In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
"Anyone who obeys the Messenger has obeyed God..." (Nisaa 4:80)
Da’wah (calling) to Allah is obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman, as long as he has certain knowledge of the issue at hand. The Prophet (peace be upon him - pbuh or s.a.w.) said: “Convey from me, even if it is one verse.” (Related by al-Bukhary from Abdullaah ibn Amr)
In today’s world, Muslims can use modern technology to share the message of Islam; one good example is the internet. It’s a pity many Muslims do not recognize the unique opportunity the internet offers for conveying Islam.
Muslims communities in Malaysia especially among the Malays in the 'kampungs' and outskirts of town, prefer the traditional way of preaching knowledge. Since starting frequenting masjids to follow the ‘tazkirah’ (Islamic lessons) which are usually held everyday between ‘maghrib’ (dusk) and ‘isyak’ (night) prayers more than 15years ago, only a few times did I come across the speaker who make use of power point facilities.
In those sessions, an ‘ustaz’ would normally sit on his chair with the desk in his front, near the ‘mimbar’ (pulpit), facing the ‘jemaah’ (congregation). He would sit in his chair from the beginning to the end of the lesson.
Normally classes in masjids would be held between the ‘maghrib’ and ‘isyak’ prayers. The duration is not long, often not more than an hour. The ‘ustaz’ would talk from his chair and it would be always be one-way communication.
From my own experience only one or two ‘ustazs’ would open to questions from the floor. No dialogue would be held even though at the beginning of the lesson, a few ‘ustazs’ would say they were having a ‘muzakarah’ (exchange of ideas) session.
Religious lessons in masjids are held in traditional settings. I observe that there had been no changes, and no wonder those who attended the classes were from the veteran group, many of them pensioners. At times they were teased as 'ahli' (members of) KRU ('Kumpulan Rambut Uban' or Group of Silver Hairs) or worst still 'OKK' (Orang ke kubur or Those who are heading to their graves) and RTM (rehat tunggu mati, waiting to die).
It is difficult to see a young man at any of these classes. Perhaps, young men were not keen or attracted to attend such a traditional class were only the ‘ustaz’ were in action, while the audience was passive. In 'kampungs masjids', the chances of 'veterans' attending prayers and functions are greater than those in towns and cities.
Many of the old folks that came to classes did not bring any books and writing equipment’ they only listened, some of them were seen falling asleep during lessons. Since they were only listening, they would fall into the third group that Allah SWT rewards – that is those involved in knowledge discussions/
The huge reward goes to those who study to gain knowledge. They come to masjids with suitable raquirements such as books, notebooks, pens and pencils. They jot down notes just like universities students. But in masjids seldom do we find persons who takes lessons seriously. If university students had to take notes, veteran ‘jemaah’ in masjids only lend their ears.
The almost unchanged traditional religious classes reflect the slow learning process of Muslims which is against the fast moving information and communication technology (ICT). In my opinion this development is a setback for Muslims because the ICT leap is great for John Naisbitt (1990) had said: “In telecommunications we are moving to a single world wide information network, just as economically we are becoming one global market place. We are moving toward the capability to communicate anything to anyone, anywhere, by any form – voice, data, text, or image – at the speed of light.”
If in masjids Muslim could not adapt to the new communication era what would be said about their ability to maximize the new technologies in the field of ‘da’wah’. Regarding the varieties of da'wah methods, I like the concept of the programme 'Tanyalah Ustaz' which is aired by TV3 and TV9 at 6.30-8.30 every morning. In this programme, participants and even viewers from all over the country could ask questions on the topics chosen by the ustaz.
Imported Islamic programmes also showed that there are always two way communication involving the speaker and his/her followers. If the imam of a masjid gives a talk, we could see an open discussion among them; attendees would probe questions and being answered by the imam. In my opinion, by following this method of da'wah, a person could easily broaden his knowledge as he would ask on the things he does not know. Perhaps committee members of our masjids could have a thought about this two way communication being held in their masjids especially during 'prime time hours' such as between maghrib and isyak prayers.
The big question here is why are young men and women and even children shying away from masjids in Malaysia? In cities and big towns such as Kuala Lumpur and Kota Bharu, this phenomena is not abvious but in smaller towns and villagers, some masjids and ‘suraus’ (small masjids) , are idle, they might be used used once or a few times in a week.
If masjids fail to attract the young masses, it is the duty of leaders including community and masjid officials to make the house of Allah appealing to them. In this aspect communication is very vital and important.
Muslims should look into their shortcomings in the field of communication. ‘Da’wah’ is not only restricted to giving lessons and sermons by the traditional way in the masjids but also to use the new technologies so that knowledge could be transmitted to anyone at any point.
Years ago while visiting Masjid Khadijah in Geylang, Singapore, I noticed committee members of the masjid from its youth wing were very active in doing the da'wah work via ICT. They work hard to provide vital Islamic knowledge by using internet. A committee member said they realized that many youth do not have time to follow talks at masjids during 'the traditional learning hours' (between maghrib and isyak prayers) as they were at work or travelling, so they provide them alternatives via modern day technologies.
By utilizing the internet, knowledge and messages could reached audiences all over the world, as it allowed easy and inexpensive way of communicating with people from around the globe. With the internet, people are no longer totally dependent upon an 'ustaz' or attending the traditional lessons held in masjid between maghrib and isyak prayers.
Internet users are growing a very fast rate in South East Asia; in Indonesia it was about 40 million online users while in Malaysia 15 million users. In today’s world of ICT, almost every office worker had a PC or a laptop or has access to it. Even, almost every home have one.
Remember, everyone has a duty do da’wah work as it is an obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman. Duty of da-ee (those who do the da’wah work) is not only for people who spent their time in Islamic study field, but it include whole ummah of Islam and da’ wah to non-Muslim bringing them to the right way which is Islam.
So anyone can start from basic ways such as writing Islamic article on web-site, conveying Islamic knowledge to our friends, including the non-Muslim and informing about Islamic web-sites or audios of Muslims lectures in order to make them know Islam in the positive way.
But a word of caution, you must be knowledgeable first for example on what is 'halal' (permissible' and 'haram' (forbidden) including when writting your 'masterpiece' - for a start why not attend every day the traditional lectures at masjids held between maghrib and isyak prayers? Be patient and don't complaint, then 'insya-Allah' (God willing) you are on the right track to have Allah's blessing!