*Photo: Mallam Aliu Badmus*
As-salaam ‘alykum warahmatu-Llah wabarakatuh. May the peace and blessings of Allah be on our noble leader, Prophet Muhammad, his household, his companions and his followers in general including ourselves.
It has become customary that we heighten the tempo of our spiritual activities during Ramadan, obviously because of the high rate of reward for any act of worship done during that month. We prepare and invest a lot of resources, human and material, to maximize our input and our reward during the month. We should be concerned about how to make our sermons/preachings through various media to be more impactful.
One of the important ways a program can have an impact is for it to be focused. Whatever the issue an Imam or a preacher is addressing, the common objectives are usually to promote the understanding and the practice of that issue. From experience, while it has been easy to achieve understanding of issues through preaching, it has been challenging to practice most of what is preached.
A way to illustrate this is to recall our preaching on the Islamic dress code for women which the majority of them now understand and are ready to follow only to find themselves in a hostile environment that makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, to practice what has been preached to them.
I want us to pick up the challenge to upscale the purpose of our preaching during Ramadan and beyond, from promoting the understanding of Islam by our audience to also include enhancing the practice of the religion. How can we achieve this?
I invite you to let us take fresh perspectives of two concepts we are very familiar with, namely: ‘Hijrah’ and ‘Shura’.
On Hijrah, what is often emphasized is that the Prophet migrated from Makkah where it was difficult for him to practice Islam, to Medinah where it became easy not only to practice Islam but also to spread it far and wide. What is often ignored in the process of Hijrah is that in Makkah the Prophet had no political power whereas in Madinah he had political power and as a result of which all other powers became vested in him. He then deployed the powers to guarantee full freedom of worship, not only to Muslims but also to people of other religions.
‘Shura’, which means decision making through consultation, is a major element in the Islamic political system. It is so much important that a chapter of the Qur’an is named after it (Ash-Shura: Qur’an Chapter 42). Decision making through consultation is mentioned in verse 38 of that chapter. It reads:
“Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance” – Q42:38
It is clear from this verse that for Muslims, people must be consulted when deciding their affairs. In my humble view, this consultation is so important such that it is mentioned alongside Taoheed, Solat and Sadaqah (probably Zakat) in the verse of the Qur’an referenced above. The practical manifestation of ‘Shurah’ is that those who wield power must always consult the people when taking decisions.
Coincidentally, modern day democracy is also about consultation between the government and the people. Knowing that it is impracticable for the government to consult everyone on every decision, our democratic dispensation devised a system by which people can be consulted through their freely chosen (elected) representatives. This, in my humble view, approximates the ‘Shurah’ approved by Islam.
The summary of what I am saying is that the contemporary challenge facing Muslims in our society is to acquire the capacity to freely and fully practice Islam. This will remain an illusion until we do ‘Hijrah’ as did the Prophet. Our own ‘Hijrah’ is not to relocate elsewhere but to acquire political power which was a major component of Prophet Muhammad ‘Hijrah’.
Concomitantly, the way to perform the modern day ‘Hijrah’ is to participate in the democratic processes, the modern day ‘Shurah’. To refuse to participate in the democratic process is to deliberately exclude oneself from being consulted by government. This may amount to shirking an Islamic obligation because ‘Shurah’ was ordained by Allah. We all know the consequences of neglecting Allah’s guidance and instructions. May He save us from such an eventuality.
What then is your responsibility as Imams/preachers during this Ramadan and beyond? You should make people understand various Islamic issues as you used to do. But in addition you should find a clear and decent language to tell your audience towards the end of every episode of your sermon/program that, it is their Islamic obligation to always participate in the democratic processes.
They should register to vote to qualify themselves to be consulted by government and they should vote during elections for someone who will adequately represent/protect their interest, and ensure that their faith is not neglected. Unless we do this, our efforts as preachers will be in vain if our audience are unable to practice what we preach.
May Allah make it is easy for you to discharge this crucial responsibility, accept it from you as ‘ibadah and reward you bounteously for it.
Was-salaam ‘alykum warahmatu-Llah wabarakatuh.