Superman or just a preacher?

Badria al-Bishr
Badria al-Bishr
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I thought a million times about accepting a job offer in a media company although my concerns are not the same as those of today’s preachers. Some of them have a large following - as it appears on Twitter they have more than a million. Some preachers also hold lectures and seminars, and they have a presence in mosques, charity centers and weddings.

Some of them teach at universities. Therefore they have exams to correct and lessons to prepare. Despite their success, I refused an offer to participate in a service similar to Twitter. The particular service to which I refer is an audio one. So instead of writing a sentence on Twitter, this service broadcasts a recorded message by you and you, you can produce a limited number of messages per day. The service also allows you to access smart phones users. In exchange, the company grants you a certain percentage of money for each 1,000 followers. If you have 1,000 followers, you do not make as much as he who has a million followers.

The biggest of all surprises was when the company revealed to me the list of those who signed up for this service. They were from among the most famous of preachers. It was leaked to me that one of these preachers requested a million riyals in advance for signing the contract and that this amount of money will be deducted from his gains later. The company agreed to that. Therefore, I asked the company for the sake of arguing, “will you grant me a million like you granted him?” They said: “Who are you?”

I also heard that during Ramadan, some preachers’ salaries compete with the salaries of singers at parties

Badria al-Bishr

There are others that have become famous thanks to the profession of preaching. With fame came a luxurious life. One of the preachers acknowledged that during a television interview, “Qatar spoiled us,” he said. He explained that they receive invitations from Qatar to give lectures and exhortations that they call “summoning to God” and that Qatar only books them first-class plane seats and only hosts them in luxurious hotels. He added, “so we have become [people] who do not accept anything less than that.”

Pricy Preachers

I also heard that during Ramadan, some preachers’ salaries compete with the salaries of singers at parties. Some merchants invite preachers to deliver an exhortation during Ramadan. In order to brag, the amount of money given to the preacher is revealed.

Is this the talk of someone who is envious? Of course not. I too do not call for fake ideals. I am also not saying that people should work without receiving a salary. But I understand that professions which people have the right to earn a wage for practicing are those in the field of education, engineering, medicine and so on. This is when looking at the situation from a modern civil perspective. But does he who preaches to people or, as he claims, calls people towards God, have the right to receive money? Not only that, but he also surrounds himself with a sacred aura that protects him from criticism and blesses his statements even if he says that a certain person went to heaven or that angels are fighting with the mujahdeen in Syria and they have not won until today or that he went to China when he cannot even speak English but still managed to convert a Chinese into a Muslim in three minutes. Do these miraculous statements intend to show God and his prophet as liars? There is more. Some of the people from the public and some of the poor grant these preachers their daughters. So the preacher spends few days with the girl and then he leaves her like what happened in Afghanistan and Yemen and sometimes in Mecca. As for Islamic sharia laws, according to what we read and hear, it is not acceptable for a man to earn money from fatwas and let alone from calling towards God. It is not acceptable to do so even if he is poor since he receives an amount of money from the Baitulmal treasury.

The preachers’ current gains are the reason that made them accuse those who oppose them with infidelity. It is what made them not speak out against their supporters’ mistakes. Such preachers monopolize knowledge and education, trade in stocks, open media companies and satellite channels and beg to appear on satellite channels that market soap and perfume commercials so they can call on people to be ascetic and pious. But do not be shocked if you find out that one of these preachers owns a building in Mecca worth a billion. If you were to ask him where did you get the money from, he will tell you “I am a merchant.” We have not exactly understood yet, are you a merchant, a preacher, a host, a therapist or superman?

This article was first published in Al-Hayat on March 27.


Dr. Badria al-Bishr is a multi-award-winning Saudi columnist and novelist. A PhD graduate from the American University of Beirut, and an alumnus of the U.S. State Department International Visitor program. Her columns put emphasis on women and social issues in Saudi Arabia. She currently lectures at King Saud University’s Department of Social Studies.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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