam well in Saudi Arabia, during an interview this week.

Appearing as a guest in the latest season of the Netflix series My Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, the superstar American comic sat down for a wide-ranging interview that provided a rare insight into how his faith drove his successful career.

“I wanted to have a meaningful life, a spiritual life, not just what my hands can hold,” he said. “I felt like I’ve always had this notion that life should mean something.”

Chappelle said his conversion to the Islamic faith happened at 17 years old, when he was living in Washington, DC, across the street from a pizza shop with a Muslim employee.

“I would ask him questions about his religion and the guy was so passionate about it, it was very compelling. I liked the perspective of [Islam] and I think these things informed my decision: that I wanted to have a meaningful life, a spiritual life,” said Chappelle.

Chappelle expressed his weariness surrounding the public discourse about Islam.

“It’s been presented in the public space in such a narrow and dismissive view,” he said. “It’s a beautiful religion. And the ideas in that religion are reflected in all the major Abrahamic faiths. You’ll see these ideas in both Christianity and Judaism, you know. It is the idea that this place does mean something, you know?”


When asked by host David Letterman about some of the perceived anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric attributed to US president Donald Trump, Chappelle shrugs it off.

“You don’t expect necessarily that much empathy, compassion or cultural astuteness from a guy like that,” he said.

“What is sad about it is that the [presidential] chair doesn’t have more humanity. But has that chair ever been that humane?”

Chappelle also described visiting the holy Zamzam well in Saudi Arabia, located about 20 meters away from the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

In Islam, it is known for being the well where the angel Gabriel made water appear from underneath the ground in order to refresh the wife of the prophet Ibrahim Hajar, and their son Ismail who had run out of food and water.

Chappelle, whose first son is named Ibrahim, said the well is a source of comfort to him.

“The thing that comforts me about it is the idea that all of this is from a singular source. That this source is ultimately kind, and even though we may not understand the intentions of this source, we’re all connected,” said Chappelle.

Inspired by the concept, Letterman expressed that he would like to visit Saudi Arabia with Chappelle one day to see the location where Zamzam water was found.

Chappelle quipped the site is limited to Muslim visitors.

“I could go see it,” he said. “You probably have to make some phone calls.”

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