How to Talk to non-Muslims about Islam

How to Talk to non-Muslims about Islam

 

At Dawah Tables, Mosque Open House Events, Etc.

 

 

Do’s:

 

Do this and more for the sake of Allah.

Smile sincerely. (You must feel the sincerity for it to appear; you will feel it if you feel genuine love and sympathy for the people who approach us; it will show in your relaxed smile, and in your eyes). Be polite. Use terms like, Sir, Madam, etc.

See yourself as a helper: people have questions; you are here to help them out.

Refer difficult questions to a senior person.

 

Do Not’s

 

Do not argue: focus on winning the person, not the argument.

Do not be defensive: most people are not trying to attack us or our religion. They are just curious. At least it is better for us to presume that much. This way you can focus on the intellectual answers you need to give to their questions. If you appear defensive, they will not trust your answers.

 

Avoid:

 

Political questions. Say that this is not our area of expertise. Politics is a complicated matter, and much is done secretively. We do not have all the facts. Better to focus on what our organization is meant for: the teaching of our religious beliefs and practices.

Sectarian differences. Present the basic teachings which are fairly universal among various sects and groups. Most people just want to know the basics, and such things we agree on: e.g. Belief in God, his angels, his messengers, his books, the last day, etc.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

To show that you respect visitors as persons:

“I respect the fact that you have stopped by to talk to us.”

“I respect your right to that opinion. Please allow me to mention my opinion for your consideration.”

To be non-committal, yet respectful, and to make your listener feel at ease:

“You may have a point there. Let me add this ….”

“There may be something in what you say. Have you also considered …?”

 

WHAT NOT TO SAY:

 

Do not contradict people directly. Very few things are totally right or totally wrong. Try to find the one aspect of truth in what they say and capitalize on it to build rapport.

Hence, do not say, “You are wrong.” Instead, say, “You were right when you said …,” and then mention the one aspect about which they were right.

 

WHAT TO SAY ABOUT:

 

God:

(When addressing Christians and Jews) We believe in the one God of the Old Testament in the Bible. (When addressing people more generally) We believe in the universal God, the unseen creator of all humankind.

 

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

He was a human being whom God chose to deliver a message to all humankind.

 

The Quran:

This is the message of God which he revealed to the prophet Muhammad, pbuh, as a guidance to all humans.

 

Jesus:

He was a human being and a prophet of God. He is mentioned 25 times in the Quran. The third chapter and the nineteenth chapter give a detailed story of his birth. The nineteenth chapter is named after Jesus’ mother, Mary. The Quran tells us that Jesus was a great messenger of God, God’s Messiah, a performer of miracles by God’s permission. The Quran does not define messiah, but this is known from the Bible as a person who was anointed with oil as a sign of his inauguration in office as a king or judge. The title Messiah does not imply that Jesus was a god. Nor does the belief that he was born of a virgin entail that he was God.

 

Peace:

The Quran teaches us to live in peace, harmony, love, and mutual cooperation in goodness with all people. The Quran shows special affinity to People of the Book (mainly Jews and Christians).

 

Violence:

The Quran mentions that whenever the opponents of truth try to start the fires of war, God extinguishes that fire (Quran 5:64). This shows that war is detestable in the eyes of God. Muslims therefore are being taught in the Quran to avoid war, and only to accept it as a last resort to right a wrong, only to the extent necessary, only under a legitimate authority, with the right intention, and when there is reasonable expectation that going to war will right the wrong rather then result in more wrong.

 

Jihad:

This is an Arabic word meaning to strive. As a religious term, it refers to striving in the way of God. Such striving can take on many forms, including striving against one’s baser desires, as we do through fasting in Ramadan. All forms of activism in the world, including speaking and acting for the greater good, and writing letters to newspaper editors to promote correct ideas fall under Jihad. If it becomes necessary to use military means to right a wrong, this is subject to the stipulations and limitations mentioned above under ‘violence.’ For a war to be called a Jihad in the way of God, it must be a just war. Otherwise it may be called a jihad in the footsteps of Satan.

 

Hijab:

The word means a separation. In the Quran it refers to a curtain that was to be placed in the prophet’s house so as to give his family privacy when the prophet welcomed visitors (Quran 33:53). But the word hijab is used nowadays to refer to the women’s head-covering. The Quran mentions the head-covering, using a different word, khimaar. But it is not clear if the Quran means that women must wear a khimaar. The Quran may mean to say that the ends of the khimaars which women were already wearing at the time should be brought to the front to cover their necklines rather than be left draping behind their shoulders. The Quran does not mention the niqab (the face-veil). (Quran 24:31; and 33:59)

 

Women’s rights:

The Quran was revealed at a time when women had few rights. But the Quran initiated many teachings which guarantee the rights of women and condemn the abuses from which women suffered. The fourth chapter of the Quran is entitled “Women” because it speaks a lot about the rights of women.

 

Polygamy:

In ancient societies, men often had many wives. We see that many biblical prophets and heroes, including Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon had multiple wives. Solomon is said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines (First Kings 11:3). That number of wives for Solomon seems exaggerated, but it shows that sometimes in past societies men added wives to their harems without limit. Classical Islamic law, however, limited to four the number of wives a man can have at a time, as the scholars felt that this was the maximum number of wives that a man could be capable of doing justice to at once.

 

In history, polygamy was an important way of building large and strong families, clans, and tribes. The larger the tribe, the less likely that they would be attacked and killed off by their enemies. Naturally, a woman can only bear a limited number of children in her lifetime. In sharp contrast, a man can, through multiple marriages at once, become the father of many more children. Therefore, polygamy was the way of getting many people related by blood to the patriarch of a tribe.

 

When the Quran spoke of the practice, it was not to introduce it for the first time, but to say to Muslim men that they should take care of the widows and orphans of their comrades who had fallen in battle defending the early believing community (see Quran 4:3, and the commentary by Yusuf Ali). In modern times, widows and orphans may be cared for financially by the state, or the widow may have a well-paying career. What the state cannot provide, and may be desired, is a father figure in a family. Yet, Muslims are enjoined to obey the laws where they live, and naturally, a woman would prefer to be the sole wife of her husband. Hence monogamy has become the normal practice nowadays, and polygamy is reserved for exceptional situations where this is permitted by law. Many Muslim societies today recognize that polygamy, despite its historical and present advantages, can entail many disadvantages for women. Therefore, these societies enact legislation that seek to limit the practice, or at least to curtail its possible harms.

 

Prophet Muhammad’s Marriages (pbuh):

It is recognized by historians that the prophet Muhammad, pbuh, married multiple wives largely for political and social reasons. This has been explained by John Esposito in his book Islam: The Straight Path, and Karen Armstrong in her book, Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam. We can see that his marriage to Umm Habiba, who was the daughter of Abu Sufyan, the chief of the enemy of the Muslims, served to soften the stance of Abu Sufyan, and this proved advantageous to the early believing community. Historians mention this as an example of a marriage for political reasons. Likewise, the prophet married widows and other women for social reasons –women who, for example, were stranded after they migrated away from hostile territory in order to save themselves from persecution.

 

Shabir Ally

July 2017

 

 

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