Thursday, 19 February 2009
Is Comparative Religion Necessary for Da'wah?
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
For the longest time, there was this prevalent belief in certain Muslim organisations that to engage in da’wah, it is necessary to have knowledge in comparative religion. It is a veil and irrelevant to the issue of faith. Some people believe that to bring someone to Islam, it was necessary to point out in an intellectual discussion what is wrong with their religious beliefs and why Islam is the answer.
Firstly, as much as we would like to believe so, any discussion involving a belief system is anything but emotionless. We are talking about the ideas, and passions that rule our lives intrinsically. Look at the Muslims for example; because of cartoons that insulted the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), they were ready to burn down whole neighbourhoods, torch an embassy and send death threats. Ironically, to defend Rasullulah (s.a.w.), they violated the tenets of the faith and transgressed the sunnah.
Secondly, many Muslims who try to use this tactic only highlight their ignorance. They do no know enough of their own religion to talk about others’ faith. Bible study seems to be the rage, even amongst asatidzah. In fact, some of them seem to have made a name for themselves as ‘experts’ in Christianity. Unfortunately, just as any person who does critical analysis of the Qur’an by not referring to the Arabic text is dismissed, quoting a few lines in English does not constitute Bible study. Much of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Much of the New Testament was in Koine Greek. Just as you cannot understand the Qur’an in parts without reference to the hadits, exegesis and historical knowledge; there is a whole body of liturgical works that are ignored by believing that the Bible is central to every Christian belief.
So what is the key to da’wah? Muslims believe that it is fithrah, our natural disposition to believe in Allah (s.w.t.). But they do not fully understand what that is. Fithrah is not merely the intrinsic belief that there is something out there, it is the recognition within our souls the very Nature of Allah (s.w.t.). It is the memory of the time when Allah (s.w.t.) brought forth the souls of Bani Adam to affirm that he is ar-Rabb. We remember the Day of Promises at a deep spiritual level. The Truth is intrinsic. But since the hearts are not pure, the light is distorted or dimmed. That memory slumbers in the deepest recesses of our subconscious. We will know our Maker and His Signs when that memory stirs to consciousness. It is the state of ma’rifat, gnosis. To some, it is more developed than others. Perhaps only a shaykh may show you how to open the door. But a da’i may show you that the door is there.
People become Muslims because of the quest of spirituality. Each and every one of us is a seeker, a traveler trying to find the way Home. We are in the desert trying to find the Garden. So we follow the ways of the Sufis. They will show us what da’wah is. Da’wah is humility, kindness, surety and a belief that we are instruments of the Will. Comparative religion as a method of da’wah is like the man who makes endless comments about your mode of transportation instead of pointing the way.