Approaches to Islamic Work part 2: Specific Means
Approaches to Islamic Work –
part 2: Specific Means
Sheikh Muhammad b. `Abd
The ways and means that can be employed
for Islamic work are numerous and diverse. There are new approaches coming about all the time. We will look at some of them.
The written word:
People read. There can be no doubt about it. We cannot believe the popular claim that people
have given up reading when we can see bookstores opening all the time and book fairs being held everywhere. This shows us
that there must be readers out there. It it were not for readers, there would be no books.
Books are not all that
people read. They read newspapers and magazines as well. What is important is that the written word must be read and that
it is also something that can be preserved. People keep libraries in their homes. Even those people who keep books in their
homes merely for decoration are inadvertently providing the visitors to their homes an opportunity to read. Haven’t
we all experienced being to people’s homes where our host has left us for a while and we picked up a book or magazine
lying about and started to read it?
The written word comes in many forms. Each has its own merits and unique qualities.
Writing a book is a serious undertaking. A person should not write a book merely to write one and take up shelf space with
it. An author needs to have a good reason for doing so. Hājī Khalīfah enumerates the reasons why someone should want to take
the trouble to write a book:
The task of writing takes seven valid forms. No
rational scholar would pursue any other. The first of these is a topic that no one has dealt with before and needs to be addressed.
The second is a topic that has been insufficiently dealt with and needs to be supplemented. The third is something that is
difficult to understand and needs to be explained. The fourth is something that is long and drawn out and needs to be abridged
without its content being made to suffer. The fifth is a topic that is scattered about in different references and that needs
to be compiled together in one place. The sixth is a topic that has been handled only in a disorganized manner and that demands
to be arranged in a systematic and orderly manner. The seventh is a mistake hat needs to be corrected.
who would write on a topic that someone else has already written about should make sure that his book provides at least one
of the following five benefits: It should draw forth or introduce some idea that had heretofore either been problematic or
had gone unnoticed. It should bring together some related ideas that had previously been kept separate. It should explain
and clarify difficult concepts. It should present the material in a better, more organized manner. It should dispense with
unnecessary material that unnecessarily draws the topic out. [Kashf al-Zunūn (1/35-36)]
Islamic work is a business that we engage
in with our Lord. It is not something we do for money. Worldly business is a competitive arena where only the fittest survive.
Islamic work is different. If one of us sees that his brother has already carried out the task that we had wished to perform,
we should praise Allah that the need has been fulfilled and look for some other contribution that we can make. It must not
be the goal of Islamic workers to take to pieces or disparage the efforts of others. Instead we must lend our support, assistance,
Letters and mailings: Some organizations involved in Islamic work as well as some
private individuals draft letters, often personally addressed to their recipients. This correspondence can indeed be on the
level of a very direct personal interchange. For some people, letter writing is a hobby that they enjoy and people seek out
pen pals from far afield for this purpose.
Pamphlets and booklets: These are short written tracts
devoted to particular topics. They might discuss Islamic beliefs, some issues of Islamic Law, some points of morality, etiquettes,
or some other topic suited to this format. Publications of this nature abound these days. From one angle, this can be seen
as a good thing. It shows a healthy level of activity. However, there is a downside to it as well. For some people, booklets
and pamphlets have become their only source of Islamic knowledge. People have begun neglecting the important source works
from which the information in those pamphlets is taken.
SMS: One of the newest ways of disseminating
the written word is the short messaging system that works via cell phone. If these messages are used properly, they can prove
to be a very effective means of influencing friends and acquaintances.
Periodicals: Periodicals are
of two kinds. First, there are journals, magazines, and newspapers devoted to Islamic issues. Contributing to publications
of this nature is not problematic. Then there are magazines and newspapers that target a general audience. They are devoted
to various topics. Contributing to such publications is generally a good idea. However, those who wish to do so should adhere
to the following guidelines:
1. The place of publication of any contribution should be clearly predefined. Periodicals
are of many kinds and it important that any contribution is only published in a suitable publication.
2. Another necessary
condition is that no modification or alteration should be made to the contributed article that could in any way change the
author’s intended meaning.
An author who wishes to write for these publications has to be able to put some vitality
into his writing. We often find while reading articles about Islam that, in spite of their being well supported with references
from the Qur’ān and Sunnah, are quite weak in their presentation and fail to hold the reader’s attention. The
readership has to see clearly how the references from the Qur’ān and Sunnah support the point the author is trying to
make. Muslim readers, for instance, already know the Qur’ān and Sunnah and have direct access to these two sources.
What they need to read are articles that will give them deeper insights.
The Internet: This is one
of the modern means of conveying the message of Islam. Though it is a multimedia vehicle for information that can be used
for the dissemination of audio and video materials, the written word predominates. The Internet can no longer be ignored.
It has become indispensable.
It should not be viewed as something evil concocted by the West to corrupt the Muslims.
That is a bad attitude to have. And why should we have such an attitude? Experience has shown us that the Internet is something
that we can use to our advantage. If we turn our backs on it, we are wasting a golden opportunity for calling people to Islam.
who wish to engage in Islamic work using this medium should be people who have at least a reasonable degree of Islamic knowledge.
They should also have the ability to discuss matters in a convincing manner.
The Internet accommodates articles of
all lengths as well as dialogue. It is an ideal medium for the propagation of Islam. A Muslim needs only to put his trust
in Allah and get involved.
2. The spoken word:
The spoken word can be heard on its own or
it can be part of a broader visual experience. In either event, it can have a great impact on the listener. It all depends
on the strength of the topic and the strength of the delivery. There are many ways that the spoken word can be employed:
This can occur in the classroom, an informal study circle, or the local mosque. The teacher can have a great impact on his
students – no matter who they are - as long as he takes their needs into consideration and speaks to them on a level
that they can understand. He can inspire them and help to shape them, no matter how young those students might be.
b. al-`Ās joined a study circle that had convened near the Ka`bah. He learned that they had forbidden children from attending
their circles. He said to them: “Do not do that. Though they may be the smallest people in society today, they will
be its leaders tomorrow, just as we had been the least of our people at one time but now we are leaders of others.”
Muflih, after relating this event in one of his books, makes the following observation:
It is true what he said, without a doubt. Knowledge
acquired while one is young is more firmly retained. Therefore, special attention should be given to the teaching of young
students, especially those who are bright and alert and eager to learn. Their youth, poverty, or weakness should not be hindrance
to our considering them and accommodating their needs. [Ibn Muflih, al-Ādāb al-Shar`iyyah wa al-Manh al-Mar`iyyah
A successful teacher is one who strives to
open his students’ minds. He should take every possible opportunity to make them relate what they are learning to their
Creator, regardless of the subject being studied. This should be one of the fundamental goals of teaching. Ibn al-Qayyim writes:
is a blessing for a man to teach goodness whenever he can and impart advice to those who keep his company. Allah informs us
about Christ (peace be upon him) that he said: “And He made me blessed wherever I was.” [Sūrah Maryam:
31] He meant that he was a teacher imparting goodness, calling to Allah, reminding people of Him, and instilling in them the
desire to be obedient to Him. This is from a man’s blessings. Someone who is devoid of this trait is bereft of blessing,
and there is no blessing for someone else in meeting with him or keeping his company. [Ibn al-Qayyim, Risālah ilā Kulli
Public addresses: This is one of the oldest means of communicating with the public.
There has always been a need for leaders and people of knowledge to address the public about what they need to know and what
they have to do. Anyone who wants something from the people has to be able to address them.
Al-Jāhiz observed that
the length of these addresses has as much to do with the circumstances and the subject matter as it does with the audience
being addressed. He noticed that the public addresses of the Arabs – regardless of whether they were nomads, tent dwellers,
or city folk – could either be short or long. It all depended on the situation and the topic.
When Islam came,
it added beauty and richness to public speaking. It infused it with the words of the Qur’ān and the sayings of the Prophet
(peace be upon him), which was added the stories and poetry of the Arabs.
Moreover, Islam instituted the public address
as a form of worship for both the speaker and the listener by making it an integral part of the Friday Prayer. The Prophet
(peace be upon him) emphasized its importance by saying: “Whoever so much as rolls a pebble under his finger (during
the sermon) has committed a vain act.” [Sahīh Muslim]
Since the listener has been obligated to pay close
attention, he has a right to be listening to someone who has taken care with his topic and has taken both the time and the
circumstances into due consideration.
Exhortations: The exhortation is a special mode of address,
focusing on emotional impact. It requires a style of delivery that is extremely sensitive to circumstances. We can observe
in the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) how often he used to deliver sermons to his Companions and impart advice
suitable for the particular time and situation.
Al-`Irbād b. Sāriyah relates the following:
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) delivered
a sermon to us one day after the Noon prayer. It was a very eloquent sermon that moved our hearts and left us in tears. One
man said: “Truly this sermon must be a farewell. So what do you enjoin upon us, O Messenger of Allah?” [Sunan
Generally an exhortation is delivered on an
occasion where people are unprepared for it, like after the regular prayers or during some social gathering. Therefore, the
person giving the sermon should take extra care to be considerate of the people’s feelings and avoid taxing their patience
or boring them.
Lectures: Lectures differ from exhortations in that the people who attend them do
so with the express intention of listening to them. Topically, it is more scholarly and generally of a longer duration. It
is usually followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask questions, thus demanding from the lecturer a very high degree
of preparedness, academically and psychologically. He has to be in a frame of mind where he will be able to respond effectively
to the questions that are posed to him, and he has to be able to excuse himself from answering questions for which he does
not have an answer.
Panel discussions: This is similar to a lecture except that there are a number
of participants. This is a more exciting forum than a lecture since the discussion moves from one speaker to another. This
distinction, however, can easily be lost if the host of the discussion monopolizes the floor and does not give the panelists
sufficient time to speak.
Radio: The same guidelines that apply to periodicals apply here. This medium
is has a broad public reach and is extremely important. A person wishing to participate in a radio broadcast should make sure
that the type of program in which he is participating is suitable for his message so that it has the proper effect on its
listeners. This is a decision that requires personal discretion.
Television: Participation in this
audio and visual medium is not the unmitigated evil that some people think it is. Indeed, the message of Islam in this way
can reach millions. The many opposing belief systems and moral values that are disseminated via the television pose a challenge
for Islamic work that is quite demanding. Serious study must be undertaken in earnest to determine how to most effectively
employ this medium to promote good and discourage evil.
Recorded media: Recorded lectures have been
around for a long time now and Islamic cassettes have become an industry in their own right, with some foundations devoted
exclusively to their production and distribution. The subject matter of these recordings varies from the thoroughly academic
to emotional orations to Islamic poetry. Recordings are easy to circulate and easy for people to listen to. This makes them
a very effective medium for calling people to Islam. All that is required is for us to work and make sure that good quality
recordings are produced with appropriate content and then distributed in an effective manner.
3. Islamic organizations:
Whether the organization is academic or preoperational, the work of an organization has the advantage of
being a collective effort. An organization can mobilize the efforts of the largest number of people so that each can make
a valuable contribution. Thoughts and ideas can be pooled and improved upon. In this way, the skills and abilities of people
can be employed to their maximum potential. The organization also makes the work being done less dependent on the individual.
The work does not come to an end if one person becomes disinterested or unable to continue with it.
This type of work
also enjoys the distinction of being managed, organized, and conducted with a degree of precision. It is not conducted in
an offhand or arbitrary manner. Everyone works according to a pre-agreed work plan. Each person knows what he or she has to
do and what he or she is entitled to expect. In this way, many conflicts are avoided. This is why an organization must have
a board of directors to carry out its decision making so that decisions are not made arbitrarily. A properly managed organization
is the most effective, beneficial, and error-free way of conducting Islamic work.
Included in these organizational
efforts are summer youth camps and extra-curricular student activities that employ the idle time of our young people. These
programs can be used to bolster confidence, teach skills, develop character, and show young people how to work together to
These are some of the specific means that can be utilized for effective Islamic work. In the next and
final installment, we shall focus – Allah willing – on our personal conduct and how we can employ our dealings
with others as a means of calling people to Allah.