Etiquettes of Religious Activism
In an important speech addressed to leaders and scholars, the great thinker and reviver Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhalwi (may Allah have mercy on him) imparted the following valuable instructions regarding the effort of da’wah. The advices articulated in his speech, while aimed specifically at the propagator of Islam, apply generally to those involved in all collective religious activities:
“This work is a very important service, as it is the job of the prophets, and therefore those who do this job are deputizing on behalf of the prophets and none can deserve the blessings of Allah more than them. This task, however, demands much care and a heavy sense of responsibility. In fact, tablīgh is not for bringing others to the straight path. It is a process of self-reformation and a service to Allah by His humble slaves. The main object is to win the pleasure of Allah and reach success through His service and obedience. The following instructions should, therefore, be remembered:
(1) If you can afford it, pay from your own pocket for the food, passage, etc. Do not hesitate to spend upon your needy companions as well.
(2) To be able to serve and encourage those who are devoted to this work is a great blessing of Allah. Never fail to treat them with respect and regard them with deference.
(3) Be humble towards Muslims in general. Speak to them softly and respectfully. Do not look down upon any of them. Show special veneration to the ‘ulamā of Islam. Just as it is essential to feel reverence for the Quran and the hadīth, so it is essential to extend our profound respect towards the persons who carry the knowledge of the Quran and the wisdom of the hadīth in themselves. The disrespect of ‘ulamā is in fact disregard for the religion and deserves the anger and curse of Allah.
(4) Instead of wasting your time in telling lies, backbiting, picking up quarrels, and other useless pursuits, utilize it in the study of books on religion and in profiting from the company of adherents to Islamic practices so that your knowledge about these may increase day by day. Be particularly cautious about saving yourself from useless and superfluous pursuits while you are out in the path of Allah and spend your time exclusively in the pursuits mentioned below:
(i) Ta’līm, i.e. collective teaching and learning under the supervision of the mu’allim (the instructor).
(ii) Reading the Qur’an, extolling the glory and sanctity of Allah, and individual study of religious books.
(iii) Explaining the object of the mission to other people and exhorting them to join the mission.
(5) Earn your living through clean and fair means. Be frugal in spending, but give members of your family and others kinsman their full dues as enjoined by Islam.
(6) Never enter into controversies and discussions about unimportant things. Restrict your call to basic beliefs and practice.
(7) Beautify your actions with sincere intentions. An act of religion is fruitful (both here and in the Hereafter) only when it is done with sincerity of the heart. Mu’ādh (may Allah be pleased with him) was appointed governor of Yemen. When he was being sent off by the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him), he requested a word of advice. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said:
“O Mu’adh! Be very particular about sincerity in all your deeds. A little done with sincerity can lead you to success.”
In another hadīth it is said: “Allah accepts only that which is done to seek His countenance.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have said: “Allah does not look towards your appearances nor towards your possession, but He does look towards your hearts and your deeds.”
Sincerity is therefore the most essential demand of this mission. Ostentation and acting for the sake of show have no room in this program and its performance. The more sincerely the work is done, the more rapidly the movement will flourish and prosper.”