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.