Almighty Allah commanded the Holy Prophet (sa):
“Recite thou in the name of thy Lord Who created, created man from a clot of blood, Recite! And thy Lord is the Most Beneficent, Who taught man by the pen, taught man what he knew not” ().
Muslims are all too familiar with these verses of the Holy Qur’an as they were the first verses revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (sa). The fact that these verses were chosen as the first verses to be revealed was not a coincidence, rather it was the Divine plan of Allah, the Almighty. The Arabic word “Iqra” is translated as “recite,” however, its other meanings are: read, convey, proclaim, or collect. Thus, the use of this word by Almighty Allah indicated to the Holy Prophet (sa) that these words being revealed to him were not only for him to recite and collect, but also for him to convey to others. This was the beginning of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, which spanned over 23 years, and it was also the inception of Islam. These verses were of utmost importance and set the tone from the start that the Holy Prophet (sa) was to proclaim the unity of the living God, who created everything and who, by giving them wisdom, exalted humans over all creation.
Is spreading God’s word different from marketing a product or service? Granted, spreading God’s word is for a higher and infinitely more noble cause, however, is it that different than marketing or advertising a product or service with the intended result of facilitating a transaction in which someone is selling, and someone is buying? Some say that religion is the greatest ‘product’, if one may even refer to it as such, ever invented: “The best products address real problems. And religion addresses some of life’s most complex problems. Religion gives people a path to follow — whether to heaven, reincarnation, enlightenment, or somewhere else. It provides something to believe in that’s greater than oneself and an external source of love and truth. Those are incredibly strong value propositions (if you buy them)” ().
One could have a lifesaving product or service, but without sophisticated and targeted advertising the product or service may never reach its intended recipient. In fact, everything that we buy is usually, even if it’s a necessity, brought to our attention through some sort of advertisement. Marketing and advertising have become ubiquitous on television, radio, billboards, social media, etc. Furthermore, no matter where one lives, one cannot escape it as the world has become a global village and marketing has no boundaries. According to an article by Brad Adgate published in Forbes magazine, three prominent global advertising agencies (Magna, Zenith, and GroupM) forecast the US ad market for 2022 to exceed $300 billion and the global ad market to exceed $700 billion (2). Companies spend astronomical dollar amounts on advertising because they understand its powerful purpose and its return on investment. Advertising is not a guessing game, rather it is a sophisticated and scientific approach to identifying the intended audience for a particular product or service. “There’s no denying that the questions answered by religion are much greater than those answered by most tech products. In the grand scheme of things, “How do I automate my marketing emails?” is trivial compared to “What am I doing with my life?” ().
Now, I come back to my question: Is spreading God’s word any different than marketing a product or service? In this regard, the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), stated: “To take Bai’at (pledge of initiation) means handing over your life to Almighty Allah. It means, today we have sold our life to Almighty Allah” (). Spreading the word of God serves a much higher purpose than selling goods. By giving others the message of Islam, you are essentially asking them to participate in a transaction; if they accept God’s word, they are expected to sell their souls.
As Ahmadi Muslims, we have all heard about the condition of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) after receiving the first revelation from the Almighty Allah through the angel Gabriel. He was shaken to the core, so much so that he thought his life was in danger. He initially shared his experience only with his beloved wife, Hazrat Khadijah (ra), who without a doubt knew that her husband was telling the truth and that God had indeed spoken to him. Now, try to imagine the immense pressure that was put on the shoulders of the Holy Prophet (sa). Not only was he surely petrified by this visit from an angel, but he was also told that he was the Messenger of Allah. He was tasked to bring mankind back to the worship of the One God.
The question arises, how would one convey this message to others without sounding insane or deranged? Furthermore, how would a person go about spreading this message on his own? There were no television, radio, or social media outlets; even travel was arduous and time-consuming. In this regard, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) writes:
“Now that the disposition of the Holy Prophet (sa) had settled and calmed, he began to invite people to the Unity of God, the Most-High, and propagated teachings against polytheism. In the beginning, the Holy Prophet (sa) did not preach his mission openly; rather, he began this process with extreme secrecy and kept his teachings confined to his close circle of friends” ().
In current-day marketing terms, this would be considered your warm market, people whom you know well and who know whether you are an honest and trustworthy person. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad (ra) further writes:
“In the beginning, the Holy Prophet (sa) primarily kept his preaching secret for approximately three years. As such, in this era, there was no specific center where the Muslims could gather. Rather, the Holy Prophet (sa) would meet seekers of truth who would come as a result of his preaching endeavors and other Muslims to his home or in the outskirts of town. This secrecy was maintained to the extent that, at times, even Muslims themselves remained unaware of the faith of one another” ().
Until then, mostly young, uninfluential people, and slaves had accepted Islam; the new religion of Islam and its Prophet were mocked, but not perceived as a threat. In the fourth year of his prophethood, Allah Almighty commanded: “O Prophet! Declare openly that with which thou art commanded” (). Upon hearing this, the Holy Prophet (sa) openly invited all tribes of Quraish residing in Makkah (formerly transliterated ‘Mecca’) to worship the one and only God and abandon their polytheistic ways. The Prophet (sa) was also commanded to give the message to his close relatives. Soon the Prophet (sa) felt the need to establish a center where Muslims and other seekers of truth could meet and learn; this center was known as “Dar-e-Arqam” (The House of Arqam). For the next three years, this house would serve as the center for Muslims in Makkah. It was not until opposition in Makkah grew significantly that the Prophet (sa) decided to convey the message of Islam to the city of Ta’if; however, there he was met with severe opposition and was even physically assaulted and ousted from the city. The Prophet (sa) prayed for the people to be spared as their future generations might accept his message.
Over the coming years, the message of Islam would spread to the city of Madinah as a result of the migration of Muslims from Makkah to Madinah. As the Prophet (sa) had left Makkah and was no longer restricted from preaching openly, Islam started to grow rapidly throughout Arabia. Along with conveying Islam’s message to others, the Prophet (sa) took great care in the spiritual upbringing of his companions (ra), as well as all those that joined him. To leverage the knowledge he had passed on to his companions, he sent his learned companions to preach the message of Islam far and wide. The religion of Islam started to flourish in Arabia in the lifetime of the Prophet (sa); however, the Prophet (sa) did not stop there. He sent letters to many rulers and leaders around the world inviting them to accept Islam, including the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius, Khosrow II of Persia, the Ethiopian/Abyssinian King Negus Armah, and Cyrus of Egypt.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) fulfilled this tremendous responsibility of conveying the message of Islam to the world. He was forty years old when he received the first revelation and spent the rest of his life fulfilling the commandment of Allah. Perhaps the following description of the personality of the Holy Prophet by Sir William Muir will help shed some light on how or why Prophet Muhammad (sa) was so successful: “A remarkable feature was the urbanity and consideration with which Muhammad treated even the most insignificant of his followers. Modesty and kindliness, patience, self-denial, and generosity, pervaded his conduct and riveted the affections of all around him. He disliked to say “No.” If unable to answer a petitioner in the affirmative, he preferred silence. He was not known ever to refuse an invitation to the house even of the meanest, nor to decline a proffered present however small. He possessed the rare faculty of making each individual in a company think that he was the favored guest. If he met anyone rejoicing at their success, he would seize him eagerly and cordially by the hand. With the bereaved and afflicted he sympathized tenderly. Gentle and unbending towards little children, he would not disdain to accost a group of them at play with the salutation of peace. He shared his food, even in times of scarcity, with others, and was sedulously solicitous for the personal comfort of everyone about him. A kindly and benevolent disposition pervaded all those illustrations of his character” ().
The life of the Holy Prophet (sa) and his legacy can be summed up with the following verse of the Holy Qur’an:
“And who is better in speech than he who invites men to Allah and righteous deeds and says, ‘I am, surely, of those who submit?” ().
1 The Holy Qur’an (96:2-6)
2 https://medium.com/@Julia_Lipton/was-religion-the-greatest-product-ever-invented-30541949a5a4 [Accessed: February 20, 2022]
4 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Malfuzat, Vol. 7, pp. 29–30
5 Mirza Bashir Ahmad, M.A., The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. 1, p. 171
6 Mirza Bashir Ahmad, M.A., The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. 1, p. 179
7 The Holy Qur’an (15:95) 8 Sir William Muir, Life of Muhammad, pp. 510-513 9 The Holy Qur’an (41:34)