Friday, 20 July 2012
The Sharing Circle: The Swuhbah
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
Da’wah is not about the numbers. It is about people who may or have left that which was comfortable and familiar behind for something strange. And no religion seems stranger in these times than Islam. When it comes to convert management, the Christians are far ahead of the Muslims. They have leadership camps on convert management and development, courses, papers and have dedicated vast resources in bringing people to faith and ensuring that they stay. There is no such equivalent amongst Muslim organisations.
Beyond conferences and talks and classes, there is a need to integrate converts into the Muslim environment and yet inoculate them against the diseases of the Ummah: sectarianism, ethnocentrism and tribalism. Many new converts and some older ones, feel lonely and disenfranchised. For many of them, upon conversion, there is a break in the support network; family, friends, colleagues. Insha’Allah, it is temporary. Sometimes, it is longer. It is at this moment that they are vulnerable. At its very simplest, there is a need for people to be there.
In the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), any convert to Islam was immediately given support. They had the swuhbah, the association of the Prophet (s.a.w.) himself. Those who partook of it were known as the swahabah. It was a spiritual as well as a social connection. In Makkah, the earliest converts were gathered in the house of al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam (r.a.), in the heart of the city, near the Ka’bah. There, they were nourished spiritually and strengthened despite the trial they had to undergo, the persecution of the other Quraysh.
After the hijrah to Madina, the Muhajirun, the Emigrants were paired with the Answar, the Helpers, the people of Madina. Every emigrant had a surrogate brother or family when they came with almost nothing. That is a sunnah we seem to have lost. The closest thing that Christianity has is the cell group, which functions like the swuhbah but on a smaller scale. In Islam, the thariqa’ the Sufi Orders have their swuhbah which was an excellent method to introduce non-Muslims to the spirituality of Islam and new Muslims to the circle of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his swahabah. It is not surprising then, that the people of thuruq were the foremost in da’wah. For the most part, those times are past. There are and insha’Allah, will always be excellent Masters of the Path. But many thariqa’ have devolved to being nothing more than groupies for this or that shaykh. They may have the form but they have lost much of the values. The circles of dzikr may be detrimental to the new Muslim and fatal to the non-Muslim.
It is important to revive the sunnah of the swuhbah and recreate this circle of the social network and strengthen the spiritual bonds between those who have come in love of Allah (s.w.t.) and His Prophet (s.a.w.) and those who have come for the Truth. A new Muslim needs a place to go, to recharge, to learn in the company of seekers and an anchor in the turbulent seas of dunya. Hence, the concept of the swuhbah.