Da'wah Efforts in Australia
The Conference topic stressed the importance of Da'wah Bil Hal and its implementation by da'wah organisations. Although papers presented applied particularly to developing countries, Australian speakers looked at the opportunities for applying the concepts learnt to the Australian situation.
I wish to point out that
(i) Australia does not yet have a functioning national da'wah organisation, and
(ii) Australia is not a developing country so that the Malaysian concepts presented cannot necessarily be applied directly (without modification) to Australian conditions - except in the case of the Aboriginal Community which is a "developing" community.
The first priority in Australia should be to establish functioning da'wah organisations. Da'wah Bil Hal will be one aspect of the da'wah approach in Australia but it must not be the only aspect, and at this stage we cannot place emphasis only on this aspect. Other da'wah approaches, particularly direct da'wah, can be effectively applied in Australia, and needs to be increased.
The similarity with the Malaysian model is that, as in Da'wah Bil Hal, individual Muslims as well as the Muslim Community as a group, should show a good example first, before Da'wah Bil Lisan and Da'wah Bil Kalam can be applied to the non-Muslim Australian community.
What is the framework of Da'wah in the Australian Muslim Community? I would suggest the prime objectives for the Australian Muslim Community are two:
Objective 1: To develop a strong, stable, sustainable Muslim Community following Islamic principles
This is the responsibility of every Australian Muslim adult. On an organisational basis it is primarily the responsibility of AFIC and its constituent Councils and Societies. In achieving Objective (1), da'wah will need to be carried to the Muslims themselves. Da'wah Bil Hal, the good example shown by Muslims to each other, will develop the spirit of love and brotherhood/sisterhood between the Muslims and help achieve this objective.
A strong Muslim Community which is not experiencing regular crises, where the members are good, practising Muslims, confident about themselves and their very important role in the world (as vicegerents of Allah SWT), will provide an excellent example itself to the non-Muslim Australians. Such an example of a practising Muslim community is surely a form of Da'wah Bil Hal?
One important aspect of Da'wah Bil Hal for the Muslim Community itself, is to treat new converts properly, to respect them and assist them to be fully accepted by their new brothers/sisters in the Community.
Objective 2: To effectively spread the message of Islam to our fellow Australians, and elsewhere in the region.
This is also the responsibility of every Australian Muslim adult, since whether a Muslim is conscious of it or not, he is a living example of a Muslim as seen by the non-Muslims.
All Muslims are da'is whether we are conscious of it or not (Al Baqarah: 143). Every Muslim needs to acquire Islamic knowledge, improve his/her character and interact with the non-Muslim community in a positive manner.
The stress of the conference was on Da'wah Bil Hal - da'wah by good example. However, if this is stressed as an individual task only, then the da'wah efforts in Australia cannot achieve their true potential. Da'wah Bil Hal to non-Muslims has been going on in Australia ever since the first Muslims arrived in Australia last century. Many members of the Muslim community are carrying out da'wah today, be it Da'wah Bil Hal, Da'wah Bi Lisan or Da'wah Bil Kalam.
However what appears to be lacking in Australia today is a Da'wah Group that is applying an organised systematic effort to Da'wah throughout Australia. An important principle in Islam is that joint efforts (a'mal Isjtamayi) are considered more valuable than individual efforts (a'mal Infradi). A Da'wah group (i.e. group of Da'is working together) can be much more effective than uncoordinated individual efforts!
Unfortunately our community has been slow to act in this regard, possibly because of the difficulties and initial focus on attaining Objective 1. Now that our communities appear to be settling down and inshAllah becoming more "sustainable", we can direct more attention to Objective 2 in a systematic manner.
AFIC probably does not have the resources or personnel to properly coordinate organised Da'wah activity at the moment. This coordination will necessarily come from a group of motivated individuals and focussed da'wah organisations who decide to work together on a national scale. A central body (as suggested below) should be affiliated with AFIC but not necessarily be under direct AFIC control. It is important for Australian Muslim leaders to approach da'wah as a raison d'etre for the Muslim community being in Australia, not as a peripheral activity to community business.
The following is an initial proposal for some organised da'wah activities to be carried out in the near future; it is by no means exhaustive:
The APMC Da'wah Committee congratulates RISEAP and the Organising Committee on the successfully planning and conducting of such an important activity as the Dawah Bil Hal Conference. We will be most interested to learn from the Organisers about any followup activities.
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