DA-‘I: Between the “mould-caster” and the “Skilled artisan”

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The following is a Q & A series answered by Ustadz Zhulkiflee Bin Hj Ismail. For more, visit his blog , An-Naseehah

DA-‘I (“Caller” to Allah’s way- as in Da’wah): Between the “mould-caster” and the “Skilled artisan”

Question:

For youths and teenagers, how do you make them interested in Islamic education? This is because, sometimes even their parents don’t really educate their children in Islamic education. But as friends or as mentors of these youths, my question is how you make them interested. Because sometimes even when you try to approach the topic to them, they will turn and switch off. So how do you approach?

And what is your comment on some “new” approaches of Da’wah – so-called “Da’wahpreneur” , Da’wah 2.0” etc, which certain groups is highlighting.


Response:

So continue to be as their friends and mentor, but as for Da’wah, you yourself have to pursue the knowledge (‘ilm), which must be regarded as Fardhu’Ain upon you if you wish to be engaged in doing Da’wah. I do not believe that there is a short-cut or slip-shod “cut-and-paste” method in developing a Da’i. Pardon the pun, but those who attempt this “short-cut” may inevitably be “short-selling” Islam. And ad-hoc “crash courses” usually have the tendency to lead to crashes.

“How to make them interested?” in anything which you can offer is firstly for you to be there for them. Show care and concern for them. But to “make them interested in Islamic education” it may just be expecting too much from them. They may even be totally turned-off as you have mentioned. I understand, your eagerness to change them for the better, but this discussion about Islamic education per se may not as yet be relevant for them. This subject I have just delivered is for educators and parents. It is not a ready-made prescription in doing “Da’wah”.

I know there are people who conduct programs like “Da’wah Entrepreneur”, or “101 on Da’wah” or “Da’wah 2.0” type of programs – all of which may have been well intended, but if one imagines that this is the response to the question i.e. “How to do Da’wah to the young?”, then this is too simplistic or even naive – I must record my disagreement and concern here. Yes, people are admirably amazed by technology and techniques and may be eager to want to incorporate these into Da’wah, whereas the essentials of Da’wah i.e. knowledge and traditional sciences of Da’wah methodology of the Prophet s.a.w. and the wisdom and experience of subsequent Du’at seemed to be under-rated, if not ignored by them. What I mean is, they do not seem to show similar admiration or amazement on this aspect, perhaps because “Da’wah” may not be the speciality of these “new” activists. Rather, they seemed critical on this aspect, which they may have sceptically regarded as archaic and thus clamour to infused it with their ‘newly discovered’ modern methods and tools. Even if these activists claimed to have referred regarding this matter to others competent in Da’wah to advise them, their neglecting acquisition on their own of the knowledge about Da’wah would already mean that they have neglected their Fardhu ’Ain. An important maxim state that, if one is obligated into doing something, then the acquisition of the appropriate knowledge for doing it would become obligatory.

“How does one carry out Da’wah?”

This is actually a hard question (or rather difficult question to be briefly answered)… because why?… This is a question pertaining to “Da’wah” as a science, ‘ilm, which is concerning the tasks of Prophets of Allah s.w.t., actually.

How do you do “da’wah”? i.e. “calling” them to Islam to these groups of people. Technically, inviting those who are already Muslim is termed “Islah”i.e. reconciling, or improving them with Islam. Now, da’wah requires that you use “Al-Hikmah” i.e. Wisdom (Q: 16:125), this is what Allah s.w.t. commands:

ٱدۡعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِٱلۡحِكۡمَةِ وَٱلۡمَوۡعِظَةِ ٱلۡحَسَنَةِ‌ۖ وَجَـٰدِلۡهُم بِٱلَّتِى هِىَ أَحۡسَنُ‌ۚ


Invite (or call every one) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious:

(Q: Nahl:16:125)

And Wisdom is not just knowledge, let alone information. And there is difference between the “risalah”(“message” – the essence) and “wasilah”(“medium” – tools or the means). Which do you think has priority? Nay which is crucial? Without which, there is no Da’wah? I detect that many young activists may not even know the profound difference.

So to respond: “The way, in which you first approach them in Da’wah, it must be with wisdom.” How? A (true) “da’i” (literally “caller (to the way of Allah”) will have to be adequately schooled to know what to do.

But, if I were to tell you how to approach (perhaps as you are expecting detail step by step answer), you may not be able to apply it because just simply giving you certain techniques may not be sufficient. Getting tools without having the adequate training may even be dangerous. Because, you have to know (adequately the person (“mad-‘u” i.e. “the one being called”) itself. Who they are? What their interests are? Where their “haal” (their spiritual condition or state) is? Etc. More importantly, you must also be adept at applying the remedy from the Islamic perspective; what should be prioritized (awlawiyat); how much i.e. quantum, between tabshir (encouragement) andtandzir (warning), etc. I know of people using corporate method as in PR (public relations), while they seemed to know nothing at all (clueless) of Fiqhud-Da’wah & its Usul (principles).

People are of various types. Some may be in a state of “heedlessness” (ghaflah). If so, what kind of remedy should be given to them? Some may be distracted, so how do you counter distraction? Some are being deceived (ghuurur), then what is the way to tackle this? You see, there are even instances where the application of each of the remedy is different or even unique, according to each individual “mad-‘u”. Yet, it can be appropriately prescribed and applied by one who is trained, as a “da’i”. So, that’s why I can’t simply give you a kind of, model answer, as though it can fit all people in every situation. No, it doesn’t happen like that.


TWO KINDS OF DA’I BEING TRAINED

Because I remember, even in da’wah, i.e. the methodology of da’wah in our midst, there are two approaches or types of development of “Da’i” (plural is “Du’at”). I follow the traditional method, where the training of a da’i is to train them to become knowledgeable (both of the religious sciences (‘ulum al-Deen) as well as other relevant worldly sciences (‘ulum al-ukhra), to be wise and skilful in the sciences of da’wah (‘ulum ad-da’wah, usulud-da’wah, fiqhud-da’wah etc.)… But unfortunately, there are other models that are conventionally being used. And this seems to be the most popular. Even now, there are those who try to innovate incorporating trends and approaches, sometimes imitating corporate sales ‘gimmicks’, popular techniques they have learnt from “motivational gurus” or simply copy or adopt other religions’ evangelical approaches etc. Some still think that Da’wah can be equated or likened as a form of “selling” or “sales.” Thus, their “Du’attraining courses” resembles that of the training of sales-person. It is this model which generally I would call “training of the mould-caster”. Let me elaborate.

For “mould-caster” type training: is that they come here, and then the trainer show them how to approach a situation with a particular model. Participant try to imitate this model way, perhaps they would be given “twenty questions, or on how to handle FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), perhaps preparing them on how to answer them, thinking that with these they are prepared to go back and do Da’wah! I call this the training of “mould-casters”. This is to be distinguished (differentiated) from the traditional Da’wah training which, comparatively, I would term it “training of the Artist or artisan.” The mould-caster is like “training the sales-persons”, whereas the traditional method is “the nurturing and development of ambassadors”.


“MOULD-CASTER’S TRAINING” – SALESMAN

What is the difference between the mould-caster and the traditional training which is to be trained as artisan or artist. Both of them come and learn from a master working on his masterpiece. This masterpiece became, sort of a model of how the artist applied his skill and genius. The mould-caster is interested only in the model, the end product which had been produced; therefore he makes a mould out of that model. With the mould, he then goes around to do “Da’wah” by trying to duplicate everybody he encounters. He would approach whoever he is doing Da’wah to, by putting them into the mould, to make them somehow to fit. If the material happens to be longer or larger than the mould, he would not hesitate to cut or trim that material just so it fits! And, from this more mould-casters are replicated or just like the fast-food syndrome, “mass-produced” within a short period of time. Amazingly, far shorter time than what it takes their master (the skilled artist of the original masterpiece), took to train them.


“TRAINING OF REAL ARTIST”- AMBASSADOR

Real learning and training in Da’wah should be as one who is to become an artisan or artist, not a mould-caster. The student, when he saw the master making the model, he learns the technique, skills, absorbing whatever explanations and wisdom from the master as to how he deals with the material he’s working on, even to understand how to identify what kinds of raw materials to be expected. Even after the master had completed the master-piece, the student knows this is just an example of the end result of applying the knowledge and skill. Now that he has learnt, he would go around without the need for mould because he is now skilful. He knows how to deal with whatever material given to him. He can actually make or fashion them accordingly, very unlike the mould-caster. His end “product” may not be as good as his master’s, yet he is a genuine artist. Whereas, the mould-caster may pride and brag at how close his product resembles that which the master produced, yet he and others would know, that he is a fake – pretending to be an artist.

The training with the traditional method is admittedly, very tedious and long, and not many people can even be successful in the end, but this has been the tested training since the past. Because you are training a da’i as an ambassador to Islam, such long duration is expected whereas producing mould caster is to mass produce salesman. We make no apology for using this comparison, and we must warn that to compromise on this (changing from ambassador training to salesman type training) would undermine the future quality of our “Du’at”. We should know the huge difference between training of salesman and ambassador.


I do not intend to discourage any one from participating or assisting in the work of Da’wah. It is only so that we should not become pretentious and disregard the traditional approach to Da’wah training, lest without the appropriate development, we may wittingly or unwittingly, end up usurping the position of the true “Du’at”. Just like at national level – although we may assist in the work or programme of the embassy, but this must not lead us to pretend assuming the role of the ambassador.

So, even if you are not yet a Da’i, what you can do is to assist this work with knowledge that you yourself has acquired. This should be regarded as sharing, not as yet Da’wah. The saying: “You must help yourself before you can help others” is very true. The Chinese saying goes: “Give a man a fish; you feed him for a day. But teach a man to fish, then you are feeding him for the rest of his life,” So in not directly giving you a kind of model answer to the problem you asked, I hope to direct you to “take up fishing rather than just giving you a fish”. At the very least, you show love and genuine concern towards your fellow Muslim brothers or sisters which you wish to assist. Your concern itself is very important. If we cannot make Da’wah as a “Du’at” – caller to Islam, propagator-, every Muslim can be “du’at” – one calling to Allah in supplication (du’a). Yes! you can also help them through making du’a for them. Don’t forget to du’a for them; the power of du’a indeed is very powerful. Remember this and don’t despair.

Question:

Does it also mean that, without guidance and knowledge and training (most importantly), we would not be able to engage the non Muslims in their interest in Islam, fearing that we might say the ‘wrong things’? Does a Da’i require any pre-requisites for eg. Having a degree in Islamic sciences, fiqh etc? or does one receive ‘calling from God’ to be the ambassador for Islam?

Response:

Engaging in Da’wah work (as Da’i) must be based upon ‘ilm (knowledge) and hikmah (wisdom) which is, if you possess. Merely sharing what we already know is not as though we are a Da’i – merely as Muslims who present himself/herself as witness to the Truth which we already acquired – this is different. Of course we can engage and share with anyone, as long as we have the correct knowledge even if it is little. It is only that we should not pretend as though it is actual Da’wah that we are doing. No, degrees, diplomas or whatever – is not the issue. It is your Fiqh (profound understanding) of the Deen al-Islam and the required ‘ilm of Da’wah in the person, not his paper certificate. I don’t have any degree nor certificates, neither does many traditional Du’at. Rather, we obtained ijaazah (personal permission granted) by our teachers and senior Du’at (Mashayyikh), usually as assigned by them as part of our continual development when mentored by them. And most important is the proper grounding of Fardhu’Ain.

If your ask, “how would you know that you know?” Well, it is “by checking what you know with a teacher or Islamic scholar who know!”


Actually, by striving in your Fardhu ‘Ain, it is sufficient to prepare you to share. Gradually, inshaAllah you’ll progress to be capable of participating in Islah. To start doing Da’wah and Islahactually it must begin with you, your own self. Be warned:

أَتَأۡمُرُونَ ٱلنَّاسَ بِٱلۡبِرِّ وَتَنسَوۡنَ أَنفُسَكُمۡ وَأَنتُمۡ تَتۡلُونَ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ‌ۚ أَفَلَا تَعۡقِلُونَ

Do ye enjoin right conduct on the people and forget (to practise it) yourselves and yet ye study the Scripture? Will ye not understand?

(Q:al-Baqarah: 2:44)

WaAllaahu a’lam


Wabillaahi-al-Hidaaya wa al-Taufiq

Was-salaam

zhulkeflee

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