Da’wah OOTB (1): Time to press the de-alienate button. — Prof Dr Amriah Buang

Da’wah is ultimately about patience (الصَّبْرِ), not just patience with regard to the mad’u but perhaps more so with regard to the Daies themselves: their willingness, humility and sincerity to demolish their own ego and pride, make amends, and learn new ways in the name of da’wah bil hikmah – da’wah with wisdom.

What on earth is Da’wah OOTB?

It is Da’wah Out Of The Box.

It is about doing Da’wah in new ways that conventional Da’wah (CD) as led by traditional ulamas and scholars are unaware of, indifferent to, or simply ill-equipped to handle.

It is about responding to the acutely critical need for a set of fresh approaches to Da’wah because the conventional, status quo methodology is not working well, and is not adequate anymore as it is.

One of the key features of the OOTB is to press the de-alienate button and leave nobody behind. 

Has conventional Da’wah been alienating?

Of course, even if this comes as a surprise to many Daies.

Conventional Da’wah can be alienating in spite of the high and noble intentions of the Daies.

One of the social components normally dismissed by CD is the entertainment sector.

Entertainment is generally treated with disdain in CD. Entertainment is depicted in CD as worldly, profane, ungodly, secular. Entertainment is “لغا” (lagha) or nonsensical chattering, jabbering, rambling, comical cracking and laughter, free mixing of the sexes, immodest and immoral conduct, distancing from solat and fasting, distracting from serious matters of life and after-life, and utterly time-wasting.

Thus CD should have nothing to do with entertainment and entertainers because they will only lead believers to hell-fire. Religion is an absolutely serious affair. Conventional entertainment is frivolity. Nasheed is okay because it is not frivolous. It literally reminds people of The Creator and serving Him. It is to bring people closer to Allah and the Hereafter.

The only way entertainers can be engaged by CD is if and when they admit that they have erred (insaf) and ready and willing to repent (taubat) and abandon their entertaining careers for good.

Otherwise, who are they? Only irreligious, evil or fasiq people who rightfully deserve to be alienated and dismissed by the pious, pure and godly Daies. Not knowing about them is the right thing to do, and a mark of a Daie’s righteousness, hence his or her credibility.

Bursting the CD superiority bubble

But you know what?  It’s time to prick and burst the CD superiority bubble with regard to entertainment.

This may come as another surprise, but like it or not, we are now at the socio-historical crossroad where we will have to summon our moral courage and humility to re-examine our habit of placing ourselves on the high moral ground, and learn some sobering things about the entertainment industry and the entertainers that we thought we already knew.

Take the Malaysian entertainment industry as a case in point.

If Malaysian Daies are humble and open-hearted enough to do some homework they will find the following truths about Malay-Muslim entertainers and entertainment industry:

  1. Most entertainers were victims of social rejection. They were subtly or not so subtly ostracised by their society because of the moral stigma respectable echelons of society attached to entertainment enterprises.
  2. Most entertainers could not and would not leave the entertainment industry because it is where their talents gainfully apply (Read more here).
  3. The entertainment industry will thrive and flourish even more in Malaysia’s digital age (Read more here).

And when Malaysian Daies take time to digest and reflect on the import and implications of these truths about the entertainment industry on Da’wah they will begin to realise the logic and imperative of the Da’wah process to be inclusive and empathetic. They may not hesitate to admit their previous lapses, and re-set their methodology.

Because if they are unwilling to change when change is due – and change is the fitrah of all creations – they may find Verse 48:73 staring right at their face:

…. وَإِن تَتَوَلَّوْا يَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوا أَمْثَالَكُمْ

“… and if you turn away, He will cause other people to take your place, and they will not be like you!” (al-Quran 48:37)

Taking heart from 103

Facing the challenge of change may trigger Conventional Daies to respond with the typical denial syndrome. That is normal given the fact that even the most pious and ardent of Daies are, after all, mortal humans. Whether a Daie is aware of it or not there seems to be that fine line separating Da’wah as serving the interest of the mad’u for the sake of Allah, or Da’wah as serving the interest of the Daie using the name of Allah.

For example, when a Daie ‘succeeded’ in converting non-Muslims in the street, did the joy that he could not consequently contain represent his genuine happiness for the newly acquired brethren-in-faith, his tawadhu’ to Allah for making it happen for the newly convert, or the joy that he has increased his scores to enter paradise?

May we then suggest that such CDs take heart from Verse 3 of Chapter 103 of the Quran:

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ

“Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.”

Yes, da’wah is ultimately about patience (الصَّبْرِ), not just patience with regard to the mad’u but perhaps more so with regard to the Daies themselves: their willingness, humility, and sincerity to demolish their own ego and pride, admit to the shallowness of their general knowledge, make amends, and learn new ways in the name of da’wah bil hikmahda’wah with wisdom.

In the entertainment case, perhaps they would care to introspect the meaning and function of arts itself to what it is to be human:

  • Who creates those many forms of arts for humanity?
  • If arts were created by the Rabbul Alamin, what are they for? Are they created just to be despised and discarded?
  • What would — honestly speaking — human life be without music, singing, laughing, acting, dancing?
  • What does humanity actually experience in doing and responding to arts?
  • Without dismissing the imperative of arts, how could they be made to serve the cause of humanity better as they change from time to time?
  • Must arts-for-da’wah always be literal and stereotyped and monopolised by the traditional religious circles?

Contributed to us by Prof. Dr. Amriah Buang

President, Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN), Malaysia

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best Fikrah team. Read all her contributed articles here.

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