Often times when we begin any kind of dawah project, we feel that the strength of the message should carry the project to success. When we hold an Islamic Awareness Week event, it can be frustrating handing out thousands of high-quality brochures, and having no one feign interest. By the same token we hear powerful, moving, and captivating khutbahs on ‘Eid and yet, the majority of people will still not be seen except until the next ‘Eid.
Sometimes we find ourselves volunteering for worthy organizations – organizations who preach something we are incredibly passionate about. We look to our local Islamic center and see resources and opportunity, in fact, we think they would be foolish not to help out. So what happens when we approach that masjid board or president about possibly hosting an event, or letting us promote an upcoming event, or perhaps garnering some community support for a project? We get shot down.
This causes us to get frustrated and cast blame. This cause is so great. Why won’t people listen?
As with many other things, the fault usually lies with our own selves.
Seth Godin highlights this phenomenon in The Professional’s Platform:
If you only show up when you want something, we’ll catch on.
If you only learn the minimum amount necessary to get over the next hurdle, you’ll fall behind. ….
The politician who only shows up when it’s time to raise money, probably won’t.
We remember what you did when you didn’t need us so urgently.
If you’re going to make a career of it (and of course, if you want to excel, you will), that means taking the time to understand the texture of your field. It means investing, perhaps overinvesting, in relationships long before it’s in your interest to do so.
When it comes down to decisions that matter, your town, every town, is far more likely to support the one who has moved in, put down roots and contributed than it is to rush to whatever bright shiny object shows up for a few days before moving on.
Let’s put this in practical terms. Your favorite teacher is coming to your city to teach a class, perhaps the only visit he will be able to make for the next 2 years. Taking his class changed your life, and you want others to share the same benefit. Not only that, but the material he is teaching is essential to everyone becoming a better Muslim. Your local imām recently delivered a khutbah on the importance of seeking knowledge. Perfect.
You go to that imām and ask him to help promote this new class that’s coming to town. You get shot down. Completely flustered, you go to the masjid board. They look at you like you are the crazy one and also shoot you down.
What just happened?
The imām didn’t take you seriously because you displayed a lack of seriousness. Why should this imām back your program when you never displayed any seriousness in studying before? If you never show up to his classes, how can he take you seriously that this class is such an important thing for everyone to learn? As far as he is concerned, you have been absent any time there is a learning activity going on, and now all of a sudden you pop out of the woodworks?
The board also saw something similar. When the masjid was holding a fundraiser, they didn’t see you passing out flyers and emailing people. When it was time to pick up garbage after the masjid dinner, you were nowhere to be found. Now all of a sudden you expect the masjid to utilize its email list to promote your event? You’re the first one to stand up after juma and leave before hearing the announcements, and now you want the masjid to announce your program?
You’re so concerned about Islamic education, but you never even volunteered a single hour at the Sunday School? Not only do you go around bad-mouthing the masjid’s lack of good quality programs, but when asked to help, you never take the time to help organize a good quality one. And now you want them to support an outside program just like that?
The problem is, in your zealousness and passion, you lost sight of actually helping the community. The community will not support you, or your projects, unless they see that you have a vested interest in helping them. You may feel that you are providing a service to them, but they do not feel that you are actually serving them. Start overinvesting in your community, long before it is in your interest to do so.