In The Name of Allah The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful.
"Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best and most gracious." (Quran 16:125)
Dawa - calling to Islam, the deen of Allah.
There is Dawa ...
And then there is Dawa overkill.
Picture this. A young eager non-Muslim, with a curious and open heart, approaches a Muslim with one discreet question. The Muslim responds to the question ... and then like a battery induced bunny, keeps on going and going and going. The overwhelmed young man stands rooted to the spot, unable to move, as the Muslim launches into a seemingly endless diatribe about every single detail of Islam. The "Islamic educator" focuses on how Islam is vastly superior to christianity, even quoting at length from obscure passages of the bible. The young non-Muslim, who is not Christian and could care less about the intricacies of the Old Testament, begins to get a distinctly glazed, jailed look in his eyes. After 15 minutes of nonstop talking the Muslim stops to catch a breath. Snatching the opportunity, the young man mutters a quick excuse and bolts from the vicinity.
This Muslim, undoubtedly feels that she or he has done a wonderful job of spreading the essence of the deen of Allah. However, what this Muslim really accomplished was turning someone’s genuine interest into revulsion.
Dawa is an obligation on every Muslim. We are not allowed to be so arrogant as to conceal this precious deen. But sharing Islam does not mean bombarding every non-muslim we bump into, with facts and quotations from each subsection from virtually every fiqh treatise written in the last 1400 years.
This is not Dawa - and it is certainly not the wise and beautiful preaching that Allah has commanded us to embark on. We must understand that we are not in a football match in which every convert to Islam means points for our side. It is Allah who guides hearts; we only share what we know to be the truth. The reception of that Truth is between the heart and Allah.
Dawa is not something that happens in one meeting with a person and it is not merely the unloading of information. This is not how Islam has spread to every corner of Allah’s earth.
To most of the world, Islam was spread by lived example. This means that we reveal the beauty of Islam by not only what we say, but (primarily) through the way we live; this includes how we deal with people at work, in the market place, at school and university, how we interact with the person who puts gas in our car or who bags our groceries.
As Muslims we should live a life that, even at first glance, seems blessed by the light of Islam, we should be joyful as a rule and patient in adversity. We should be honest with our employers and employees, respectful of the elderly person on the bus and kind to the child having a tantrum in the toy store.
Regardless of what we do, who we are and where we go, we should conduct ourselves in a manner that is befitting the dignity of a Muslim. If one is a typist, then one should be a Muslim typist, or a neuro-surgeon, an astronaut or a house painter. We must maintain the ethics and behavioral standards of Islam. Whatever it is you do, do it well, do it with confidence and do it with dignity.
If you are Muslim, you are blessed; because you have been made aware of the most beautiful gift - Islam. Celebrate that fact. Live your life well. Live in the world as if you know the value of the gift you were given. Succeed in this life and in the next. Set goals for yourself and strive toward them. Anger, cynicism, bitterness and despair are all unworthy of you and are signs of weak faith. Because you are a Muslim, and you are being looked upon as a representative of Islam, it is not an option for you to be foolish, cowardly or pathetic. You do not need to be perfect every day of your life. We all have bad days, each person’s faith ebbs and flows. But we must not allow ourselves to be miserable or to bring misery into the world.
The people we meet should become respectful of Islam and interested in it, simply by knowing us and knowing the joy that comes to us, by living our lives according to Islam. This does not mean that we should not speak clearly about the actual texts and beliefs of Islam. But when we do speak about them we should already be living them.
And when there is an opportunity to speak about Islam in more detail, we must have the intelligence and tact to do that beautifully as well. The Prophet of Allah, Sallallahu alay wassalam, said "Give glad tidings and do not scare others; make things easy and do not make things difficult."
When speaking about Islam to non-Muslims remember these points:
Remember that it is Allah who guides whom He wills and not you.
It is not up to us to make someone accept Islam. We can provide information, challenge ignorance and make Islam a viable choice for people. however, it is only Allah who can give guidance and open hearts.
Treat everyone with respect.
Do not dismiss non-Muslims as kafirs and think that they worthless. They too were created by the one Creator who sustains them and to whom they will also return. When you treat non-Muslims with disrespect or condemn them to hell, you close the door of Islam in their faces. They will never listen to a word of Islam, from you or anyone else, without remembering your contempt for them. Regardless of what kind of life one is leading now, one may be blessed with faith and guidance by Allah and have one’s life transformed.
Know your audience.
Understand who you are speaking to and what he or she cares about. For example, when speaking to marine biologists, share with them the verses in the Quran about water. When speaking to artists, tell them about the tradition of Islamic art and architecture and what it has meant to the ummah. Relate to people in ways that they can understand and are comfortable with.
Not every non-Muslim is a Christian.
Getting into detailed debates of Christianity and Islam is unnecessary. chances are, you are speaking to someone who knows about as much of Christianity as she or he does of Islam. And most of that is probably from Charlton Heston’s movies.
Do not be defensive.
Refuse to speak about Islam from a position of defence or weakness. You do not have to justify or explain the actions of every (or any) Muslim group or individual in the ummah. While we are often asked to respond to media contortions of Islam, we should not do so through shame or contrition. Remember that your job is to call people to Islam, not to a particular group of Muslims.
Do not argue with people.
The truth of Islam is clear, if people chose to not understand or to not believe, then that is their choice. Do not enter into petty, mindnumbing arguments with people who are not sincerely interested in seeking the Truth. Your job is to be knowledgeable enough to explain our beliefs with wisdom and reason. The rest is between them and Allah; and it is none of your business.
Interact with people, do not give lectures.
Do not constantly preach at people. Just be normal and live your life without concealing Islam. You will find unlimited opportunities to speak of Islam and the myriad ways that your life is uplifted by your faith and practice.
Be well groomed, presentable and articulate. Dress Islamically, while still looking like you belong in this decade.
Picture this. A group of non-Muslims have a dispute. A muslim walks into the room. The non-Muslims turn to the Muslim for arbitration knowing that they will receive a just, honest and wise solution. Because that is what Muslims can be relied upon for.
Alhamdulillah, our task would be complete.
"There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is hearer, Knower." Quran 2:256
The Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, said, "The dearest of you to me and the closest of you to me on the Day of Judgement will be those who are best behaved.
And the most offensive to me and the farthest from me on the Day of Judgement will be the most boring and the most rhetorical."