Something is causing confusion within the ummah at the moment, and we can summarize it as the commercialisation of Islam. It happens on different levels, and while people can complain that this is not adherent to Islam, the truth is that this ship has sailed a long time ago.
Some of the examples include rebranding food products or ingredients as being “sunnah“, unauthorised sale of zam-zam water, social media sites which profit from “donations”, motivational lectures based on sunnah, and even lectures on Islam itself, where the underlying motive is not closeness to Allah or the promotion of Islam, but to cater to market demand for the sake of profit.
For example, a basic life coach can rebrand his talks by referring to the sunnah, and politicians can quote certain phrases from the Qur’an in order to coax their target audience to vote for them.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (RA) said that towards the end of time, fitnah, lies and manipulation will surround Islam. The young ones will grow up within these blanket of lies and the elder ones will think that it is sunnah, to the point that where if one wanted to revert to the sunnah, he will be accused of changing the sunnah. He also reported that Rasulullah SAW prophesised that: “A time will come when men of understanding will be few; but reciters of the Qur’an are many; when the letters of the Qur’an be guarded, but its limits lost; when many will ask, but few will give; when they will make their khutbahs long, and the prayers short; and when they will put their desires before their actions.”
When the majority of the ummah is politicking but those who hold on to the amanah (trust) are minor, when the ones who are reading the Qur’an are many but who are the learned of Islam are very few, when people study fiqh but not for the deen, when people are chasing dunia by practising the deeds of akhirat, this is the fitnah which will occur at the end of time.
People are increasingly chasing dunia in the name of akhirat, whether they are marketing hijab or halal cosmetics, but their target is not akhirat. Their objective is to enrich themselves in dunia by trading in the name of akhirat, for the sake of status and wealth. This is one of the phenomena of the end of time which has been accurately prophesised by Rasulullah SAW in many precise and detailed ahadeeth.
People can use religion because they are sincere, or they can use religion to elevate their material status. A singer can be obscure, but if he puts on an Islamic cap and sings nasheed, it might raise his popularity and open a different market for him. A speaker might be so eloquent, but the audience has to pay hefty amounts to acquire his knowledge on Islam, because the aim of the speaker is to buy real estate, and not for the sake of da’wah fee sabeelillah.
People puzzle on why the rulers and politicians quote the Qur’an so beautifully but their behaviour is vile. It is because the quotes were for the sake of worldly benefits. It is a marketing tactic. Same for a female who promotes her hijab line but is so immersed in dunia to the point of arrogance to Allah, and same for a woman dancer or model who puts on the hijab to appeal to a Muslim audience when the underlying performance is entirely haram. What is praiseworthy of a woman wearing the scarf but continuing to sing hip hop love songs as a profession, or a male singer who serenades praises of Allah with the intention of selling his music and concert tickets but not Islam? There is also an explosion of celebrity Islamic scholars of late: smooth talking and knowledgeable men, who charge steep prices for attending their events, and blatantly make Islamic knowledge a commodity they trade with.
Why do we follow them and think their values represent Islam? Why are we surprised when their true intentions surface?
Remember the three categories of Muslims who will be severely punished – those who teach Islam claiming to be for Allah but actually it is for people to praise them, those who read the Qur’an claiming to be for Allah, but actually it is so that people can praise their recitation, and those who spend of their wealth claiming to be for Allah, but they are actually liars and they spend so that people can say they are generous. These are the people who will be flung into hellfire. Everyone is at risk of this hidden hypocrisy, even the highest mufti in the land, so be careful and always renew and refresh your intention.
If we get the ikhlas correct and seek the right knowledge from the outset, Allah will show us the path, including the path to da’wah. How can anyone lead and guide others to Allah when they are spiritually lost themselves? Someone may have memorised the entire Qur’an and is very persuasive and has all the answers to everything, but internally he is extremely lost and far away from Allah because his niyyah is corrupted and sincerity to Allah is lacking. What reward is he looking from Allah and what reward is he looking from the people? Is his goal the dollar or jannah?
Sincerity is the hardest thing in da’wah. However, let us also examine our own responsibility in this situation. These people, the speakers, entertainers and traders, who are not in the business of spreading Islam but rather their own personal profit under the guise of Islam, should not be the ones we adopt as role models. What about our role as the customers, followers and ardent fans? Why do we encourage such wrong by elevating these people, instead of the true role models such as the Companions and pious predecessors? Do we have ikhlas (sincerity), are we looking for piety or even someone who carries the message of Allah? By idolising them, we have placed them on a pedestal, elevating them to rock star status, so when they fall from grace (which is inevitable), it should not come as a surprise.