Thursday, January 26, 2012

Preaching of Islam: Ethical Guideposts

Islam does not enjoin upon every Muslim to devout himself wholly to the preaching of Islam; for if it were so, Muslims could not earn their livelihood nor take part in other healthy pursuits of life. Whereas all should try to preach and propagate the truth of Islam, only a section of the community is required to devote itself exclusively to work of propagation. Though all must contribute their quota, there should be a party of men among Muslims who should be entirely devoted to this work'. 

The Holy Qur’an provides guidelines for preaching the message of Islam and the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius gave a profound discourse on the subject in his Friday Sermon of January 20, 2012.  

Read the Extracts from the Sermon:

“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortations and argue with them in a way that is best, surely your Lord knows best who has strayed from His way, and He knows those who are rightly guided.” (16: 126)

The word “Hikma” (wisdom) in the verse means: (1) knowledge or science; (2) Equity or justice; (3) Forbearance or clemency; (4) Any saying or disclosure dealing with the exigencies of the occasion; (5) Gift of prophesy; and (6) What prevents or restrains from ignorant behaviour.

The word may be used in all these senses. Taking it in the first sense, the verse would mean that Muslims should invite others to Islam by argument based on knowledge and reason and should not confine themselves merely to making appeals to sentiments and emotions.

Using it in the second sense would be that, when arguing with the followers of the other faiths, Muslim missionaries should not bring forward such objections against these faiths as can be advanced against Islam itself, for such a course is not only inconsistent with justice, but is also unsound.

In the third sense, the verse would mean that Muslims should explain the beauties of Islam with patience.

In the fourth sense the verse would mean that while inviting other people to Islam, Muslims should not say anything which is not true and is not in accordance with facts, for if they resorted to falsehood while preaching truth they would be ruining their own souls in order to save those of others. Moreover, their discourse should be conformable to the exigencies of the occasion and should not wound other people’s susceptibilities.

Using the word in the fifth sense, the verse would mean that Muslims should invite men to Islam by using susceptibilities. Using the word in the fifth sense, the verse means arguments contained in the Quran and not arguments which are the creation of their own fancy.

Lastly, in the sixth sense, the verse would mean that the talk of Muslims should not be beyond the comprehension of those to whom the appeal is made. They should say things which may help to resolve the doubts of others and not display or demonstrate their own talents and learning. The words “goodly exhortations” mean “a discourse which softens the hearts of the hearers and makes a deep impression on them”.

Thus the Quran exhorts its followers not to content themselves with mere cold and dry reasoning but to reinforce and support philosophical dissertations with an appeal to sentiments. This appeal, however, should be “goodly exhortations”, that is, it should be based on pure truth and there should be no prevarication or tampering with facts.

The expression, “Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His way, and He knows those who are rightly guided, contains a word of encouragement and good cheer for the Muslim evangelist. He is told that if in spite of his best efforts he finds that his preaching has not had the desired effect, he should not get discouraged and think that his preaching was defective, but should continue his noble pursuit and leave the ultimate result to God, because He alone knows who is deserving and destined to be guided to the right path.

As Islam was to spread abroad and was to be preached to the people who claimed to possess revealed scriptures, Muslims have been told in this verse that a much more difficult task lay ahead of them. While dealing with idolaters it was easy enough to refute idolatry, but in the case of “the People of the Book” the Excellencies of Islamic teachings would have to be proved regarding details and auxiliary matters also.

“And who is better in speech than he who invites men to Allah and does righteous deeds and says: “Indeed, I am of the Muslims”. And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel (evil) by that (deed) which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity (will become) as though he was a devoted friend. But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except one having a great share of good.” (41: 34-36)

There could be no better avocation for a person than to call men to God and to conform his own conduct to the teachings he preaches to others and to submit entirely to the will of God. This is the essence of Islam.

Preaching entails many hardships, therefore, the verse enjoins bearing them patiently and with fortitude, and to return good for evil he receives at the hands of one’s persecutors. The very high standard of good moral conduct referred to in the verse can only be attained by putting up, without grumbling or fretting, with hardships one has to face in the way of God.

(Received while I was writing this Sermon):

“The road to Allah is very difficult; indeed filled with all kinds of trials and difficulties. The preacher needs to find means and ways subtle enough to pass on the message of Islam in peace and with delicacy so that the recipient may be filled with the sweetness of the spiritual food offered to him. The love of Allah is more fragrant than the most beautiful and perfumed of bouquets of flowers. Each of the commandment of the Quran is like a petal of the flower of life which the believer has to smell and intake its sweet perfume so that his soul may be saved and be etched forever in the divine embrace. May Allah enable each Sahih al Islam members to be of great service to Allah, to His ever righteous cause and fidel to Allah and His Messenger come what may. The road is a long one until the fruit is pluck and tasted under the wonderful gaze of the Lord.” Insha -Allah. Ameen.