Dawah – When Will We Come Out Of Our Boxes And Loops?
by Taha Ghayyur
"There is no God worthy of worship, except Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."
Yahiya Emerick, in his book How to Tell Others About Islam, says, "This simple statement is the most powerful declaration ever devised! For beyond the words themselves lies a powerful concept and a compelling ideology. Whole societies, cultures and empires have been elevated with its application, or ruined by its rejection." The question, then, is how come us Muslims, who understand and live this powerful statement, never bother to share it with others? What's stopping us today from giving this message to others who are waiting for it to be heard through our words and to be seen through our actions, on individual and collective levels.
The beloved companions of the Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam), like Abu Dhar al-Ghifari, Musab bin Umayr, Muadh ibn Jabal, Jafar bin Abi Talib, and many others, (radi'Allahu 'anhum) were ever ready to let the world know about Islam. There was always a fire burning inside their hearts to change the condition around them. The spirit of Dawah, or calling others towards Islam, only comes from within, when Muslims really have this feeling of dissatisfaction and restlessness towards the condition of the society around them. We have so much wrong going on among Muslims and non-Muslims, such as young drug addicts, youth in Canadian prisons for some crimes and in hospitals due to several social diseases... etc., and nothing seems to move our hearts, souls, and intellect.
Following are a few concepts that may help us clarify our understanding of Dawah to non-Muslims, and tips on what we should do or avoid at an Islam Awareness Booth in our schools or universities.
– Dawah (calling people to Allah) is an obligation, not an option. The Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam) said, "Convey this Message, even if only one sentence (Ayah or verse)" (Reported by Al-Bukhari). He also said, "Learn the required precepts of Islam and the Quran, then teach to others, for I will not live forever" (Reported by Al-Bukhari). And Allah commands us:
This verse, in a nutshell, may be considered the "Mission statement" for the role of Muslims in this life.
Let's move out of our "boxes" and "loops". It's quite sad to see Muslims today wasting their lives in insignificant "scholarly" or Fiqhi debates or disputes, while thousands are out there who are waiting for our counseling, our time, our advice (nasiha), our support, and our message. As Imam Khalid Griggs once said, "Unfortunately, nearly 80% of members of most of the "Dawah" organizations today are usually doing Dawah to each other, across the table." Therefore we should now come out of this "box" or "loop", and start interacting with the real society and think of creative and dynamic ways of projecting Islam to people.
– Dawah is not just about giving out pamphlets on streets or prisons only. It is about sharing and living Islam through our behavior and preaching. Therefore, if we are doing something un-Islamic at our Islam Awareness Booths, such as interacting with the people of opposite gender in an inappropriate manner, then obviously it will harm our Dawah efforts. Similarly our immodest clothing or usage of foul language will also project a negative image to non-Muslims.
– We should practice what we preach, as Allah says, "O you who (claim) to believe! Why don't you practice what you preach?" [Quran 61:2]. This means that at least we should try our best to avoid acts that we are not supposed to do!
But at the same time, it doesn't mean that a Muslim must be perfect before he or she can sit at the Islam Awareness Booth and share Islam with others. Because life is an ever-growing circle of study, practice and improvement! Anas (radi'Allahu 'anhu) relates that:
And in another Hadith the Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam) added that we should still convey the message to others, because maybe others are able to practice it more properly than we do.
– Use Wisdom and speak only what is needed. A lot of times we begin to explain Islam to non-Muslims the way we were taught Islam traditionally, without really giving the real spirit behind it. For instance, it is not wisdom to give all the details of the ritual of Prayer and Wudu at first to a visitor at an Islam Awareness Booth, without really explaining why everyone should pray to God in the first place. Nor is it advisable to use present day Muslims, in general, as examples instead of talking about how Islam is supposed to change their character. In addition, keep in mind, the more unnecessary information we give out to non-Muslims, the more problematic it becomes for us sometimes. Therefore, we should really come out of this "cultural box" or the "conventional loops" of explaining Islam to people. As Br. Dawud Wharnsby says, "If someone asks us, 'What do you believe in?' it is more effective to say, 'I believe in One God', instead of saying, 'I believe in Islam', because by doing that you automatically open the doors for them to explore Islam, since most of them would also probably believe in One God."
– Remember, not to assume beliefs and never tell someone what they believe. Learn about other faiths as much as possible, which is powerful information that will help us understand how to reach out to them in a more convincing manner. For example, if a Hindu or a Christian person comes up to us inquiring about Islam, it is wrong to start off tearing apart the concept of Trinity or polytheism or poking holes in their faiths, in general. We should realize that he or she may not be able to even understand what you're talking about, because the majority of people in this society do not even know about their "own" religion; plus, many don't even agree with every single principle that their faith teaches.
– Show them that Islam is relevant today and it is for them! When speaking of Islam, let's not focus too much on the Islamic glories of the past, as we often tend to do. Dwell more on the broader concepts, like Tawhid, Prophethood, Islam as a solution to their problems, and the Hereafter. As Malcolm X (Rahimahullah) once said, "America needs to understand Islam, because it is the one religion that removes the Race problem from its society!" People in the problem-ridden West are more willing to accept this message if they see Islam has an answer to their social problems, like drugs, AIDS, crimes, teenage pregnancies, deterioration of families, loneliness... etc., and the fact that Islam is able to fill their spiritual void. We have yet to see Dawah material on these greatly needed themes.
– Usage of proper language plays a great role in Dawah. Instead of using "Holy war" to translate the word "Jihad", use a more comprehensive term, like, "struggle" or "striving". Similarly, avoid using "worship" or "being His slaves" for the word "Ibadah". Instead it will be much more appealing to use"service" or "obedience." Try to use language that is more appealing to North Americans.
– Avoid generalizations. Our purpose is to educate and share Islam, not to give "Fatwas", i.e. it is better to avoid generalizations like "all Jews are murderers", "all Christians hate Islam", "the media always portrays Muslims as terrorists", "the West is..."etc. We all know there are always some sincere and moderate people in every faith and community. Similarly, the media is merely a tool which could also be used for Dawah. These generalizations can damage our Dawah work if used just for the sake of it.
– Gender-consciousness is important! Let's not forget that Islam was the primary force of women's liberation until some Muslims themselves began to adopt the practices of Jahiliyya (ignorant societies) by locking them up in homes. Point out the difference between Islamic "feminism" and Western feminism. Despite all the stereotypes in the media against the role of women in Islam, it is surprising to see that, statistically, more women are converting to Islam today than any other religion. Avoid talking about the virtues of polygamy, as there are less than 2% of Muslim males in the world who ever practice polygamy, so it shouldn't be a hot topic to be used as a "tool" of Dawah.
Finally, brothers and sisters, let's all keep in mind that most North Americans are looking for a purpose and direction in life. Let's show them through our practice that Islam is not for Arabs, Pakistanis, or Africans only, but it is a complete way of life for North Americans and for everyone else. At the same time, let's not put our Islam in a separate compartment, box, or a loop, to be pulled out only on Fridays or during Ramadan.
For further readings on Dawah and its ingredients, please refer to:
May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) give us the ability to fulfill the mission of our Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam), i.e. Dawah, and may Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) put peace and harmony in our lives, Ameen.
Extracted 08/21/02 from Muslim Students Association, University of Toronto