All praises be to Allāh, and may peace and blessings be upon His prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). By the grace of Allāh, the following remarks are not indicative of most Du’āt and scholars, but it is nonetheless a growing problem which needs to be nipped in the bud…
I have been contemplating talking about the issue of Muslim speakers charging a lot of money for “Dawah” for a long time. Although I was initially reluctant to speak about it, I came to the decision to do so as the problem is getting no better. I feel that treatment for this problem should be sought and the issue can no longer be taken lightly. The key issue for me is the fact that Muslim speakers are among the carriers of the legacy of our Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). As such, whether they realise it not, they are role models for Muslim communities. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says,
“Allāh will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge…”
Likewise His Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“Scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets bequeath neither dinar nor dirham, rather their inheritance is knowledge, so whoever acquires it has gained a great share.”
Dawah (calling) to Allāh is the noblest activity a person can be involved in. Allāh says in the Quran,
“And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allāh and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims!’?”
This should not be treated as a job otherwise it will lose its spirit and the main factors that instil it with the power of influence: Barakah (divine blessing) and Ikhlās (true sincerity). These are not just two common Islamic words used to describe what is needed for giving simple reminders in Masājid. Rather, they are the fundamental ingredients for any successful Islamic movement that aims to transform complex societies. Hence, preachers, callers to Islām, speakers, students of knowledge and scholars need to build them and maintain them in themselves first, before asking others to have them. No Dawah will flourish and be successful, no matter how “professional looking” it may be, without the blessings of Allāh – which is a reward for the truthfulness of the people behind it. Allāh taught us the supplication of the Prophet Shuʿayb (ʿalayhi al-Salām):
“And my success is not but through Allāh. Upon Him I have relied, and to Him I return”.
Allāh also says:
“And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allāh, We would have opened upon them blessings from the sky and the earth; but they denied [the messengers], so We seized them for what they were earning.”
The Muslim community should also protect their Imāms, scholars and speakers. Although these remarks might be seen as criticism of Islamic speakers and scholars, they should also serve as a protection for them against their nafs (self; ego) and the temptations of earthly wealth. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) warned us that there is nothing more fearful and destructive to a person’s Dīn than the fitna (trial) of wealth and fame.
“Two hungry wolves set upon the midst of a flock of sheep are no more destructive to them than a man’s greed for wealth and fame is to his Dīn.’‘
Muslim speakers should acknowledge that the fitna and desire for wealth and money are the second and third biggest temptations of the triangle of temptations: women, wealth and fame. Hence, they should read this article with a positive mind-set while seeking to improve and rectify their shortcomings. To illustrate what we are talking about, what follows are some unfortunate examples of the wrong practices that are becoming more and more common when Dawah organisations invite speakers to deliver Islamic courses or lectures.
It must be stressed, however, that this is not the case for Dawah in general, al-Hamdu lillāh. A great multitude of Imāms, du’āt and scholars continue to uphold the lofty standards set by the example of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). This is why the rise of this problem is all the more crucial to highlight and nip in the bud before it begins to tarnish the carriers and conveyors of Prophetic guidance.
Real life examples of the problem
– A speaker was invited to a city to attend a conference. During his stay in the city he visited a mosque for a Friday prayer. For whatever reason, the Khatīb of the mosque was not present and the speaker was approached and asked to deliver the khutbah in the mosque in the city in which he was already present. He said he would do so if he were paid an extra £1,000.
– A speaker delivered a lecture at an event. After this he sat amongst the members of the audience. There so happened to be a 10 to 15 minute segment in which a brother was supposed to offer reminders to the audience but he was unable to do so. The organisers asked the speaker to cover these 15 minutes. He requested an extra £200 to step out of his chair and share a reminder with the audience.
– One speaker was invited to speak at an event as it was known he would be travelling nearby on his way back to his home country. The organisers requested he make a stop-over at their event and offered to pay the difference in the journey. The speaker agreed to attend on condition that his entire travel expense be paid for, including the full price of his ticket. He requested a stay at a 5-star hotel as it would be a 12 hour stop over, and he later called to inform the organisers that he would be bringing his wife and required her ticket to be paid for as well.
– An Imām was invited to lead Tarāwīḥ prayers in a mosque in Ramadān. Because his recitation was widely appreciated, the mosque requested he extend his time leading the prayers each night from one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. For extending his Salah for fifteen minutes, the Imām demanded more money.
– Some speakers even assign their personal assistants to speak on their behalf. They claim they are professionals and hence ask for “professional” contracts between the organisation of the speaker and the organisation inviting the speaker. I was shown a “professional” contract in which a speaker outlined his payment demands and stipulated that if the money was not paid on time a charge of 20% would be added to the fee. Perhaps they thought that charging riba (interest) is part of “professionalism”!
This is becoming ridiculous. The sorts of things some speakers are asking to be paid for or compensated are getting out of hand. The organisations that are inviting them are usually grassroots organisations that depend on donations from the public sphere. These organisations have budgets managed by the penny in order to run their activities and events, and yet, some of our speakers, our shuyūkh and our du’āt are demanding business class flights, specific types of beds, chauffeurs, masseuses and all manner of luxury. A brother in an Islamic organisation once told me that a speaker specifically defined Evian bottled water as the only water he drinks!
– I was once invited to a particular country to take part in a conference for a new organisation. They invited a number of speakers from different countries and they offered all of us business class flights. As this is a far away country, the business class would cost them unbelievable amounts of money. I thought of the poor children who are dying everyday due to hunger across that country and of myself taking a business class flight to that country, or to any other country, for Dawah. I remembered how Sheikh ʿAbdulraḥman al-Sumait (raḥimahu Allāhu), the most active Muslim preacher in that same region, used to travel for over 30 years in many such countries to deliver real Dawah. I also remembered Sheikh Sāliḥ al-Hussayyin, a senior scholar of Saudi Arabia who was also the Chief of the Administration of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques. His position and family made it feasible for him to travel in first or business class, and yet, he refused to do so as he was giving Dawah; in fact there were reports that he used to sleep in a masjid instead of in hotels during his travels.
While I thought of this, I was so embarrassed that I could not bring myself to accept the offer to travel in business class for Dawah. When I arrived there, I found that all the other speakers had accepted the offer. No one denied it! I was utterly confused.
I showed my surprise at the offer and the acceptance of the offer despite the financial difficulties this organisation—and in fact its whole country—was going through. Their answer was simply: We never requested it, we just accepted their offer.
After my answer for a question regarding this issue was uploaded online, I received so many messages from many brothers, sisters and organisers who were suffering in silence. They provided detailed examples of speakers’ demands. A brother sent me the following:
“It’s a big crisis! I’ve seen du’āt who asked for £6K per day! One speaker from the U.S. asked for £75K for one weekend. Two speakers wouldn’t pray Tarāwīḥ in Ramaḍān when on tour and, instead, spent their nights playing PlayStation games in their hotel rooms. Some speakers have a list of restaurants they will eat in and refuse to eat anywhere else. Some are driven by brothers for an entire tour but don’t even bother to learn the brother’s name because ‘he’s only a driver’. Some even refuse to give reminders after jamaʿah prayer during Ramaḍān and when they do finally say some words, they repeat the exact same reminder that has been on their YouTube channel for years; nothing new.”
Another brother told me a speaker asked for 50% of the money that was raised during a fundraising event. Another told me about a speaker who was getting £1,500 every day in Ramaḍān for fundraising for different organisations. A fourth brother told me about an organisation that arranged a tour for an Imām leading Tarāwīḥ in Ramaḍān who was charging mosques or halls £5,000 per night. A speaker requested through his “secretary” a First Class ticket for making a journey within Europe, which would not take more than two hours despite the fact that it is four times the price of the Standard class.
Some of these examples are incomprehensible; the most ridiculous one being that the director of an Islamic organisation told me of a speaker who asked for 5 personal assistants to accompany him for his journey to deliver two or three talks in a conference. His justification was,
“We should not accept that actors and footballers are paid more than Islamic preachers.”
It is an unfortunate truth that on many occasions, many speakers from many countries seem to be more keen to capitalise on people’s needs. It is not about £10 or £1,000. The problem is the concept and the attitude some of these speakers have; that they would make inordinate demands to give Dawah, to give reminders to people, to lead Salāh. This is not Dawah, this is a holiday and a business.
Double Standards – Actions Speak Louder Than Words
The matter here is not about whether it is ḥalāl or ḥarām to make money from giving Dawah. One of the many issues we have towards this attitude is the double standards of these speakers who promote one manner of living and yet they take advantage of others to live another lifestyle. As speakers we are quick to quote a number of āyāt on the distractions of the life of this world, those āyāt that confirm that this life is merely an amusement or game.
“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allāh and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.”
As speakers we encourage people to be fearful of Allāh so that they may be charitable and not be so indulged in the Dunya. We remind our listeners of the ḥadīth of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) who said, “Is not the world cursed and everything in it? It is so except for the remembrance of Allāh and what facilitates it…” or his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) advice to fear the Dunya.
Abū Saʿīd Khudri reported that Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“The world is sweet and green (alluring) and verily Allāh is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act. So avoid the allurement of women: verily, the first trial for the people of Isrā’īl was caused by women. (And in the ḥadīth transmitted on the authority of Ibn Bashshar the words are:) so that He should see how you act.”
How could I possibly discourage people from being so immersed in the luxury of the Dunya and then be the first one to chase its luxury and decoration?
Requesting travelling expenses or other such necessary expenses is understandable. Even requesting, openly and honestly, that you would appreciate any money the organisation is able to pay is acceptable, although it is not necessarily the best. But, why must it be a First Class flight? Why must it be a 5-star hotel? Why must the room be a particular width and length with a particular window view? We must bring an end to such nonsense and extravagance.
As a courier of the words of Allāh and His Messenger, I should feel embarrassed to ask for luxurious enticements of the Dunya that I have no need for. If we were to tell people who donate their money to our organisations that their money would go to pay for the luxury and ostentation of certain speakers we could be sure they would decline the need to listen to these speakers. Here I ask every single speaker who requests luxury treatment: do you really care for the hundreds of thousands of children who die every day due to a lack of basic necessities? If you are talking about Dawah and caring for people’s religion, then you should ask yourself whether you care for thousands of poor people who leave Islām due to evangelicals taking advantage of their financial needs.
Examples from the life of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)
In response to what I am sure is the primary ‘reason’ behind these speakers’ demands—that they have families to support—I must ask: Is this lecture you are going to deliver the only source of income you have? And, if it is so, do not make a business out of it. Dawah is not meant to be business or to make money. This leads us to another important point which is the need for Muslims to establish their own institutions that can fund these speakers. It is a call for businessmen to sponsor not only Dawah projects but imāms, scholars and speakers. Until then, speakers should remember that they are the leaders for the Ummah and leaders are required to sacrifice more than the rest of the Ummah. This is how all our leading predecessors lived their lives following the model of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was seen by ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) with dust on his clothes from having slept on the floor. ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) wished to provide the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) with a more comfortable bed and the reply was,
“What have I to gain in this world? The like of this world is as that of a traveller who is travelling in the sun and he sits under a tree momentarily and then gets up and continues on.”
It was narrated that ʿĀ’ishah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha) said: The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) never ate his fill of wheat bread for three days in a row, until he passed away.
She (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha) also said: We used to look at the new moon, then the new moon, then the new moon, three new moons in two months, and no fire would be lit in the houses of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). She was asked: What did you live on? She said: The two black ones, dates and water, but the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had some neighbours from among the Ansār and they had milk-animals; they would send some of their milk to the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and he would give it to us to drink.
It was narrated from her (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha) that she said: The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) died when there was nothing on my shelf that a living being could eat except a handful of barley.
And she (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha) said: When the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) died, he had not eaten his fill of bread and olive oil twice in one day.
It was narrated that an-Nuʿmān b. Bashīr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said: ʿUmar mentioned what people had got of worldly gains and he said: I saw the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) spending the whole day suffering because of hunger, and he could not even find inferior-quality dates with which to fill his stomach.
It was narrated from Anas b. Mālik (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) never ate soft bread or a roasted sheep until he met Allāh.
It was narrated that Ibn ʿAbbās (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said: The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would remain hungry for several nights in a row, and his family would not be able to find any supper, and most of their bread was barley bread.
It was narrated from Abū Hurayrah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) used to tie a stone to his stomach because of hunger.
ʿAmr b. al-Hārith (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said: The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) left nothing behind except his weapon, his white mule and some land that he left behind as a charity.
We could go on and on in describing the life of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) but I hope this will suffice for our speakers, imāms and duʿāt. Unfortunately, some will not be convinced and would still argue that this was the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and they cannot be like him. They may also say that the context has changed. It is for this reason I am dedicating an entire, and rather lengthy, article to discussing this issue.
Making money from Dawah:
On another note, it should be mentioned that scholars have differed on whether taking money to teach Qur’ān in particular or Islamic knowledge in general is acceptable. The two opinions are:
(i) that it should be taught for free;
(ii) that it is permissible to accept payment for it.
Each side has his own evidence and proofs and hence there is not much point of using these textual evidences themselves to give preference for one opinion over the other. Rather, we should focus on what is agreeable by all or most of the scholars. The speakers, when taking money for delivering lectures or any Islamic activity, should bear in mind some key points:
I. Their intention should not be money, wealth, the Dunya or doing business. Rather, it should be Dawah. Receiving salary or compensation should be, at best, a secondary intention. The best rule to apply here is what Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned regarding taking money to perform Ḥajj. If we make Ḥajj for someone with the intention of making money our Ḥajj will be invalid, however, if we accept money in order to facilitate us making Ḥajj then, inshā’Allāh, we receive the reward of Ḥajj. Similarly, we may take money to be able to give Dawah, but we should not give Dawah in order to take money.
II. Speakers should not take advantage of the situation as it means that they are using Dawah for a personal gain. Furthermore, it is unethical to take financial advantage of situations related to the Dīn. I have seen speakers take advantage while staying in the hotel as it was paid for by the organisers. In a single night, one speaker made a telephone call which cost more than £130. Another speaker was eating and drinking as if he had been starving for a year.
III. In the case of the speaker who does not have a job, then he should deal with Dawah as he would deal with a job, expecting similar payment, contractual agreements, penalties or even compensation. However, some du’āt and speakers have business managers to run the financial issues related to his Dawah. Before agreeing to deliver a lecture, the organisers have to go through a nightmare in negotiating the terms and conditions with personal assistants or business managers. If the speaker is in a difficult financial situation I recommend he make a request of the organisers to be given anything they can afford by way of a gift or help. He should not make it the fee for his talk.
Anas b. Mālik narrated that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):
“Whoever makes the Hereafter his goal, Allāh makes his heart rich, and organises his affairs, and the world comes to him whether it wants to or not. And whoever makes the world his goal, Allāh puts his poverty right before his eyes, and disorganises his affairs, and the world does not come to him, except what has been decreed for him.”
IV. Speakers should remember that whatever amount of money they save an organisation will be considered as Sadaqah given by them. When the speaker avoids requesting luxury accommodation, transportation or food, then he is actually saving some money that will later be used for Dawah.
V. Speakers should remember that any behaviour can be given a justification. However, they should remember that they are dealing with Allāh. Allāh is supervising all of our actions.
“Rather, man, against himself, will be a witness, Even if he presents his excuses.”
VI. It is impermissible, in many cases, for Muslim organisations to spend Dawah money on luxuries or what is beyond the need. Examples include business class tickets, expensive hotels, food and transportation or even spending money. The fundamental principle is, Sadaqah money is to be spent according to what it was requested for along with the intention of the giver. The organisation is just an agent to distribute the money on behalf of the giver and hence they do not have the freedom to spend it the way they decide. This is a topic I will elaborate on in further detail in another article, inshāAllāh.
My dear brothers and sisters, we have to remember that Allāh is our Master and our Lord. He owns everything and He controls everything. He turns the heart of people and He aids those who aid His Dīn. He is the one who said,
“O you who have believed, if you support Allāh, He will support you and plant firmly your feet.”
Hence, we should remember that no matter how hard we try to be successful in our Dawah, the first element for success of our Dawah comes from Allāh. He (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) gives success in Dawah to those whom He knows are honest, sincere and truthful about Dawah.
“And Allāh will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allāh is Powerful and Exalted in Might.”
 Al-Qur’ān, 58:11
 Narrated by Tirmidhi, Abū Dāwūd and others.
 Al-Qur’ān, 41:33
 Al-Qur’ān, 11:88
 Al-Qur’an 7:96
 Al-Qur’ān, 57:20
 Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2322
 Reported by Saḥīḥ Muslim, no 2742.
 Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2377, Book 36, Hadith 74
 Narrated by al-Bukhāri (5374) and Muslim (2970)
 Narrated by al-Bukhāri (2567) and Muslim (2972)
 Narrated by al-Bukhāri (3097) and Muslim (2973)
 Muslim (2974)
 Muslim (2978)
 Narrated by al-Bukhāri (5385)
 Narrated by at-Tirmidhi (2360); classed as Ḥasan by al-Albāni in Saḥīḥ at-Tirmidhi
 Narrated by Ibn al-A‘rābi in al-Mu‘jam (21); classed as Ḥasan by al-Albāni in as-Silsilah as-Saḥīḥah (1615)
 Narrated by al-Bukhāri (3098)
 Tirmidhi Vol. 4, Book 11, Ḥadīth 2465. Some scholars believe that it is strong and some believe that it is weak.
 Al-Qur’ān, 75:14-15
 Al-Qur’ān, 47:7
 Al-Qur’ān, 22:40