One Thousand Points Of Light
Establishing New Daw'ah / Islamic Business Organizations
by Dr. M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.
There is a tendency among Muslims who run Islamic organizations to discourage others from establishing new organizations. Once a new organization is well established and running, the organizers or the officers themselves become jealous of any new budding organization. In North America it is an unhealthy attitude to discourage others from working to form new organizations. In economic terms we, the Muslims, are not close to reaching the situation in which we can apply the Law of Diminishing Returns. Questions are often heard when a new organization is established. "Why form a new organization? Why not work with so and so organization which is doing the same or similar work? Why duplicate the work?"
As a matter of fact, Islamic Da'wah work requires a large number of organizations. Also, the consolidation of Islamic economic activities demands a large number of business organizations to pull resources together to make Islamic economics in North America become workable for Muslims and establish an example for the non-Muslim society to follow. Muslims are being watched closely by individuals, institutions, governments at all levels, community organizations of non-Muslims, churches and synagogues. Our success in Islamic business organizations is one of the tools of Da'wah and we have a duty to help such businesses to become successful. At this time these business organizations include NAIT, Amana Mutual Funds, Ansar Capital Management Inc., MSI Financial Corporation, and other cooperative buying and investment projects.
The establishment of a new Islamic organization with identical objectives as any of the already existing organizations is neither duplication of work nor a waste of resources. Islamic work in North America is like a marathon race which is joined by thousands but winners are very few. If a marathon race did not have thousands of runners, the winner may not be the one with the best physique; the winner may be a person of mediocre qualities. Other important reasons for establishing new Da'wah/Islamic business organizations which we must take into consideration are:
1. The Size Of The Job
The population of North America is approximately 300 million people and the size of the continent is very large, over 3000 miles in width and over 2000 miles in length. For Da'wah objectives alone it would take an organization the size of US Department of Interior to come up with the resources and management to do the job adequately. Therefore, it makes sense to have a large number of small, autonomous organizations who can develop their own resources and reach people locally with the MESSAGE OF ISLAM. Taking of the message of Islam to the entire non-Muslim population is the responsibility of all the Muslims, individually as well as collectively. Those who are living in North America must realize their duty and shoulder the responsibility, utilizing state-of-the-art methodologies.
2. Policies And Approaches
People are different in their background, education, knowledge, experience and outlook at various matters. Therefore, they develop different policies and approaches toward solving a problem. Some people have the right policies and approaches and some do not. We may differ and argue about these matters but time is the best judge. If Da'wah work is like a marathon race, those with the best policies, approaches and the most stamina (or firmness) are going to win, whereas bad policies and approaches are going to be losers. If all our energies and resources are placed into only one or two organizations and they happen to have poor or bad policies and approaches, we come out very bad losers, losing material and human resources as well as the most precious commodity, time. On the other hand, if there are one hundred organizations with a variety of policies and approaches at least a few of them are going to be winners, which will be a good experience and an asset for all other Muslim organizations to follow. Therefore, it is a wise strategy to start with many organizations in Da'wah until we have learned the best in policies and approaches.
In any organization there are many activities with various levels of priority. It is the duty of responsible officers to set the priorities appropriately. Any misjudgment in setting priorities and allotment of resources may result in setbacks to achieving the objectives of the organization. Having many organizations to achieve the same objectives but different approaches and strategies has an advantage of covering one organization's misjudgments of approach and strategy by another one. All organizations having the same or similar objectives but different approaches and strategies should be looked upon as tributaries of one river rather than competitive spoilers of each other. As long as these organizations follow certain rules which are discussed below there should be little fear or concern for waste of resources.
4. Pooling Of Greater Financial Resources
There are donors and there are fund raisers but the problem of getting them together is difficult. Donors are choosy and discriminate when giving money to organizations. Having many organization with similar objectives has the advantage of pooling resources for the same cause through different channels. If some one does not feel comfortable in giving to one Da'wah oriented organization there is a likelihood that he will feel comfortable with another organization for reasons known to himself. Da'wah work cannot move forward without the availability of large resources whether pooled under one umbrella or under many different names. Pooling of material resources at the local level by local or regional organizations has a better chance than pooling by one or two large organizations. Besides, very large organizations tend to waste more because of a lack of close knit organizational structure, personal touch and care which small organizations can achieve.
5. Pooling Of Human Resources
Da'wah work needs thousands of workers if it is going to succeed in giving the message of Islam to every one in North America and we should do everything possible to recruit volunteer workers. Like donors of money volunteer workers have their likes and dislikes of people and organizations. Some people would like to work with one group of people but would refuse to work with another group. Having a large number of Da'wah organizations offers alternatives to volunteer workers and would help in recruiting large numbers of these workers for the propagation of the message of Islam.
6. Protection Against Infiltration And Disruption
As Islamic Da'wah work progresses successfully in North America, the Muslims, in general, and Da'wah organizations in particular are going to face a gradually increasing resistance by the non-Muslim society. A point will come when opponents of Islam will feel compelled to infiltrate Islamic organizations, in general, and Da'wah organizations, in particular, and disrupt them. If there are only a few organizations the task of the opponents is made easier. On the other hand, if there are a large number of Da'wah organizations, autonomous in their policies, approaches, priorities and resources, it will become difficult for miscreants to succeed in their mission. Therefore, having a large number of Da'wah organizations is a blessing and protection against sabotage and disruption by the opponents of the Islamic mission.
Some apprehensions have been expressed concerning the possibility of waste of resources, wasteful competition, waste of time and a show of disunity within the Muslim people. These fears are more imagined than real. However, these fears can be taken care of by following some rules. These rules are summarized below.
DO THE FOLLOWING 3 C'S:
COOPERATION: Organizations should follow the rule of cooperation which will lead to more productive work. There are many ways of cooperation, such as exchange of ideas and materials, extending help to each other, and so on.
COORDINATION: Islamic Da'wah work has many aspects, parts and phases. Da'wah organizations can coordinate between themselves in various aspects or phases of the work.
COMPLEMENTATION: Doing something which another organization has not done for one reason or another is complementation.
DO NOT DO THE FOLLOWING 3 C'S:
CRITICISM: There are two types of criticism, constructive and destructive. Constructive criticism is when you offer better alternatives and preferably your services to go with it. If you are not able to offer alternatives but criticize others' work it is destructive criticism which should be avoided at all costs. If you can not offer a better alternative it is possible that the one who is being criticized has not been able to find a better alternative either and is doing the best he can.
CONDEMNATION: Condemnation is very poisonous to every society. Condemnation means you are attacking some one's intentions which only Allah knows. Condemnation causes many personal and social problems. You have a right to condemn only when something in violation of Islamic principles (haram) is being done.
COMPETITION WHICH IS WASTEFUL: Allah encourages all Muslims to compete in good work. However some competitions could become wasteful and may cause problems. All Muslims should be watchful and perceptive enough to detect harmful and wasteful competition and avoid it.
How To Establish A Daw'ah Organization
Any religious organization falls within the category of "non-profit" or "not-for-profit" corporations. All corporations are regulated by the office of the Secretary of State of a given state in U.S. One must obtain a copy of the laws governing such organizations and follow the procedures. The general procedure is given below:
1. Filing the articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State with the appropriate fee,
2. Writing the constitution or by-laws of the corporation,
3. Filing an application with the IRS for tax exempt status,
4. Filing an application with the State Revenue Department for sales tax exemption,
5. Filing an application with the US Postal Service for non-profit status for bulk mailing.
Sometimes the name of the corporation may have to be registered with the county. Usually the state government and IRS require some kind annual reporting which has to be followed.