It is a great honor and privilege for me to be here. I thank Allah (swt) for giving me this opportunity. Let me tell you at the out set, that I am not a religious scholar; I am here to emphasize the role of media in spreading the Qur`anic message.
Imam Ghazali, in his Ihya Ul Ulum ud-Din, records an incident in the life of Khalif Omar bin Khattab (ra).
He was traveling from Medina to Mecca. One day in the morning he saw a flock of sheep at the base of a hillock. An African boy was tending the flock. Eager to test how far the Qur`anic message had reached, he asked the boy whether he would sell one of the lambs in the flock. The boy said â€œNo.â€ â€œBut why?â€ asked the Khalif Omar.
â€œWhy? Because it is not mine, said the African boy, â€œIt is my masterâ€™s and I am his slave.â€ â€œWhat does it matter?â€ asked the khalif. â€œTake this money, give me that lamb and tell your master that some wolf snatched away his lamb.â€
The boy stared at Khalif, not knowing whom he was staring at. He said â€œ I can cheat my master here who lives on the other side of the hillock, but can I cheat that Great Master who is overlooking and listening?â€
The boy was an illiterate boy; he had never read the Qur`an. But evidently the message had reached him and influenced his mind.
He must have heard the Qur`anic words that God â€œknows what the soul of man whispereth to him,â€ and that HE is â€œcloser to him than his jugular vein.â€
And that â€œthree persons speaketh not privately together, but HE is their fourth, nor five but He is their sixth; nor fewer nor more but what ever they be HE is with them.â€
Tears rolled down the mighty khalifâ€™s cheek, and asked the boy to lead him to his master.
On meeting with the slaveâ€™s master, the khalif asked, â€œHow much did you pay for this slave?â€
â€œSo muchâ€ replied the owner, â€œHere is that much, take it and set the boy free.â€
The question is how many of us, whether literate or illiterate, Muslim or non-Muslim, the brilliant products of our universities, or the people who conduct the affairs of their countries, or in fact members of the UN and those who subscribe to the human rights declaration…
Have they attained that stage of mind or attitude which this African boy reached over 1400 years ago?
A person to person communication had helped this boy for the development of his mind or his attitude.
The best example of individual and mass communication is Islam itself.
When Allah (swt) communicated through the Angel
Jibril (as) to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s), revealing the Qur`an, it was an individual communication.
But when Qur`an and Sunnah in print form are communicated to the masses, they became the objects of mass communication.
So communication has played a great role in the development of Islam, especially in todayâ€™s world.
Currently, we live in a century of information and technology that has shattered time and space barriers, reducing our globe to a small house where even a whisper is audible from one side to the other.
It has presented to humankind a great opportunity to come closer together and demonstrate that they are all â€œChildren of Godâ€ as conceived by Prophet Jesus (as). Or we are one single family, â€œthe Family of Godâ€ as conceived by our Prophet Muhammad (s).
And yet this small house stands divided, a victim of disinformation, misinformation, stereotyping and rhetoric against members of the Family of God.
Yes, we have made advances in the sciences, arts, philosophy, have written books on tafsir of Qur`an and hadith, but somehow these achievements have no real connection with the day-to-day life of Muslims.
It has been the exclusive concerns of the intellectual elite and bears little connection to the religious and social life of the masses.
The common masses remain ignorant because we have failed to develop an effective means of communication, and thus the common man is simply nose-led by reactionary forces in the community.
Let me give you a simple example: the initial commentaries representing the spirit and the purpose underlying the Qur`anic messages were not properly communicated either in the verbal form or in the print form.
But before I say this let me repeat myself: I am not a scholar, let alone religious, but based on what I have been told and what I have read, it is said that the commentaries often failed to distinguish the muhkamat the verses bearing plain and clear meaning, from the verses that are mutashabihat and amthal or similitudes or figures of speech.`
And because of our lack of a strong media, we have failed to deliver the essential messages of the Qur`an, the â€œcode of human conductâ€ that instructs him to live in peace with himself and with his external world relations. â€œBelieve and work righteously,â€ â€œbelieve in the unity of God and the unity of man.â€
And this theme of the unity of man receives its sustenance from the Unity of God, that has an enormous social bearing. The privilege is not to confine to people of the book but it extends to all the other religions provided the condition of Unity of God is fulfilled.
It is interesting to note that the emphasis laid by Qur`an on unity–â€œHold together to the rope of Godâ€–and to have a united life was itself pressed into the service of divisions by the very people who professed to believe in it. To an extent, this is due to lack of communication, within religious leaders, with community leaders and with people at the grass roots level.
I would conclude with the example of moon sighting. The Muslim Observer presented a series of opinions on whether moon sighting must be by physical view or may be arrived at based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This evoked a discussion amongst the people at the grass roots level and I have no doubt in my mind it will soon help in evolving a consensus.
The image of Islam today, fashioned by an ignorant and uncaring media, in a death struggle against reactionary Muslims who lead other Muslims unknowingly into difficulties–is absolutely not the true Islam we learned 1400 years ago.
The outward form is there, if disheveled, but the spirit of todayâ€™s â€œIslamâ€ does not have its roots in Qur`an.
Let us help to develop the mind of that illiterate African slave boy with an essential Qur`anic message of human conduct, and belief and righteous work.
We need a nationwide community media through which the communityâ€™s scholars, leaders and thinkers can discuss and air views about which our community needs to develop consensus.
[Based on the book The Mind the al-Qur`an Builds, by Dr. Syed Abdul Latif]