Concerning Bob Dylan’s conversion to Islam

Concerning Dylan’s Conversion To Islam

by Larry Fyffe

Time to settle the rumours, against the advice of our lawyers. Because stories are being planted in the mainstream press, ‘Untold’ has decided to reveal that, yes, Bob Dylan a few years ago secretly converted to the Islamic religion.

A spokesperson for Untold says, “The news is bound to come out sooner or later, so why hold it back any longer?” There have already been some critics who suggest Dylan’s conversion be not sincere. So let’s examine the historical record – there are signs in Bob Dylan’s early song lyrics that he’s been thinking about converting from Judaism to Islamism for many years.

For instance, on reading that God orders Abraham to kill his ‘only’ son Isaac:

And (God) said, ‘Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac
Whom thou lovest, and get him into the land of Mariah
And offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains
(Genesis 22:2)

The singer/singwriter is clearly not happy about the little joke God plays on Isaac’s father:

Oh, God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son’
Abe said, ‘Man you must be putting me on’
(Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited)

Meanwhile, Abraham sees to it that his first-born son by his wife’s maid gets treated better than Isaac does:

And Abraham called his son’s name
Which Hager bare, ‘Ishmael.’

Ishmael as an adult goes off on his own to Arabia where he becomes an ancestor of the Islamic prophet Muhammad:

And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him
And will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly
Twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation
(Genesis 17:20)

Further evidence as to Dylan’s decision to convert there be. On referencing the namesake in Herman Melville’s novel ‘Mobey Dick’, Bob Dylan declares (in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech):

“Ishmael survives ….That theme and all that it implies would work its way into
more than a few of my songs.”

That Dylan expresses in his song lyrics that he admires Ishmael’s Arabic gumption, there is no doubt:

I think I’ll call it ‘America’, I said as we hit land
I took a deep breath, I fell down, I could not stand
Captain Arab, he started writing some deeds
He said, ‘Let’s set up a fort, and start buying the place with beads’
(Bob Dylan: 115th Dream)

A blue-eyed Arab, the singer/songwriter desires to be:

All that foreign oil controlling American soil
Look around you, it’s just bound to make you embarrassed
Sheiks walking around like kings
Wearing fancy jewellery and nose rings
(Bob Dylan: Slow Train)

Thoughts of lots of jewellery, money, and women of the oda, Dylan just can’t seem to get off his mind. Bigger is better ….better than being a server at a chicken shack, that’s for sure:

‘What’s the matter, Molly dear
What’s the matter with your mound?’
‘What’s it to you, Moby Dick?
This is chicken town’
(Bob Dylan: Lo And Behold)

So it’s not at all surprising, when it’s thought about a bit, that Bob Dylan converts to Islam in order to fit in with the Big Money crowd – that hobos can be damned!

As one might suspect, it looks like it all comes down to a veiled woman:

If you see her, say hello, she might be in Tangier
She left here last early spring, is livin’ there I here
Say for me that I’m all right though
Things get kind of slow
She might think that I’ve forgotten her
Don’t tell her it isn’t so
(Bob Dylan: If You See Her, Say Hello)

What else is on the site

1: Over 470 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also produced overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines and our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews


  1. Note also that in Tin Angel, Dylan references Walter Scott’s Fire King:

    Renouncing his knighthood, denying his lord
    He has taken the green caftan and turban put on
    For the love of the maiden of fair Lebanon

  2. Is there a ‘more recent'(?) Dylan song that has actual Islamic chanting or prayers as background chorus?

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