One of the most common mistakes that occurs in a pop-cultured understanding of Islam is that we tend to focus entirely on numbers. How many people are attending? How large was the event? What did the stage look like? However, this is a massive mistake that has major consequences for people’s spiritual development and growth. When we look at the life of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) we see a commitment to quality over quantity. The quantity did not really come until the end of his life and was actually a sign that his death was near. The quality is what he focused on for the many years of his life that were spent in developing the model Muslim community.
The call to Islam went through several stages; its earliest is often referred to as ‘private da`wah’ stage. During this time only a small handful of people accepted the message and grew under the Prophet’s care. These were the closest to him and they included Khadijah (radi Allahu `anha, may God be pleased with her), Abu Bakr (radi Allahu `anhu, may God be pleased with him), Ali (ra), and Zayd ibn Harithah (ra). The call was extended to relatives and clansmen and then after that it became public. Even after becoming public however the message was embraced by only a small number of people. It is said that when Umar (ra) embraced Islam (six years into the message) the Muslims did not exceed over forty in number. Their quality, however, was top notch.
Even after nearly 15 years of da`wah and a migration to Medina how many warriors fought in the Battle of Badr? Most estimates put the figure at 313. The opposing army consisted of just over a thousand fighters, a nearly 3:1 ratio. However, again, the lesson is quality over quantity and those 313 were able to defeat the thousand fighters in one of the most important victories in the history of Islam. When the quality is high, the aid of Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala, exalted is He) is near and that is more important than anything else.
This is a lesson that is repeated in the life of the Prophet ﷺ over and over again. It is a lesson that we must remind ourselves of constantly. This message is not about numbers, it is about having the blessing of being a cause for drawing someone closer to God. That closeness has to be real, intimate, and lived. It is not about hype, it is not about numbers. In all of the organizing and planning the actual people must never be forgotten. It is their development that is the actual work and if there are only a handful but that handful are of the highest quality then they can change the world. Conversely, if there are large numbers but those large numbers have no substance, no confidence, no history, no self-esteem, no dignity, then we have nothing.
So always, always, quality over quantity.