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The Express Train: The New Face of Da’wah

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A few years ago, if you mentioned the word “da'wah”, the first image that would usually appear in our minds was that of an old man wearing traditional Islamic clothes, speaking standard, formal Arabic, and preaching his, sometimes, complex way into the minds and hearts of thousands of Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Language is indeed arbitrary, as the meaning of the word “da'wah” has changed in the minds of millions of Muslims worldwide, since more and more youth have become involved in the da'wah field.

Instead, rushing images of young preachers in suits, preaching an easy-to-understand-and-implement-religion, surge into our minds. This all began a few years ago when the emergence of a “new look” for Islamic da'wah representatives grew to its peak. And there seems to be no end to this mountainous peak of spiritual and practical methods of preaching from educated and intellectual youth who want to express their love and understanding of Islam.

Consequently, the old man has been replaced with a younger looking man or, for that matter, woman. The traditional clothes have been replaced with suits or modern outfits, and the formal Arabic has been replaced by colloquial Arabic or a foreign language.

What started this trend? Perhaps the Palestinian Intifada encouraged this wave of young “modern” preachers to come into full force.

Perhaps other catastrophes occurring in the Muslim world signalled a wake-up call for idle Muslim youth worldwide. Whatever the reasons for this renaissance, it is evident that it has come into full swing, encouraging whoever is in its way to join the express train to revive the Islamic spirit and improve ourselves and those around us; a destination all those on the train plan to reach.

Surely, the media is a key player in what is termed “the new look” in the da'wah field. Not long ago Islamic satellite channels were established, broadcasting their Islamic content to viewers worldwide. Perhaps it was only a matter of time till this renaissance occurred. As the years turned, those channels promoted more and more “new look” preachers.

For instance, 12 years ago the Arabic satellite channel Iqraa’ began its mission to broadcast “the teachings of Islam into the homes and hearts of Arabs worldwide”.   The shows consisted of traditional men, rarely women, talking about, and preaching Islam in Arabic; the very image that was illustrated above, comes into mind.

12 years later, the shows consist, mainly, of programs presented by women and men, in different languages (although Arabic remains the main language used). These presenters do not necessarily hold a university degree in an Islamic discipline from a prestigious university, such as Alazhar.

They are ordinary Muslims, representing millions of ordinary Muslims worldwide, and discussing issues that are important to the public at large. Perhaps those millions of ordinary Muslims finally felt that they were being talked to on the same level and not preached down to as in earlier times.

The shows evolved to contain entertainment, dramas, and cartoons for children, Islamic songs, discussion shows hosted by celebrities and programs on all aspects of life with an Islamic theme. Perhaps this style of new preaching encouraged people to take up the same position in their society and tell fellow Muslim brothers and sisters of the knowledge they had learned. In those 12 years, communication and technology progressed to a new level too, giving millions the opportunity to listen to digital Islamic files on the Internet, rather than the classical Islamic tapes that are difficult to find in some countries.

s a matter of fact, this renaissance was just too exciting for me not to join; indeed I am a proud passenger of the da'wah express train calling all those idle (and busy) thumbs to come on board.

Looking at my surroundings, I notice that most on the train are volunteering to use their skills to benefit others. This fact creates such a proud and immense feeling of satisfaction; that our youth are good-doers. This is like the feeling of the cool breeze coming from the train’s window: a breeze that is not a destructive hurricane, harmful to everything in its way. It is rather a breeze that makes the skin glow; that cultivates the lands of the world and gives comfort to wounded souls.

These passengers are professionals in their respective fields, intellectuals in their study, and pursuers of success and ultimate reformation. They are not only young members of society but mature ones too, seeking to make a better world for the present and future generations. Groups of them strive together, working on different projects to bring their goals and objectives into something later generations will call an accomplishment, sheer will and determination, an act of heroism; all pivoting around the Qur’an, the last message from God to mankind.

Surely these passengers face bumpy, shaky, uncertain trials on their express train, but even the Prophets and those who believed them faced trials: so why should we not expect a few delays? Patience and perseverance is written all over the faces of those on the train, and those who are not patient have sadly cut their journey short.

It was in the year 2001 when I joined the express train. I did not have extensive knowledge on Islam, but I knew Arabic and English well enough to translate influential Islamic material.

I remember clearly the images of Islam in the media being tarnished post 9/11; I remember the upsetting looks I would get from strangers in the street because of my distinct symbol of Islam, the Hijab. I remember listening to conversations that classmates at my university in England would have about how terrible Islam must be to teach people to blow themselves up and destroy buildings.

Then I remembered the things I had learned as I grew up about the peaceful true Islam that millions of Muslims believe in and who practise the teachings of the Prophet that, even in war, forbids demolishing any place of worship, cutting down trees, killing women, children or priests.

I recalled all the teachings I knew of, which reminded me of the beauty of Islam that was not being represented in the media. All I saw in the media were misconceptions and lies. Just as stated earlier, this was definitely a wake up call. I had to do something locally and internationally to enlighten the public at large that what was being said about Islam in the media was far from the truth. I could not stand by and watch the express train of opportunity pass by.

I hopped on board, taking my writing, translation and any other reformation skills with me. I sat at my canvas and willed that I would re-paint the true image of Islam with my hands and all the hands that would join me in rebuilding the truth. The passengers on the express train do not claim to be experts on Islam, yet they have the skills and the desire to spread its true image.

Each carriage on the train carries and calls different people with different qualifications and experiences, and four years later my carriage, a web site called Daralislamlive.com, calls for people with creative skills to hop on board. From web designers to graphic designers to flash designers; from translators to editors to writers; from doctors to professors at universities; from housewives to students: volunteers eager to join the express train jumped in, all sharing the common goal of spreading the true meaning of Islam. And passengers on the train do not restrict themselves to one carriage; I for one am always on a quest to venture into other carriages and join in with the propagation of Islam. 

Indeed this new wave of preaching will not drown the express train. Rather, it will aid it in becoming like Noah’s ark, a symbol of strength and determination to do good, reform the earth and abstain from evil. Although many achievements have occurred in the da'wah realm, more is on its way, as the express train attracts more people worldwide to join its noble cause.

These passengers will not rest until they reach their destination. I for one will not rest until we reach our destination, which is giving the opportunity for everyone to understand the true meaning of Islam, living in a peaceful world whose societal members do good and forbid evil, and ultimately joining with my sisters and brothers, hand in hand, in a strong chain of Muslims leading each other, and millions of others like us, to Paradise.

ndeed language is arbitrary, so we will try to change the negative meaning people have in their minds about Islam and show them the express train’s window of opportunity. We will encourage them to realise the meaning of Islam that preaches words such as love, success and reformation. We will remember the words of the Prophet, "... by Allah if they put the sun in my right hand, and the moon in my left hand in order for me to leave this matter (Islam), I will not until Allah makes it victorious or I die trying."

The Prophet was the captain of the express train. So we will give him the helm to lead us on to success and become victorious in our noble cause, or at least try until our time on this planet is up. We will aid the steam spouted from the express train to signal to others and let them know about Islam.

We will change the meanings of many words, ultimately altering the false images that many have about Islam, and create a peaceful earth once again. Indeed this is the goal of all those dedicated to da’wah, who are continuously joining the express train.

1-Da'wah: Inviting others to Islam.
2-Iqraa quote from: ourjerusalem.com

Marwah Elazhary -
Marwah El-Azhary [Marwah Alazhary] is founder, editor-in-chief and site administrator of daralislamlive.com, a translation and creative arts website, publishing in English the works of influential preachers such as Amr Khaled ['Amr ’Khaaled].Read More >>

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