This is a record of my journey as a Muslim. I used to be Catholic and belonged to a missionary organisation. After my conversion, I sat on the board of a Muslim converts' organisation and specialised in da'wah programmes, convert management, interfaith issues and apostasy cases. I am an initiate of a Sufi order. As such, the articles and writings tend to cover these areas.
All the Arabic and graphics could not have been done without the help of my wife, Zafirah.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
"Blue Ocean Strategy" Da'wah
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ
we speak of da’wah, we are marketing
a product. The product is an ideology, a
religion, a faith. It is Islam. That being so, it is only logical that we
apply some sort of marketing strategy to sell this product. We believe that we have the best of products. And so, we must have the best of marketing
strategies. The people we ‘sell’ this
product to are the target demographic.
This entails searching for ways to attain market leadership. There are three types of market leadership: best
product innovation; lowest overall cost; and best customer intimacy. It is recorded in Swahih al-Bukhari that ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Convey from me, even if it is one verse.” This is our duty.
is impractical to work towards market leadership in product innovation since
religion by its very nature has a creed and a foundation for the system of
beliefs. There can be no innovation in fiqh al-‘ibadah. That would be bid’ah adh-dhalalah. We can
only innovate in the da’wah process
to a degree but we must still stay true to the sunnah. This is Allah’s (s.w.t.) Work. We are only the Instruments. We cannot be too smart in this. The idea of market leadership in lowest
overall cost is irrelevant. Unless we
are speaking of the opportunity cost in terms of time and effort. However, tweaking the conversion process is
another issue altogether. Therefore, the
focus has to be on customer intimacy.
This is essentially a converts’ follow-up programme.
we introduce the “Blue Ocean Strategy” of marketing philosophy. Firstly, it was developed indigenously at
INSEAD. That would make it most suitable
for a local market. Secondly, we are
drawn to the paradigm shift of re-looking the target demographic from a
different point of view. Firstly, let us
understand several reasons why this is needed.
70% of Singapore is Chinese. Of those, 40%
of them are Buddhist. Over a decade
back, perhaps 70% of the Chinese in Singapore used to be Taoist. So, who is doing the real da’wah successfully? These
numbers are not secret; they are there on the Department of Statistics site. And yet, despite this, most of our da’wah training and material focuses on
the Caucasian Christian. The Muslim
community has been bound by the colonial mindset.
conversion numbers have held steady over the last decade since I converted. In real terms, however, this is a decrease
since the population of Singapore in terms of residents, not citizens, has
increased tremendously. From a business
point of view, Islam has lost market share.
If we say that 60% of the conversions are non-resident foreigners, this
means in real terms, the number of Singaporean residents becoming Muslims is
even smaller. Furthermore, if we take
into consideration the fact that a substantial proportion of the non-resident
foreigners are already Muslims and are only converting at Darul Arqam Singapore
for the conversion card, that means the overall market share drops even
Religions by ethnic groups in Singapore, based on the 2000 census
Religious Distribution, 2010 Census
problem with Muslims all over the world is that they are always talking about
how things were. The so-called da’wah forums spend too much time
splitting hairs and trying to do things the old way. Nothing changes. It atrophies the mindset. Islam
itself was a revolution and rebellion against the old ways of polytheism,
ignorance and tribalism when it came. Those are the values we should keep - a
rebellion against doing things because that was the ‘way of our forefathers…’
Ocean Strategy” is the idea of creating a whole new market instead of competing
in existing ones. The idea being that in
an existing marketing mindset, the Red Ocean, all the sharks are in a feeding
frenzy. Gaining market share means
taking it away from your rivals. It is a
zero-sum game. All the time, the market
is shrinking. By discovering a whole new
ocean, we have redefined the entire market. And that can only be done by re-looking
everything. Not only do we win, but we
have to ensure that the customer wins. Not only must we capture the market, but we
must grow the market.
Ocean Strategy” is a business strategy book written by W. Chan Kim and Renée
Mauborgne of INSEAD, that promotes creating new market space or "Blue
Ocean" rather than competing in an existing industry. It contains retrospective case studies of
business success stories the authors claim were Blue Ocean Strategies. Unfortunately, they are relatively weak in
showing conclusive data with regards business application. But the strategy fits in with our line of
thinking. And is adequate for what we
second part of the strategy requires creating strategies to ensure that both
the business - in this case, the da’wah
- and their customers win as the company creates new business terrain. We have to deal with the notion of maximising
the size of the “Blue Ocean” and of creating the greatest market of new demand.
We have to demonstrate unconventional
ways to achieve aggregated demand by not focusing on the differences that
separate customers, but by building on commonalities across non-customers to
maximise the size of the “Blue Ocean”. After
coming up with the means to successfully execute a “Blue Ocean Strategy”, it is
essential to ensure that the strategic plans do not fail because of poor
execution of brilliant ideas. It makes
sure that after managers invest lots of effort and lots of time in strategy
formulation, they do not deliver tactical red ocean moves.
idea is about creating unconventional success - termed “Blue Ocean Strategy” as
opposed to the “Red Ocean Strategy”, the conventional approach to business of
beating competition derived from military organizations. The “Blue Ocean Strategy” tries to align
innovation with utility, price and cost positions. We, therefore, reject the phenomena of
conventional choice between product, meaning Islam, and service, meaning conversion,
differentiation and lower cost, but rather suggest that both differentiation
and lower costs are achievable simultaneously.
a look at our da’wah tools, it is
apparent that we have not managed to maximize the market penetration by fully
utilising tools Muslim organisations in Singapore have a relatively low web
footprint. They do not have dedicated
YouTube channels, no proper use of social networking beyond the rudimentary and
little idea how to market themselves, their products and services online
properly. Whilst there are many events
since the Muslim community is vibrant, many of them do not actually target to
non-Muslims or converts. There are no da’wah campaigns where events, catchment
programmes and follow-up programmes are linked into a cohesive whole.
product is Islam. We can be said to be
selling after-life insurance. We cannot
be bogged down by the mindset of an established minority that is almost
culturally homogeneous. Muslims do not have
the monopoly of Salvation. I have heard
that as a Catholic. I did not buy it
then. I do not buy it know. It precludes Allah’s (s.w.t.) Mercy to condemn for an Eternity any soul by accident of
the lottery of organised religion. Allah’s (s.w.t.)
Grace is Infinite. Islam is the best
product. But Christians are the best ummah in terms of good works. Muslims are too busy claiming they are they
are the best ummah to do anything to
show it. And that is the product.
service we are talking about is the process of discovering Islam. Islam as the way of life, as a Path in the
Road of Return; not Islam as in Malay culture or Arab culture or whatever the
culture of the majority. We are talking
about the introduction to Islam as religion, as an intellectual force, a
spiritual phenomenon but more importantly, as an enlightened way of life. The majority of the guides must, of necessity,
be of people who have taken that route before. Converts themselves as far as possible in many
cases. The conversion itself should not
be the end of the service. There is the
after service package, our converts’ follow-up. This is the lifetime warranty. Converting to Islam is tough. Staying a Muslim is even tougher.
how do we define the market? We may look
at it from two ways. On one hand, we
have the non-Muslims. For too long, much
of our discourses with regards to interfaith dialogue and da’wah have consciously or unconsciously been geared towards
addressing the Christian and the Jews. We
still have the colonial mindset. In some
of our talks, our videos, our seminars focus on the Caucasian and the
Judeo-Christian religion. In some ways,
we are still banging on the gates of Vienna with the rest of the Turkish hordes
when there are so many other open fields elsewhere.
a Singapore context, the focus should be on the Chinese. They make up the majority of the population. They have a history of interaction with Islam
going back more than a thousand years. The Chinese converted to Islam long before
Islam came to the Malay Archipelago. Changing
our religion does not mean changing our ethnic identity and rejecting our
culture. So why are we still having
talks and seminars talking about the Christian efforts to convert Muslims to the
Cross? Religion is an open door. It is all about Taste. We spend too much time worrying about the
Christians trying to give us Bibles. There
is a whole, new, virtually untapped market there. And that is why we have to have more people able
to speak Mandarin, Hokkien and Teochew in addition to English.
it is important to note that the majority of people contemplate change in the
cusp of adulthood before they become established members of society. In the Singapore context, this should be
between 21 years old to 25 years old. Any younger and they are not able to make a
mature decision and any older and the thinking tends to become ossified. The agents of change have to be introduced
within this period. Conversion itself
may take place later.
if people do not convert, they develop a friendship and respect for the
religion. We need all the Karen
Armstrong’s and John Esposito’s we can get. These people are able to speak truths about
Islam that a Muslim scholar may not without severe repercussions. What has been done is put a pulse on the
bottleneck. In every process of change,
in every campaign, in every fad or idea wave, there is a tipping point where a
wave becomes avalanche. We have to
identify the point where the dam breaks.