Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 19, 2009

Islam: A Consumers Religion?

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

“Brother you need to come out to this event!”

“Check out DiscoverU coaching for only $2000! Did we mention Shaykh Muhammad Shareef approves? -winks-“

“Buy this CD or that book- you should really check this out”

“Visit muslima.com to find a Persian wives”

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And before you know it, you’ve found yourself on this circuit, making laps again and again around these events. The day should focus around your five daily prayers…but sometimes it focuses around the next big community event, the next big RIS conference or the next big Islamic studies class.

What is problematic here are a number of things:

-We can dispense ilm more freely and thus don’t value it much, hence people believe we can charge people for it to increase its value, but this actually doesn’t change much. I’ve seen people sleep through classes they’ve paid for.

-Example: Few actually read the entire Quran, just bits here and there, and because they are so bombarded with lectures and the same verses, think they know the Quran pretty well. But they don’t. The Quran is not for consumption, its for reflection- a slow digestion

-You are stuck deciding whether the money you should spend for “life coaching” OR for this fundraiser…the problem with life coaching is, well, they target activists (I wish they targeted non-Muslims and did dawah) and so they have to make this difficult choice.

-Islam is supposed to make it easy to abandon the dunya…not come running back to it.

-There is a point where consumption of Islam, becomes nothing more than someone shoving forcing something down your throat…do we want to be that forceful? Even if we feel we need to be?

When you are constantly being bombarded with this sort of stuff, whether its Facebook for an event 2 months in advance…your going to stop caring for ALL events. Such a high consumption of Islamic “goods”– even advertising makes you turn off, not necessarily spiritually, but it threatens your feelings of brotherhood towards your fellow Muslims. You have had your fair share of “dawah” (aka spam) for the weekend and really, now you feel burdened to even want to visit the masjid for fear of having the floodgates of flier hell unleashed upon you after prayer. It becomes another barrier to overcome in remembering Allah, and we won’t realize its a barrier because on the surface it is for a good cause.

Now, lets pause and think for a moment: aren’t we supposed to make dhikr after prayer? Not rush out to hand out flyers or get people to donate ? Its almost become…a replacement for dhikr. And so ibadah (worship) is crowded out of our lives.

Conclusions:

Due to the high level of marketing Islam (the new dawah) you have a situation where sooner or later, some people will start to shut out Islam because of all this. Its not because of one person but rather the collective patter and Muslims will accept it, simply because they feel it has some religious weight.

Additionally, there may be some sort of “recycling” program set up for Islamic resources. I can imagine systems emerging where people will trade their Islamic notes and books or share the knowledge they learned. This could bring into conflict some of these schools who may have copyrights to their “brands of Ilm” because it would threaten their source of income.

This would mean, people would tire of the “old” Islamic schools or old Islamic articles or old Muslim businesses…and new ones would appear. The pattern thus becomes cyclical. One dies and another replaces it…whether or not this means any real changes happen or if its more of the same, isn’t clear…often you come across a new teacher who thinks you need to learn how to pray properly…all over again.

Lastly, it could, I hope,  culminate in new more novel and creative initiatives in order to break this pattern. To see all this advertising, Islamic initiatives and projects collectively and rather than just start their own new thing, have a real holistic vision that isn’t offset by the fragmentation of multiple groups doing their own thing, usually competing on the same thing, simulatenously, deceving themselves into thinking they are doing something unique, special and different.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, Ameen.


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