“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and dispute with them by way of that which is best. Truly your Lord knows best those who stray from His way and He knows best those who are guided.” (Surah An-Nahl:125)
“Indeed, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.” [Muslim]
Muslims are supposed to be master marketers.
Da’wah isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days where you had to journey far and wide, where time was a factor, where your only competition was the idol worshippers. Camels have given way to high-speed connection cables, chariots to satellites, the great mosques of Baghdad to many separate learning institutions all over the world. Today’s distraction and distortion in communication is greater than ever. Brands are aplenty, your attention is spread thin, and it can be confusing. Attempting to da’wah in the old ways will only get you so far; at best you might be able to reach out to those still choosing the simple life, and on the other side get lost yourself in the swarm of people vying for your attention. We live in a global world. It’s time we led it. Again.
This is a calling towards the need for a new social science, to both take full advantage of today’s communications opportunities as well as smartly counter the many threats to Islam. To smartly counter means that we be proactive, that we stop being defensive, that we put a definite period to the poorly designed websites, terrible public communications stances at the premise of upholding the sword of Islam, even to think twice of creating that new product just because we think the Islamic market isn’t tapped yet. It’s time to inject marketing sciences into da’wah. Islamic Marketing has arrived.
“Marketing is the art and science of creating, communicating and delivering value to a target audience.” A fascinating concept and visionary promise, one which has captured my heart since the day I was taught marketing in my university days. Like so many, I’ve always thought of marketing as a communication tool hinged on promotions, money, fame. The word also used to conjure multiple images of posters, banners, physical products. However all that changed from that very first marketing class till the moment I graduated with a marketing specialization. I’ve truly grown in love with this social science and recognize its tremendous potential in changing the world.
Marketing is a tour de force when executed well. In the context of businesses, profit is a bonus, an externality born out of the ability to focus on what truly matters: making lives better with the value your product offers them. Value can be created when there is a positive difference between the product’s benefits and the cost it expects the consumer to bear. Value communication is the result of carefully considered communication channels and the appropriate messaging that fits with the culture and lifestyle of your target audience. Value delivery is about distributing your product to the right place at the right time for the right people. When it is perceived that value creation, communication and delivery are in harmony from your target audience’s eyes, your marketing has succeeded and you have improved your target audience’s lives not by chance, but by intention, strategy and tactics.
The realization that marketing was the social science that could do just this soon shifted my own curiosity. I wondered if in Islam itself, has there ever been a fusion of marketing sciences into Islam. Because all I kept learning in marketing was one word: value, and what greater value there has ever been than the blessing that is Islam. Islam transcends product and service, and both spheres apply horizontally to man and vertically with God through specific actions and guideposts. It was time to begin the search for marketing sciences in Islam. I was sure I could find something.
The logical subject to approach this search was in the discipline of da’wah: the science of inviting people, both Muslims and non-Muslims to understand the worship of God as expressed in the Quran and Sunnah. A vast landscape, but talk da’wah to any Muslim, and he’d probably associate it with men dressed in traditional Muslim gear going from door to door or mosque to mosque encouraging people to learn Islam. This is personnel selling, quite suitable when the product is fresh to the consumer. However the imagination of da’wah cannot just end there. While the scholars and practitioners in this field stress on the importance of intention, sincerity, supplication, when it came to the methods wise most encourage discussion and dialogue like the earlier example, and so rarely go deeper than that. As I was trained in marketing, I found myself time and time again scribbling away the many similarities between marketing and Islam, from the way the Prophet first spread Islam to opinion leaders like his companions, to the approach used in writing letters to the leaders of faraway lands.
The Prophet Muhammad was truly a master marketer. He was the opinion leader, had his own tribe comprising of primarily two social groups (Muhajirin and Ansar), and was divinely guided to market Islam from Mecca, to Madinah, to lands afar, back to Mecca, and beyond. He instructed the writing of letters and treaties which fitted his target audience and focused on the big picture rather than mere personal branding. Through the tongue of revelation, one of his main miracles is to transform nations and generations after by spreading the message through a system of word-of-mouth , a known promotions tool in modern marketing sciences which has proven itself effective compared to other communication channels – once again attesting to the parallels between the masterful spread of Islam and sound marketing principles. These are just some of the matches I could find, and is only the tip of what rich marketing our own Islamic tradition contains.
Such matches should be archived, and this website is aimed at both knowledge management and insyaAllah the sharing of classical and new approaches to dakwah and marketing with an Islamic perspective. We have grown a chronic disease into sheepishly accepting mediocrity in our marketing standards, and by we, I mean us Muslims. Worse is sometimes we are in denial, or even go to a state of finger pointing and criticizing the culture as ‘westernization’, ‘globalization’, without us ourselves being on par with our own da’wah standards and hit-to-conversion rates, literally. Where we do fight in the cause of Allah, we do so angrily, lacking imagination, patience, a sincere effort in the design of our ways to invite. We have become experts at branding others, people or events which make us uncomfortable, without cleaning up our own personal branding. We seem to have forgotten that the companions were converts in themselves, that Abu Sufyan became a Muslim after 20 years of patience from the messenger, that marketing Islam requires skill, patience and an upper gentle hand, not arrogance, harsh words nor blatantly firing away in the media. We have oppressed this religion. The longer we continue to choose to forget, to remain stagnant, the more critical disease this disease grows to the point where we can no longer tell what is right and what is wrong in our marketing of this trust we have that is Islam.
The world’s perception of Islam today is our scorecard. I cannot see how our hearts can rest.
This has to stop. I believe there is a social science that can help us da’wah better, promote stronger, emerge as guideposts for others. In this website, I have tried to present that social science, with the intention of Islam and guided by the Qur’an and Sunnah to the best of my abilities, as Islamic Marketing. Corporations today rely on carefully executed plans backed by a sound science that is marketing. This science has grown and developed in the last century by a stream of marketing scholars, with the value often hinged on a product or service. It is time we use this sound science to good use in our own divinely created product that is Islam, so that Muslims can be vicegerents with marketing finesse. I hope this website will help in this cause.
Translations of the Quran are based on the The Holy Qur’an: A new English translation of its Meanings © 2012 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan.
It is recommended that Muslims offer a prayer to the Prophet when his name is mentioned. Hence in texts the terms PBUH or “Peace Be Upon Him” are typed after his name. Similar prayers are encouraged for the other prophets. In instances where the prayer is excluded from text, I encourage the reader to give the prayer inwardly in his heart as he reads.