Thursday, April 3, 2014

Naseehah: advice to Tablighi Jama'at and other activists seeking to spread Islam and strengthen the spiritual life of Muslims

Religion is sincere advice [or sincerity, Naseehah in Arabic], [for the cause of] Allah, to the messenger, to the leaders of the Muslims and to the general public. [Sahih Al-Bukhari, 2:42]

 It is in the spirit of the above hadeeth that these words are composed. They are in no way meant to be hateful or condemnation. After all, we have another well-known hadeeth [ mentioned in A-Bukhari's Al Adab al Mufrad and in a slightly different wording in  Tirmidhee's collection] that says that a believer is a mirror [mir-aat] for his brother.  There is wisdom in that particular hadeeth, as we look in the mirror and see if the hair needs to be combed, we can dress ourselves and groom ourselves so we can go out into the world with some dignity, confidence and honor. 

This article is mainly directed towards Tablighi Jama'at, a movement that, although founded in India in 1926 as a means to strengthen the Muslims in an area wherein they had been basically following Hindu customs, it's reach has spread throughout the world. This movement's main activities are traveling from place to place, meeting Muslims and advising them to attend five daily prayers in the Mosque.

Practical advise

Understand that the methodology of calling towards Allah is not limited to reciting to an audience the texts of the Qur'an and Hadeeth. This was understood by the Prophet's wife Umm al Mu'mineen 'Aishaa when she observed that "his character was the Qur'an" [ Saheeh Muslim], meaning that Rasulullaah, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, was the embodiment of courtesy, respect and all the good that is given within Allah's book! In any case, here are some practical words of advise.

[1] Understand your surroundings: This is especially important in Non-Muslim countries. The needs, culture[s], history and issues of the local community are not always the same as given in Muslim societies. A good example of this is the mosque itself. In most Muslim nations, Mosques and prayer halls are almost always accessible. People can enter them anytime, even outside times for daily Salaah, for personal prayer and reflection, study, shelter. However, that is not the case in Western mosques. While the mosques may be open for daily prayer, security as well as practical concerns prevent the mosques from being accessible at all moments. Moreover, while the Masjid in muslim nations serve mainly as a place for prayer[ ft.1], in the West the Mosque serves as a community center, place for weddings and marriage counseling, as a place that even has political function. In other words, we have to be realistic in light of our needs and surroundings. Half-hazard and 'spur of the moment' acts such as going to Mosques in distant cities without even so much as seeking permission from those in charge of the said Mosque, expecting to spend the night for a week or a month, and be provided food and cleaning facilities   actually does more harm than good. The Qur'an itself speaks of being prepared, of the importance of planning[ft.2]. Organized and well-thought out, practical plans are far superior to random actions.

[2] Be considerate of your hosts: This means more than simply putting money in a donation box. If staying in a mosque and using its facilities, clean up after one's self. Don't impose yourselves on people. This lesson is admittedly a hard one, it was even hard for Prophet Muhammad himself, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, to teach his followers. It was Quranic revelation itself that had to address these things. " O believers, do not enter the Prophet's houses until permission has been given to you for the meal, and [even then not so early] as to have to wait for its preparation. When you are granted permission, enter, and after the meal, disperse, and don't push for leisurely talk . Verily, that type of behavior on your part is hurtful to the Prophet, he is ashamed to dismiss you, yet Allah is not ashamed of Haqq.."[ft.3]  [Q 33:53]. Have enough respect to do simple things, while in a mosque for a few days, like buying soap and toiletries. As highlighted earlier, random acts are not as worth-while as planning. We live in an age of email, webpages, text messages and easy communication. Call ahead, and see if it's okay to pay a visit.

[3] Be ever prepared in terms of dealing with Non Muslims: The logic of Tablighi Jama'ah is, in a sense, that the Muslims have to be reached before Non Muslims. Thus, people on Khurooj seek out Muslims, usually the same few Muslims every time, Muslims who already have a religious consciousness and connection to the local Masjid. This is a waste of time and resources for all concerned, passing up entire cities of people with the wrong idea about the Islamic message just to preach to those who are already in the choir!  Our recommendation is to, at least, be prepared to have a good discussion with Non Muslims. There are numerous stores that sell Qur'ans for small amounts of money. Booklets, small pamphlets and CDs that represent authentically the Islamic message- in English- can easily be stored in the car or in a suitcase. 

Getting our priorities straight

There are a great many issues in today's world, issues that can be addressed by the Qur'an and Prophetic model. Allah is not only the Rabb of the Masjid, he is the Sustainer and provider for the entire Universe. Islam is for inside the mosque as well as outside, it speaks to realities.So let us get our priorities straight. 

Wa Billaahit Tawfeeq.


[1] The word for mosque in Arabic is Masjid, literally, a place for prostration [Sujood]. In Arabic grammatical language, it's Ism al Makaan.

[2] An obvious example of not acting in random way and being prepared, planning out well, is in the Qur'an 8:60. Going into war with no preparation leads to disaster. This logic is applicable to all things, especially things relating to Islamic work.

[3] Haqq has various meaning, including that of justice and what is right. In this ayah, the implication is that the Prophet, upon whom be peace and blessings, has a right to not be burdened, he has a right to relax in his home, but he's shy to express this. I think all humans can relate to this in one sense or another. There is a bit of social etiquette given in this ayah. Also of interest in this regards is the whole of Soorah Al Hujuraat [ Soorah 49].