One of my readers has engaged me in an interesting conversation about religion. You can read it on Your Page. I would like to take this conversation to other readers. I’d like to hear other viewpoints. This topic has been discussed before, but it’s one that usually stirs the pot whenever it is raised.
Do you believe in “sharing the truth”? Do you feel so secure in your spiritual beliefs that you are not reluctant to tell people about it? Do you believe in evangelizing?
At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer.
I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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I am a firm believer in da’wah, but also know there is a good way and a bad way to do it, and also a direct and indirect way. Not everyone is cut out for the direct way (incl. me), though I try from time to time.
If the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was the ultimate example for Muslims, then calling to Allah, and to the truth of Islam, is surely the right thing to do. I kind of see it as simply as that.
However, before he called so directly to his own people – the polytheists of Makkah – he had gained a reputation of sincerity and trustworthiness, through both his honest words and deeds. So I think it is also fair to say that if a Muslim wants to give da’wah effectively, they must excel in their character, else they will simply come across as hypocrites. None of us are perfect, naturally, but it’s simply a matter of trying our best, and Allah makes up for our numerous inadequacies.
I am not sure what evangelizing means, but I can tell you that even without proper knowledge, I sense negative connotations in the word: i.e., it involves very forceful acts of “shoving religion down people’s throats”.
If you believe in something, and you also believe that by not believing that something, there are negative consequences (a polite way of saying you’re going to Hell!), then I think any person who has love for their neighbour would want to share the truth with them – if they accept or reject it, then that is not in our hands. Allah told the Prophet himself in several ayahs of the Qur’an that he had no control over who did or did not believe – but he should still do his duty and spread the message.
To avoid hypocrisy, this is something I myself need to work on. My biggest barrier has been with work colleagues (though I am now jobless) who I tried on occasions to discuss religion with in general, but being a Science lab, no-one really liked to get into such matters. Not because they didn’t believe – I have worked with people of faith – but it didn’t seem like the right time and place for them.
To be honest, work was never a good time for any kind of conversation!
Btw, one problem with the net in general is that people can’t easily sense the tone of someone else’s writing (especially when the author avoids the use of smilies!), so please read (or reread) the above in a gentle, hospitable “inner voice” – cos that’s how I wrote it in my head, haha.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, iMuslim. I think your fourth paragraph is most important. The person who makes da’wah (evangelism, calling to God) will put him/herself into the spotlight in terms of his/her own faith and ability to adhere to that faith. Character has everything to do with it, because even a bad character can adhere to the rituals, but only a good one can bring the intent of the rituals into everyday life.
I dislike da’wah, probably because of unpleasant associations with it. Everyone in my family follows a different relgion. I have a Catholic, Lutheran, Born Again, Pentecostal and non-aligned Christian in my immediate family! My kids and I are all Muslims.
No one can talk to anyone about religion. We’d end up furious with each other. Ironic, isn’t it, when all of us have freely chosen to follow the religion that has spoken to our hearts?
If our characters were more developed, we’d be able to talk about our differences and our similarities. We’d be at peace with ourselves and each other, even though we have differing beliefs.
I would say yes. I will utter my identity as it is where i know there will not be a sudden judgement about who i’m assumed to be.
I agree with the idea that we should give Da’wah. But Da’wah has its conditions. When there is no light of guidance and the other side even doesnt allow himself to know you and learn about your beliefs, it’s just useless to offer him a lecture about what your belief really is and clarify the stereotypes..
I remember a story about Hassan and Hussain bin Ali that how they as a child taught wudu to an old man with their action, without make him ashamed or throw a long lecture of “Naseehah” to him.
I prefer to be nice to people and show them affection and love and act based on my beliefs. I think it has more influence on people.
There was an incident in my life that really helped me to realise it. I generally dont give data to people about myself. I let them collect data by their own senses.
That’s why When for the first time i met my parents in law, they thought i am not religious.
But later when they saw that i perform my prayers and together with my husband (my husband is a revert muslim) go to friday prayer, they was just shocked. My dad in law said to me that i am a religious muslim woman. But i seem normal!!
This sentence is still ringing in my ears. I thought on it and i completely understood what my Dad in law meant.
What he had learnt about muslims, was not completely true. But somehow he was right.
Muslims usually make spheres, take themselves separated (higher?!) from other groups (even other muslim groups), “advice” arrogantly and they talk more than they act..
Well said, Shahrzad. I like your last paragraph. That is why I steer clear of discussions about halal and haram.
Your in-laws are lucky their son found a “normal” one, LOL!
i don’t think its matter of evangelising but dawah. It can never be objective as it is based on own experiance and example. you don’t do it to presume on someone change, but to present yourself, own beliefs and thoughts, giving simple image of whom you are.
iMuslam, the voice that I heard in your first comment was truly gentle and hospitable; therefore, I found no reason for your second comment other than it amplified that which is in your heart 🙂
Shahrzad, based upon that which was written herein by iMuslam, you are trying to following after the Prophet Muhammad by developing with others a reputation of sincerity and trustworthiness. Honest words and deeds are the fruits of your affection and love.
Shahrzad, your comment about some Muslims creating their own spheres into which they climb to be higher than those who are among the ‘lowly’ is not unique to Muslims! I know that many Christians do the same thing.
I am not sure what “dawah” means but it reminds me of an English word, “dialogue” or conversation. A dialogue does not require an extensive amount of time but nonetheless, if those who partake of a dialogue are even slightly enriched by the experience — then it becomes a remembrance with positive connotations.
I must say that in my daily living when I am out and about, I inherently celebrate life and try to share the joy that I have in my heart with anyone who might be near. In this I think I might be like Amina.
I wear on a chain around my neck a small cross that is often overlaid by a shirt’s collar. It simply symbolizes the fact that I am a Christian (nothing more or less). If the cross is even noticed, it may or may not tell of the source of my joy; in other words, the connection may not be made. Going to the market, an eatery, or elsewhere — there is seldom the opportunity or the time to exercise evangelistic efforts.
Again, I must agree with iMuslim: “If you believe in something, and you also believe that by not believing that something, there are negative consequences (a polite way of saying you’re going to Hell!), then I think any person who has love for their neighbour would want to share the truth with them – if they accept or reject it, then that is not in our hands.” To me this is evangelism.
I live in a suburban locale just outside of Houston, Texas in the USA. Our community is very diverse in every way. I honestly believe that if a particular people who were of the same religion exercised much of what I have read herein — they would find many of those with whom they had had a dialogue wanting what it is that they have in heart!
For those who have read the dialogue shared by Marahm and me on “Your Page” allow me to comment:
I believe that all things both animate and inanimate are created as well as sustained by Allah or God Almighty. Life is that of the Creator and Sustainer and it is given to mankind. It is presumed by most of us that mankind is the highest order of Allah’s creative efforts upon the face of the earth.
It must be presumed that our Creator and Sustainer has communicated with us through His Prophets. Therefore, that which has been communicated in the Qur’an as well as in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible will have some commonality or a golden thread of truth that extends through it all. I seek truth and nothing more. It was not my intent to “evangelize” or thereby perpetuate arguments and ill feelings.
My concluding remarks:
There is a great deal of distrust between the Muslim and Christian communities and much is predicated upon ignorance — not knowing one another as brothers and sisters in faith.
I think that many people who have been born and raised in the USA think that Muslims as a whole are a violent people desirous of destroying all those who are of the Christian or Jewish faith.
Further, these same Americans may see Islam as being a legalistic religion that is not of the heart but rather is an exercise administered by clerics and performed to create single mindedness amongst Muslims with the end result being control of all Muslims as underlings to propagate the desires of the hierarchy with a reward paid to its faithful subordinates.
On the other hand we have the USA. I would assume that many Muslims see my country as a Christian-Judeo state or a religious entity gone amuck. The word “amuck” means (1) in a frenzy to do violence or kill; (2) in or into a jumbled or confused state.
Much of that which is the outpouring of my country can readily be regarded as profane or terribly decadent. From a religious perspective the USA screams, “We are hypocrites!” I can appreciate why some if not many Muslims might call the USA a nation of infidels or a people without a common religious view.
You can see much of what I am writing about in Marahm’s comment, “Everyone in my family follows a different religion. I have a Catholic, Lutheran, Born Again, Pentecostal and non-aligned Christian in my immediate family! My kids and I are all Muslims.”
Oh sure, everyone outside of Marahm and her kids are “Christians” but why the diversity? I might suggest that many of the Christians in the USA will create a portraiture of who they think God is and then determine in their own minds how they think God should be worshiped. Thereafter, they will set out to find the Christian body of believers that most closely simulates their image of God and how they intend to worship Him.
One portion of the Bible and then another will be used to support particular viewpoints while verses, chapters, and whole books will be ignored because as such the writings don’t coincide with an individual’s portraiture of God and how the individual is desirous of worshiping Him.
Again, I surmise that the answers to life’s most serious questions are found in the writings of the Qur’an and in the writings of the Bible. We can only hope and pray that we might be given unto wisdom and understanding in the pursuit of truth.
I don’t necessarily recommend that everyone should expose themselves to both the Qur’an and the Bible or that by doing so they will have all the more truth; rather, until now that which I have learned from the Bible has been more than sufficient and I would suppose that those who embrace the Qur’an can say the same.
May Allah bless you in your pursuits!
Thank you Marahm for your courtesies. I have felt welcomed! Nonetheless, I know I am a rooster in a hen house 🙂
Now if this nerd (me) can only find out why God Almighty lead Israel into one war after another. I’m about to pursue this study.
I’ll return from time to time.
May the love that is given unto each of us by the true and living God be shared by us with all mankind!
Jay, I am honored to see your deep and thoughtful comments on my blog. I do hope you’ll return often, and continue to comment. We discuss all kinds of things here, not only religion. I’m sure you have much to offer in other areas, too, in addtion to theology and cockroaches!
It is true that most of my readers are women, but I must point out that we interact freely with men on the internet, some of whom keep wonderful blogs you’ll want to read. I’ll send you a list of them in a separate email. Now I must go to Chicago and visit my daughter.
I believe I express myself openly about being Muslim and my beliefs. I’ve never preached to people or said something like, “your religion is wrong”. I personally don’t believe in evangelism or missionary work.
The Qur’an is a message of peace and tolerance, and if you read Surah 2:62, for example, God speaks about how Jews, Christians, Muslims, and anyone who believes in God and lives a righteous life will have nothing to fear and grieve.
Now, I know how I believe about Islam in my heart. I do believe it is the Truth, but I also acknowledge that no religion is slow in proclaiming that it has the Truth. I acknowledge that my Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist friends each find Beauty and Love in their respective faiths. I enjoy having conversations with them about what we believe, but we have never argued over religion or discredited one another’s experiences.
When I speak to people of different religions, I will always say, “I believe such and such,” or “In Islam, we are taught..” or “We Muslims believe..” I will never ever confront someone and say bluntly, “Jesus is not God” or something along those lines which will clearly offend Christians.
There have been many people, especially on the internet, who have contacted me and asked me questions about Islam. Then I learn that they are actually considering to convert to Islam. Even then, I will not insult the religion that they were born into — I will explain WHY we Muslims believe what we do. I did not approach these people. I did not go door to door and hand out pamphlets and say, “Islam is the only way to salvation” is something absurd like that.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was accepting of those who were different. He was a man who was filled with so much Love and Beauty in his heart, and that came from God. We are all blessed with that Love too and when that shines in our Being, others will truly see it. Whether they be scholars or priests or imams, whenever I see them debating about which religion is “correct,” I really see that as something regressive. Why argue over God? What is this competition, asks Rumi, when we are all passing through the same Gate? Often times, these debates get so heated that they provoke very sensitive emotions and people get angry and they start to hate one another just because they feel that “your people” have insulted “their God.”
I would rather attend inter-faith events, which I often do. When you have so much Love for God in your heart, you will build positive and friendly relations with others. Regardless of their religion, culture, skin color, sexual orientation — just be good person to them, that is what God is ultimately looking for in you. Islam is a message that was sent so that we can become better human beings — why else He send his Message if not for Love and Mercy and Guidance?
I’ve seen people at inter-faith events questioning their own faith, and when they have a chance after the speeches and poetry recitals, they approach the Muslim speakers and ask them questions about Islam. It is goodness that speaks to our hearts, it is goodness that people see and look for. Why spend all your time in this life preaching and preaching and telling others that they are doing the “wrong” thing, when you have not even bothered to journey within your own self?
Live, share beauty, share your beliefs, listen to others with compassion, and people will come to you. Who cares if they just want to learn and not convert, the Qur’an says that there is not a single conversation about God that is absent of Angels.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Thanks for reading 🙂
Amina, you have the best point, “It can never be objective as it is based on own experiance and example.”
Brokenmystic, thank you for your detailed comment; I wish more people would think like you with respect to inter-faith dialogue. The entire world would be different, no? I especially like your concluding statement: “Who cares if they just want to learn and not convert, the Qur’an says that there is not a single conversation about God that is absent of Angels.”
Interesting topic and questions. After I read them all (very profound comments) I don’t know what to add.
*smiles* (just to make sure)
I feel religion is very personal, and would never consider evangelizing or spreading dawaah. I’ve taken a strong stand on this.
I have immense inner peace that took me years to achieve. With that said, if someone meets me and desires my peace, they can ask questions, otherwise I’m quiet.
When I return home, I do wish to get involved in inter faith dialogues communities. If anyone argues over religion and I’m in the vicinity, I run.
Welcome, Viking Daughter, and thank you for your comment. Religion is very personal, indeed, but it is also a means by which people can communicate and trust each other. It can be the sustaining thread of relationship when mundane forces pull people apart. It is not only about one’s relationship with God, I believe. In fact, may I dare suggest that religion is more about people than about God?
That would be a whole ‘nother conversation, no?
in answering your question, Marahm, I say:
I think it would be nice if EVERYBODY made dawah, but not in the way you imagine it, rather, make dawah through your actions and behaviors. Be helpful, be gentle, be kind, be forgiving, be pious, be truthful, be sincere, be honest, be sweet, be just, be loving, be caring, be be be be,…. to sum it up, Be a real Muslim!
Now, that’s easily stated, and it makes much sense in theory. is it as easy in practice?
I personally strive to do all of the above, and (truth be told) I’d be happy if I applied only 10% of what I said!
In real life (not virtual life) I try to avoid talking about my religion to anyone, and I try to avoid sharing my views (religious, or political or whatever) with anyone, because I know that I tend to be persuasive, and that might bring discomfort for the other party. The only situation where I’ll talk about my religion and/or views is when the other party asks for them. I have to let them show me their interest first, only then I see a chance for what I call “dawah done in a proper manner”.