Understanding the Perspectives of Others

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Calling to Allah is a task that seems today to be more difficult than ever, especially on the global scale. The mission of religious preachers, within their own societies and abroad, has become extremely complex and arduous. 

This does not mean that preachers should reduce their efforts in conveying Islam’s message to others, nor that they should shy away from the difficulties they face in carrying out their mission. 

Calling all people to Allah, to His true religion, and to virtue, is the mission of the Muslim community. 

Therefore, the Muslim community should move forward in the realization of this duty, guided by Prophet Muhammad’s example. He was sent by Allah to all humanity, bringing right guidance and the true religion. 

Allah says: “Say (O Muhammad): O humankind! I am indeed the messenger of Allah to you all.” [Sūrah al-A’rāf: 158] 

Allah has promised that Islam will prevail. He said: “He it is who sent His messenger with guidance and the true religion, that He may cause it to prevail over all religions, however much the idolaters may be averse.” [Sūrah at-Tawbah: 33] 

Islam’s success is realized through beautiful, honest preaching. This needs to be carried out with wisdom, respect and sensitivity to the people we address. It requires choosing appropriate means and understanding the way people think, both within the Muslim world and in non-Muslim societies. 

It requires training preachers to be able to spread the word of Allah to others and touch their hearts and souls. The Qur’an sets out methods of preaching that address both the heart and mind. 

Allah commands us: “Call unto the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.” [Sūrah al-Nahl: 125] 

As for the Prophet’s Sunnah, which conveys to us Prophet Muhammad’s words and deeds, it gives the best practical example of preaching, showing how to address people and illuminate their souls. 

During the Prophet’s lifetime, the principles and etiquettes of preaching to a diverse audience were given their best practical realisation, showing us how to engage with people with widely different understandings and experiences. 

This knowledge is one of the essential skills the preacher who calls to Allah must have. It is the first thing preachers must learn and apply in order to achieve their goals. 

Regardless of the time or place, the work of preachers requires knowledge of the Qur’an, the Prophet’s Sunnah, the study of Islamic beliefs and teachings, and ethical conduct. They must follow the Prophet’s example in how they convey the message to the people, whatever the circumstances and situations. 

At the same time, in order for Islam to prevail, we need preachers who not only possess knowledge, scholarship and exemplary conduct, but who also have detailed knowledge of the people they are addressing, and of what inspires those people in their religious and worldly lives. 

Many new issues have emerged, capturing the spirit and thinking of the people. Many of these issues are the objects of their attention and efforts. Therefore, those who call to Allah should be aware of these matters, and know what purposes lie behind them, who pulls the strings, and what good or evil consequences they have. 

More importantly, preachers must provide the Islamic perspective on these issues by weighing them in light of Islamic principles. In that way, what is wrong in these ideas and practices will stand out from what is good. When Muslims know the reality of what these issues present to them, they will be able to distinguish what is beneficial, so they can benefit from it, and what is harmful to their religious and worldly lives, so they can avoid it. 

Preachers need to have proper knowledge of the important and worthwhile issues that have captured the public imagination, like human rights, gender justice and religious tolerance. They need to understand these issues in accordance with their knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah. They also need to understand the true nature of these ideas in their various contexts, as well as the differing motives of those who advocate for them, so that they can then properly guide the people in these matters and become pioneers in the moral reform of their respective societies. 

Through our religion of Islam, we understand human dignity, equality, justice, the principle of consultation, solidarity and mutual compassion. When engaging with others, however, cultural sensitivities come into play in all of these matters, and no two audiences will mean exactly the same thing by them. 

These values are all appealing in themselves, and therefore they exercise a great attraction on people. But what about the cultural content that the terms are loaded with, both for Muslims and non-Muslims? How are these principles understood and misunderstood? What consequences do these various understandings have on our beliefs, our ethics and our conduct, especially when we misconstrue these ideas and fail to verify the various implications and the myriad assumptions that operate behind them? 

This is why cultural sensitivity and a deep understanding of different cultural outlooks are indispensable to Islamic work.

Sheikh `Abd Allah b. ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-Turkī, Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs

Source: en.islamtoday.net (Aug. 18, 2015)