Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
The recent incident in Paris has incited high emotions from all sides. We see rallies and counter rallies, we see articles and emails jumping back and forth mentioning ‘I am Charlie’, ‘I am NOT Charlie’, ‘I am Ahmad’ and so forth. We see Muslims taking a stand and labeling the West as hypocrites for using the freedom of speech as a political tool and selectively using (abusing?) for its own interest. However, as Muslims and especially Muslims living in the West, it is wise to spend our time without getting too much wrapped up in following each twitter feed, or reading every article in support of our position or countering each article against us.
Prophetic Example of Undistracted Outreach
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who is described in the Quran as the best example for us to follow (Quran 33.21), despite major events, distractions or tragedies around him, kept on going with inviting the people of Makkah to Islam. He was verbally and often time physically abused but he never stopped educating people about Islam. His beloved wife Khadijah and his protective uncle, Abu Talib passed away, and his outreach never stopped. Even on the saddest day of his life, when he was pelted with stones at the town of Taif, he was educating a Christian (Addas) about previous prophets and about Islam. He knew that what defines a Muslim is not the environment, people or actions around him; but how he proactively, positively and peacefully reacted to them. Thus, we as individuals and as a community we should embark on a concrete action plan.
Muslims are people of action because our prophet was a person of action. We don’t sit ideal nor do we let our blood boil by listening to the Islamophobes blaming Islam for the events. We make the best of the situation by seeking and creating opportunities of sharing our beautiful religion and clearing misconceptions.
- Make dua to Allah (SWT) to give us the courage, motivation and inspiration to do the right actions to please Allah (SWT).
- Billboard ad – A masjid, an entire community or a few individuals coming together and sponsoring a billboard about the noble life of the Prophet. On the billboard you can write a hadith or a Quranic Ayah with an offer to receive a free book on the life of the prophet. Cost is about $5,000 per month, but you can reach about 40,000 cars via this venue.
- Bus ad – Bus ads have been very effective in presenting various messages about Islam. In fact of all the campaigns done by Gainpeace, more response has been gained from the bus campaign than from other venues. Cost is about $400 per bus per month.
- Direct marketing – flyers about the Prophet, printed on both sides, sent to the mailboxes of our neighbors. ValPak and Coupon Mailer are two services you can utilize. Cost is about $500 to reach 10,000 households.
- Brochure – Brochures about the Prophet are a very good tool to share with your colleagues or classmates. Carry them around and hand them off when you have a casual conversation or leave them behind at a café or waiting room.
- One Minute card – Carry and distribute small, pocket size cards about the Prophet.
- Open houses in the Masjid – this is an often neglected area of outreach. Invite and introduce Islam to our fellow humans. Various segments of the population can be invited each week or month: Households around the masjid, colleges and schools, businesses, churches and synagogues, police officers and firefighters, politicians and librarians.
- Write a blog – blogs are free and you can express your positive views and reviews of his noble life.
- Mainstream Media – Prepare and offer Muslim speakers to appear on various talk shows, radio and TV programs and for interviews to present the Islamic point of view.
- Social media is the new face of marketing. Assign the youth to work on Facebook, twitter, Instagram. Some paid campaigns can also be used to increase visibility.
- Donate a Magazine – Talk to your local public or school library about donating the subscription of an Islamic magazine (Like Muslim American) for the use of their patrons.
Thus, we can follow prophet’s example in being proactive, positive and peaceful in utilizing the current situation in effectively reaching out to the masses about the noble life of the Prophet, insha Allah.
Dr. Sabeel Ahmed is the president of ICNA – Chicago and Director of the GainPeace Project, an outreach project of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). GainPeace.com conducts outreach oriented projects in Chicago and other cities to educate people about Islam. Upon completing his medical education Dr. Sabeel decided to become a full-time daee. He was born in India and moved to USA more than 15 years ago and currently resides in Skokie, IL with his wife and two children.