Feature Article of Monday, 5 March 2012
Columnist: Ali-Nakyea, Abdallah
THE ROLE OF THE GHANAIAN MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS
By Abdallah Ali-Nakyea
Our discussion on the topic above will be incomplete if not linked to the Theme for the 18 th Annual General Meeting which is “Living The Islamic Brand: A Responsibility on All Muslims”. The theme is very appropriate because in terms of human impact and social and political importance, religions are today?s real global super brands.
In 2008, Gallup conducted a poll across 143 countries and territories asking whether religion was an important part of daily life. The median who said religion is important in their daily lives was 82%. We also see the dominance of religion in global media and politics. Ghana is not left out in this phenomenon considering the ongoing debates characterizing the choosing of running mates for political parties. Should Muslims be seen to be begging for slots, as it were?
When religions first come into existence, the foundations of the brand are generally laid by one person; think of Buddha, Prophet Jesus (AS) and Prophet Mohammed (SAW). If we take the example of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), he was the living embodiment of the brand of Islam. He laid out clear guidelines about Islam?s values encompassing notions such as a complete way of life; a code for serving Allah as well as creation; how to uphold the values of freedom, justice, respect and equality; building
Abdallah Ali-Nakyea is the Managing Consultant of WTS Nakyea & Adebiyi, a firm of Tax Attorneys & Solicitors in Accra. He is also a Part-time Lecturer in Law of Taxation as well as Legal Accountancy at the Ghana School of Law;
an Adjunct Lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA). He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Ghana (FCIT), a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Book-keepers (FICB), a Fellow Certified Chartered Economist (FCCE) of the American Academy of Financial Management, a Certified Economic Policy Analyst (CEPA), Master Tax Practitioner, South Africa (MTP-SA), a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana (CA), a Barrister at Law (BL) and possesses a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) as well as a Masters degree in Economics (MPhil-Econs). He is also a Member of the Institute of Internal Auditors (Ghana)
.2 an ultimate relationship with Allah to achieve a prosperous life in the earth (dunya) and the hereafter (laahirah). Over time, the „brand? of a religion becomes diluted because it loses its intense and pure brand advocate, and is no longer managed centrally. That?s one of the reasons why religious brands are so strong at the start, but weaken as successive generations develop different ideas about the values of the brand and how the brand should be maintained.
Even more detrimental to the brand is the fact that the actions of each person who subscribes to that brand come to represent the entire brand. Any Muslim who has lived through the last decade will tell you how events of September 11, and most recently events in Nigeria involving Boko Haram hijacked the entire peaceful, justice-oriented, compassionate branding of Islam. You will no doubt agree with me that such acts are obviously not in the brand name of Islam.
Living the Islamic Brand
Any brand manager will tell you, that to spread positive messages about your brand, you need at least 13 customers to tell other people how good your brand is. To spread negative messages, it just takes one bad experience. This is where our role as Ghanaian Muslim Professionals lies in our quest to promote and market Islam in Ghana. We need to be the ones to tell others how good our Islamic brand is, while averting being among those who will show a bad experience which will discredit our Islamic brand. May Allah guide us in this regard. Amen!
Promoting and Marketing Islam
To be able to promote and market Islam as Muslim Professionals, we need to appreciate the fact that our Religion, Islam, needs some emergency branding work. In re-asserting its global brand, hence its rightful place in Ghana, Muslims Professionals face three challenges.
First, what exactly are the brand values of Islam that Muslim Professionals agree on? With ongoing disputes around sectarian, political and social differences, this does not seem likely to be answered anytime soon. But if as Muslim Professionals we want to reclaim the brand of Islam, we will have to find some core common ground. Second, the agreed values must be exhibited throughout all aspects of the Islamic brand. It is not just a technical tick-box exercise to say “Islam is about equality”. People only believe brands when they have demonstrated the brand values over and over again. For example, it is no good just saying that Islam believes in the rights of women, if women are not given those rights.
Finally, how will the Islamic brand values be patrolled? Unlike the case of commercial brands, you cannot force people to behave according to the Islamic brand values. Muslim Professionals and Islamic Scholars will need to take the lead, but this has to be done through peer-to-peer influence and motivation, with a huge emphasis on individual responsibility.
The role of Muslim Professionals is to see to re-invigorating Islam?s brand if we have to promote and market Islam in Ghana. The most important value in building a brand is trust – trust that what the brand says about itself is what the brand will actually deliver. The key to this is engagement, is communication and transparency. That is how trust will be re-established, and how Islam?s brand values of peace, compassion and justice will be re-built.
Traits Required of the Ghanaian Muslim Professional Attitude towards People
With his parents, the Muslim Professional is to be an example of sincere obedience and love. He/she should treat them with kindness and respect, infinite compassion, utter politeness and deep gratitude. He/she should recognize their status and know his/her duties towards them through Allah?s command. Allah says:
“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful.” (Quran 4:36) Surat An-Nis?' (The Women) In the Islamic world, one rarely finds “old people?s homes.” The strain of caring for one?s parents in this most difficult time of their lives is considered an honour and a blessing and an opportunity for great spiritual growth. In Islam, it is not enough that we only pray for our parents, but we should act with limitless compassion, remembering that when we were helpless children, they preferred us to themselves. Mothers are particularly honoured. When Muslim parents reach old age, they are to be treated mercifully, with kindness and selflessness.
In Islam, serving one?s parents is a duty second to prayer, and it is their right to expect it. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult. As Muslim Professionals, we can promote and market Islam in Ghana if we are seen to be performing this duty.
With his wife, the Muslim Professional should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfillment of his responsibilities and duties.
With his children, the Muslim Professional is a parent who understands his great responsibility towards them. He pays attention to anything that may influence their Islamic development and give them a proper education. This is so that they may become active and constructive elements in the society, and be a source of goodness for their parents and community.
With his relatives, the Muslim Professional should maintain the ties of kinship and know his duties towards them. He should understand the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.
With his neighbours, the Muslim Professional should illustrate good treatment and consideration of others? feelings and sensitivities. He should put up with their mistreatment and turn a blind eye to his neighbour?s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself.
Many mistakenly believe that Islam does not tolerate the existence of other religions present in the world. The dealings of the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, with other religions can best be described in the verse of the Quran:
“To you be your religion, to me be mine.”
The Arabian Peninsula during the time of the Prophet was a region in which various faiths were present. There were Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, polytheists, and others not affiliated with any religion. When one looks into the life of the Prophet, one may draw on many examples to portray the high level of tolerance shown to people of other faiths.
A Muslim Professional?s relationship with his brothers and friends should be the best and purest of relationships because it is based upon loving for the sake of Allah. He should be loving towards them and not cold-hearted. He should be loyal to them and should not betray them. He should be sincere and should not cheat them. He should be tolerant and forgiving. He should also be generous and supplicate for their happiness and well being.
In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim Professional is expected to be well-mannered, civil, noble, and characterized by the attitudes which Islam encourages. Some of these characteristics are: not being envious of others, fulfils his promises, modesty, patience, avoiding slanders and obscenities, not interfering in that which does not concern him, refraining from gossiping, and avoiding stirring up trouble.
The Muslim Professional has to be modest. Modesty as a sense of shame or shyness in human beings is a shrinking of the soul from foul conduct, a quality that prevents one from behaving badly towards others or encouraging others to behave badly towards you. Islamic ethics considers modesty as more than just a question of how a person dresses, and more than just modesty in front of people; rather it is reflected in a Muslim?s speech, dress, and conduct: in public with regards to people, and in private with regards to Allah.
The Muslim Professional should take reservation in speech. As with everything in Islam, speech should be moderate. Raising one?s voice in venting anger simply shows one lacks the ability to contain it, and only damage will ensue from it. Uncontrolled anger, for example, can lead one to verbally abuse and physically assault another, both of which take off the veil of bashfulness one is endowed with, exposing the shameful ego within. The Prophet (SAW) said:
“A strong person is not the person who throws his adversaries to the ground. A strong person is the person who contains himself when he is angry.” (Saheeh alBukhari) Truthfulness Truthfulness is the very cornerstone of the upright person?s character and the springboard for his virtuousness. This quality is required of the Muslim Professional in promoting and marketing Islam in Ghana. This is because falsehood, the opposite of truthfulness, is the foundation of a person?s depravity and the launch pad for his wickedness. Just as the truthfulness of a person starts from within - that is, it is a reflection of a state of true faith - a person?s dishonesty, lying and deceit is also a reflection of the inner state.
Altruism which refers to selfless acts done for another?s benefit in spite of oneself, is a humanitarian endeavor praised by all societies. Practically every nation on earth has stories of great kings, brave warriors and noble men and women who sacrificed their material possessions, status or even themselves for some or other common good. Yet, it is without any reservation or hesitation whatsoever that we can point to the religion of Islam for the most perfect, sincere and comprehensive expression of altruism (eethaar in Islamic terminology). The Prophet Muhammad (SAW), said in a narration, known to perhaps every devout Muslim “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
As Muslim Professionals we need this attribute of being our brother?s keeper as a marketing tool to promote and market Islam in Ghana.
Generosity As humans, we have an innate sense of morality. No matter what race or tribe we are, certain qualities serve as the moral standard. We admire justice, bravery, honesty and compassion. We abhor those who demonstrate treachery, cruelty or corruption. Moral standards are universal, and one of the most important aspects of Islam is adherence to high moral standards and good manners. Muslim Professionals thus require generosity if we are to promote and market Islam in Ghana.
As Muslim Professionals, we should remember that our worldly possessions are bounties from Allah, who is Al Kareem, the Most Generous. As Muslims we believe that everything originates from Allah and everything will return to Him, thus, it is logical to behave as if that which we possess is merely a loan, something we are obligated to preserve, protect and ultimately share. Whenever Prophet Muhammad (SAW) met a miserly person, he advised him to be more generous and charitable. Ibn `Abbas said that he heard Prophet Muhammad 8 (SAW) say, “The believer is not the one who eats when his neighbour beside him is hungry,” The people came to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and asked, “If someone has nothing to give, what will he do?” He said, “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked, “If he cannot find even that?” He replied, “He should help the needy who appeal for help.”
Then the people asked, “If he cannot do that?” He replied, “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds and this will be regarded as charitable deeds.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari) And Allah says in the Quran that He will repay the generosity of a believer. “And whatever you spend in good, it will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.” (Quran 2:272) Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) God is the One who provides for us and He expects us to share generously. We are encouraged to be benevolent and unselfish with our possessions, with our time and with our exemplary behaviour towards others. This is one way we can promote and market Islam in Ghana.
In the 21 st century, we live in a world where honesty is valued and yet shunned at the same time. We expect people to be honest in their dealings with us yet we watch and applaud television shows and movies that promote and encourage lying and deceitfulness. Without thinking, we teach our children that dishonesty is acceptable. When we expect our children to tell the caller on the telephone we are not home, this is a lesson in deceit. When we refuse invitations and pretend we are busy, this is lying. We admonish our children for lying, yet the reality is we have been their teachers. Whether we tell lies, or whether we allow our children to live in a world surrounded by deceit, the lesson is learned and the honesty begins to disappear from the hearts of the next generation.
Honesty incorporates the concepts of truthfulness and reliability and it resides in all human thought, words, actions and relationships. It is more than just accuracy; it is more than just truthfulness, it denotes integrity or moral soundness. Islam commands truthfulness and forbids lying. God commands that a Muslim be honest and this is the role Muslims Professionals must play if we are to promote and market Islam in Ghana. We have to uphold honesty, teach and practice it. The Quran says “O you who believe! Fear Allah, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” (Quran 9:119) Surat At-Tawbah (The Repentance) Trustworthiness further enhances the integrity and sound moral conduct that is inherent in the notion of honesty. Being trustworthy implies being honest, fair in dealings and punctual (in terms of both regularity and timeliness) as well as honouring trusts and keeping promises and commitments. An important part of the noble Islamic character is being trustworthy. A true Islamic society is based upon honesty and justice, and is intolerant of dishonesty in all its various forms. Honesty in all business transactions is emphasized and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) exhorts Muslims to be scrupulously honest in all their dealings. This is thus a quality every Muslim Professional should possess in our quest to promote and market Islam in Ghana.
Humility God created human beings to worship Him and a practising Muslim in, essence, should be able to worship God in every second, of every hour of every day. Islam is a way of life and it means nothing more, or less, than submission to the One God. “And I (Allah) created not the jinn and humans except they should worship Me Alone.” (Quran 51:56) Surat Adh-Dh?riy?t (The Winnowing Winds)10 “And the slaves of Allah are those who walk on the earth in humility and calmness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.” (Quran 25:63) Surat Al-Furq?n (The Criterion) Muslim Professionals thus need to have humility in all their dealings in their role as promoters and marketers of Islam in Ghana.
Traits the Muslim Professional should Avoid/Eschew Backbiting
Backbiting is talking about somebody in a derogatory way or in a way that would not be pleasing to the one being spoken about. It is called back biting because it is usually done when the person being maligned is absent or “behind his back”. Allah says in the
Quran: “And those who malign believing men and women undeservedly bear upon themselves the guilt of slander and a manifest sin.” (33:58) Surat Al-'A?z?b (The Combined Forces) Backbiting has become so widespread nowadays that people use it as a way of expressing anger and jealousy. Those who engage in it are disrespecting Allah by disobeying Him and harming others. Magazines, radio talk shows and television shows are devoted to gossiping and prying into the private lives of others. There is no respect for privacy, and contrary to popular belief, the lives of others are not source material for gossip sessions. The person who habitually engages in backbiting and gossip and who does not struggle against his desires and begs for Allah?s forgiveness has lost all respect for himself for he no longer fears the fires of Hell. The sin is grave, the punishment severe, but Allah is Merciful and always accepts sincere repentance. Muslim Professionals should have no role in this if we want to promote and market Islam in Ghana.
In this new century punctuated by astounding technological advancement, and instant global communication it has become commonplace to hear people talk about respect, or lack of it. One hears about respect for the environment, respect for other cultures and religions, respect for each other and the catch cry of the 21 st century - self respect. We lose respect for our politicians and governments, we gain respect for our sporting heroes and actors. We try to respect our planet by turning off taps and unnecessary lights. We complain bitterly about our lives and the lack of respect we feel at home and at work.
How can we regain this lost quality of respect that for many of us is seemingly unattainable? Simply by following Allah?s commandments and worshipping Him accordingly. This is indeed the role the Muslim Professional can play in promoting and marketing Islam in Ghana, by going to the basics and not be swayed into joining the current un–Islamic craze enumerated above.
Disrespect is not part of Islam and a Muslim Professional should strive to improve himself/herself and should be aware of hisher responsibility to protect others rather than disrespect them. In Islam, believers do not disrespect each other nor do they tolerate disrespect towards their brothers and sisters. Another quick and easy way to protect ourselves from the evils of gossip and backbiting is to stay away from those who engage in it. In that way we are able to promote and market Islam better.
This does not however mean we are not permitted to talk about issues that bother us. It is allowable for one who is being oppressed to inform the authorities of the wrongs being committed against him. It is allowable for those who see vice to inform those who are capable of removing it. It is also allowable to mention people?s faults when seeking sincere religious advice from those qualified to give it. It is permissible to mention someone by describing them (blind, deaf, in a wheelchair etc) as long as it is not done in a belittling or mocking fashion. Lastly, it is not allowable to hide the character faults of a person known to you from those seeking marriage or business advice.
Lying is one of the major reasons for corruption in society. Any form of lying creates enmity and sews disrespect between people, but the most obnoxious form of lying is to falsely attribute things to God or to his Prophets and Messenger. Islam forbids lying and enjoins the believers to be truthful. The words of Quran testify to this. God says:
“O you who have believed, fear Allah and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).” (Quran 9:119) Surat At-Tawbah (The Repentance)
And “…who does more wrong than one who invents a lie against Allah, to lead mankind astray without knowledge?” (Quran 6:144) Surat Al-'An`?m (The Cattle) Muslim Professionals should thus keep a distance from these traits. Spying In Islam, it is not permissible to search for or reveal the secrets of others. Spying and all it involves, such as eavesdropping and asking too many private questions, is forbidden because it involves disrespecting the private lives of others by disobeying Allah. Indeed Allah himself has reminded us to avoid suspicion. He said:
“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (Quran 49:12) Surat Al- ?ujur?t (The Rooms)
13 Foul Language
Bad words show disrespect to those being spoken about and a total lack of selfrespect. Reviling, insulting, cursing and rudeness, these are bad words and they usually are uttered when someone is overcome by anger. Anger is an emotion that may open the doors to all kinds of evil and disrespect. It can sometimes result in breaking the bonds of goodwill and even destroy family relationships. Anger can even move beyond just using insulting words and cause one person to physically harm another.
Islam is a religion which gives importance to both inner belief as well as outer works. Being a Muslim does not entail that one merely carries out acts of ritual worship, nor that one only hold a certain belief in the heart without it being apparent in one?s actions.
A Muslim also pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development. He does so in a precisely balanced fashion which does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others. For this reason, the life of a Muslim revolves around the worship and remembrance of God; five daily prayers, fasting the month of Ramadan, etc.
The qualities and attitudes discussed above are some of what every Muslim Professional should strive to possess as part of their character and personality in their role in promoting and marketing Islam in Ghana. For this reason, a society that has residents with such characteristics is one that will enjoy true happiness and peace, which indeed is what Ghana needs.
May Allah guide, guard, protect and bless us all in our quest to play our respective roles in promoting and marketing Islam in Ghana.
Amen!! Assalamu Alaikum!!