The recently-concluded FIFA World Cup 2022 tournament in Qatar was truly an eye-opener for its many visitors and viewers from around the globe. Qatar, the host country for this prestigious footballing event, had used this significant occasion to effectively share with people more about Islam, especially on the parts of it that many are still unaware of.
Murals comprising the hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on mercy, charity, and good deeds were seen everywhere. They spread words of motivation that encourage people to do good to others. This is an example of how advocacy is done in a somewhat subtle and indirect way.
DA’WAH AND ADVOCACY
Da’wah is an Arabic word derived from the root da’a which means “to summon”, “to call” or to “invite” someone to something, and the word da’wah is especially used as an invitation to the Islamic faith, or in doing the noble deeds relating to it.
And the same goes in terms of advocacy. It means “to champion” or “to promote” a cause that brings value to the community.
As Muslims, we are the ambassadors of our faith. We have a default responsibility to convey important messages and enjoin others towards acts of piety and goodness.
Back in the times of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he used a number of different types of medium to convey his message. The early days of da’wah was a real struggle for our Prophet (pbuh). The work that he did was initially done discreetly among close friends and family before it went public. An ‘advocate’ is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.
But going public has its repercussions. Thus, making advocacy work unappealing for many. It would be easier for you to find someone who is a silent supporter of a cause you are advocating for, than one who proclaims it comfortably in the public sphere.
A lot of awful things were done to put an end to the Prophet’s efforts. People mocked him, threatened his loved ones, and even went as far as physically assaulting him too. But his steadfastness kept him going, as he held on strongly to his main mission and purpose.
NOW OR NEVER
In a hadith by Al-Bukhari, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Convey (my teachings) to the people even if it were a single sentence” [Narrated by Imam Bukhari]
The Prophet’s teachings are not limited to the subjects that we normally would think of, such as, prayer and fasting, but his teachings extend well beyond that. If you feel strongly about a movement because of the nobility of its cause and wish to become an advocate for it, chances are, it is a cause that aligns with our faith’s teachings. So, for anyone who is on the fence about joining an advocacy group, you can be more assured moving forward.
For example, if you wish to advocate for better environmental care, or for policies to be tighter on child protection against abusive family members – know that these causes line up nicely to the values of our tradition.
Da’wah and advocacy come in many different forms. And today, the adoption and use of social media is widespread in every part of our lives and can be utilised as one of the tools to get the job done.
SOCIAL MEDIA; THE SOCIAL DILEMMA
In today’s world, the use of social media has become a norm in our daily lives. It plays an important role in society as it is one of the main sources for users to access and share information with friends and followers.
Although it brings convenience and has many advantages, anyone who wishes to partake in advocacy work will need to be aware that there are also challenges and threats that come along with these platforms.
Social media is interactive and allows for the creation, sharing, and exchange of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.
These virtual networks present a huge opportunity for us to reach out and engage people who may not know about the causes that we believe to be important.
Think of social media as a platform that amplifies our voice in order for our message to have extensive reach beyond our smaller circles. Platforms like this offer the ease of creating content, posting it, sharing it, and getting immediate input, feedback, and results.
Advocacy work done through simply flexing our fingertips does have its pros and cons. As we know, one of the superpowers of social media is that it has the ability to accelerate the spread of information rapidly. And this is helped by the “share” button. A post that has gone viral, may have gotten there because of overwhelming love and compassion, or due to widespread hate and anger.
One of the downsides to it is that it leads to the problem of people having an influx of information. The excessiveness of information may trigger confusion amongst users and cause them to not be able to discriminate between right and wrong. The algorithm on these platforms may also lead to confirmation bias, as you will be fed more of the same content that you have viewed or liked before.
THE BEST PRACTICES
- Always be courteous and respectful
Islam teaches and educates us with the most virtuous principles and always reminds us to avoid any immoral conduct. In fact, our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sent to us through his saying; “I was sent to complete the best of morals” [al-Muwatta’] One of the values to have in life is to remain courteous and respectful in all our interactions. It does not matter how noble the cause you are promoting is, if you are forceful and unkind in your approach to invite others.
- Speak with truth and honesty
One of the names of Allah swt is al-Haqq, The Truth. Knowing and speaking the truth is not easy. Today, there are websites and software developed with the sole purpose of fact-checking information that is posted online. Why? Because sometimes in our desperation to get more support for the organisations we are advocating for, we may exaggerate numbers and statistics to gain more attention and sympathy. Such tactics are unethical and wrong, and every Muslim advocate must abstain from doing so.
- Be humble
The media today lauds heroes of volunteerism and community advocates extensively. They often make the front page of every local newspaper, and get shared by our local leaders rather broadly too on social media and during key national-level speeches. While it is good to acknowledge a person’s hard work and effort, it may cause the person under the spotlight to lose track of the main reason why he or she started on the journey. This will be a continuous test on an individual’s true intentions.
Advocacy work is a dignified endeavour. More often however, one’s efforts may not be properly recognised or appreciated. Nevertheless, it can be deeply rewarding on a personal level. Additionally, to become one who enjoins others to do good, is a beloved act in Islam. Our Prophet (pbuh) once said: “Whoever leads to good, he is like the one who does it.” [Tirmizi]
So, for those who wish to continue pursuing this noble path, be prepared for the harsh terrain, and unpleasant road ahead, if that is indeed what it takes to stand a chance for a better future for our community.⬛
Mizi Wahid is an accomplished speaker, author and a businessman with more than 10 years of experience in the Islamic ecosystem. Besides juggling solemnisation duties on the weekend, he takes pride in providing the best coaching services to people seeking advice regarding life, marriage and business. He is also the founder of several Islamic-centric organisations namely Safinah Holdings Pte Ltd, YOUM Pte Ltd, and Shariff Holdings Pte Ltd, as well as the director of Mizium Pte Ltd, a digital marketing agency.