Has Amr Khaled found the solution?

We read in Sahih Muslim the following hadith:

Hanzala reported: We were in the company of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and he delivered to us a sermon and made a mention of Hell-Fire.
Then I came to my house and began to laugh with my children and sport with my wife. (Hanzala) further reported: I went out and met Abu Bakr and made a mention of that to him. Thereupon he said: I have done the same as you have mentioned. So we went to see Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said to him: Allah’s Messenger, Hanzala has turned to a hypocrite. And he (the Holy Prophet) said: Show respite. And then I narrated to him the story, and Abu Bakr said: I have done the same as he has done. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Hanzala, there is a time for worldly affairs and a time for (worship and devotion), and if your state of mind is always the same as it is at the time of remembrance of Allah, the Angels would shake hands with you and would greet you on the path by saying: As-Salamu-Alaikum. Book 037, Number 6624

I quote this hadith as a preamble to my idea that today many Muslims forget about what the Imams tell them in the mosques as soon as they are out, I sometimes wonder if they ever listen to the preaches. And I am not talking here specifically about those greatly spiritual aspects, but I mean the good manners and practices which are encouraged by Islam. Every Friday, you’ll hear the Imams remind the Muslims that they shouldn’t lie, cheat or bribe. They would also tell them that they should smile to others, be helpful, and preserve a good relationship with their families and neighbours. They would explain the personal and collective benefits and rewards the Muslims would get Here and in the Hereafter should they carry out these practices. But “لا حياة لمن تنادي”! You would find two neighbours in the same mosque listening to a preach about behaviour toward neighbours and hearing this hadith “The best companion in Allah’s estimation is the one who is best to his companion, and the best neighbour in Allah’s estimation is the one who is best to his neighbour“, and yet they would start fighting as soon as they leave the mosque.

And let us take another example, cleanliness. Whoever visited Algeria must have noticed how dirty its cities and villages are, and how ugly they have become. The population and the public powers complain about it but neither makes any effort to improve the situation. Everybody in fact relies on somebody else to do their share of the job.
This despite the fact we all have been taught in primary school that we should be clean and make our environment as clean as possible and preserve it. This was done in the civic education courses and also in the Islamic ones. We all learnt that “cleanliness is part of our faith” and that Islam encourages it. But this doesn’t keep many Algerian from throwing stuff anywhere, and basically from destroying their environment. The situation is even worse if we consider the aesthetic part of it. It looks like the Algerians don’t mind living in a dirty and ugly place.
I remember when former minister, Leila Aslaoui, tried to encourage the unemployed youths to clean their cities by launching cleanliness contests. But like most of what Algerians do, it didn’t last. Bouteflika also mentioned this topic many years ago and asked the people to clean their houses. I remember the reactions in the streets were: “What does he care of if our houses are dirty?” or “Is it all he has to do?”. So we have our Imams and scholars who regularly give talks about it, be it in the mosques, on national TV or in the written press like we see it in this article by Afaf Aniba. But nothing changes whatsoever.

Cleanliness is but one example, and the other Arab countries are no different of Algeria. The people do listen to and watch religious programs, and they are even fans of some scholars and would talk to you about them and tell you how they admire them for hours. But do they apply what they’re advised to? No. So we clearly have an issue here in transmitting the message and convincing the audience so they apply what they are taught, and the scholars should find a way to fix it.

Algerian religious speeches in the mosques and TV channels haven’t changed in their form since I was born, and I don’t expect them to change to be honest. The other specialised Arab channels (such as Iqraa or Resala) were no different until something changed recently. Tareq Al Suwaidan and Amr Khaled started changing the way religious speeches are done. It seems like they understood that mere talks are not working, and they had to encourage a more proactive method. Al Suwaidan launched a program “life has taught me” where he mixes management techniques with Islamic teachings. He calls for effective and efficient action with clearly specified goals, and he even launched an academy to train leaders.
On his side, Amr Khaled launched his program “Life makers” some time ago and created groups in all the Arab countries. And this year, he went even further as he’s presenting a new program which looks very much like the apprentice and which he called renovators (مجددون). It is of course an “Islamic” program so most of the tasks the candidates have to do are related to some Islamic teaching, and the winner would get 100k€ which would be used to create a charity society. The idea behind this program is also to show the public how they could act, the constraints they would face and how they should react to them. He also aims at pushing the public to do the same tasks in their towns, and submit their results to the site. One of the episodes (the video below) of this program was about cleanliness. I watched it and thought he tackled some important issues such as the population’s involvement, the education so the activity lasts, and also the importance of aesthetics in our lives.

I don’t know if this program will have a bigger influence in the Arab world compared to the more traditional sermons about cleanliness, but I must admit that I like the less talk/more action bit in it. And is this new preaching method more effective? I don’t know, may be time will tell us.

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3 thoughts on “Has Amr Khaled found the solution?

  1. This is indeed an important topic MnarviDZ.

    If even Imams seem not to practice what they preach, how can we blame the ordinary Muslims?

    I mean, instilling religious precepts and values resorts to educational and pedagogical methods. The same general rules apply: a teacher who doesn’t master his subject as fully as it demands will never be able to influence or persuade his students. In the case of (religious) preaching, the relationship between the human being (preacher) and the preached subject (religious apects) is even more critical due to the importance of the subject and mostly to the fact that religion is something that is revealed by God Himself. So effectively, it’s almost like God has entrusted mere humans with the responsibility to spread his word.

    This is a very fascinating situation and it does give rise to many circumstances where the preacher gets tremendous power to influence people in bad or good ways.

    It is obvious that God has chosen that His message be transmitted by and through humans (Prophets) to other humans. The wisdom of this is explained in the Coran. A preacher should be a model not just a loud voice like we are accustomed to from many Muslim preachers.

    The other failing is that, often preacher get so hung up on delivering the message (what is more important than God’s word?!) that they forget to do their listening duty and maybe even fail to realize that a major part of preaching is actually – listening! That is why often, they come across as judgmental and break the link with their audience.

    So I think preaching should be: Acting (first and foremost) then Listening and LASTLY Speaking.

    The Muslim world suffers from a speaking overload, preaching and Da3wa is generally perceived in the Muslim mind as talking about Islam. How did we get to this? (Must not be overlooked that religious channels make loads of money, it is a phenomenon which has its twin in the US with the evangelical preaching channels).

  2. I share your view regarding this ‘new’ style by Amr Khaled. I think it’s dynamic, energetic and different and from what I have heard it has started to make a slight difference. We have to bear in mind that we are coming out of a generation, at least from my parent’s perspective, where politics and any involvement with anybody is completely taboo. You just don’t know who to trust and you don’t want to attract any attention to yourself. Things are changing today, ever so slightly, because Arab government’s are more under the spotlight than they could ever have been in the seventies or eighties. I think because of this fear, there has been this split in a way that I don’t think it affected my grandparent’s generation because they didn’t grow up in that environment. This split is between what you say and what you do and the things which it is acceptable to pay lip service to. In a way, it is time we heal the damage of the twentieth century!

    • Welcome to the blog Maysaloon and thanks for dropping by.

      I agree with your point about the general hold of taboos and fear of getting caught for ‘speaking politics’ on Arab populasses. Maybe independent media might be able to do something about this in the future.

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