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Guiding to Allah by the Book: Fiqh ad-Da’wah

by Muhammad Alshareef

1st Pillar: To What Are We Guiding? The Brand Called Islam

…Number 2: The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising. So you have examples of first companies such as Band-Aid. Band-Aid is the name of a company, so anybody who tries copying them has to call themselves Band-Aid. They just have to. For example, the name adhesive bandages is not that strong so they have to call themselves something like Adhesive Band-Aid. That’s how strong the name Band-Aid is; the name is so strong that people generically call all related products by the company’s name.

You want to do your da’wah project so it is just as strong, unique, and so distinct that people will try copying you in your project. When CNN first launched, it was just like you see in some da’wah projects where certain people can’t be paid their salaries. Ted Turner said there were times when he’d give out the checks – the big checks to the workers – and tell them not to cash it until two weeks because they didn’t have money in the bank. They were just like that; they were your basic fundraising da’wah- project-type place, until they went forward because they were so unique in their project as a 24-hour news channel. And now you see all these other channels that copy them in their uniqueness.

One major obstacle in the way of uniqueness is that the society is over-communicated. And you’ll know this especially if you ever tried announcing your da’wah project through a flyer; flyers are everywhere. We focus a lot on fliers and email lists, but that’s not necessarily the way to launch off something in a strong way. If I brought you a list of all the activities that are happening in D.C, Virginia, and Maryland, and put it all together, you would have a list of maybe 150-200 different activities that are going on. Which one do you go to? You go to the one that is special; that your friends are talking about. And so if you know that people choose where they want to go based on what everyone’s talking about, you can make your da’wah project special like that; so special that the people will talk about it before it happens. And that’s what’s meant by publicity, not advertising.

Advertising is actually the second part of the law. When do you start advertising? Once born, a brand needs advertising to stay healthy. So let’s say, for example, AlMaghrib Institute launches accredited seminars; it hasn’t been done before; it starts getting news: “Oh you’re actually accrediting your classes.” “All these halaqas that we’ve been doing have never been accredited.” “This is coming on campus.” “This is different from what’s happened out there.”

But as time progresses, people will forget about AlMaghrib Institute; it won’t be as unique. Why? Because people will copy it. You might not have heard about them, but I have heard of and seen smaller different accredited projects here and there. So, as time goes by, the novelty will go away, the publicity will go away. That’s when advertising should kick in.

Take Islamic schools for example and try to think of the first Islamic school in your area. When it was launched, it was something unique so everyone wanted to donate and help out. But now everybody has an Islamic school; there are a whole bunch of new and exciting learning centers for Muslims opening up and the regular, mainstream Islamic school gets boring. This loss of uniqueness will affect fundraising because you’ll notice that people won’t be giving much. As a result, the school will have to kick up it’s advertising. And advertising – here’s the critical point – is different than announcements. We often mistake our flyers for advertisements, but they’re not; our flyers are usually announcements and that’s not advertising because announcements are not very exciting.

Take MacDonald’s and AOL as an example. If all of them did their marketing like we do, you’d have AOL saying: “Our company is located on Broad Avenue. At 5:00 our workers will be there to accept your applications. Thank you.” That’s what their fliers would look like if they copied our style. But they don’t.

What do they do? They bring these teenagers out; they bring models out and show everybody on their computer saying, “Wow, I’m having so much fun! AOL: choice of the future.” – or whatever their slogan is. And then they show their website. That’ s it; that is an advertisement. They just showed their product and then the people move forward to the website for more information.

So if you’re doing a camp, or a club, or any other da’wah project, set it up as an advertisement, not an announcement. You can put the announcement somewhere else to the side, or on a website where people can follow up later. But your project has to be introduced as an ad, not an announcement.

Now let’s connect this with Islam as something we want to get out to the people. Let’s say that our focus in getting Islam to the people is There is no God but Allah. Another Muslim might focus on brotherly love and someone else may focus on charity. Even though you know Islam has both of these things, you cannot convince the person that Islam is the one with the love and charity. They’re like, “What’re you talking about? That’s Christianity.” So you have to change directions and you have to do like Ibrahim did and you focus on something different – pure tawheed – There is no God but Allah. That’s your advertisement.

If There is no God but Allah doesn’t work with a person, step aside and come from yet a different angle; come from an angle that the person isn’t even imagining and say, “In Islam we worship God with nothing added, and nothing subtracted.” I often say – and I know a lot of people don’t like my statement – but I say kind of like one God, without the fat of the sheep. So I say, One God, no fat. And I know a lot of people don’t like that slogan, but I just give it as an example.

One God, no fat. And the person replies, “What’re you saying? That our idols are fat?” And so you’ve put them on the defensive because you came from an angle of pure tawheed. And as you focus more and more, the other person will get defensive, and so instead of you being on the defensive, the other person is on the defensive. And the person will try to prove to you the trinity is in fact monotheistic; that it is tawheed. And you’re like, “Hmmm, that seems kind of illogical to me.” And then the person’s shoulders slump, but you’re standing confident because of your focus on the tawheed.

Don’t try going down the alleys that they’re taking you down. Step aside, use your intelligence, and come from a different angle, and you’ll take their weakness and exploit it…

To learn more about this seminar and where it’s offered near you, visit www.almaghrib.org
To purchase the Fiqh Ad-Dawah: Guiding to Allah by the book CD set, visit www.emanrush.com