Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|da'wah: time to come out of our boxes|
|05/11/01 at 07:30:50|
|DA'WAH: TIME TO COME OUT OF OUR BOXES!|
by Taha Ghayyur
from [url=http://www.youngmuslims.ca/articles/display.asp?ID=24]Young Muslims Canada[/url]
"There is no god worthy of worship, except Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."
Yahya 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 Muslims, who possess such a precious gift or a Way of Life, known as Islam, do not bother to share it with others? How come we, who understand this powerful statement, do not feel the pain at the state of those who find it difficult to believe in the existence of God, or those who are too busy in the enjoyment of this world to even care about God or the Truth, or those who have a spiritual void, or those who live a disoriented life devoid of peace and contentment? There are many among our friends, colleagues, and family members, who are waiting for this message to be revealed to them through our words and actions, on an individual and collective level.
The beloved companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), like Abu Dhar al-Ghifari, Musab bin Umayr, Muadh ibn Jabal, Jafar bin Abi Talib, and many others, may Allah be pleased with them all, were ever ready to let the world know about Islam. It was as if a fire was always burning in their hearts. The spirit of Da'wah, or calling others towards the Truth, only comes from within. It comes when Muslims develop the feeling of dissatisfaction, restlessness, and sympathy towards the hopeless and discontented people around them. Islam is about giving people hope and noble principles to live by. Da'wah to Islam is about change and revival in the hearts and intellect of the society. There exists a great deal of evil and chaos in the Muslim and non-Muslim communities, such as young drug addicts, youth in prisons and hospitals, teenage pregnancies, rise in suicidal rates, disintegration of the family system, and more. Nothing, however, seems to move our hearts, souls, and intellect to action!
After realizing the need to accept the responsibility of doing Da'wah on individual and collective level, the following few concepts and tips may be useful for the Da'wah purposes in future:
Da'wah (calling people to Allah) is an obligation, not an option. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Convey this Message, even if only one sentence (or verse)" [Bukhari]. He also said, "Learn the required precepts of Islam and the Qur'an, then teach to others, for I will not live forever" [Bukhari]. Similarly, Allah commands us, "There should be a number of you who actively call people to the righteousness; who encourage goodness and forbid evil. These are the ones who shall prosper." [Qur'an 3:104] This verse, in a nutshell, may be considered the "Mission statement" for a Muslim's role in this life.
Da'wah is not just about giving out pamphlets on streets or prisons. It is about sharing and living Islam through our behavior and preaching. Therefore, if we do something immoral or indecent in public, obviously it will harm our Da'wah efforts. Immodest clothing, usage of foul language, or interacting with the people of opposite gender beyond the limits set by Islam, will 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?" [Qur'an 61:2]. Thus, the least we can do is try our best to avoid acts which we are not supposed to do!
At the same time, perfection is not the pre-requisite for Da'wah, because, had this been the case, then the Prophets (peace be upon them all) would be the only ones allowed to do Da'wah. Life is an ever-growing circle of study, practice, and improvement! Some companions of the Prophet once asked him, "O Messenger of Allah, shouldn't we refrain from calling others to goodness if we don't practice ALL good things ourselves, and shouldn't we refrain from forbidding wrong things until we ourselves have abstained from ALL the bad." "No," he replied, "You should call others to goodness even if you don't do all good, and you should forbid bad things even if you don't abstain from all of them yourselves" [Tabarani].
Use Wisdom and speak only what is needed. Often times, we begin to explain Islam to non-Muslims the way we were taught Islam traditionally, without giving the true spirit and wisdom behind the message. For instance, it is not wise to give all the details of the rituals of Prayer and Wudu, to a seeker of Truth, before even explaining why should everyone pray to God, in the first place. Similarly, generally speaking, it is not wise to use present day Muslims, as examples; instead, we should emphasize how Islam is supposed to change the character of those who truly posses and practice this beautiful faith. In addition, keep in mind, the more unnecessary information we give away, the more we confuse others. Therefore, we should really come out of these "cultural boxes" or "conventional loops" that limit our vision and potential for an effective Da'wah to people. As Br. Dawud Wharnsby-Ali 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 we automatically open the doors for them to explore Islam, since many of them, at first, would probably prefer to know more about One God, rather than this 'label', called Islam".
Let's move out of our "boxes" and "loops". It is quite unfortunate to see today Muslims spending a great portion of their lives and efforts on "scholarly" debates or disputes- which may not be a priority for Muslims in these times and in this land. It is quite hypocritical because there are thousands out there who are waiting for our counseling, our time, our advice (Nasiha), our support, and our message. Therefore, our objectives and efforts need to be re-prioritized. As Imam Khalid Griggs once said, "Unfortunately, today, majority of the members of the "Dawa" organizations are usually doing Dawa to each other, across the table." It is now time to come out of this "box", and start interacting with the real society and think of creative and dynamic ways of projecting Islam to people. Dawa is about changing the lives of people before anything else!
Our approach towards Dawa has to be modified to address the youth and the atheists- a category which includes a significant portion of the Western Society, consisting of majority of youth today. Dawa traditionally meant to us inviting Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others to Islam- i.e. those who at least believed in God, in whatever shape or form. Nowadays however, Dawa could also mean inviting faithless people towards religion. The students in schools, universities, and colleges, are the potential recipients of this form of Dawa, since this portion of the population represents the height of secularism or atheism in North America! Often times, it's challenging enough to convince them of the virtues of religion in the first place, let alone calling them to Islam. Therefore, in order to establish a belief in the existence of God, before anything else, we should learn how to raise questions about the belief in God and the defects in the theory of evolution, through intellectual and educational discussions. It may not be very productive to give lectures on the concept of Tawhid (Oneness of God) and its different forms, if the person doesn't even think God actually exists!
Remember, not to assume beliefs and never tell someone what they believe. Learn about other faiths as much as possible. It is a powerful tool that will help us understand and reach out to people more effeiciently. For example, if a Hindu or a Christian person comes up to us inquiring about Islam, it is wrong to begin by tearing apart the concept of Trinity or polytheism or by poking holes in their faiths. We should realize that he or she may not be able to even understand what you're talking about, because majority of people in this society do not even know much about their own 'religion'. Moreover, many don't even agree with every single principle that their faith teaches.
Show them 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 or other minor details, as we often tend to do. Dwell more on the broader concepts, like Tawhid, Prophethood, the Hereafter, and Islam being a solution to their problems. 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 problem-ridden West, are more willing to accept this message, if they see Islam has an answer and cure 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 Da'wah material on these greatly needed themes.
Usage of proper language plays a great role in Dawa. Instead of using "Holy war" to translate the word, Jihad, use a more comprehensive and proper term, like, "struggle" or "striving". Similarly, avoid using "worship" or "being His slaves" for the word, Ibada. Instead it will be much more appealing to use, "service" or "obedience." Try to use a language that is more appealing to North Americans.
Avoid generalizations. Our purpose is to educate and share Islam, not to give "Fatwas" or to label them, ie. it's better to avoid generalizations like: "all present day Christians are atheists in practice", "all youth in the West are Religio-phobic", "all Jews are murderers", "all Hindus hate Islam", "the media always portrays Muslims as terrorists", etc. We all know there are always some sincere and moderate people in every faith and community. Similarly, media is merely a tool, which could also be used for Dawa and educational purposes. These generalizations can damage our Dawa 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 the Western feminism. Highlight the freedom that Muslim women enjoyed throughout the Islamic history compared to the women in Europe. Despite all the stereotypes in the media against the role of women in Islam, it is surprising to see that, statistically speaking, more women are converting to Islam today, than to any other religion. Avoid talking about the virtues of polygamy, as there are less than 2% Muslim males in the world who ever practice polygamy, so it shouldn't be a hot topic to be used as a "tool" of Da'wah.
Finally, let's all keep in mind that most North Americans are searching for some spirituality, as well as a purpose and direction in life. Let's show them through our practice and the beauty of our character that Islam is not for Arabs, Pakistanis, or Africans only, but it is a 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 Da'wah and its tools, please refer to:
"Da'wah among non-Muslims in the West" by Ustaad Khurram Murad (rahimahullah)
"How to tell others about Islam" by Yahiya Emerick.
May Allah give us the ability to fulfill the mission of our Prophet (pbuh), i.e. Da'wah, and may Allah put peace and harmony in our lives. Ameen!
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