Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spreading Islam efficiently: thoughts on Da’wah work

The Arabic word we use to describe efforts at propagating Islam is called “Da’wah”, it is a verbal noun that basically means “Call”. The word Du’aa, in which we invoke Allah, comes from the same root. We can make Du’aa in the usual manner, with outward palms raised, in the direction of our faces, reciting a particular invocation from the Qur’an and Sunnah, yet we can say that a good wish, such as “I hope so and so will be okay” is a Du’aa, because Allah hears the Du’aa, and can know our intentions and thoughts even when others cannot see them. Basically, in Du’aa we can offer it actively [as described above] or passively [as described in the latter portion of the above paragraph.]. Spreading Islam can also fall under these two categories.

Active Da’wah

By viewing Da’wah as a public relations or marketing campaign, there can be so much more potential for success. This would obviously entail organization, indeed, employing or utilizing the talents of professionals. Any business, political or cultural association will have only certain members out there as the ‘media face’, the folks who appear at press conferences, who will compose opinions for newspapers, speak at events. In this age of instant communications and visual stimulation, these sorts of actions are very important. So, to act in an efficient manner, Da’wah workers should have the following qualities. [A] Dedication to Islam. [B] Dress and speak well. With the latter, it may be prudent to practice or compose what will be said before going out to work. [C] Knowledge of the Islamic sources, as well as the local culture, politics, religions, and the like.

Now, it must be admitted that many times, our Imams do not fit these descriptions. They may have piety and have committed to memory many texts of the Qur’an and Hadeeth, but they have these ‘issues’ that are best not aired to new people. Therefore, it is prudent that the Imam-in many cases, depending on the local situation- stick to leading prayers and teaching, and not have such a public role. After all, as good as someone is, we all have talents and weaknesses. Such is life, and there is nothing to be ashamed of here.

If Da’wah workers are actually ‘going to the streets’ then they are to be armed with quality, but easy to read, Islamic materials that they are prepared to give away. Please don’t expect to give some regular Joe-Blow a copy of Saheeh Al-Bukhari on the first encounter.

Passive Da’wah

This is the sort of ‘calling’ that can be done by everyone, regardless of knowledge level, speaking abilities and the like. This “passive Da’wah” was often times exactly what attracted interest in Islam. From the Prophet’s character [as given in many reports] to the scruples exercised by Muslim traders in such diverse places as West Africa, India and Indonesia, ‘passive’ propagation of Islam left a lasting impression, which changed the lives of millions for generations to come. If our personalities are shaped by Islam, our actions regulated by Islam, that will go a long way. As an Imam, I have heard countless stories from people as to how interactions with Muslim co workers, students, business partners or relatives influenced their own decision to investigate the Deen. In “passive Da’wah”, every Muslim should have the ability to answer some basic questions about the fundamentals of Islam, preferably by answering with “The Qur’an says such and such” or “The Prophet said such and such”. Every Muslim should also have on his or her person some literature, just in case someone asks. Keep in mind that Allah gives guidance to who he wants, not who we want. Nonetheless, efforts on our parts will gain some blessing.