By Huma Imam
What is the first thing Allah (swt) created? Pen. (Abu Dawood)
What did Allah (swt) say to the pen? Write. (The decree of creation)
What is the first word revealed in the Quran? Read (i.e. Iqra, Al-Alaq 96:1)
Congratulations! We should be proud to be a civilization of the pen. Pen, to this day, remains a potent instrument of communication, giving life to today’s influential modern media, i.e., TV, the Internet, and the print media.
How significant and effective are these mediums of communication? Phenomenal! People like you and I have the power, by Allah’s (swt) Will, to bring about great changes. The motivation to bring about changes is fueled by awareness. This is where the might of the news media plays a vital part. History has witnessed well-informed ordinary people, with the indispensable support of their media, managing to pressurize their leaders into ending futile wars. The initial coverage of the Vietnam War supported the US involvement, but following the Tet offensive, it changed its frame. The bold and uncensored TV coverage helped to turn the public opinion against the war. The ensuing anti-war movements were also given wide media support and eventually led to success.
Another reason for the media’s significance in our lives is its power on influencing social ideals and values, thereby shaping individuals and societies. Today, in the name of globalization, Muslims are threatened by cultural and intellectual invasion through media. As intangible and harmless as it sounds, in the long run, this war and enforcement of ideas is far more deadly than any war in the battlefield. Such invasion leads to the enslavement of a free mind, rendering it aimless, robbing it of its identity, and instilling inferiority complexes. The desperation Pakistani public exhibited at the ban on Indian entertainment channels is a sad but stark example of our society’s enslavement and defeat through media’s control.
Does this mean that we, as Muslims, should shun the media? No.
“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Maruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.” (Al-Imran 3:104)
Since the modern media has a far reaching power and a great potential to influence, so why not use them to enjoin Al-Maruf and forbid Al-Munkar? Why not use it to put the correct Islam on the forefront? Why not use it for the wellbeing of Muslims? Why not use it to spread the word of Allah (swt)? Why not use it to wage intellectual Jihad?
“So obey not the disbelievers, but strive against them (by preaching) with the utmost endeavour with it (the Quran).” (Al-Furqan 25:52)
This verse orders us to wage Jihad by proclaiming the truth. We can use media to do just that, i.e., proclaim the truth, defend Islam and Muslims from criticisms and insults of the disbelievers. If Islam and Muslims are attacked physically, then we should also respond through physical might in the battlefields. But if we are attacked on an intellectual level, then it is wise to retaliate with mighty but similarly intellectual defense.
A book, blasphemous to Islam, was recently published. As a result, people went out on the streets protesting with swords in their hands. Did they accomplish anything? The swords were useless there. The attack was with the pen, thus, the defense should also have been with a pen – pen of Muslim intellectuals that would have rebutted their baseless writings.
Thanks to the media, we daily witness the atrocities committed against our brothers and sisters in Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Darfur, Chechnya, etc. By default, we become participants of this violence, as we simply cannot take the position of oblivious viewers.
“The believers, men and women, are Auliya (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another.” (At-Taubah 9:71)
The least we can do for them is voice our condemnation and repulsion through our media. It is better to protest than to accept injustice.
Pen is mightier than the sword
This saying holds true, if the user fulfills the following conditions: good and sincere intention; correct knowledge; training and proper organization on a community level. Alhumdullilah, TV channels, the Internet and the print media are all open to our comments and feedback. Whenever we come across an evil action within these mediums or in society in general, we are duty bound to denounce it. This can be done by contacting the newspaper/channel or writing directly to the author of the offending article/program.
This direct technique becomes most effective, if a number of people take a collective stand. An example of this was BBC’s sacking of a former MP and a popular talk show host Robert Kilroy Silk, who was guilty of racist and Islamophobic comments. His censure was a direct result of active protests and condemnations by Muslims.
Newspapers and magazines
Did you know that after the front page headlines, the ‘Letter to Editor’ column is the most widely read section in a newspaper? You don’t need to be a journalist to write to them. This is a forum that we should read and write to regularly. Why? To show that Muslims have a voice. We need to be heard rather than just be talked about. To be effective and successful in writing to papers you need to:
- be informed Muslims;
- hold opinions based on correct knowledge;
- keep abreast with current affairs and changing political scenarios.
- This way, you will be able to:
- bring the Islamic perspective on current affairs to the forefront;
- persistently challenge the stereotypes of Islam;
- show that there is a clear difference between Islamic culture and cultural Islam;
- point out any wrong or injustice you see or experience in your society.
- When penning your opinions, it is important to stay calm and polite, no matter how provoked, but communicate your feelings firmly.
TV elicits two extreme views from most Muslims. It is either a total and outright rejection by some, terming it as Haram or an unreserved acceptance by others, in the name of freedom of expression. However, the correct perspective is to be aware of TV’s pros and cons and make use of this avenue.
Some scholar has said:
“Every means that helps to achieve the goals of Dawah may be used, so long as it is not Haram.”
Prophet (sa) used to visit the market places of Kaafirs for this purpose. Just because TV has been used for a lot of vice, the knowledgeable people should not shy away from it. The scope of benefit any Dawah school or program offers is limited to the few, who are able to go out and attend it. But if such programs are telecasted, they will reach a million homes. Presented in attractive and modern formats, TV Dawah has an extensive potential to influence a diverse audience.
According to Internet World Stats, there are approximately 1,094 million Internet users worldwide. Like TV, its potential for good and bad is unparalleled; however, unlike TV, this medium enjoys the benefit of instantaneous and two-way communication for all. The following are some of the ways that you can enjoin good and forbid evil on the Internet:
- Report offending sites to your Internet service provider, asking them to block or censor them.
- Do not forward chain letters that promise you some worldly benefit or miracles.
- Never forward Islamic info emails without reference sources. Verify the authenticity of information.
- Reply to chain letters and senders of wrong information asking for evidence or enlightening them about the dangers of spreading hype or legends that aim to take advantage of people’s gullibility.
- Prepare and send short mails to acquaintances reminding them of Allah’s (swt) commands and timely good deeds.
- Read and write letters and opinion pieces to local and international media.
- Do not waste time and energy on debating on forums, which slyly aim to provoke Muslims in the guise of discussing religion and politics.
- Set up and manage websites for social and religious benefit.
Primary Means of Communication
The spoken word or language is the most primitive form of communication. Contrary to the popular perception of the primary means of communication being only gestures and body movements, the first human beings Adam (as) and Hawwa (as) were taught language by Allah (swt) – they were taught the words of repentance and were given guidance from Allah (swt) to follow. As the human race grew, more languages evolved and Allah’s (swt) guidance continued to the different nations and tribes in their respective languages.
(Contributed by Naureen Aqueel)