STARTING AND CONTINUING A REGULAR DAWAH TABLE
“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what right, and forbidding what is wrong thy are the ones to attain the Supreme Joy." (Qur’an 3:104)
A Daw’ah Table can be as simple as a table with a few introductory brochures on Islam, or it can have an attractive display of posters, a large variety of daw'ah literature, and Qur'ans - depending on how many people one wants to attract.
The concept of the daw'ah table encompasses much more than just giving out pamphlets on Islam. Once this effort is started, with some amount of dedication and consistency, it can easily lead to the formation of an organized resource of information on Islam, an effective means of advertising other MSA activities and services, a way of getting to know more Muslims, and a training ground for da'iyas (callers to Islam).
As with starting any endeavor, the most important thing is the intention behind it. As the Prophet (SAW) said: "Indeed, actions are based on intentions. For every person is what he intended." (Bukhari and Muslim)
First make sure that the intention for this effort is only to please Allah (SWT). We need to ask ourselves this question again and again.
PRAYER TO ALLAH:
Pray to Allah (SWT) to make this endeavor a big success and ask for His pleasure. Remember the Prophets lbraheem and Isma'il (as), and their prayer to make Mecca a land of barakah, and to have a prophet in their progeny. The grace with which Allah (SWT) accepted this prayer is in front of everyone.
While we may have many shortcomings, still, the power of dua is great. Imagine our humble, but sincere daw'ah effort turning into a major daw'ah movement in this country! Just imagine it! And us, reaping the reward of everyone who accepts Islam through this movement, through years to come... Think and plan big: Allah's powers are not to be underestimated:
"And when My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them); I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me; let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in me; that they may be rightly guided." (Qur'an 2:186)
"O Allah, bestow on us, mercy from Yourself, and dispose of our affair for us in the right way." (Qur'an 18:10)
a) Strength to serve Allah (SWT) comes from Him.
b) He chooses people to serve Him based on their sincerity and effort.
c) If we are setting up a daw'ah table to convey His message to His people, we are NOT doing a favor to Allah. He, in fact, is doing a favor on us by granting us an opportunity to attain reward.
d) Shaitan and those who follow him will try to prevent us from working for the sake of Allah. We have to keep striving despite opposition, as the rule of Allah (SWT) is to help those who make an effort, and then ask Allah (SWT) to help us and make things easy for us:
"And those who strive in Our (Cause), We will certainly guide them to Our Paths: for verily Allah is with those who do good." (Qur'an 30:69)
BASIC MATERIAL NEEDS:
1. DAW’AH MATERIALS: At least 50 each of 6 different kinds of daw’ah brochures and two or three attractive posters about Islam. See recommendations below on posters and literature.
2. PEOPLE: At least 5-6 enthusiastic people.
3. FUNDS. Some funds for buying poster material and photocopying / ordering daw'ah literature.
4. THE BIG ATTRACTION-- English translations of the Qur'an for free distribution. If available, this is the single thing that attracts the most people to the table.
Here is one way to go about it:
STEP 1 OBTAINING THE DAWAH LITERATURE AND QUR'ANS:
Start the search for daw'ah literature and Qur'ans early (i.e. a month or two in advance), so that there is enough time for materials to be mailed to you. If you want to start a table right away, you may want to photocopy what you can for a start. Daw’ah literature and further information sources are also available on line on the "World Wide Web" (See Appendix).
STEP 2 PRELIMINARY FUNDRAISING: Some suggestions for fundraising are as follows:
Food sales; Collecting money after Friday prayers; Fundraising lectures and dinners; T-shirts and poster sales; Direct funding from your university; Telethon
STEP 3 RESERVING THE TABLE AND OBTAINING PERIPHERALS:
Contact the appropriate department office in your university in advance to find out their deadlines if any for reserving a table for daw'ah purposes. Reserve your table early for the whole semester. This is to ensure getting a good spot for your table. You may also want to reserve or purchase two or three stands or easels to mount posters as well as have some business cards printed so that interested people have a contact to follow up later.
From a coordinator's point of view, it is convenient to have a weekly table consistently on the same day of the week. However, in order to reach the maximum number of people, switching to another day in the middle of the semester may not be a bad idea.
STEP 4 GETTING THE VOLUNTEERS:
At least one person and one backup is needed for the duration of the table and two people for setting up and closing. It may be a good idea to introduce the daw'ah table and ask for volunteers at the first MSA get-together of the semester.
Ask people to dedicate at least one hour (out of 168 hours!) of the week for this purpose. Make a sign up sheet and pass it around. Have one person in charge of calling all the volunteers the night before the daw'ah table every week to remind them of their shifts. Arrange for wake-up calls if needed and encourage people to find a backup if they cannot make their shift. However, the coordinator should be prepared to deal with occasional absenteeism and be available on call (if possible) for the duration of the table,
STEP 5 MAKING SIGNS AND POSTERS:
Attractive signs and posters can go a long way in encouraging people to stop by the table. Also, putting up posters with Quranic verses and other information about Islam is daw'ah in itself, as people who don't stop by the table will also learn something about Islam. Short Qur'anic verses and a hadith written clearly and attractively seem to be the most beneficial.
Political issues also attract attention, but are usually NOT good daw’ah tools. It is advisable to keep the daw'ah table away from politics as the goal is to call people towards Islam with hikmah (wisdom), which may be better achieved by removing the focus from political issues and bringing it to Tawheed. Allahu Alam.
STEP 6 ADVERTISING FOR THE TABLE:
It may be a good idea to put up posters and use email and other means available at your university for advertising the daw'ah table. Encourage people to tell their non-Muslim friends about the table.
STEP 7 PROCEDURAL MEETING OF VOLUNTEERS:
Before starting the table, have a meeting where the volunteers are informed of policies concerning the daw'ah table and also given a briefing on the basics of doing daw'ah. Procedural things to go over may include the following among others:
Setting up and closing. One seemingly obvious but often forgotten thing is making sure that, if you are using tape or any sticky material to put up posters, it is used in such a way as to not destroy the poster itself. Also, it is important to be careful when closing not to leave the tape sticking on the back of the posters, as it will destroy the posters placed underneath.
The use of a log book. This should contain the names and particulars of the volunteers along with their assigned shifts, any specific instructions that you may want to give them, and a section for special requests, such as if someone wants to be informed of Islamic events, or wants a copy of the Qur'an, or anything that you can provide but may not have handy at the table. It can also be used to keep track of how much literature is being given out and how many people are stopping by the table.
Observe university regulations. Go over the pertinent rules and regulations with all the volunteers. For instance, if a university forbids taping posters to walls, then the people setting up the table need to be aware of this and respect this rule. Breaking university rules just gives enemies ammunition to work against the daw'ah table and try to stop it.
Delegate responsibilities. Have specific people in charge of photocopying, calling up the volunteers, following up on special requests, ordering Qur’ans and daw'ah material as needed etc.
Basic etiquette of doing daw'ah. It is important to go over the basic etiquette of daw'ah with the daw'ah workers. Basic daw'ah training is a whole topic in itself. However, some ground rules are listed 'in the next section (At The Daw’ah Table - Dealing with the Public).
STEP 8 READY TO GO!
The procedural meeting should mark the completion of the preparations for the table. The night before the table, tie up any loose ends, make sure all materials are packed ready to go and call up volunteers to reconfirm their shifts. The materials you will typically need are:
Daw’ah brochures; Qur'ans; Selected Posters; Copy of the Bible; and basic information for the Da'ees; Tape and scissors (or something to put up the posters); Stands or easels (if needed); Log Book. Insha Allah, have a successful daw’ah table the next day
AT THE DAWAH TABLE
DEALING WITH THE PUBLIC
General rules to remember are: use hikmab (wisdom), be cheerful and friendly, and never be rude or get upset at anyone. Remember that the da'ee at the table is representing Islam!
Some people suggest a more aggressive approach. i.e. call out to passersby and ask them to come to the table, or stand near the table and give out brochures to all those who pass by.
That is fine as long as it is not against university regulations and the material being given out does not have Qur'anic verses, as people may throw it away. Allahu Alam. However, there are a fair amount of people who voluntarily stop by the table, being attracted by the posters, display of materials, free Qur'ans or the cheerful look on the da'ees face. These people need to be dealt with and can roughly be divided into three categories:
1. Those who stop by, pick up some daw'ah literature, and leave as fast as they can. These are the easiest the deal with. Just give them a friendly smile.
2. Those who stop and ask honest questions. Be aware of the basic etiquette of daw'ah in order to deal effectively with these people. Experience has shown that one person draws others to the table, especially spectators, when an interesting discussion is taking place.
DEALING WITH HONEST QUESTIONS
Thus, if the da'ee has a reasonable amount of knowledge and skills, it is recommended to try to get a discussion going. It is helpful to keep a copy of the Bible and mark some pre-selected verses which can be used to talk to Christians and some Jews more effectively. Try to keep the focus of discussions as much as possible on Tawheed and the central beliefs of Islam.
If someone asks a question and the da'ee does not know the answer, it is better to ask the person to give their name and number and have someone who knows get back to them or send them some literature. Be sure to follow up.
Don't guess on an answer, as we are dealing with the revelation of ALLAH (SW), and need to be very careful. Our wrong guess could result in someone's being misguided instead of being guided, and that defeats our purpose. Moreover, we are clearly forbidden to say things about Allah, of which we have no knowledge (Qur'an 7:33). Some verses of the Qur'an to remember are:
"Invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious." (Qur'an. 16:125)
"And do not dispute with the People of the Book, except with that which is best, unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong, and say " We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is One, and it is to Him that we submit." ~(Qur'an, 29:46)
"Say what is true and correct from your Lord and let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject..." (Qur'an, 18:29)
3. Those who don't like Islam no matter what and try to create problems. Never get into a heated argument with anyone at the table. No matter what they say or do, the da'ee must not lose control.
DEALING WITH ANTI-ISLAM SENTIMENTS
Remember, the da'ee at the table is representing Islam! Be patient with such people. If they incessantly argue a wrong point, or raise objections no matter what you say, then, without getting apologetic, end the discussion graciously 'in accordance with the following verses of the Qur’an:
"And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, "Peace!" (Quran, 25:63)
"To you be your way of life (deen) and to me, mine." (Qur'an, 109:6)
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
"Say what is true and correct from your Lord. Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject..." (Qur'an, 18:29)
It is very tempting and easy to succumb to western pressure and "water-down" Islam to fit a more western perspective. This is especially the case with topics like jihad and women in Islam.
Surely we don't want our reward of doing daw'ah to be transformed into punishment for speaking about Allah without knowledge, or attempting to change His religion. Even the Prophet (SAW) was warned:
"And had We not made you steadfast, you would nearly have inclined to them a little. In that case, We should have made you taste an equal portion (of punishment) in this life, and an equal portion in death: and moreover, you would have found none to help you against Us!" (Qur'an, 17:74~-75)
Our job as da'ees is only to honestly convey the message in the best manner using hikmah, but not changing the message in doing so. It is up to Allah, and not to us, to make people accept Islam.
10 CHARACTERISTICS OF AN MSA TABLE
Background work involves maintaining a consistent supply of daw'ah material, Qurans, and finds, making and maintaining posters laminating them etc.), arranging for special activities at the table, training the da'ees, and taking care of special requests if any.
The coordinator can delegate these jobs to others, but needs to be responsible and follow up regularly, as all of the above are very critical in ensuring the success and continuity of the table.
It is also a good idea to hold periodic meetings to get feedback from the da'ees -and other people and improve upon the table -as appropriate.
TEN CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD DAWAH TABLE:
1. Attracts positive attention. Posters and materials should be displayed prominently and attractively and should not be the same every week.
2. Is in a busy area of the campus, preferably in the equivalent of the "student center" in your universities.
3. Has occasional non-standard activities as a part of the table, such as the "wheel game" (see description later) and "Have your name written in Arabic for Free" service etc.
4. Is consistent. Consistency is very important. Sometimes an individual may feel the first time, but on seeing the table for the third or fourth time, may decide to stop by.
5. Its da'ees are trained in basic daw'ah.
6. Gives incentives for people to return and not just stop by once and never come again.
7. Encourages positive discussion on Tawheed and the fundamentals of Islam and discourages endless discussions on politics etc. You can achieve this partly through the choice of literature and posters you display, but mainly this is the job of the da'ee manning the -table.
8. Has a follow-up mechanism for people genuinely interested in Islam. You can point them to a local daw'ah organization that offers classes on Islam to non-Muslims or start one yourself. Also follow up with them if you have taken their name -and address in response to a request by them.
9. While the main focus is Tawheed, occasional themes are chosen such that they address some issue relevant to the society and attract attention.
10. Gives out free translations of the Qur'an.
ADDING COLOR TO THE RAINBOW: SOME CREATIVE IDEAS FOR THE DAW’AH TABLE:
• Personalized business cards -in Arabic - for FREE
• Quiz or other educational game
• Free stuff
This goes without saying. People, especially students, are attracted to free things. Especially, if any form of food is being given out for free. However, it may not always be possible for an MSA to give out free items, but it is worth the money.
At one university, free dates were given out during the daw'ah table after Ramadan (a good way to use the left over dates). Two or three dates were packed in a small plastic bag and tied with a ribbon to make them look attractive. Sure enough, this did attract people.
• Audio-Visual Material
Showing an appropriate video on Islam or playing Islamic songs may not be a bad idea. However, realize that people are not going to stop for the duration of the video or the audio tape. It may attract their attention and they may stop for a minute or two. But in this process, they may pick up some brochures, or at least start thinking about Islam.
• Islamic computer game or software
CONTINUING THE TABLE:
This is the real challenge. Very often MSA originated activities stop when the person who initiated them graduates and leaves. If the person who starts the table is about to graduate and leave, then he/she needs to start looking for someone, usually from among the volunteers of the table, who will be able to coordinate the table after the present coordinator leaves.
It is good if they can spend a semester working together, where the future coordinator is trained to do the work and also gets a chance to feel how it would be to coordinate the table all by him/herself.
However, this may be subject to the election procedures of each individual MSA, and may not be possible 'in every case.
At any -rate, the coordinator should share information among others so that he/she is not the only one with all the know-how of running a table. Coordinating a daw'ah table is relatively easy and does not require much time once the coordinator becomes familiar with the work.
However, strength to carry out any Islamic activity, however easy or difficult, comes only from Allah (SWT), if He sees sincerity in our hearts. May Allah give this strength and sincerity to us so that our humble effort continue, and expands fi sabi Allah and more and more people come to the deen of Allah until America becomes a Muslim land.
Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; And argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: For thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (16- 125)