On another note my friend Vanessa and I had a good conversation yesterday about religion. Vanessa is from the Philippines, and she is Christian, she knows I'm muslim but we've never really talked about our religious beliefs. Though we spend a lot of time together, I realized that Vanessa doesn't know what I beleive in. It all started when she complained that she had to get up at 6:00 am yesterday. I told her it wasn't that bad since I wake up at that time every day to pray for Fajr. Now that beats the hell out of her! Vanessa could not comprehend why I had to pray 5 times a day! Here's how the conversation went:
Vanessa: You pray 5 times a day? 5 times?
Vanessa: Oh My Gosh, even on weekends?
Me: No, not on my day off....duh of course on weekends too lol.
Vanessa: But why? Is there something special going on?
Me: humm No, as Muslims we have to pray 5 times a day
Vanessa: Forever? You don't ever stop? You have to do it all your life?
Me: hmm.... No you stop when you start collecting social securiry at age 59 1/2....just kidding. Praying is part of our daily routine, so as long as we are alive and able we have to pray.
Vanessa: And how long does one prayer last?
Me: Between 5-10 minutes depending on the prayer
Vanessa: Awwww that is so longgg
Me: No, that's not long you've been here talking for more than 5 minutes so you can give 5 minutes to God.
Vanessa: So what do you guys beleive in?
So, it went on and on and I told her about the 5 pillars of Islam, how we are supposed to live as Muslims, why Muslim women cover, misconceptions, and so on. At the end of our conversation, Vanessa was happy that she knew more about Islam and confessed that she doesn't know a lot about religion. As for me, I was happy to share the knowledge and give for once an accurate image of Islam instead of a negative biased one presented by the media. That reminded me that I have failed to do appropriate dawah with my non-Muslim friends. I have a lot of non-Muslim friends, but realized that they do not understand what I beleive in because I never felt the need to tell them about Islam. Not to convert/revert them, but just to share the knowledge. My non-Muslim friends and I learn a lot about each other, but what have I taught them about Islam? Did their thoughts or feelings of Islam and Muslims improve because they knew me? No, not necessarily.That saddened me, because on the day of Judgment, when Allah will ask to every muslim: what did you tell to your non-Muslim neighbor, friend, family member about Me? I'd be silent! It is important than we as Muslims realize that we have to do dawah around us. We have to at least convey what Islam is about or to the minimum show it from our actions. Scholars have said that as far as the issue of da`wah in the sense of preaching is concerned, it is regarded as fard kifayah (collective obligation) on Muslims. But da`wah in the sense of setting a good example is fard `ayan (individual obligation) on Muslims to safeguard their religion and convey its message to Muslims and non-Muslims as well. With regard to the methods of giving da`wah, they are many: wise and gentle approach, giving speeches and sermons, setting good example for others to follow, etc.
Highlighting the importance and obligation of da`wah, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former head of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and member of the Fiqh Council of North America, says:
We should first understand what da`wah is. Da`wah means to invite people to the way of Allah the Almighty, to call unto them to know the truth and follow it.
Da`wah is done in two ways. The first one is through example, through being a role model. In the Qur'anic terminology it is called "being witnesses towards mankind" (Shuhada' 'ala an-nasi). It is the duty of every Muslim, male or female, young or old, to be a witness of Almighty Allah among the people. When people see a Muslim, they should see a good person, a person of truth, of sincerity and of virtue. A Muslim's life should be an open invitation through which people see the beauty of Islam and find it an interesting code of ethics and teachings to follow. Allah Most High says in the Qur'an: "Thus we have appointed you a middle community in order that you may be witnesses towards humankind and that the Messenger may be a witness towards you… (Al-Baqarah:143). All Muslims must give da`wah through their good Islamic life as individuals, as families and as communities. People who come into contact with them should see Islam as a living and practical faith that makes the life of human beings better.
Another way of giving da`wah is through teaching, preaching, communication, engaging in dialogues, discussions and debates, writing books and articles, giving lectures, etc. Almighty Allah says: “Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. " (An-Nahl: 125) Of course this requires deep knowledge, preparation and training. Muslims should use the most effective and appropriate methods of da`wah in every place and time. Nowadays, for example, da`wah requires modern ways such as the use of radio, television, Internet in addition to the person-to-person preaching and teaching.
I know that every Muslim would not have time to go through this kind of training and give da`wah in this way. But some people must prepare themselves and engage in this field, as Allah the Exalted says: "And the believers should not all go out to fight. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk when they return to them, so that they may beware." (At-Tawbah 9:122)