Shah Abdul Halim
In the recent past on several occasions I have written on the question whether a dayee, caller of Islam, should be a paid whole-timer or he should be a professional. The question is whether one who calls people to the teachings and guidance of Islam should be financially independent having his or her own source of income or he or she should live on charity or be in the payroll of certain benevolent trust working to promote wellbeing of the society through the application of Islamic values by devoting to education.Calling people to Islam mean inviting not only non-Muslims but also Muslims to the true understanding and practice of Islam. It also refers to those persons who have submitted to Islam but yet to be a believer as the Quran says: The Bedouin say, we have attained to faith. Say unto them O Muhammad you have not yet attained to faith, you should rather say, we have outwardly surrendered – for true faith has not yet entered your hearts [Quran 49: 14]. It means that such dayees, preachers will conduct foundation course, teaching the fundamentals of Islam, intensive workshop to acquaint people with the knowledge and guidance of Islam, open to all, to newly converted Muslims who have just started practicing Islam, agnostics, atheists and anybody interested to understand the core principles and practices of Islam.
Coming back to the basic question whether a dayee, caller of Islam, should be a paid whole-timer or be a professional having independent income, I am tempted to ask the question whether a dayee can fulfill his or her obligation as mentioned in the previous paragraph better by becoming a paid whole-timer depending on charity, or whether he or she can perform his or her responsibility better if he or she has independent income.
In our society often a politician is asked, what do you do, he or she generally replies: I do politics? The questioner was in fact asked how he or she really manages his or her living, how he or she earns. On such reply people laugh and look down upon the replier. They are not considered dignified people. Such people for having no independent income participate in corruption, financial or otherwise, a notion in wide circulation.
If we look at the freedom enjoyed by prayer imams of the mosque who are paid employees, we find that such people are not in a position to speak their mind freely, frankly and without fear. In the mosque where I offer eid prayers, once I found that the young man sitting beside me was using a gold ring and a gold chain. I requested the khateeb of the mosque to explain before the people assembled for eid congregational prayer the position of Islam on using gold ornaments by the man during the eid khutba and to urge the Muslim youths to refrain from using gold as ornaments, to shun this practice, which is against the pristine teachings of Islam? Khateeb was hesitating to speak against such practice and then reluctantly spoke against the using of gold by man as ornament in a timid voice just before the supplication and not during delivering eid khutba. He was not forceful while speaking against using gold by man. This is because the khateeb, I believe, was afraid that if he presents the real teachings and rulings of Islam about using gold ornaments by man this might annoy and antagonize the mosque committee members and ultimately he might lose the job.
A whole-timer dayee if is financially supported by a da’wah organization; he or she is not in a position to speak his or her mind, follow an independent line and can’t speak anything that contradicts to the attitude and approach of such an organization. Such a paid dayee can’t disagree with the established line of thinking of the organization for in that case he or she may be thrown out of employment.
If he or she follows the style and attitude of the organization, even if he or she disagrees, this would turn him or her into a parrot. In that case, the question of his or her success as a dayee does not arise. To serve a da’wah organization, even though disagree with its line of thinking, would be a betrayal of conscience; and disloyalty and faithlessness with the core belief of Islam. Such a paid dayee feels suffocated and his or her frustration impairs work. Consequently da’wah work suffers and in some cases it becomes counterproductive. The confidence levels of the da’wah workers began to decline.
In the mainstream Islamic movement of Bangladesh it has been observed that a paid dayee associated with it dare not to speak against the organization for it feeds and clothes him or her. Such a paid dayee in the absence of independent income becomes mere a propagandist. An internal assessment and evaluation of the mainstream Islamic movement “Election 1996: Crisis of Leadership. Observation & Recommendation” dated 20 July 1996 stated: “The present system of whole-timer should be discontinued. It has been observed that the whole-timer being totally dependent on the salary from the party, lose their freedom and confidence to think independently of the party’s official line being afraid of losing favor. They are found to be more interested in protecting their self-interest rather than working to push the right cause, as it may antagonize the establishment of the party”(unpublished work). The whole-timers are too loyal and obedient or too timid to earn disgrace by exposing them by speaking against the desires and wishes of the leadership of the party[A ship without a rudder – unpublished work]. In the mainstream Islamic movement, it has been observed; paid whole-timers breed and nourish corruption.
I firmly believe a dayee should have an independent source of income while working in the way of Allah and strive hard to gain in-depth knowledge of Islam. If adayee has independent source of income, he or she can work ardently and efficiently with vigor and zeal and with proper understanding and attitude to Islam. People will listen attentively and with respect to the viewpoints of such a dayee. The best way for preaching the message of Islam is to earn a professional degree, take a career and then volunteer the spare time for da’wah. He or she can do that individually or by getting involved with any organization.
What was the model of da’wah of Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him. This needs to be seriously addressed. People who favor the idea of whole-timer resort to counterargument against those who oppose such idea saying: So you want to create obstacles in the way of the work of Allah. Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him said: The first and foremost duty of a man is to earn halal rizq, lawful sustenance. Prophet peace and blessings be upon him was doing da’wah in a distinct and innovative way. The companions involved their hearts, minds, sprits, bodies and souls in it. This reflected in their conduct. Some of them were doing jobs, some were skilled workers, artisans, craftsmen and some ran small business enterprises. They don’t stop earning their livelihood just because they had to practice and propagate Islam, the religion of the Sustainer of the worlds. There is no known record that the companions of the Prophet took any money from the state exchequer for their maintenance when they were physically able to earn their livelihood or they were not poor just because they were involved in spreading the light of Islam. Even not all of Kholafa-e-Rashadeen took money for their maintenance when holding state responsibility not to speak when they were not in office.
Having said this, it needs to be mentioned that it is not prohibited in Islam to keep whole-timers in any da’wah organization. But such whole-timer should be of minimum numbers and; on the staff level say office assistant, typist, publicity assistant, watch keepers, drivers etc. Those who have income should not take any money and if required, should take as minimum as possible. *
The writer is the Chairman of Islamic Information Bureau Bangladesh.
Shah Abdul Halim