How Should We Speak to Them about Islam?

Since 2004-01-20

Muslims going to America and Europe are faced with a flood of questions about Islam. People have many ways of asking these question and different motivations for doing so, but their questions are essentially as follows:

Why does Islam permit polygamy?

Why is a woman counted as half a man in matters of inheritance and when she gives testimony?

Why does Islam "belittle" women?

Is Islam a religion of terror since it prescribes jihad?

Who should we believe: Sunnis or Shiites?

Questions like these are what occupy their minds when they think about Islam, since the Western media has actively maligned Islam as a religion of lust and blood and nothing else. When our Muslim youth goes to their countries, they often find such questions awkward and try to evade them.

They might say things like: Permission for polygamy is conditional upon justice between wives and justice between wives is impossible to achieve. Allah says: "You will not be able to be just between women even if you strive to do so." [Sûrah al-Nisâ': 129] Whatever is conditional upon something impossible is impossible itself. Therefore, polygamy is forbidden in Islam.

In many cases, Muslims will come across a strange opinion on a matter and promote it simply because it is more conciliatory.

When I visited America, I found that many Muslims who did not have correct or sufficient Islamic knowledge suffered from such difficulties. They really did not know what to do.

I used to tell them the following: Why should we be on the defensive? Why don't we adopt a more assertive attitude? If they confront us one question, we should respond with ten of our own. If they ask us about jihad, we should ask them about America's openly aggressive policies in many parts of the world, not to mention all of their covert operations.

If they ask you about polygamy, ask them about the sexual promiscuity that is rife in their societies that has brought humiliation to so many women and allowed men to absolve themselves of their responsibilities towards them and towards their children?

If they ask you about inequalities in inheritance, ask them about the reality in their own country where a woman earns only 60% of what a man earns for doing the exact same job.

I do not mean that we should be evasive. However, it is not good for you to respond when you are in a state of weakness and difficulty where there is a danger that you might answer falsely and misrepresent Allah's religion in order to appease someone else.

You can move on to a more advanced level of discourse and demonstrate that Islamic teachings are the solution to the problems that they are suffering from. For instance, according to some assessments, there are 119 women to every 100 men in the United States. In some states, the number is more like 160 women to every 100 men. Polygamy is the solution to the problems that ensue under such circumstances, since it requires some men to assume responsibility for more than one woman and to be as just as humanly possible in doing so.

We can stress how Islam teaches equality between all people. There is no preference for anyone over anyone else except by a person's piety and virtue. This is the way to do away with the problem of racism that people in the West suffer from.

The Islamic teachings about jihad are what uproots oppression and guarantees people the freedom to think and to choose their religion for themselves without being under any compulsion. Islam seeks to have people freely submit themselves to their Creator and not be placed under the subjugation of any worldly dictator, race, tribe, or nationality.

There are a few points that I would like to emphasize:

1. Matters of Islamic law are established by the unambiguous texts of the Qur'ân and Sunnah. No one, regardless of who he is, has the right to change, add, or subtract anything to placate anyone's desires or fears. When someone who is calling others to Islam meddles with Allah's ruling on a matter and misinforms people, he is doing a disservice to Islam as well as deceiving others. He has no right to meddle in matters of Islamic Law that are the jurisdiction of Allah alone.

2. Matters that fall within the scope of juristic discretion and allow for differences of opinion should be presented in a balanced and objective manner by the person who is calling others to Islam. He should take circumstances into consideration when doing so. He should not select the most severe and restrictive opinion on a matter and present it to the people as if it is Islam itself, especially when he is trying to endear Islam to the people's hearts.

3. Our objective should be to convince others of the correctness of the Islamic ruling so that they will accept it. We must employ all of our knowledge and reasoning abilities in achieving this objective. We must provide all the relevant facts. We can employ to our advantage other aspects of knowledge that we find to be of benefit in convincing others of Islam, like the scientific miracles of the Qur'ân, statistical information, circumstances and experiences, and rational arguments. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, this is an integral part of conveying the truth to the people.

4. We must instill in the hearts of our young people complete and total confidence in every aspect of Islam, from the most general teachings of their faith to the most specific. We must dispel any sense of weakness or deficiency that they might possibly feel at the hands of some of those who dispute with them.

We do a disservice to Islam if we lead the people to believe that Islam is close to the life that they already living and that the Islamic approach to life is not much different than their own. This only makes the people feel that Islam is unnecessary for them and encourages them to turn away from it. They are, in fact, trying to escape from the hellish aspects of the lives that they are already leading. They need to be presented with an alternative.

When they ask about Islam or even about something else, they are looking for a way out. They are looking for something to rescue them. Therefore, we must present Islam to them with all of its uniqueness and show them clearly how it differs from their own life experiences. In this way, we encourage them to think about Islam.

We must present Islam to them in a logical manner with clear and insightful arguments. Our responsibility ends here. Indeed, this was the extent of the responsibility of Allah's Messengers (peace be upon them). Allah says to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

"It is naught your duty but to convey the message." [Sûrah al-Shûrâ: 48]

"It is your duty only to convey the message. It is upon Us to take account." [Sûrah al-Ra`d: 40]

"So admonish them. You are but one who admonishes. You do not control their affairs." [Sûrah al-Ghâshiyah: 21-22]

It is not necessary for us to fancy that the whole world will convert to Islam at our hands. However, we must be eager to guide them and we must seek to do so in every possible and permissible way. We should perfect our way of presenting Islam to them, taking into account the age, circumstances, and level of knowledge of those whom we are addressing. We must present to them the noble Islamic values of freedom, justice, and human dignity and prove to them that Islam is superior to everything that they already know.

Above and beyond all of this, we must conduct ourselves in the best, moth ethical manner and present our own lives as a practical example of moral virtue.

Unfortunately, many Muslims call people to Islam with their tongues while pushing them away from it with their ignoble, contradictory conduct and with their narrow-mindedness.

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