Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Islam spreads, not by Force, but by Good Behaviour

Islam spreads, not by force
but by good behaviour

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Islam spreads, not by force as alleged, but by good behaviour, Akhlaq in Arabic. You can win hearts by sweet words, not by harsh words which destroy your credibility because unkind words hurt the hearts of the people which you are keen to win. Da’wah is not as simple as people consider it so; because it is something to deal with heart, feeling, love, affection and psychology. One can knock down the house of friendship in one second which has taken years to build. That’s why, the small piece in the human body, the tongue, is very important in the whole body; it can take you to the Heaven or drop you in the Hell-fire.

There is one person, I know, though he is a scientist by profession, loved by everybody, from the King at the top to the man on the street, the poorest of the poor, at the bottom, due to his Akhlaq. People say about him that “he is a Rajul Saleh, the good man.”

He is Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, Professor of Geology, at King Abdulaziz University, former President of King Abdulaziz University, ex-Secretary General of the Muslim World League (Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami), former Deputy Chairman of the Majlis-e-Shoura of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and presently, the President of the World Muslim Congress and Secretary General of the International Islamic Council of Dawah and Relief (IICDR). He travelled most of the countries of the world; met and discussed many issues with the Vatican Pope and with the Secretary General of the United Nations. This is the Akhlaq we have to cultivate.

I used the word, Akhlaq, in the beginning; because it is a word which stands for a very wide and broader meaning. It conveys the combination of the words, gentle tongue, soft heart, fellow feeling, love and helping attitude, in short, good conduct and good behaviour. There is a proverb in English, courtesy costs nothing. This is one thing which we have to learn when we want to do Da’wah.

However, Da’wah is still considered to be the responsibility of every person, in the narrower sense of the term, which means you have to call people to do good deeds and restrain people from doing harmful or wrong deeds. In that sense, no doubt, Da’wah is easy but it involves many things such as negotiation, communication and engagement and to do this sort of things one needs proper education, training and experience. That’s why, one of the speakers at a recently held international Da'wah Conference at Hilton Paddington, Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick emphasised on three things: Talim, Tablig and Tatbiq. Basic knowledge on Qur’an and Sunnah and some education and training is essential which requires at least spending some of their time on that. Not only that, it also needs some training on how to communicate with wisdom, tact and patience.

After saying all this as an introductory remark, I would like to report what the most distinguished and renowned scholars of the world have to say about engagement and how to do Da’wah and what are the essential requirements and mechanism of Da’wah. Before I start to report that, I must have to say and acknowledge my gratitude to Sir Iqbal Sacranie without whose efforts, it is quite impossible for me to report this. So I am grateful to him. I expect our younger generation to learn from their elders.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie
While speaking about the issue of engagement, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain and presently Chairman of Muslim Aid, said at an International Da’wah Conference in London on 16th of January, 2011: “I will talk on the policy of engagement as a part of the work related to Da’wah. The very basic concept of engagement within the Muslim community and outside must always be paramount in ensuring it meets the criteria of the message of Holy Qur’an and supported by the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). i.e. the Qur’an and Sunnah need to be the pivotal in that engagement. Once this is being clear then I think it is sufficient to meet, to discuss with any part of the society.”

Mentioning about the Muslim population of the UK which is about 3%, just over 2.5 million and the responsibility to convey the Message of Truth, of Islam to the wider community, to the wider society, Sir Iqbal enquired, “How can it be done?” and replied, “Of course this evening we are listening the distinguished scholars and they will go into depths. We are going to hear from them the key topics – how it is being done effectively in different parts of the world or in the West and in the Muslim countries.”

Muslims have been living in this country for the last 40 years and some of the brothers would have experienced in some way or other that we are not being recognised as who we are; of our faith; said Sir Iqbal while mentioning about the issue of identity and added, “We are usually being recognised as non-White persons, as part of the Black community; as part of the Asians, of the Sub-continent. But the issue of faith does not come in; that is realised much earlier just before the formation of the Muslim Council of Britain, i.e. look as we are. But how one judges a person; the one’s actions, the one’s deeds; but what motivates this actions or deeds; but, of course, the issue came in, it’s the issue of faith.”

“Faith plays a key role in terms of how you behave in the society and how you interact and what benefit you want to achieve for the welfare of the society at large." said Sir Iqbal and mentioned, “Surely, it was about time to reflect and it is crucial that the recognition of faith comes in. And that was the question of religious affiliation.”

After narrating the long story about the immense discussions, deliberations, meetings and conferences, Sir Iqbal mentioned, “The one aspect which became so important is to address the need of understanding of what the faith is all about.”

After narrating the whole story of the recognition of faith as a fact, Sir Iqbal said, “The message coming out is that through that engagement, through the wider society, through the people of power whether the Government, the Councils or the people of other faiths; once you could mention them that our faith is not a religion that causes harm but a religion that is for the betterment of mankind and how that is come in.”

The next question which Sir Iqbal mentioned which is absolutely important, which I have mentioned in my introductory remarks “that is absolutely vital and that is the message the way we convey ourselves; the behaviour. The time God Almighty told Moses when you meet Pharaoh you have to be conveying the Message of Islam to be very gently and in proper manner. The tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he was with the Jews and the Nasarah how did he engage to convey the message across. These are the practical examples that one’s beliefs is important for us putting into our daily lives when we engage.”

“At the present time we are experiencing the concern that we see from certain sectors from the media, from the neo-con the extreme brand is to denigrate deliberately our faith by coming up with the examples of the situation of Denmark, of Cartoons, some articles that vilify our beloved Prophet; they come with different ideas and games,” mentioned Sir Iqbal and said, “This is the time Insha Allah, the Message of Deen has come out with very positive way and constructive way as we see through IERA. This will automatically bring out the better understanding.”

Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick
The next speaker, renowned Da’wah worker, spoke extensively on how to engage. Dr. Abdullah Hakim, Historian, Lecturer and Media Consultant, said, “It is an invitation; it is just giving of a message, it may be a discussion, or but no one understands that is coming out from the field and really looking back at the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and those great duwat of Islamic history it is that the Sheikh has said that Da’wah is encouraging people to goodness and guidance; calling to the good and forbidding the evil in order that you manage yourself to get the best and would be happy and enjoy the life of this world and the Hereafter.”

Foundation of Da’wah laid by the Prophet
(Peace be upon him)

“So really Da’wah is not just a specific engagement, it is a whole process and we need to be giving it to look Da’wah as a process and the best example of that is our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). So we got from the Seerah and from a series of Duwat who led all the people of Da’wah coming from Madinah,” mentioned by Dr. Abdullah Hakim and said, “They were engaged in three major activities: right from the beginning. This is the establishment of the foundation of this encouragement.”

Dr. Abdullah Hakim mentioned, “The first great activity done by the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the establishment of the House of Allah and by establishing the House of Allah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was establishing, we will call today, the all-purpose Islamic centre. So within this structure there was not only Islamic prayer but there was education, there was dialogue, there was engagement, there was even political town hall meeting going on within this structure. So the essence of Da’wah is coming out of the House of Allah the Almighty which is the centre of the community.”

“The second great activity done by the Prophet (peace be upon him) was to strengthen the relationship of the believers one to another. This is really important, because people who enter Islam need to enter into community where there is Islam and brotherhood. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) established this relationship between the believers and bringing them together; they shared their livelihood, they shared their lives. So they became living collectively, they could take in people who were coming from outside,” mentioned Dr. Abdullah Hakim.

Dr. Abdullah Hakim continued, “The third major activity was strengthening the relationship between Muslims and people of other faiths; and Prophet (peace be upon him) laid down in this case the Covenant of Madinah and this was the first time that a powerful majority group recognised the relationship of minority people within the structure. So the people of other faiths, the Jews of Madinah was allowed to stay within their religion and they were part of the society with their rights and responsibilities like the Muslim themselves.”

So with these three great activities, Dr. Abdullah Hakim maintained, the Prophet (peace be upon him) established the basis of this encouragement of humanity looking first to the Creator within ourselves and then keeping that relationship with other faiths.

While narrating how the foundation of Da’wah laid by the Prophet (peace be upon him) Dr. Abdullah Hakim also mentioned that there is another definition of Da’wah which is “Da’watul Islamia”. “It is something, the real Da’wah; the process of Da’wah the whole picture is to spread the message to the people, to teach them what it is and to put it into practice in real life. So it is not just words; education involved in it; it comes into culmination through practical application in life itself,” said Dr. Abdullah Hakim.

Mentioning the background of Da’wah, Dr. Abdullah Hakim said, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent companions for Da’wah. In his Farewell Pilgrimage Sermons at Arafat over 100,000 people, Prophet (peace be upon him) was telling them those are present ‘you should take this message to those who are absent’. So most of his Companions died outside Hejaz. They spread Islam to different parts of the world. This was not done intellectually. It was an engagement; an interaction with society.”

Spread of Da’wah to al-Andalus
Then Dr. Abdullah Hakim narrated his recent experience of the discovery of the spread of Da’wah and which is one of the best example for Europe itself. He found this recently in another journey that took him to Andalus, to Spain and Portugal. He stated, “That the leader of Muslims in North Africa, Musa ibn Nusseir, responded to the call of the monotheistic Christian people and Jewish people who were being persecuted in the Iberian Peninsula. He responded to this call and Tariq ibn Ziyad went across and engaged with those who were in oppression and became victorious. As Tariq and Musa went through the country the people opened up their doors. No resistance; historians looked at why is this?”

“It is not because of large army; it is not because of terrible weapons; it was because they were establishing justice; they were lowering taxes; and they were also recognising people from where they were. So the Jewish people were allowed to stay on their faith. Christian people were allowed to stay on their faith; and what is interesting of this point of history is that it is about 40 years period of total freedom inside the Iberian Peninsula the people have not known for centuries,” mentioned Dr. Abdullah Hakim and said, “Within that 40 year period people realised that they needed direction; they really needed to understand what are the message they brought to us; who are the people who are leading Islam and this is where the great leaders claim should be recognised, should be written in golden letters in our history, is Abd-ar Rahman ibn Mu’awiyah ibn Hisham.”

Abd-ar Rahman ibn Mu’awiyah ibn Hisham was the last of the great Umayyyad’s leaders whose mother was from North Africa from Berber people. Dr. Abdullah Hakim said, “When we look at his life, we find during his period that he ruled he was able to not only establish Islam as a way of life; but thousands of people actually embraced Islam on his hands. And I was shocked to find out at the society that majority of people who accepted Islam and was practising Islam in al-Andalus; they were not Berbers, they were not West Africans, they were European peoples who embraced Islam.”

Tabliq, Taleem and Tatbikh
The question then comes why they embraced Islam? Why they changed their life-styles? Dr. Quick said, “Remember the principles, Tablig, Taleem and Tatbikh. It is reported that he did not locked himself away at the palace; he would go down to the streets and would feed the poor, would interact with people; he would attend funeral prayers, he was concerned with the people within his society itself and one of his first acts was to bring water into the city.”

“Abd-ar-Rahman made his capital Cordoba and one of his first acts was to bring about water into the city. Through the use of aqueducts he brought in water, which developed irrigation and he begun to change the quality of lifestyle of the people. The presence of running water, of fresh water is crucial point in raising the standard of living of people of any society,” said Dr. Quick and mentioned, “It is also reported that following this he negotiated with the Christian people of Cordoba. He did not take over their Cathedrals that used to be the temples; he bought the Cathedrals for 100,000 dinars. He bought from Christians who allowed him to establish in other places the places of worship in the other parts of the city. He lifted taxes of the people within the society; established Masjids as an educational centre and a spiritual centre. It is interesting because this man was penetrating inside. This is the real Da’wah.”

The next major act he did is through education. “Abd-ar-Rahman established educational institutions for young people in society; he tried to help all young people in the society to learn to read, write and study arithmetic and also those who were Muslims and those who were interested to study the Qur’an and Hadiths. So education was encouraged,” said Dr. Abdullah Quick and mentioned, “He also encouraged trades. People should learn trades and he increased types of trades that the people were learning. Not only the normal trade that we get in the society, but he introduced paper-making; glass-blowing, porcelain development and weaving. He took the society into another stage and gave opportunity to the people of employment.”

Welfare of the People
Dr. Abdullah Quick said, “Purification of water; education, employment, selfless leader who would come down and engaged with people. We find that he developed beautiful gardens, he opened up public baths; he established Madrasahs within the society. We find following this, he also engaged in mass agriculture. So he encouraged Muslims to be involved in agriculture and they studied lands and introduced those fruits and vegetables which would be suitable for the climate of al-Andalus. He also introduced peaches, pomegranates, grape fruits. So the society begun to bloom; he raised the status of the people and they were being engaged in another level.”

“He did not compel the Christians or the Jews to accept Islam. As one of the followers of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) he developed toleration. It is reported that this was one of the greatest periods of Jewish literature. The great Jewish scholar, Mamum Maimonides, lived during this period. The Christian Kings and Queens sent their children to Toledo, Granada, Seville, and Cordoba; for higher education and through this higher education and advancement made by Muslims during this period, Europe actually became renaissance. We understand now with the re-analysis of history this was not actually the dark ages of Europe; it was actually the golden age,” said Dr. Abdullah Quick and added, “This is not Moorish history in Spain; it is European history; and it is important for us to understand that many of the great scholars of the period would have accepted Islam, not through compulsion but through upgrading their lives.”

Dr. Abdullah Quick also mentioned, “Islam was spread by people showed a superior form of living; highest standard of living; tolerance of other people; God-consciousness in the time when people were losing their faith. So this is a beautiful example of Da’wah in its essence. Remember the first definition, when you look at the word Khair in Arabic, goodness; it is not goodness that is something which is opposed to bad. It is the general welfare of the people. So we understand from this that the process established by the Prophet (peace be upon him) which was taken on by the scholars, by activists, by great leaders moving to the outer world. This is the real process of Da’wah. This is the process whereby the words become actions; people begin to see that the problems they are facing in the society at their pointed time can be solved by submission to the Creator of the Heavens and the earth.”

Islam has gems of Wisdom
Dr. Abdullah Quick said, “As a basic, the Talim, Tablig and Tatbikhs, spreading the message to the people; getting them to understand, educating them, opening up our doors, providing resources to the society to understand what Islam really is and finally the Tatbikhs, that is practical application of Islam in dealing with the real problems of the societies. Today’s world is going through tremendous crisis, we are in economic recession; we are facing with our families, alcoholism and illegal drugs destroying our population. Racism is on the rise; confusion is alive within people on the concept of Creator; there is rise of magicians; there is rise of cults in societies; there is spiritual vacuum; and so Islam has gems of wisdom. And it is really for Muslims for those who are holding this message, these beautiful gems of wisdom, to first put into our own lives and then encourage people, not through force but through active sincere engagement.”

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