Always think two steps ahead
Have you ever wondered why it’s difficult to unite the principled Muslims, but it’s so easy to unite those Muslim leaders who can be swung right & left? Well, part of the answer lies in the question. And part of the answer lies in the proper understanding of the correct strategy. And lastly, without a shadow of a doubt, any group of Muslims that believe they are the sole reason for victory, this is a dangerous belief. Victory is attributed to Allah. And therefore, any team of principled Muslims need to remember their sincerity to Allah and His Messenger.
This post is intended for those who already agree on what the vision and objective is for the Muslim Ummah. However, I want to shed some light on the means of getting there. Or more specifically, a very important point I came to realize, and that could very well be evolving.
Firstly, when looking at your team or organization, realize not one single person is going to have all the answers. I want to start off with that because I am in no way saying that “this is the right strategy for the Muslim community.” Rather, what I have observed is that this is a fundamental point in our da’wah work that if not understood properly, could actually hinder and destroy not only the potential unity in the community but destroy the very team that you’re working with.
First a point on leadership and loyalty
I remember early on in my community work with a Muslim youth / da’wah organization, I decided to leave the organization in order to move onto bigger and better. I still have loyalty to this organization. I always will inshAllah and will work with them…. But I use the phrase “bigger & better” (though subjective) because it’s important to realize that if you are going to leave the organization you’re with, it’s important not to abandon something which is going to end up decreasing your imaan and opportunity for good deeds. And that’s where one has to make their ijtihad. I bring this up to preface our discussion because you’re always going to see people going in & out of the organization/team you’re with. It’s expected. It’s natural. But it’s also important for the leadership to try their best to retain their volunteers and workers. So listen to them. Dialogue with them. Maybe they actually have valid points. Be kind and gentle with them. And ask them to remind you to fear Allah, and remind them as well. Hence this brings us to an important point on leadership: Leadership: the leader of your team needs to be sincere, sound in Islamic knowledge, and soft with their followers. He needs to listen to them, and they do him, as I mentioned before. Otherwise, people will leave. Sometimes unity itself is more important than the correctness or perceived perfection of the minutiae details.
Anyway, coming to our point…
Imagine that you belong to a small team within a large community. For the most part, your small team adheres to traditional and classical principles of Islam. However, the greater community doesn’t. They are your Muslim brothers and sisters. But they are led by weak leadership. By “weak,” I mean leaders who have succumbed to the political pressures of that time. And while they have their strengths and still do great work, their understanding of the realities and how to tackle them are either shallow or unpractical. And when they are challenged on this (even politely), they are not willing to listen and are harsh to rebuke you.
What do you do?
Before I tell you the answer, let me tell you a three short and true stories, all of which have a common point.
1. Friends of mine, who were organized, had a media platform and institution, were set on garnering support in the community. However, due to personality conflicts, and the fact that 1-2 of them attacked external community members regularly, it ended up backfiring. Research has shown that *sometimes* the more someone argues for a point, the more they believe in it. Argumentative personalities need to be addressed early on. This team is now defunct and divided themselves. Why? They had so much potential. One answer is that
2. Sending emails “exposing” fellow Muslims or “calling out” people, even if it’s done politely, is not always a good strategy. Yes, in Islam, if someone does something publicly, they can be called out publicly. However, what if calling them out has serious repercussions and worsens the situation? For example, if your voice is one of the only principled voices, and then after calling them out, you are ostracized and maligned by your own Muslims brothers…then you technically have not removed an evil. Instead what has happened is that those same Muslims and their congregation are not willing to listen to you, they see you as someone untrustworthy or an outlier. You may have burned a bridge with the people not only who you were trying to rectify, but their congregation, who is also just as important since they are the future leadership.
3. Sometimes one’s movement/team and break up among themselves. Have you seen this happen? This often may happen when Shaytan’s mission is successful, he has managed to divide like-minded brothers. Why does this happen? I find it may come down to three issues: (a) personality conflict (b) lack of respect and professionalsim (c) and hardening of the hearts.
Therefore: when working towards reform, we have to realize the following stages:
1. Internal building – building your team, their obligations to Allah and His Messenger (including family, life, dawah) and cultivating them
2. Gaining public support
3. Building alliances
These stages signify an important point: in the beginning, numbers matter when you’re trying to gain support. When you need to mobile people, one needs to adopt a strict policy of not shooting themselves in the foot. More generally, you can’t be attacking other Muslims, calling other Muslims out, or even creating rifts. I understand that it’s about Quality and not Quantity. However, in the beginning, quantity does matter, because with support, your cause/vision won’t exist. The goal should be to get to a level where your organization/movement can speak openly, and the community will back them. This means that you’ll need to spend a number of years creating strong links with institutions, business owners for financial backing, and the general masses in the community. The community should generally be supportive of your principles. You need to teach, hold training workshops, and deliver regular messages that embed principles within the community.
The Muslim community and Ummah today has very similar resemblances of the Meccan stage during the time of RasulAllah s.a.w.
And Allah knows best.