Bismillāh ar-Rahmān ar-Rahīm
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Continuing from the previous report “Messengers of the 20th Century“, this article would be talking about how to go about doing da’wah and what to avoid.
Brother Syed Ali gave us his recipe for da’wah and they are:
- Attractive Approach
- Break the Barriers
- Cash on Commonalities
- Discuss the Differences
- Evaluate your Efforts
- Future Follow-up
He reminded us to always keep our smile because it is the lowest common denominator for all of humanity – everyone shares the same meaning towards a smile.
One thing that he reiterated time and time again over the 2-days workshop was how we should focus on basic human concepts that are found in Islam instead of preaching about the 5 Pillars of Islam and the 6 Articles of Faith.
For example, instead of bombarding your mosque visitors (or your non-Muslim friends at school & at work) with facts about Muslims having to pray 5 times a day and fast during Ramadhan etc, we should instead talk about values that every human share – not harming others, being good to parents, speaking kindly, not being arrogant, do not gossip, etc. Each of these values that I’ve mentioned have their dalil in the Qur’an! They are just as Islamic as the 5 Pillars of Islam.
When you set the foundation of your connection to your visitor or not-yet-Muslim friend on basics such as moral goodness, it is a good way to start linking those values to lines of the Qur’an and slowly introducing Allah and His Messenger SAW. Going straight into the 5 pillars is a big no-no for Brother Syed Ali.
Another big suggestion that he drove home was to learn more about other religions so as to find commonalities. For example, we should talk about Prophets of old that were mentioned in the Old Testament and New Testament and how we love them as much as they love those Prophets too. We should know the stories of the Prophets that came before because it is a good way to show that Islam is not anything ‘new’ and we are just merely completing the deen with the arrival of Prophet Muhammad SAW.
Another point that he made was about the motivation of these visitors to the mosques. Generally, tourists are there to take pictures and to admire the architecture of the mosque. It is very rare that you get a tourist who is actually interested to revert to Islam. Therefore, we should keep them interested by giving them what they want.
A good example Brother Syed Ali gave was of the mimbar and mihrab. These 2 prominent structures are usually aesthetically pleasing and popular places for pictures to be taken. Here, he introduced the sandwich effect. This sandwich effect is to offer secular facts and then interlace it with religious information. For example, while giving historical facts about the mihrab (when it was created, who was the designer) and the technical aspects (it is concave so that the Bilal’s voice is magnified), you can then fit in one religious information such as the mimbar being used for Friday sermons and the importance of the jemaah prayers. In this way, you keep the tourists interested and yet, they are also given new insight about Islam without being imposing.
He gave several examples on how to deal with difficult questions such as the Shia-Sunni issue, women’s oppression in Islam and the mother of all questions – “Does the Qur’an state that I’m going to Hell?”. He said our main tool is to increase our knowledge and have wisdom in answering and also to gain experience and exposure. For those who was waiting for a proper answer to that question, Bro Syed Ali did not give a textbook answer. 😛 He said it really depended on the one who asked, if they are truly interested in knowing, or if they are just trouble-makers. In any case, he said the main thing to remember is to go back to basics and talk about Islamic concepts that are shared with the rest of humanity rather than delve on the differences especially when one’s knowledge is insufficient.
InsyaAllah Brother Syed Ali will come again to Singapore next year for a similar workshop. His advice for everyone is to study comparative religion and learn other languages in order to facilitate your da’wah work.
I hope that was beneficial and may Allah grant us the knowledge and wisdom to spread love for Islam.
Wabillahi Tawfeeq wal-Hidayah,
Ameera Begum Aslam