- Part One: ‘Izzah, Forgotten Concept, Lost Virtue
- Part Two: Literary Analysis, Islamic Understanding
- Part Three: Following the Path of the People Before Us?
- Part Four: The Iman Stimulus Package of Epic Proportions
- Part Five: Conclusion
Let’s return to ‘Umar’s statement to Abu ‘Ubaydah about ‘Izzah – that ‘Izzah is earned through Islam, and that without Islam, there is no ‘Izzah – instead, there is humiliation. No matter how many political organizations we establish, no matter how many protests we hold, no matter what apparent material and social success we achieve, and no matter what vision we have for Muslims in the West, all of it will be for naught without a proper foundation in Islam.
The vast majority of Muslims are considered “moderate” because they don’t practice Islam in its entirety, they simply identify themselves as Muslims. Allah has already warned us in the Qur’aan through the examples of Bani Israel as to what happens to the community of believers when they collectively turn away from worshiping and pleasing Allah – trials and punishment. It’s ironic because we know that those who neglect the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it, and here we are, not reading our Qur’aan for guidance, and doing precisely that – forgetting history and repeating it.
The 80/20 Rule to solving our Ummah’s problems is:
- Target raising the Islamic knowledge and iman of this sort-of/kind-of “moderate” Muslim majority.
- Train da’ees from within specific communities to reach out to their own and bring them in.
- Harness everyone else’s talents to enable knowledge-focused programs.
1. Target raising the Islamic knowledge and iman of the Muslim majority.
The time has come for those of us who have some knowledge, for those of us who are practicing, to turn back to the community and start teaching and advancing knowledge that raises the Iman of the community. No, not the beat down approach that many of us 2nd geners experienced – do this, and do that, and not knowing why. I’m talking about what Aisha talked about when she discussed the Prophet’s daw’ah – starting with a Makkan approach of focusing on Eman, then evaluating the students and seeing if they’re ready for the next level, keeping the fiqhi do’s and don’ts to the required minimum until the people have reached a certain level of education and spiritual closeness with Allah that they can transition to a Madinan level.
Some of you may disagree with this and say, “Why not do it all at once?” The Prophetic manner came with priorities – it started with Iman and then moved into more difficult fiqh issues. Our current approach starts with both easy and difficult fiqh issues (no sense of priority) and assumes that declaring one is a Muslim is enough to motivate them to do good or realize when they are doing wrong. I disagree with this – as I wrote in the Lessons from Ignorance series, not everyone is at the same level of Islamic knowledge, nor are they at the same level of Iman.
On a broader scale, the priority of daw’ah takes higher precedence over political involvement, secular education, and financial success as a means of raising the ‘Izzah of the Muslims. It’s the same thing as enforcing fiqh without first developing the person’s foundation on Iman – you’ll wear the clothes and appearance of success, but in truth, you’ll have no ‘Izzah.
2. Train Da’ees from within Specific Communities to Reach Out to Their Own
A fascinating trend I observed while working for AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago was that the vast majority of Muslims either don’t know or don’t care for the hyper-partisan bickering among salafis, sufis, ikhwaanis, deobandis, ash’aris, hanafis, shafi’ees, hanbalis (I realize there’s some overlap there), and so on. Most don’t know the theological or fiqh differences between one popular speaker and the next – all they care about is that said popular speaker enlightens, inspires, and perhaps entertains the masses with their ability to speak to spiritual issues in a manner they can relate to.
We need trainers (read: advanced students of knowledge) to teach our up-and-coming da’ees to not be neo-hyper-partisan on- and off-line refutniks. Our new training programs need to account for the “arrogance” learning period and help new da’ees overcome that curve quickly. They have to be trained, tested, and certified to teach the basics of Islam in a manner that doesn’t just consist of reciting and memorizing facts, but to encourage, motivate, and inspire their own students with a love of Allah that demands proof of love through action, motivated by one’s internal iman supply. This means they not only need Islamic knowledge, they need to learn and practice techniques of communication that will allow them to break through the walls of skepticism they’ll encounter along the way. Too often, I have watched sincere da’ees who have knowledge, yet no communication ability. They don’t understand how to see the world through the eyes of any but their own, and they address issues in a way that only they and people like themselves can appreciate and understand.
The da’ees themselves need to specialize in a particular cross-section of the community, just as the Prophets themselves were sent to their own communities. Let me be clear – I’m not a segregationist! What I am saying is that each of us has a niche within the community that we are better equipped to address, through our ethnicity, through our social upbringing, and through our life experiences – let’s exploit those natural connections in order to accelerate our daw’ah’s success. And again, I mean this only for the grassroots ground-level community da’ees, not our advanced students of knowledge (although it certainly doesn’t hurt here either).
3. Harness the Talents of Everyone Else to Enable Knowledge-Focused Programs
Not everyone is an advanced student of knowledge, and not everyone can or will be a da’ee (in the sense of teaching knowledge), nor should they be. But everyone has talents and skills that will enable the realization of this vision. You may have organizational experience, connections within the community, writing ability, money, and so on – whatever you’ve got, bring it to the table.
Even those of you involved in other spheres of life, such as the political organizations – if you want to fight for something, fight for our right to teach Islamic history and fiqh unabashedly, without ten levels of politically spun verbiage to sanitize our religious beliefs. If you plan on climbing the corporate or academic ladder, no problem – just remember that today’s average Muslim is impressed by your titles, so come back down to them, and use it for their benefit by actively supporting and enabling such programs. A really great example of this is Dr. Isam Rajab. He’s completed his PhD in Islamic Studies (bachelor’s from Madinah University, and other qualifications) from the University of California and his program, Arees Institute, is well-structured and accredited. His students are everyday people who want to learn Islam and spread it out to others. We need more programs like this built up locally and supported by our communities with their time and money.
I know there is always hope that going after leaders will yield larger results, and that thinking has its place in certain contexts, but bear in mind that a part of recognizing contemporary reality is that converting a leader today doesn’t result in converting the masses as well.
What We Don’t Need…Excuses
Excuses for what, you might ask? here are a few (this is by no means comprehensive):
1. Your Lack of Time
If you can’t manage your time, it’s time to start learning. The Muslim world is falling apart around our ears, and we all have to do our part to prevent further chaos, if not now, then for future generations. Start planning your work now, and then work your plan. No one wants to hear that your auntie and uncle parties take priority when the repercussions of inaction are worldwide genocide. Living your daily life and hoping that by not rocking the boat you’re doing daw’ah by example is not enough. We need more from everyone.
2. The Weakness of the Masses
The weakness of the masses is a self-fulfilling prophecy – keep telling people they are weak, and they will act weak. Keep making excuses for weakness, and you become the enabler of such weaknesses. Mercy is not in what you tell people to do, it’s in how you tell them to do it. We have many differences in day-to-day values with our North American nonMuslim counterparts, differences which today embarass us. Rather than telling Muslims to acquiesce because, “it seems impractical”, let’s train Muslims to handle these issues intelligently and professionally (this is called tying your camel, folks), and then, after doing our best, leaving to Allah the rest.
Let’s raise our standards, and let’s take some pride in being Muslim, in practicing Islam, in pleasing our Lord. I love the following video by our brother Malcolm X, may Allah have mercy on him:
[youtube znQe9nUKzvQ House Negro vs Field Negro]
Our situation today is vastly different (this isn’t slavery, after all), but the spirit of the message is the same – respect doesn’t come from weakness and kowtowing – it comes from firm resolve and conviction. It comes from standing up for what is right, even when the world around you says you’re wrong. THAT is the example of the Prophets and the Messengers.
The masses of Muslims can handle being the best of mankind, but they need strong examples to follow – be an example, not an enabler.
3. Starbucks, McDonald’s, AIPAC, the Saudi Government, the Neo-Cons, the Rand Corporation, etc
No one did it to us – we did it to us and THAT’s why our opponents (some real, some imagined) have been given authority to take advantage of us. The problem is not out there – it’s right here, in you, me, and the rest of us. Focus on yourself, and what is within your own power to accomplish. Figure out how you can proactively solve the problems we face, not jump reactively to every monster that rears its ugly head at us.
It All Starts With You…
Usually, after being given the, “we have to return to Islam” speech, eyes roll, mouths yawn, and the inevitable question presents itself – alright, so now what? We know the result that must happen collectively, but what do I personally do? Here are some suggestions I’ve found beneficial (there’s plenty more that can be added):
1. Humility: Results-oriented thinking will tell you if the actions you’re performing are not getting you the result you want, it’s time to change your strategy. The Ghazzah Massacre was a most salient demonstration of 1.6 billion Muslims collectively wringing their hands and having no solutions. It’s time we finally say to Allah in our du’aas that we do not know what our best role is in serving this ummah, but please, guide us to it. We have to realize that we might not like the answer, but whatever it is that Allah wants from us, we will submit to it humbly, whatever it may be.
2. Outreach: Those of you who have knowledge, those of you who are da’ees, please don’t prioritize the government, academic, and corporate types over the masses. The lessons of ‘Abasa and the Makkan period teach us clearly enough that when you are at your weakest, the strong want little to do with you, and often look down on you. My sincere and humble advice to all of you is to re-focus your efforts back on the masses of Muslims who need you to return to the grassroots level, to fill their hearts with the blazing glory of Iman, and captivate their minds with the Guidance of the Qur’aan and the wisdom that is the Sunnah. You have been endowed with the Prophet’s Inheritance, so please, spread the wealth as far and as wide as is possible.
3. Self-Reflection: We often quote Malaysia as a land that came to Islam through daw’ah of trustworthy merchants exemplifying Islam, walking the walk. Are you an example of trustworthiness, or are you a smaller scale reflection of our international Muslim leadership? Is your tongue free from the blood of your brother’s non-zabiha back meat? Did you really earn your degree without cheating, or is your B.S. really BS? When you engage in transactions, are they honest, or do you cut corners for convenience and saving money? It’s time to take stock of your personal shortcomings and create a plan to remove the debt of sin round your neck that collectively holds all of us down.
4. Find Your Calling: Take stock of your talents, and the contribution that can make to an Islamic revival – what can you do to bring Islam back to the hearts of the people? Take some time to think about what you can give, and then give all you can and more – you are needed, so don’t underestimate your potential contribution. Maybe you’re a writer, a graphic artist, a computer programmer, an excellent speaker – whatever you got, bring it.
The Ball is in Your Court…
Of course, I could be wrong (I often am) ;) So my challenge to all of you – what practical steps do you think we should take to bring the masses of Muslims back to Islam? No pie in the sky theory here folks – you can quote ayaat and / or ahadeeth, but what are we going to do with it after that? How are we to implement it into a practical program of revival?
And secondly, how do you see yourself contributing, or do you even see yourself contributing?
Let’s hear it :D