Many of you must have heard about the recent move to boycott Facebook by a portion of the site's Muslim users. Proponents of that strategy felt it was the best way to make themselves heard and voice their disapproval of Facebook's decision to let defamatory pages aimed at the Prophet (pbuh) stay on the site, despite the insulting content that was being shared on those pages. However, others felt making a big fuss and simply shutting ourselves off from Facebook were not the best strategies to adopt – rather, there was a need to address the core issue: why do many in the world seem to perceive the Prophet (pbuh) in a negative light? Don't they know him?

Exactly. They don't know him. And we Muslims, the great majority of us, have not exactly been telling the world either. Rather, many of our cultural traditions and even daily habits contradict the Sunnah, thus giving the world a very distorted version of our beautiful Deen and the Messenger who was Allah's(swt) Mercy upon mankind.

A group of British Muslims realized that there was an urgent need to go out and make it known to common people on the street, who the Prophet (pbuh) really was. The result? The launch of the “Inspired by Muhammad” website and campaign on 7th June.

Explaining what inspired them to launch their campaign, the Exlopring Islam Foundation (EIF) says, “The website is designed to meet the need the YouGov poll highlighted for accessible information: 60% percent of people say they don't know very much about Islam; 31% say information about Islam is not very accessible; 33% would like to know more about Islam and just 3% say they get their information from Muslim organisations.” In many ways, this latest campaign is an extension of the Exploring Islam Foundation's (EIF) own vision for British Muslims and the Ummah.

It's simple. A neat and eye-catching website design with information displayed in a prominent and lucid manner. Misconceptions that are common among the British population are addressed by means of asking direct questions or making catchy statements like, “I believe in protecting the environment. So did Muhammad.” The website also features several British Muslims who're active, educated and pursuing mainstream careers – in other words, they're active members of the British public, underlining the idea that being British and Muslim are not mutually exclusive at all.

Kristiane Backer, a revert and TV presenter who launched the campaign is also one of the personalities featured on the website, reflects on the negative image Britons have of Islam: “This negative image is the reason for the need of a campaign, the reason for coming out with some positive news, reflecting the truth and showing what Islam is about. Values of compassion, peace, mercy, women's rights, social justice – these are all part of Islam.”

The campaign is not limited to just the website. The actual goal is to reach out to the common man or woman on the street in a more direct way, through advertisements and banners in prominent places such as bus stops, tube stations and even on the trademark London cabs! American Muslims will of course be able to relate to it through their own Why Islam campaign that has placed intriguing billboards on the NY subway inviting Non Muslims to learn more about Islam.

What I personally love about this initiative is the proactive step they've taken where it is needed the most. It is one thing to raise a hue and cry about the latest defamatory gimmick a couple of non-Muslims may drum up (thus giving them loads of free publicity too!) but it demands a whole other life vision and outlook to actually take positive steps. This is not about letting your anger flare for a while and then go turn the other way when Da'wah is really needed… rather, it's about working hard, actually doing something to make a difference and spread the message of Islam.

The Prophet (pbuh) was intelligent and employed wise strategies that had long term goals in mind to bring benefit to the community. Perhaps it is time we start doing the same. Alhumdolillah, the people behind the “Inspired by Muhammad” campaign, and many other such projects across the globe, are leading the way – may Allah (swt) support their efforts and reward them! Ameen.

(Author's note and acknowledgment: Readers of Muslim Matters are invited and encouraged to share local initiatives, such as the Inspired by Muhammad campaign highlighted above, with us. This story was brought to MM's notice by our Staff writer, iMuslim and MM reader, Muhammad Ali Yaqoob. JazaakAllahu khayr to both!)

50 Responses

  1. abu Abdullah

    Jazak Allah khayr for this. Always been fan of proactivity. Hope millat facebook also serve a similar cause of providingi halal social networking alternative.

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  2. Nexuses

    Amazing site!!!

    (it would be nice to have an option to mute music)

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    • Abd- Allah

      So much for being “inspired” by Muhammad peace be upon him… The irony.

      Rather, many of our cultural traditions and even daily habits contradict the Sunnah, thus giving the world a very distorted version of our beautiful Deen and the Messenger who was Allah’s(swt) Mercy upon mankind.

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      • Abd- Allah

        I mean the several things on their website which contradict the sunnah (such as having music in their videos, pictures of women and some even without proper hijaab, and most importantly the many fabricated ahadith which they are falsely attributing to the Prophet peace be upon him)… was all that also “inspired by Muhammad” ?

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  3. Westerngirl

    I like the site a lot, although it makes me angry that non Muslims admit their ignorance about Islam but are too lazy to use the resources at hand to learn more about it. There’s no excuse for bigotry due to ignorance when we have google and so many web resources.

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  4. nomadone

    Wow it’s a really nice site. I just doubt the prophet Muhammad would be very impressed with the fact that they have chosen to use a picture of a women without hijab on it in order to teach people about him(saw).

    I mean can’t we use Islam to teach people about Isdlam or do we always need to compromise just for the sake of Da’wah? I don’t know if there is any incident where the Prophet(saw) allowed anyone to disobey him in order to teach others about Islam.

    It’s a really great initiative though and we pray it benefits many.

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    • Ameera

      I think you’ll have to look at the issue from a broader perspective. The lady without Hijab, Kristiane Backer, is actually one of the people who launched the project – a major good deed! I’m not going to compared that good deed with wearing Hijab though because they are two separate issues. Also, realize that a lot of women go through phases before they take the Hijab so it may be better to overlook that, make dua for her, and think in the longer term benefits the project could bring. The Seerah has examples where the Prophet(s) dealt with an extra gentle hand, especially with recent reverts. :)

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      • nomadone

        I agree with you sister, May Allah reward her for her work. Masha-Allah it is a very good site.

        My point is not to target the specific person who’s picture it is, but the point is that when we represent Islam, especially in this way claiming to be a representative of who Muhammad(saw) is, then we should at least be covering the basics of what Muhammad(saw) taught us to do. We cannot display women uncovered merely because one of the organisers of the project happens to not be ready to wear hijab yet.

        If we are calling others to Muhammad’s way, and not practicing it ourselves, what does that say about Islam or about how much we love Muhammad?

        May Allah help us with the things where we are weak and forgive us and strengthen our Iman. I don’t think it is an unreasonable comment or observation. Just think what Would Muhammad(saw) say if this were shown to him? He would say what he said to the Muslim women who did not cover themselves correctly would he not?

        I’ve also found that when Islam is portrayed by those living in non-muslim countries there seems to be a need to show muslims who are not so practicing? We should not encourage lack of practice with what we promote, but should instead encourage practice and an understanding of proper practice. On an individual level that is a different story, but this campaign is representing Allah’ Messenger, SubHaanAllah. What a huge undertaking.

        May it meet with success.

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      • Ameera

        I understand the points you are making and certainly cannot disagree that the right way would have been to show Hijabi ladies only, if they were going to put up pictures of women. And yes, it also raises the question of whether some of us tend to be very, let’s say, compromising sometimes, during our Da’wah. I mean ‘compromising’ which should not be confused with the flexibility that our Deen has allowed us. Even so, that would be my personal opinion and since I haven’t lived in a Muslim-minority country for an extended period, I might not be the best one to comment on this aspect.

        Ameen to your duas! And as to what the beloved Prophet(pbuh) would say if he were to see it, Allahu ‘Aalam! Allah Knows best.

        JazaakAllah for your comment! :) Perhaps someone will start another similar campaign based on what is discussed here and ensure the principles of Hijab are also applied, Inshaa’Allah. :)

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      • F

        The reality is that many women in Islam don’t cover. To say they should be excluded based on that would lead to alienation of a large group. While it’s natural to think if we don’t include them, they would be more likely to wear the hijab, on the ground it doesn’t work as such.

        While I’m not advocating using women without hijab everywhere, there needs to be an understanding that we can’t exclude such a big portion of our population that can be of immense benefit in many ways.

        Look at this way, the Prophet(pbuh) knew who the hypocrites were in Madinah and yet not only did he let them participate in the wars, he even listened to them when making decisions. And these people were clear hypocrites! Yet, the Prophet(pbuh) did not exclude them.

        Now imagine good intentioned sisters who are not at the level of hijab yet. Judgment calls needs to be made in each situation.

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  5. Middle Ground

    Salam

    Mashallah in the USA, WhyIslam has been doing this for years, using different forms of advertising e.g billboards, subway train ads, radio ads. Checkout their website, whyislam.org.

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    • Ameera

      JazaakAllah, I did highlight this in the article above too. The Why Islam campaign really took the lead in this sphere, may Allah reward the people associated with it! Ameen.

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  6. Sammy

    Word.

    Excellent initiatives that will sustain themselves because of how simple and strategic they are! Bravo! This makes me happy!

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  7. Azhar

    Assalamualaikum Ameera,

    What you have said is absolutely correct. The initiative is laudable. May Allah reward everyone who is associated with this campain. It is MUCH better than just raising hue and cry.

    BTW, was wondering what your stand was on the FB issue? Do you feel that Muslims should deactivate their accounts on FB? After all, by not removing the blasphemous content, have they not encouraged the whole Draw Mohammed Day campaign? Is insult of a Prophet not good enough reason to boycott a website?

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    • Ameera Khan

      JazaakAllah brother.

      My stance on the Facebook issue is the same as that of my friend and Muslim Matters’ author Sadaf Farooqi, at her personal blog here (also linked to in my blog post above):

      http://bit.ly/aHMkdO

      She’s speaking from a personal angle but takes a very balanced and well-rounded approach to the issue, taking along side-issues as well. You will find mention of the 20th May boycott.

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  8. Abd- Allah

    While I do support the purpose behind this initiative and I am not questioning the intentions of the people behind this project, yet I don’t support it because it seems like it is run by people who are ignorant of Islam and its teachings, people who themselves need to learn more about the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and about Islam before they try to teach others.

    “All of humanity is the family of God’, Muhammad declared, ‘and the most beloved to God is the one who is of most benefit to His children.”
    http://inspiredbymuhammad.com/coexistence.php

    So now God has children?? Not to mention that they are attributing to the Prophet peace be upon him tings which he did not say.

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      • Middle Ground

        Salam

        Bro, why don’t you start your own thing?

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      • Abd- Allah

        Salam

        Bro, why don’t you start your own thing?

        Walaikum Assalam wa rahmatullah

        If every time one of us disagreed with some one else about something he started his own thing, then we would have a thousand of such projects but none of them would really be a success. If the brothers and sisters behind this project work on improving their site and replacing what is not accurate in it with better stuff, this would be much better than having their site stay the way it is and me starting my own thing.

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      • Middle Ground

        Salam

        So tell them that, politely. Why you choose to criticize their efforts on this blog I don’t understand. I’m sure they have a way to contact them, so why don’t you?

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  9. Abd- Allah

    Salam

    So tell them that, politely. Why you choose to criticize their efforts on this blog I don’t understand. I’m sure they have a way to contact them, so why don’t you?

    Walaikum Assalam wa rahmatullah

    Well I did already send them a message and contacted them. However, this project is public, so likewise the criticism of what is wrong in it also needs to be public. This isn’t a personal sin by one individual whereby you can advise him in private without much impact on the rest of people. These public mistakes which they have on their website, especially the fabricated ahadith, do need some one to publicly point them out to everyone else. Every situation differs depending on the factors surrounding it, and in some situations it might be better to advise people in private, but in this case I don’t see anything wrong with publicly pointing out what is wrong on this website.

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  10. Abd- Allah

    The reality is that many women in Islam don’t cover. To say they should be excluded based on that would lead to alienation of a large group. While it’s natural to think if we don’t include them, they would be more likely to wear the hijab, on the ground it doesn’t work as such.

    sister/brother F, I think there is a difference between not including their picture on the website and between alienating or excluding them from the community as a whole. You can not have their picture on the website while still including them in the community and even in the project itself but without posting their pictures. I mean just because there are no pictures of any elderly people, can we assume that the elderly are being excluded from the community? How about pictures of young kids?

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    • Amad

      Abd-Allah, you have made your point.

      If you have anything to add, please send advice to them directly.

      I think most people will agree that they are bringing more benefit to Islam than they are bringing harm. They are not giving fatwas to Muslims, rather they are telling non-Muslims what Muslims are not. And whether we like it or not, many, many Muslim women don’t cover, and many, many Muslim men dont have beards, but they are still Muslim and still are perceived negatively. The goal of the campaign is to erase this negativity, and by your adding more negativity, you are only giving fodder to those who’ll see this as “taqiyah” (or takeeaaah as Islamophobes like Geller likes to call it).

      To be honest, I am really, really sick of all the criticism that Islamic projects get. Unless its clearly a setup to deceive Muslims (like Quilliam), we should praise what is praiseworthy and send criticism in private. Really, in this day and age, we need all the allies we can get to counter the message of islamophobia. And that means you’ll not get everyone who thinks your way.

      P.S. As for “it’s public, so we publicly criticize”, what you have to ask yourself is that is this criticism going to benefit anyone or change anyone or is it just going to harden attitudes and prevent people from visiting conservatively aligned sites? The answer in the latter. So, in this case that criticism is not the good naseeha and you should look for a different approach. And I would say this also about the criticism of the Chicago effort.

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      • nomadone

        I’m really tired of this argument of committing sin because some benefit exists and then saying we should overlook the sin. This is not what the Prophet(saw) taught us and not the method of Da’wah he encouraged.

        Can someone please give us the proof for going against the commands of Allah and His messenger because some minor benefit exists. Are we now allowed to sin for the sake of Da’wah?

        It seems to be an argument Muslims living in minority communities are using more and more nowadays to get get out of their responsibilities of following Islam completely as Allah teaches that we should enter into Islam “Kaafah” completely.

        Lets stop using this the benefit outways the good and start doing Da’wah properly the way the Prophet and His companions did without compromise.

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  11. Ameera Khan

    The point behind highlighting this campaign was the proactive step taken by some members of the Muslim community in England, in response to latest polls showing the Non-Muslim British population did not view Islam in a positive light. Yes, there will be “technical shortcomings” as with many Da’wah campaigns but that is a separate issue and can be addressed by contacting the people who launched the campaign.

    I am not belittling the shortcomings of the campaign but also, credit needs to be given for the good they have done and certainly, in a field of Da’wah (through such advertisements, on this scale) where Muslims in England have not been active yet, it goes to the campaign’s credit that they’re “pioneers”, in a way.

    That said, it would be a good idea to contact the people at the website and communicate to them areas they can improve on, Inshaa’Allah while also appreciating the positive step they took.

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  12. Siraaj

    I can see Abd-Allah’s concern – is this a seemingly harmless action that turns into the proverbial Barseesa slippery slope, or does the good outweigh the harm? I think each person/group/org with knowledge needs to decide for themselves where they fall on these issues – of course, it would be good to get some guidelines on what types of media are acceptable for use, what types aren’t, and how to deal with organizations that violate those.

    I think the most important point to keep in mind is that while mistakes are occurring on both ends, the end intention is to please Allah, both from the critics, the violators, and the supporters on either end.

    Siraaj

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  13. anonymous

    May Allah guide and bless all these various dawah campaigns. Many a time we criticize (rightfully so) these initiatives and point out mistakes made by the duaat. But it is also a realization that dawah is actually being done. People only get better at giving dawah by actually GIVING dawah. If you don’t get stumped answering a question or two, its because no one bothers asking you. People are blameworthy when they do not strive to improve and perfect their call to Tawheed. Alhamdulilah, may Allah accept the sincere efforts in His path and allow the people engaged in these activities to be blessed with knowledge, wisdom, patience and Jannah. Ameen

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    • Ameera

      People only get better at giving dawah by actually GIVING dawah.

      SubhaanAllah, so true and what a reminder! :|

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  14. Ibn Al-rawandi

    For every step forward Muslims take in the public relations front, there are eager Muslims hellbent on taking two steps back whether making death threats against cartoonists or attempting to blow up airplanes or criticizing those fighting the public relations battle for not wearing Hijab. It is interesting gripe considering we live in a time when some public figures across the world are planning on denying Muslims women the right to wear Hijab/Niqab on the grounds it is foisted on them. What a strange twist of irony for Muslims to end being the ones who make N. Sarkozy’s case for banning the Niqab. That is essentially what some here are doing by criticizing those behind this campaign because you’re saying only Hijab clad women are legit Muslims. What kind of message do you think that sends to non-Muslims? That Muslims are pluralistic and tolerant respecting other Muslims’ choice of attire?

    Don’t get me wrong, there are many legit criticism of this campaign. I’m just perplexed and a bit frustrated that whatever good was done by this campaign is being systematically undone by its main beneficiary.

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    • Omar

      Great initiative, excellently executed, great site design. Look at the great good, which far outweighs their mistakes, and make a similar effort for Dawah in your community.

      Email them commending their great efforts, and politely tell them about the fabricated hadith – which when fixed would allow for a more academically authentic message. There are authentic hadith that have the same message (e.g. praising knowledge) as those fabricated hadith that have become common between Muslims.

      Ibn Al-rawandi, are you a Muslim? Why are you using the name of a historical Zindeeq who rejected all religion? The criticisms here were mostly in the spirit of friendly constructive criticism. Stop complaining.

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  15. mystrugglewithin

    I just emailed the team and suggested about both of the concerns that were raised by brother Abd- Allah .. & I am optimistic about it :)

    Jazakallah khayrun Ameera for writing about it. It’s definitely an encouragement for many of us who are willing to make efforts in similar ways. May Allah swt help us to help ourselves in becoming more productive for everything around us.

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    • sabirah

      salams
      yes I like the polls too. But will there be an article analysing those results I wonder? That would be nice…

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      • Amad

        Yes, there is an actual purpose behind the latest poll. Actually, the poll result itself has been quite interesting. For one, it says, don’t be too quick to judge!

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  16. nomadone

    I agree, the organisers should be approached and various issues should be addressed with them and advice given in a subtle manner.

    I do however think that if this site calls for comment it should not just be happy about getting “good/positive” comments all the time and criticising those who’s comments you don’t like or seem”negative” because then you’re being hypocritical when you advise people not to criticise but in doing so are criticising their views.

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  17. Jon

    Assalamu alaikum. Jazakum Allahu kharyan for the thought provoking article and for everyone’s thoughtful comments. Regarding the reasons behind the Facebook boycott, what comes to mind is that picking on the Prophets in general and the Messenger in particular is nothing new. Weren’t prophets sent to all people? And didn’t most reject the message? Even among the Arabs, didn’t most of the Quarysh reject the message even though they understood Arabic and heard the message clearly? All we are responsible for is getting the message out there inshaallah. It is up to the recipient of that message to accept or reject. Allah SWT is the only one that can change hearts.

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  18. Sfad

    This camapign has got half naked women promoting it

    This entire campaign is rebuked here.

    -snipped-

    -Edited. Nice try

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  19. slaveofAllah

    Totally agree with you brother nomadone!
    May Allah reward you and may Allah guide us all to follow the true path. Aameen

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  20. Ibn Al-rawandi

    I’d like to add another point to my initial post. Methinks there is a serious flaw in the premise behind the campaign. The premise is that everyone who holds a negative view of Islam or Mohammed is driven either by ignorance or by some deeply seated and mysterious prejudice. But we know that this can not possibly be true. There are erudite, unprejudiced non-Muslims who object to — on moral or whatever grounds — certain aspects of Islam or Mohammed. You can not change these peoples’ views with transparent and painfully contrived campaigns like Inspired by Muhammed. Muslims will simply have to accept criticisms from such people and take on the chin.

    Omar, ya akhi, I sport the Ibn Al-rawandi moniker to honor one of the greatest freethinkers the Muslim world has ever produced. I’m freethinker myself although I was born into Muslim family (a Murtad).

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  21. Justin

    This is a very good article. Jazakum Allah Khayr. Wa Salaamu Alaykum.

    “Repel evil with that which is better.” (Surat Fussilat 41:34)

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