As Muslims, it is our firm belief that this life is a transient phase in the journey towards a permanent abode in the last and the lasting stage, Akhirah. The smallness of this world in its magnitude, longevity and pleasures compared to the life of the hereafter would be sufficient reason to renounce this world. However, as children of Adam, alaihis salam, we are in a trial of how we live this life. Our actions and reactions to the situations that life presents together with the set of beliefs that we hold will determine our fate in the hereafter. It is this aspect that gives this world the importance it has.
“(I swear) By the time. Verily! Man is in loss, except those who believe and do righteous deeds …” (Surah al-Asr, ayah 1-3)
We are to live this life and involve ourselves in it to the extent and within the limits that God has ordained and His last Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wasallam, has shown through his noble example. This is an essential ingredient in the formula of success that God has outlined in the Quran. However, our actions are influenced by forces within ourselves as well as those from outside. The struggle for good has many foes. It is not sufficient that we think ourselves safe within the confines of personal piety. The wax coating of piety will melt away in the blistering heat of a satanic summer. The only solution, then, is to change the environment we live in.
Another reality of the life of this world is its inequalities. God has bestowed His bounties on different people in different measures. Some are rich while others poor, some strong and others weak, some healthy while others not. An aspect of wisdom behind this is the creation of human brotherhood through interdependence. We are required to share, those that have, giving to those that don’t. Another aspect is test – will we give?
We, as Muslims, have been given a bounty that surpasses all others – that of faith. While other bounties have limited utility and bounded by life itself, this is one that will continue to benefit us throughout our journey. The message of Islam, of which we are the bearers, is the key to success in the test of this life. And as with all other bounties of Allah, this too must be shared. But given the disproportionate importance and benefit of this, the responsibility on those who bear it is also exponentially higher. It would be one of the greatest crimes to let the children of Adam, peace be upon him, pass through this life in ignorance and end up on the Day of Judgment in ignominy.
“And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.”(Surah Ale-Imran, ayah 85)
How can we live this life unconcerned about the fate of those we sincerely believe to be our brothers in humanity? How is it that we show concern for a person when he gets hurt or is ill and rush to offer help in whatever capacity we can but show no concern about the impending and unavoidable chastisement that awaits him in the hereafter? Did we not grieve when we saw the tragedies that unfolded during the tsunami that hit us several years ago? Are we not shaken when we see an accident on the road? Does not the sight of a laborer lying under his cart on a rainy night touch our heart?
It does and it should, for this is the essence of humanity. This is how we are; this is our nature – our fitrah. But if the tribulations of this short life are the cause of such concern, should not the tribulations of that limitless life be the cause of much greater concern? Should not we be spending each day anxious and concerned about the fate of our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues? Have we considered how many have cried for us, struggled and even given their lives that the message of God may reach us? The question we need to ask ourselves is how many tears have we shed for those we love, how many times have we asked God for their guidance and how many times have we talked to them about God? Do we not owe this to them and to the bond of friendship we share with them?
“It may be that you (O Muhammad, saws) are going to kill yourself with grief, that they do not become believers.” (Surah ash-Shu’ara, ayah 3)
The message of Islam that we bear is a trust that must be passed on. Allah has entrusted this to us and he will hold us accountable for it. Tabligh, conveying the message of Islam and Da’wah, invitation to Islam, is a personal obligation on each and every Muslim. We are required to call whomever we can in whatever capacity we can to Allah. This call, this counseling towards the Truth is the third essential ingredient in the formula of success. It is not a matter of choice but incumbent upon us as is prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage and many other commandments of Islam.
“… and counsel each other towards the Truth (i.e. Islam and its commandments) and counsel each other towards patience and perseverance.” (Surah al-Asr, ayah 3)
Unfortunately, this remains one of the most neglected duties. The number of Muslims actively involved in conveying the message of Islam to non-Muslims remains a minuscule figure, whereas the demand for such workers is at an all time high. Several reasons can be cited for its non observance. A large number of Muslims are perhaps not even aware that it is their duty; at best they might consider it a nice-to-do thing. Some others lack the knowledge of Islam and they think that it is the job of those who possess high levels of knowledge namely the scholars. Then there are those who are too hesitant to bring up such topics for discussion for fear of being accused of fundamentalism or losing the company of their friends or perhaps even the fear of legal implications.
There is no denying that knowledge is an important element in this exercise, for you should know what you are inviting others to. But with certain precautions, such as not speaking about that which you are not sure of, almost everyone can do this job. Also, if a person really has very little knowledge or feels that he does not have the ability to convey; can he not find someone else who does?
“Convey from me even if it be a single verse…” (Hadith, al-Bukhari)
Sometimes fear can prevent us from this noble act. If the fear is of the law, then it must be realized that most societies have come to accept freedom of expression as a human right. The constitution of our country allows everyone to practice and preach the beliefs they hold. On the other hand, if the fear is of receiving undesirable labels then it must be kept in mind that labels and stereotypes among the public are due to the lack of interaction with people. If our character and relations with others are good then most people are highly receptive.
It has been observed from practice that Da’wah is not as difficult a task as many think it to be. Most non-Muslims are very receptive and some highly appreciative when we bring up the topic of God for discussion. All it needs is a little knowledge, some orientation and a lot of enthusiasm. And by the grace of Allah, a lot of Muslims today are realizing their duty and coming forward for this most important work. Several organizations and dedicated individuals are conducting such orientation workshops to teach an effective methodology of Da’wah. These workshops focus on the importance of Da’wah, impart the minimum knowledge that it requires, create and enhance the skills required for it and provide an opportunity to hone the skills through practice.
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best…” (Surah al-Nahl, ayah 125)
Now, it is our duty to throw away the covers of solitude and move out in to the world and become the means through which Allah may shine the light of His guidance upon mankind. Guidance is not in our hands, it is the sole prerogative of Allah; however, we do have the ability to attempt to convey His message to mankind and it is this that we will be questioned about. May Allah help us realize its significance and make it easy for us.
(This was published as a cover article by the Young Muslim Digest in its March 2014 issue.)