Inviting Non-Muslims to the Right Path: Deliver the Message in the Best Way Possible

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(part 1 of 2) Description:  An introductory discussion about our responsibility to convey the message of Islam. Objectives: ·         To und...

(part 1 of 2)

Description: An introductory discussion about our responsibility to convey the message of Islam.
Objectives:
·       To understand the role of a person who calls others to the path of Islam.
Arabic Terms:
·       Shariah - Islamic Law
·       Rabb - literally means, lord, owner, master, or leader.  Islamically it is mostly used to refer to Allah - the Owner, the Master, the One who takes care of, sustains, nourishes, and takes care of everything.
·       Dawah - sometimes spelt Da’wah.  It means to call or invite others to Islam. 
·       InshaAllah – God willing, if God wills it to be so.  It is a reminder and acknowledgment that nothing happens except by the will of Allah.
InvitingNonMuslims_01.jpgThe thing about knowing the truth, understanding the purpose of life and knowing the answer to that age old question of why am I here, is that it is exciting; jumping out of your skin exciting.  Thus on discovery, the first thing you want to do is tell other people, and sometimes just blurting out one of life’s universal truths can be a little bit confronting.  Some might think you are crazy or deluded, but that is not the problem, because that puts you in such noble company as Prophet Muhammad or Prophet Noah.  The problem is that when we invite people to the truth of Islam we want them to listen and understand just what it is we are trying to say.  Therefore for the benefit of those jumping out of their skin we will discuss a few tips for inviting others to the right path.
First off let us get our definitions in sync.  The verb, invite, means to request the presence or participation of in a kindly, courteous, or complimentary way.[1]  Shariah literally means ‘a path to water,’ the source of all life, thus Islamically Shariah is the straight path to Allah, the Giver and Originator of all life.   Allah tells us to:
“Invite (call) to the way of your Rabb with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them in a way that is better...”  (Qur’an 16:125)
Whenever we invite a person to Islam, to the right path, we are presenting them with the attractions and allurements of Islam.   Our job is to deliver the message in the best way possible according to our knowledge and abilities.  Acceptance or rejection of the message is up to the person concerned; there is no compulsion in religion and moreover it is Allah who bestows guidance.  We are not converting or reverting them because it is Allah, and Allah only that truly does that.  Our role is only to assist others on their journey or to plant a seed that will one day, InshaAllah, grow into a tree of Islam.
 “Let there be no compulsion in religion.  Truth has been made clear from error…” (Quran 2:256)
“…Say, ‘To Allah belongs the east and the west.  He guides whom He wills to a straight path.’” (Quran 2:142)
It is important to remember however that conveying the message and calling people to Islam or giving dawah, as many like to call it, is an obligation upon all Muslims.  Of course we are not all expected to work in the field of dawah but we are expected to be aware at all times that our behaviour, words and actions, are dawah.  Those not familiar with Islam look to Muslims to see just what this religion is all about.  Prophet Muhammad said, “Convey from me, even if it is one verse”.[2]  Quran also reiterates the same message. 
“...  And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims. ’” (Quran 41:33)
It all sounds very easy doesn’t it?  We all love Allah and His Messenger Muhammad and without a doubt we hope that all people will one day feel the same way.  However love for Islam and all it entails is not quite enough.  When one accepts the challenge to convey the message one needs to be prepared.  No longer can we scowl at the shopkeeper when prices rise.  No longer can we react with anger when somebody mumbles an insult as we walk by.  A person delivering the message of Islam must be prepared to accept insults, be patient, make sacrifices, and listen to ideas and ideologies that are far from the truth of Islam.  Prophet Muhammad said that, “The believer who mixes with people and bears their insults with patience is better than the one who does not mix with people or bear their insults with patience.”[3]
Anyone who is recognisably Muslim is conveying the message every time they appear in public or mix with non-believers, therefore our words should always be kind and gentle, and our temper must be completely under control so that harsh words never leave our mouths.  One of Prophet Muhammad’s companions said, “We smile at people even if in our hearts we are cursing their words or behaviour”.[4] Moreover a Muslim makes things easy for others.  This is what Allah expects and Prophet Muhammad encouraged when he said, “Teach and make things easy, do not make them difficult.  If any of you becomes angry, let him keep silent.”[5]
“...  Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you…” (Quran 2:185)
Prophet Muhammad understood human weaknesses and at the same time understood human potential for excellence.  His dawah methods were perfect; we have only to follow his example to be sure that we fulfill our obligation to convey the message far and wide.  He always chose the easier option for himself and others.  However he made sure that the easier option was within the framework of the shariah.
In the next lesson we will look more carefully at ways to spread the message.


Footnotes:
[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid

Inviting Non-Muslims to the Right Path (part 2 of 3): Tawheed First

Description: Call people to the Oneness of Allah by searching for common ground.
Objectives:
·       To understand that Tawheed is the basis of Islam and thus the foundation stone ofdawah.
Arabic Terms:
·       Tawheed - The Oneness and Uniqueness of Allah with respect to His Lordship, His Names and Attributes and in His right to be worshipped.
·       Sahabah - the plural form of “Sahabi,” which translates to Companions.   A sahabi, as the word is commonly used today, is someone who saw Prophet Muhammad, believed in him and died as a Muslim.
·       Surah – chapter of the Quran. 
·       Sunnah - The word Sunnah has several meanings depending on the area of study however the meaning is generally accepted to be, whatever was reported that the Prophet said, did, or approved.
·       Dawah - sometimes spelt Da’wah.  It means to call or invite others to Islam.
·        Deen - the way of life based on Islamic revelation; the sum total of a Muslim’s faith and practice.   Deen is often used to mean faith, or the religion of Islam.
When explaining the message of Islam the most important thing to remember is Tawheed.  It must form the basis of any explanation we give about any topic related to the deenTawheed is the basis of Islam and without a doubt our discussions must emanate from this important principle.
Quran emphasizes that every messenger sent by Allah began by inviting his people toTawheed
“And We sent a messenger to every nation (proclaiming): ‘Worship Allah and shun false deities!’...” (Quran 16:36)
“And We never sent any messenger before you, except that we revealed to him that ‘There is no deity worthy of worship except Me, so worship Me’“ (Quran 21:25)
“Indeed, We sent Noah to his people, and he said, ‘O my people! Worship Allah!  You have no other deity other than Him.  Certainly, I fear for you the torment of a Great Day!’” (Quran 7:59)
According to learned people both past and present, any call to Islam that does not begin with Tawheed is doomed to failure.   Prophet Muhammad instructed the sahabah to preachTawheed when sending them to various communities.  To those who went to Yemen he said, “You are going to the People of the Book, so let the first thing that you invite them to be theTawheed of Allah”.[1]
The title ‘People of the Book’ refers to the Jews and the Christians, those given scriptures for guidance before the Quran was revealed.   It is often easier to start a conversation about Islam with Christians and Jews because they already believe in God.  Quran is filled with references, and stories that can be easily related to and to which they already have their own versions.  For instance mentioning the surahs of Quran that are named after easily recognisable people such as surah 19 – Maryam (Mary), surah 14 - Ibrahim  (Abraham) or surah 12 – Yusuf (Joseph). 
Quran beseeches Prophet Muhammad to call the People of the Book to Islam.  And Prophet Muhammad in his Sunnah made clear the relationship between all of the prophets and messengers of Allah.
“Say O Muhammad ‘O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians): Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God (Alone), and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God.’” (Quran 3:64)
 “And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say, ‘We believe in that which has been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have submitted’”.  (Quran 29:46)
“I am the nearest of all the people to the son of Mary, and all the prophets are brothers and there is none between me and him (i.e.  there is no other prophet between me and Jesus).” [2]
“If a man believes in Jesus and then believes in me he will get double reward.”[3]
People who have no understanding of any of the three monotheistic religions, such as Buddhists require different guidelines.  It is the responsibility of the person giving dawah to have a basic understanding of the beliefs of the non-believers they are calling to.  Buddhism for instance is a way of life, but not in the same sense as Islam.  Put simply Buddhism, as well as many eastern religions have a concept by which the person who does good actions will eventually attain Godlike qualities.   On the other hand Hindus believe in one Supreme God among many, and some of the more obscure religions such as Zoroastrianism and Baha’i do include the concept of One Supreme God.  However, you do not want to speak down to anyone as if you know more about their belief system then they do themselves.  This is important whether that is the case or not.  Remember, you do not want to offend anybody or inadvertently start an argument. 
If a person has a strong belief in God or even a nameless Supreme Being responsible for the creation, it is possible to teach them that the God we call Allah is the same God that they call by other names such as Elohim or Yahweh.  However at the same the time it is important to clarify to them that we consider Him to be Alone without any partners and we do not give any of His attributes to creation.  We believe that there is a clear line between the Creator and the creation and everything besides God Himself, is His creation. 
It is imperative for people to understand that the religion of Islam was revealed for all of humankind, not just one ethnic group or race.  Often people want to know the purpose of their lives and Islam gives an unambiguous answer to this question.  We have been created to recognize God and worship Him alone, that is, to obey Him in all matters. 
 “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me.” (Quran 51:56)
One who believes in any sort of God is a theist but those who do not, are called atheists.  The two beliefs are polar opposites; atheists do not believe in any supreme being of any description.   They do however believe that the world is a better place if governed by man-made ideologies such as capitalism or communism.  Thus there is no ideological common ground from which to begin a discussion about the religion of Islam.  Try to remember that the starting point and the basis of dawah is calling a person to belief in One God – Allah.  Just as Prophet Muhammad did we start with the call to Tawheed and we do so by appealing to reason.
We are able to clearly observe and thus point out that everything in the universe runs meticulousness and in a beautifully crafted way; the rising and setting of the sun, the changing of the seasons, and the delicately balanced order that is birth, growth and then decay.  Uniformity in the laws of the universe point to the existence of a Creator and interestingly atheists that come to accept the message often start with a belief in a Creator God or Supreme Being.  Convincing people that the Creator God is worthy of worship would be the next step.
In the final and third lesson we will look at delivering the message to specific people, particularly members of your own family.


Footnotes:
[1] Saheeh Bukhari
[2] Saheeh Bukhari
[3] Saheeh Bukhari

Inviting Non-Muslims to the Right Path (part 3 of 3): Inviting Family, Friends and Colleagues

Description: A brief look at ways to educate friends and family about the beauty of Islam, with an emphasis on acting in the best possible way.
Objectives:
·       To understand that we call to Islam by conveying the message but it is Allah who truly provides the guidance.
·       To understand the importance of  perseverance and never giving up hope.
Arabic Terms:
·       Dawah - sometimes spelt Da’wah. It means to call or invite others to Islam.
·       Sunnah - The word Sunnah has several meanings depending on the area of study however the meaning is generally accepted to be, whatever was reported that the Prophet said, did, or approved.
·       Du’a - supplication, prayer,  asking Allah for something.
The aim of inviting people to the right path is to convey the message; we are not accountable if they do not convert. As mentioned earlier it is Allah that provides the guidance and the desire to accept Islam. Remember that whenever we intend to convey the message we must do so with wisdom, eloquent speech and in the most gracious manner. Arguments and heated discussions are not the best methods of dawah.
One who has accepted Islam must convey the message to those nearest and dearest to him. Once a person has tasted the sweetness of faith it becomes impossible not to desire that for all family members and friends. Calling family members must be a first priority but sometimes it can be the hardest work of all. Sometimes when you are the first member of your family to heed the message you plunge the other members of your family into a state of shock; especially if they do not mix with any Muslims in their daily lives.
Your family needs a little time to accept the reality. Make sure you have a supply of easy to read small books or pamphlets. If you live at home you could leave them lying around, if not keep a supply in your bag or car. People often want to know this or that and sometimes you simply do not know the answer to all those questions. You are often just learning yourself so don’t be tempted to make up an answer. Perhaps you could look it up together remembering to always emphasis the Oneness of Allah, the Creator of all that exists.
Your family and close friends will be watching closely and this is when your behaviour will play a big part. You have probably given up a lot of big things such as alcohol, parties, free mixing with the opposite gender, and pork and pork products.  However, you have also added lots of little things; more kind acts, generosity, eagerness to be helpful, more gracious manners and a desire to establish strong unbreakable family ties. Showing kindness and observing high moral standards is possibly the best way to introduce someone to Islam. Good manners and courteous behaviour is also a very good form of dawah. You are a role model for what Islam is all about.
Prophet Muhammad’s behaviour attracted others to Islam. His beloved wife Aisha called his character a living example of the Quran.[1]  He was kind and courteous to everybody and even his enemies could not help but praise his noble character. This is the behaviour we must endeavour to emulate and the people that will benefit the most are our family and close friends. A kind word, a smile, a gift, or help of any sort, will showcase the beauty of Islam.
Be particularly careful not to despair when you see your family or friends engaging in behaviour that you now consider misconduct. Do not abandon them because of their ways. You can leave their company if they are drinking alcohol or acting in a non-Islamic manner - abandon the place, or the situation, not the person. Invite them to your house and to your events so they can see that fun and happiness can be found without alcohol or distasteful entertainment.
Conversations at your workplace are also a way to spread the message of Islam. Handing out pamphlets probably isn’t going to win you any friends or influence people but your mannerisms and ways of dealing with people will. Remember however that your colleagues are likely to be as shocked as your family. If you have recently converted to Islam don’t expect fanfare and congratulations but do expect curiosity. Again don’t give unqualified answers to things you are not sure about. The one thing you are sure about is the Oneness of Allah and His right to be worshipped.
Never give up hope. You may not see the people you love entering Islam and it can be a source of great disappointment. However it is wise to remember that it is Allah that guides a person to the right path.  Your role in that process might be as little as being a friendly face in an otherwise bleak day. Hope is something that Muslims have in abundance, so make small efforts and lots of du’a for the people you love and those around you.
Spreading the message and calling people to the right path is the work that was carried out by all of Allah’s messengers. Each one called his own people to the One God, Allah.  Prophet Muhammad however was sent to all of humankind; he gave the good news to the believers of immense reward in the Hereafter, and warning the unbelievers against a severe punishment. Prophet Muhammad expected all of those who follow in his footsteps to call others to the right path. He said, “If Allah guides one man through you, this will be better for you than possessing red camels.[2]” 
“The Messenger of God is an excellent model for those of you who put your hope in God and the Last Day and remember Him often.” (Quran 33:21)
In conclusion we find that if we follow the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad we will present Islam in the best way possible and there is no better way of inviting others to the right path.


Footnotes:
[1] Saheeh Muslim
[2] Red camels were the most precious form of wealth to the Arabs at that time.

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