The Most Depressing Thing About Islamic Talks

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The most depressing thing I ever read is “Oh, it’s a great class, he’s so funny. You’re going to enjoy yourself so much, it’s so entertaining.”

Are you serious? First of all, what a diss. But let’s get past myself—what’s that saying about you? Ya’ni if I was ugly (because obviously I’m not) and really old and talking like this, very boring and academic, would you still come because you value the knowledge and you want the knowledge which is being offered to you in a convenient fashion regularly and you can feel that it’s beneficial and it will get you closer to Allah SWT? Or are you coming because it’s cool and it’s said in a streetwise manner which you find funny and you get bored by the equally talented guy who’s a bit boring because he doesn’t joke as much? These are major points. Al-ikhlaas is that dangerous. What are you really here for? You should ask yourselves.

Every time you’re about to set off, (say to yourself) yes I did enjoy myself, yes it was funny, yes I do meet other great friends yes there’s a great sisterhood and brotherhood yes it’s a great feeling, but the reason that I’m doing it for is to get closer to Allah SWT. That’s so important. Make the number one reason that this knowledge works for you that it impacts you, that it affects you so you think more about Allah SWT. So the first condition of ‘ibadah is alikhlaas (sincerity) and the second is that it is in accordance to the sunnah of the Prophet SAAWS. -Abu Eesa Niamatullah

While the heart’s battle for sincerity is left to individuals, there is an onus of responsibility on those who market Islamic talks and programs. Organizers of events need to understand that there are two distinct aspects to a program:

  1. Content
  2. Environment

Many times we market a program based on the environment that will be found at the talk. It will be fun. You’ll get to see everyone you know. You’ll have a good time. Everyone will be there. This is okay to a certain point.

The problem occurs when this type of verbiage enters into the way we market the content. Too many times a serious talk or class will come around, and people will convince you to come by saying “the speaker is so awesome” or “the speaker is so funny.”

This compounds the battle of sincerity that an individual faces.

When people leave a program of any kind, they will judge the success or failure of it based on the expectations they had entering into it. If a person attends an event with the expectation that they will leave educated and informed, but instead come away entertained, they will feel it’s a failure. Similarly, when people go to an event because “the speaker is so funny” only to have the speaker deliver a profound and useful discussion on social justice, they too will feel the program was a failure.

In an attempt to fill seats and increase attendance numbers, organizers of Islamic events have begun focusing on marketing the environment as opposed to the content. This is because naturally people are more inclined to having fun than learning. What has happened now is that this excess of marketing has created unrealistic expectations of Islamic events. If a speaker is not funny, or a program is not entertaining, people consider it to be a failure because that is what they have come to expect now as the norm.

There needs to be a shift in focus from creating an artificial hype to an actual focus on content. If the fundamental purpose of a talk is to improve people’s relationships with Allah, then the way we promote the program must reflect that. The more that we market based on factors like fun, and the celebrity appeal of a speaker, the more that we deviate from that purpose and ultimately set the attendees up for failure.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. He works full time in the corporate field, is a PMP, and certified Leadership Trainer through the John Maxwell Team. You can follow him on on Twitter @ibnabeeomar, and check out his latest project - The Fiqh of Social Media.

Omar UsmanThe Most Depressing Thing About Islamic Talks

5 Comments on “The Most Depressing Thing About Islamic Talks”

  1. Noir Hussen

    Success of a program to me is how much knowledge and benefit I have gained from it. It is true that some programs are livelier than others but what is more important to me is the impact a program makes.

  2. darthvader_muslima

    the most boring thing about our speakers are speakers themselves. they need to learn how to speak first. 2nd they need to talk about relevant US related matters.

  3. Shahin

    Agreed; this was a much-needed reminder. I always wondered about this issue and I have also used the “fun event” or “awesome shaykh” incentive to get people to come to Islamic events before. This article puts everything into the right perspective and really makes me think about what we’re doing as individuals and as a community.

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