In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Verily, all praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His assistance and we ask for His forgiveness. And we seek refuge in Him from the evils of ourselves. Whoever Allah guides, none can misguide. Whoever He misguides, none can guide. And I bear witness that there is no deity other than Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.
Dear brothers and sisters, know that dialogue gives us the opportunity to listen to, to argue, agree to disagree, negotiate, and explore almost anything without losing self- confidence, temper, patience, and dignity. It is the only peaceful, civilised and humanistic approach towards negotiations.
Respected brothers and sisters, peace indicates tranquility, mental calm, quiet, serenity, reconciliation, amity, accord, concord, friendliness, harmony, on the one hand and absence of, or cessation of war, state of reconciliation after strife and enmity, freedom from mental agitation or anxiety, freedom from civil disorder and strife, on the other.
Thus, peace has positive and negative dimensions. It implies that when there is no war, strife, enmity, mental agitation or anxiety and civil disorder, peace prevails as a consequence. But, in cases when personal or social problems and conflicts exist, there is no peace on individual or community level.
Therefore, to strive for changing, these circumstances with the virtues of tranquility, serenity, reconciliation, amity, harmony etc. are required for making peace or keeping peace at individual and societal levels. Thus, the natural harmony and law, when disturbed, lead to antithesis of peace, i.e., strife, war, anxiety, enmity and disorder etc. But, if the natural law, which governs human life and human societies, is preserved there will be peace.
There is a very close relationship between peace and harmony at personal and societal levels. Peace creates concord, balance, consistency, unanimity, compatibility and stability at individual and collective levels and helps to effect accord in facts, views and it acts and helps in making sympathetic relationships and mutual similarities the focal point of human concern. When peace and harmony are achieved in this inter-related manner, the expectation for a trustful, promising, secure, and faithful existence of human beings becomes possible.
Respected servants of Allah, according to the noble Qur’an, dialogue and reasoning in the best possible way are important methods of communicating, upholding the truth and resisting falsehood. The ultimate aim of doing this is to arrive at the truth. Within the framework of Islamic Da’awah, dialogue is a tool of correction, construction and self-evaluation. Dialogue is a shared tool of awareness due to which opinions are formed, questions are examined and the implications of Islamic or theoretical evidence are concluded. It is a tool of consultation, mutual advice and cooperation in righteousness and piety, coursers which is the road to maturity and perfection. Errors can be corrected, deficiencies are taken care of, and the course of religion and advocacy is straightened out only when we welcome a dialogue and train ourselves to accept criticism and revision. When this happens, our dialogues will be educational and systematic, enriching the nation with religious studies and academic theses.
The global Islamic awakening has turned into a general renaissance for all classes; it is no longer the sole monopoly of any party. The new generation has a rightful claim on Islamic Da’awah to appreciate their reasoning powers, recognise their abilities and reveal to them the truth concerning the progress of advocacy, whether negative or positive. We are not expected to defend the attitude of one particular Islamic school or famous personality, and then try to justify it or conceal errors; our cause is much deeper and more serious than that. The vanguard of the Islamic awakening aspires to achieve the divine approach to dialogue, with all its clarity and purity of purpose, free from muddiness and blemishes. This is because Allah’s injunctions are clear and His approach will last longer than anyone or anything else.
Difference in opinion is a natural thing and a healthy phenomenon, which enriches the nation with mature ideas. If such difference of opinion is utilised correctly, it becomes a remarkable tool for evaluating things from different points of view and dimensions. Unfortunately, such differences have turned into bitter quarrels and alarming fights that have weakened the body of Islam. This is due to the absence of serious dialogue and mutual consultation by various parties. The channels of a prudent scholarly dialogue are broken, which is why plausible reasoning and similar opinions have turned into a potential source of intellectual partisanship and personal conflict. Dialogues have regressed to being noscholarships more than an exchange of accusations and abuse.
Over time, Islamic scholars have developed certain Shari’ah-based principles that may be seen as a basic methodology for conducting an Islamically correct and fruitful dialogue. Here are some of these principles:
It is necessary for the interlocutor to be knowledgeable about the subject that he intends to debate over. At the same time, he should be able to examine, weigh and give preference to various types of evidence, deduce results and collect every piece of evidence. Further, he should be familiar with the science of abrogation and abrogated verses of the Noble Qur’an, the allowed and the restricted, the particular and the general, as well as the authentic and the weak. Nobody should venture into debate without complete intellectual and scholarly faculties. Allah has rebuked those who argue without knowledge, and Says:
“Here you are—those who have argued about that of which you have (some) knowledge, but why do you argue about that of which you have no knowledge? And Allah knows, while you know not.” [Qur’an, 3:66]
Partisan education adopted by some Islamic workers destroys the mind and kills creativity, thought and meditation. It relies on drilling its followers in the principles and methodology of the party rigidly and literally, regardless of their validity. Thereafter, the party member is taught to slander and belittle others, while being unaware of the reality, or even the reason why he is being asked to behave in that particular manner, and most seriously, without any knowledge about the punishment of slander. Indoctrination by parties results in an incomplete education; it is only good for creating unthinking people who parrot whatever the party deems correct.
2. Good understanding
For debate to proceed in the right direction, it is necessary to possess a good understanding of the opponent’s arguments, his evidence and the background influencing his actions. Often, a debate lingers on with differences persisting on both sides and the subjects being discussed becoming increasingly arcane without reaching any conclusion. The reason for this is that each side was unable to understand the basis of the other’s evidence as well as their entire aim.
Understanding is the cornerstone of debate; by contrast, misunderstanding may compel the interlocutor to accept what is wrong, reject what is right or misinterpret things. Imam Al-Subki may Allah have mercy upon him said:
“I have often seen people listening, but (they) misunderstand what they hear. Consequently, they would alter the aim intended by the book or the author and mislead their colleagues and their followers into conclusions the author has never meant.”
3. Reasons for misunderstanding
Some of the primary elements which cause misunderstanding are:
• Insufficient knowledge
• Distance between interlocutors, which may force interlocutors to rely solely on hearsay. If both sides were to meet face-to-face and talk to each other, the picture would be clear and all ambiguities will be removed.
• Differences of expression: To avert the problem of linguistic differences, the interlocutor must observe clarity and explicitness. He should be able to control his words and expressions, as well as be accurate in presenting his evidence and supportive arguments.
Islam is a universal way of life and therefore addresses the entire community. This flows firstly from the fact that Islam is the religion prescribed by Allah, the Almighty, to the whole of humanity. Secondly, Islam, being a complete code of life, providing clear-cut criteria for man’s activity in all domains of life, social, economical, political and ideological alike, possesses all-embracing characteristics. Hence it naturally captures the interest of the highly cultured and the less educated, the wealthy and the poor, the specialist and the layman, the intellectual and the ordinary.
Addressing His Messenger (Peace be upon him) Allah, the Most Exalted, Says:
“And We have not sent you except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all humanity.” [Qur’an, 34:28]
“And verily We have sent you as a mercy to all humanity.” [Qur’an, 21:107]
An efficient and effective invitation of the general public and the relatively more gifted minds among the people in particular call for several important considerations which, in fact, require rigorous study.
First and foremost, the Muslim who wishes to carry the burden of his sublime mission, so that all those concerned may be properly enlightened through him about Islam, should have sufficient knowledge and correct understanding of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Ideally, he should be aware of the relevant past experiences throughout the history of the Muslim Ummah. Further, he should possess a sufficient insight into human psychology. He also ought to be intelligent enough to adapt himself to various circumstances and identify and define the problems with which he is confronted.
More so today than in the past, the presentation of the message of Islam requires efficient planning, intelligent organisation and thoughtful co-ordination of activities for the work to be lasting and productive. In order for this gigantic task to be fruitful, it should be backed up by state or state-like powerful organisations.
It must be pointed-out that Christian Missions in Africa and Asia are eliciting enormous support form the governments of their respective countries as well as private institutions. In addition to this, the tremendously wealthy churches implement their plans through their own missionary organisations.
The continuous flow of generous funds from Europe and America have enabled these Christian Missionaries to establish thousands of primary, secondary and high schools, fully equipped modern hospitals and cultural centers everywhere they could, even in major Muslim countries such as Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey.
The foregoing discussion should at least serve as a basis for comparison between what people on the other side of the fence have been doing and what we Muslims ought to do, but are a long way off doing it.
The scope of Islamic work involved in the field and the complexities of modern life imposed upon our societies have rendered individual efforts ineffective. The ideal of furthering the Islamic cause cannot possibly be realised by the efforts of part-time workers and untrained individuals with meager resources.
The fact that the work undertaken by some groups of Muslims has not scored success by any measure, ought to be attributed to an appalling lack of education, training and understanding of current problems as well as inadequate means and methods to approach the parties concerned, while the sincerity and devotion of the individuals involved in such groups deserves the praise.
The question ‘how and where to work’ must be answered realistically. There are two main areas where Islamic work needs to be carried out. Firstly, countries with predominantly Muslim populations, having long-established Islamic tradition. Secondly, countries having little or no Muslim populations, but possessing a high potential for ‘Islamization.’
It is a sad fact that many parts of the Muslim World today feel themselves deprived of Islamic culture and education by western colonisation of the past or by damaging influences of alien cultures and ideologies, still persisting in Muslim lands.
Therefore, Muslim masses suffering from these setbacks must be “re-educated” in Islam and “regained” to the Muslim Ummah. Clearly, the process of “re-Islamization” of the Muslim peoples is a huge task. It entails facing considerable difficulties, moral and material.
In the primary stages, the great volume of Da’awah (calling to Islam) work must be concentrated in such Muslim countries, where the response to the Islamic Call and the chances of success are tremendously high. In many such countries, it is quite possible to organise all kinds of educational and social services in co-operation with the local residents, societies and institutions.
In places where Da’awah work is taken up for the first time, the nature of activities may differ substantially from those conducted in predominantly Muslim countries. It is necessary for those who would be directly involved in the Da’awah work to know the language, the habits, the beliefs, the nature, the needs and hobbies of the native people whom they want to address.
Informing and inviting others to Islam using argumentative methods, even if they are full of impressive evidences, prevents people from accepting the Truth. So the listeners should be spoken to politely, because the aim is not to defeat them in disputation. The real importance lies in the fact that you have won their hearts by displaying good attitude.
It is not enough to express and convey the methodology of Islam in word but it is essential to show one’s good-will and compassion by good deeds. It is narrated that not very long after the Battle of the Trench (Al-Kandaq), when the Quraish led the biggest military campaign against the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in Madinah, the news reached the Prophet (Peace be upon him) that the people of Makkah were suffering from acute famine.
The state of belligerency between the Muslims and the Quraish was still at its peak. Notwithstanding the bitter animosity of the Quraish against the Muslims, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) ordered a train of camels loaded with wheat to be delivered to the hunger-stricken Quraish. This uniquely noble gesture of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) must have touched sensitive chords in the hearts of the Makkans in their moments of agony and despair.
Quite often, deeds of this nature express more forcefully what words fail to convey. It is a strange irony that today several western countries are doing a lot of social work and are providing food, shelter, medical care and education to millions of Africans and Asians through dozen of international missionary organisations such as Oxfam, in England, and Brot fiir die Welt, in Germany, not to mention the International Red Cross Society and the like.
In the face of all that has been mentioned, it should be considered no less than a breach of duty towards Allah the Almighty, not to ease the suffering of others.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation; may Allah extol the mention of our noble Prophet Muhammad in the highest company of Angels, bless him and give him peace and security―and his family, his Companions and all those who follow him correctly and sincerely until the establishment of the Hour.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Safar 01, 1445 AH (August 18, 2023).