The young muslim

Spreading the Message: Public Relations and Communication in the Life and work of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) (Part 2/3) Prof. Mohamed Kirat

khiratIn Part 1 of this article, we have tried to present some fundamental aspects of public relations as defined nowadays and reflected through the Prophet’s personality and his PR skills. We presented also the concept of freedom of speech in Islam and discussed the specific concept of Shura and democracy in Islam. In this second part, we discuss the principles of public relations and communication in Islam. We then analyse them in the light of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) practices and show how fundamental the Hadith, i.e. the communication acts of the prophet (PBUH), is in Islam. The obvious aim is for us Muslims to understand that the prophet (PBUH) used the very best means to convey Islam, the Message of Mercy, to humankind.

Aspects of Public Relations Practices in Islam:

Public relations (PR ) in Islam revolves around the individual and the community.  It seeks to build up individuals and communities – Umma – within the principles and teachings of Islam. Communication and PR are practices intended to achieve the interests of all. These tools should be used within the context of the morals and ethics of the Islamic society. The philosophy of public relations in Islam is based on the following principles:

  1. PR in Islam is the responsibility of every Muslim in the Umma: It has a holistic and macro approach with the intention to build the Islamic Umma on the principles and the teachings of Islam.
  2. PR in Islam is based on ethics, credibility and the welfare of all; it is not restricted to the rich and the wealthy, or those who hold power. The principle here is that once you reach healthy and decent relations between the members of the Umma and its organizations, you will reach a society which is based on the Islamic teachings and principles.
  3. PR in Islam starts from the family: This is a micro approach to the philosophy and practice of PR in Islam where the family is the cornerstone of the society. The family in Islam should enjoy harmony, respect, solidarity (takaful) and love. The conduct and behavior of the family within and with respect to the outside world should all be dictated by the Islamic teachings.

The Methods and practices of PR in Islam are centered around love, care and harmony within the Islamic Umma, and a good relationship between the ruler and the citizens. The duties of the ruler vis-à-vis the ruled are clear. He is accountable to Allah and to them, and he is subject to control, questioning and investigation. The citizens in the Umma have also their duties vis-à-vis the ruler and the community as a whole. Everybody works within the confines and teachings of Islam for the welfare of the Islamic Umma. Furthermore, the Islamic state has to establish healthy, ethical and fruitful international relations with countries and nations in the world, built on mutual understanding, benefits and cooperation.

The principles of PR in Islam are based on good conduct, mercy, forgiveness, modesty, justice, loyalty, and ethics. The objective here is to be a good Muslim to serve Allah, the Islamic Umma and the Muslims. This applies to the ruler, the organization, the family and the citizen[1].

All actions undertaken by organizations toward the general public are motivated by an ultimate conviction in the betterment and empowerment of the community to help establish the perfect Umma of believers.  PR in Islam is also based on the general human relations that ought to prevail among individuals and between socio-political and economic organizations, on the one hand, and community members, on the other hand, though in an institutional framework. The end objective is solidarity, cohesion, spirit of the community and the welfare of all in a harmony dominated by faith and belief in Allah. It is a two-way, symmetric model and community relations paradigm.

The success of organizations in the community is assessed through their success in developing and advancing their relations within the community, rather than in terms of material profit making. Both organizations and the general public are seen as homogeneous players committed to the development of the community in accordance with the commandments of Islam.

PR in Islam is best conceived of as an integral part of an intricate web of human relations prevailing in the community, and therefore, are governed by Islamic principles and values.  In its institutional manifestations (involving organizations and general publics), PR is a process of reinforcing social solidarity « takaful », and fostering a sense of affiliation and loyalty to the community. “It is now evident that an Islamic model of PR would be a community-oriented model in which publics and organizations are not viewed as two opposing elements but rather as two components of one community, working together for its advancement and welfare. Relations with members of the Umma are viewed not as a means of maximizing the interests of the organization itself to the detriment of those of the community. In the holistic view of Islamic community, the organization is the community and the community is the organization.”[2]

PR in the Islamic Umma is the responsibility of all –organizations and individuals- to build up a public consent and a social consciousness based on the virtue of Islam, faith and the belief in Allah. The objective, here, is to strengthen the community orientations of organizations. Organizations can build schools, hospitals, homes for the poor, the needy and the elderly, mosques and health centers. They can sponsor cultural, educational and sporting events, etc. Ayish and Awad assert: “In the broad Islamic concept of ‘ibadah (worship), all these activities are acts of worship carried out to win the pleasure of God.   An organization might sponsor the building of a school, a mosque, a cultural club, or a health center as a form of voluntary public support to the community.   The fact that such sponsorship is highly encouraged in Islam would serve as a catalyst for further attachment to the community on the part of the organization. While the original intention behind such support is based on religious convictions, organizations may still benefit from it in establishing relations of trust and respect with their publics.”

PR in Islam is conceived of as a vehicle of creating a healthy environment and atmosphere for both the individual and the organization to set up and establish the Islamic Umma which should be characterized by harmony, mutual understanding, mutual respect, and mutual interest governed by the Islamic principles and values. The final objective is to reinforce social solidarity and a strong community in terms of faith and welfare.

Aspects of Communication Practices in the Era of Prophet Muhammad:

The following verses highlight the importance of PR and communication in the dissemination and propagation of Islam. They show the universal nature of Islam. The prophet is asked to reveal the book to the population of the “mother of the cities” (Makkah) and the rest of the world, and to give tidings and admonition. Muhammad is sent to convey the message and to advise the followers on how to deal with their daily encounters and problems. Spreading Islam on a universal basis means a lot of communication and PR work based on knowing the book and knowing the people who are supposed to adopt it. As stated in the Qur’an: “And this is a book which we have sent down, bringing blessings, and confirming (the revelations) which came before it: that you may warn the mother of cities and all around it. Those who believe in the hereafter, believe in this (book), and they are constant in guarding their prayers” [Al An’am: 92]. Also: “But We only sent you to give glad tidings and admonition” [Al furqan: 56]. And: “We have not sent you but as a universal (messenger) to men, giving them Gglad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not” [Saba’: 28].

 

Allah’s revelation, through the prophet, was not meant for one faith or tribe, one race or set of people. It was directed to all mankind, to whom, if they turn to Allah, it is a message of the glad tidings of His Mercy, and if they do not turn to him, it is a warning against sin and the inevitable punishment.

Through the following verse Allah conveys to Muhammad a mission facing many enemies and dangers, but he has to go forward to proclaim the message and fulfill the mission, trusting Allah for protection, and unconcerned if people who had lost all sense of right rejected it or threatened him. The prophet is called upon here, through international communication with leaders and kings, to spread the message throughout the world, and not only in a specific place on earth. Through his companions and missions, the prophet established channels of communication with other nations and kingdoms to convey and disseminate the message.  His dealings with kings, dignitaries, delegations and, later on, pilgrims were characterized by respect, modesty and harmony.

“O messenger proclaim The (message) which has been sent to you from your Lord. If you do not, you would not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission.  And Allah will defend you from men (who mean mischief).  For Allah guides not those who reject faith’. [Al maaidah:67]

Islam has a global, holistic and universal perspective. Muhammad’s mission consisted of conveying the book which is an explanation, a guide, a mercy and a gospel for all mankind. Islam is a way of life valid for all times, all nations and all peoples in the world; it is not restricted to particular people or a particular nation. “One day we shall raise from all peoples a witness against them, from amongst themselves. And we shall bring you as a witness against these (your people): and we have sent down to you a book explaining all things, a guide, a Mercy, and glad tidings to Muslims”. [Al Nahl:89] Also: “We have explained in detail in this Quran, for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude: but man is, in most things, contentious”. [Al Kahf:54]

 

Islam is a religion of communication. Indeed, disseminating and spreading Islam is itself an act of communication. The Quran, Hadith and Sunnah have to be conveyed, explained and interpreted to the believers. The prophet had to convey the Quran, to explain it and, in some instances, he had to elaborate on issues that needed explanations and illustrations. The conduct of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was an act of communication to introduce the new religion to the people, in trade, marriage, or as a parent, imam, ruler, teacher, judge, husband, father, neighbor, in-law, etc. Prophet Muhammad used interpersonal communication and oral communication. The Quran was in itself a channel of communication because the whole new way of approaching things and interpreting them revolves around it. Hadith was another means of communication. Through it, the prophet Muhammad explained Islam and went into details when they were not found in the book. Speeches were also widely used in the period of Muhammad (PBUH) to communicate and explain the new religion to the followers. Mosques are daily forums of spreading the religion of Islam, explaining it and discussing any issue that needs to be elaborated fully and extensively. Pilgrimage is another aspect of communication; it is an international conference where every Muslim in the world can attend and perform the fifth pillar of Islam. During Hajj at the time of Prophet Muhammad, many encounters occurred between foreign pilgrims and the prophet giving ways and forums to discussions. Friday preaching is another aspect of communication in Islam devoted to the interpretation of the religion in the light of the issues and problems encountered by Muslims in their life. Prophet Muhammad also used missions to communicate and propagate Islam by sending his companions to other nations and civilizations. He would also to receive foreign delegations and convince them to embrace Islam as a religion of justice, peace and harmony. Communication between cultures and civilizations was another way of communication used during Prophet Muhammad’s era[3].

Sunnah or Hadith is the second source from which the teachings of Islam are drawn. Hadith literally means a saying conveyed to man. It includes the sayings of the Prophet, his actions or practices, as well as his (silent) approval of the actions and practices of his companions. Hadith and Sunnah are used interchangeably, but are sometimes used for different meanings. To deal with the topic it is necessary to know the position of the Prophet in Islam, since the indispensability of Hadith depends upon the position of the Prophet. Three situations emerge.

1. The duty of the Prophet was only to convey the message and nothing more was required from him.

2. He had not only to convey the message but also to act upon it and to explain it. But all that was for the specified period and after his death Quran is sufficient to guide humanity.

3. No doubt he had to convey the Divine Message but it was also his duty to act upon it and to explain it to the people. His actions and explanations are a source of guidance forever. His sayings, actions, practices and explanations are a source of light for every Muslim in every age. (‘The Hadith-Sunnah’, www.islamonline.com)

Clearly, the third situation is the one to be accepted by every Muslim. Thus, Prophet Muhammad used PR and communication extensively and effectively to convey the message, explain it and illustrate it through his sayings, speeches, explanations, interpretations, as well as, through his daily conduct, deeds and acts. He had to elaborate and explain so many issues and answer so many questions. His daily behavior was the best model of a true, honest and dedicated believer and messenger. In addition, his actions reflected and illustrated his sayings:   « And verily in the messenger of Allah you have a good example for him who looks unto Allah and the last day and remembers Allah much. » [Al-Ahzab: 31]

 

According to this verse, every Muslim is bound to take the good example of the Prophet as an ideal in life. In another verse, Allah Almighty has been made him a ‘Hakam’  (judge) for the Muslims. No one remains Muslim if he does not accept the Prophet’s decisions and judgments: “But no, by your Lord, they can have no real faith until they make you judge in all disputes between them and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions but accept them with the fullest conviction.”[An-Nisa: 65]

 

While explaining the qualities of Muslims, the Quran says: “The answer of the believers, when summoned to Allah and His apostle, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: They say: we hear and we obey.” [An-Nur: 51]

 

 In many places the Quran has given its verdict on this issue. The Quran says about the prophet (PBUH): “For he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good and pure and prohibits them from what is bad and impure. He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them.’ [Al-A’raf: 157]  Also: “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger.”[An-Nisa 59] and “Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it and whatever he forbids abstain from it.”[Al-Hashr: 7]

 

The Quran is very clear in expressing its view on the position of the Prophet. According to the Quran the Prophet has four capacities and he must be obeyed in every one of them. He is a teacher, educator and a judge, one who explains the Quran, he is a law-giver and judge, and he is a ruler. In all these capacities, he is an ideal model for the Muslims to emulate. Here are few verses of the Quran that illustrate the prerogatives of Prophet Muhammad: “Allah did confer a great favour on the believers when He sent among them an apostle from among themselves rehearsing unto them the signs of Allah, sanctifying them in scripture and wisdom while, before that, they had been in manifest error.” [Al-‘Imran: 164] “And We have sent down unto you the Message that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them.”[An-Nahl: 44]

 

“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the apostle, and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything amongst yourselves refer it to Allah and His Apostle, if you believe in Allah and the last day.” [An-Nisa: 59]   “It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman when a matter has been decided by Allah and His apostle to have any option about their decision. If anyone disobeys Allah and His apostle, he is indeed on a clearly wrong path.” [Al-Ahzab: 36]

 

In all these verses, the Quran has explained various aspects of the Prophet’s personality. One can judge the importance of the Prophet from these verses. This is another important verse of the Quran, which is actually a verdict against those who do not believe in Hadith as an authentic source of law: “If anyone contends with the Prophet even after guidance has been plainly conveyed to him, and follows a path other than that becoming to men of faith, We shall leave him in the path he has chosen and land him in Hell. What an evil refuge!” [An-Nisa: 110]

 

The Quran, while pressing the Muslims to obey the Prophet, goes a step further when it announces that the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) is above all the limitations of time and space. He is the last Prophet and is a Messenger of Allah for the whole of humanity for all times to come. Hadith is nothing but a reflection of the personality of the Prophet, who is to be obeyed at every cost. “Any student of the Quran will see that the Holy Book generally deals with the broad principles or essentials of religion, going into details in very rare cases. The details were generously supplied by the Prophet himself, either by showing in his practice how an injunction shall be carried out, or by giving an explanation in words. The Sunnah or Hadith of the Holy Prophet was not, as is generally supposed, a thing of which the need may have been felt only after his death, for it was very much needed in his lifetime. The two most important religious institutions of Islam are prayer and zakat; yet when the injunction relating to prayer and zakat were delivered, and they were repeatedly revealed in both Makkah and Madina, no details were supplied. Keep up prayers (aqimoo as-salaah the Qur’anic injunction and it was the Prophet himself who by his own actions gave details of the prayer and said: “Salloo kamaa ra’aytumoonee usallee” (“Pray as you see me praying.”) (Indispensability of Hadith, www.islaam.com)

Payment of zakah –alms or charity- is again an injunction frequently repeated in the Quran, yet it was the Prophet (PBUH) who gave the rules and regulations for its payment and collection. These are but two examples; but, since Islam covers the entire sphere of human activities, hundreds of points had to be explained by the Prophet (PBUH) through his actions and his words.

The importance of the Sunnah, even as a second source of Islam, was a settled issue for the companions of the Prophet. Here is one of the many examples: that of Mu`adh ibn Jabal who said to the Prophet that he would decide according to the Sunnah if he did not find the solution of a problem in the Quran. Hamidullah writes: “The importance of Hadith is increased for the Muslim by the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) not only taught, but took the opportunity of putting his teachings into practice in all the important affairs of life. He lived for twenty three years after his appointment as the Messenger of Allah. He endowed his community with a religion, which he scrupulously practiced himself. He founded a state, which he administered as the supreme head, maintaining internal peace and order, heading armies for external defense, judging and deciding the litigations of his subjects, punishing the criminals and legislating in all walks of life. He married and left a model of family life. Another important fact is that he did not declare himself to be above the ordinary law which he imposed on others. His practice was not mere private conduct, but a detailed interpretation and application of his teachings.” (‘Indispensability of Hadith’, www.islaam.com )

From the above, we see that the communication of the prophet (PBUH) is so fundamental that a person who embraces Islam stands in need of both the Quran and the Sunnah. Indeed, without Hadith one cannot fully understand the Quran and Islam, or be able to apply it to one’s life.

Mohamed Kirat is a professor of Public Relations in the

 Department of Mass Communication at Qatar University



[1] Kuhail, Abdulwahab (1985) Scientific and Practical Basics of Islamic Communication. First ed. Beirut: Books world. (in Arabic).

[2] Ayish, Muhammad and Ali Awad (1994) Public Relations: An Islamic Perspective. Unpublished paper. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, United Arab Emirates University.

  • § [3] Kuhail, Abdulwahab (1987) Communication Aspects in the Life of prophet Muhammad. Cairo: Dar Alhidaya for printing, diffusion and Distribution. (in Arabic).