In the first series of "Preach & Run" Marwah El-Azhary discusses the issues that Muslims face in Non-Muslim countries.
We have all heard of the infamous phrase “wash and go” from shampoo commercials, provocatively promoting their merchandise to the target audience who are unable to have a conveniently longer stay in the bathroom. Now it is time to suggest a new phrase, “preach and run” for Evangelist preachers who dominate the entire conversation and then fittingly run or avoid the response of the other party who beings to politely reply with valid and valuable feedback.
In light of this perception, it is sincerely hoped that the experiences described herein can serve as an encouragement to the readers to persevere in the fruitful study of Islaam. This is in order to competently respond to questions and key issues when discovering ourselves engaged in conversations with non-Muslims. Therefore, without a doubt, it qualifies a Muslim to uphold the duty to spread the truth about our religion and clarify any misconceptions about Islaam in a humble, rational and polite manner. Indeed Allaah advised us to:
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: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (The Holy ’Qura~n [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Anna’hl, verse 125)
The First Encounter
Admiring the picturesque park, I wasn’t aware that I was being watched. As I walked from one spot to another, listening to the birds chirping eloquently, I retrieved the digital camera from my bag and took several snapshots of the beautiful scenery. It was winter; it was freezing, yet the sun willed to shine its way down on the city of London, giving us a false sense of security, a false sense of warmth and hope. Unaware that I was being watched, I continued to take pictures. What I did not realise, until later, was that I was actually taking pictures of the predator who was silently watching its prey.
As I walked out of the park, heading towards my father who was viewing the lake, I heard screams. Curious to learn what the commotion was about, I turned around and saw two figures running in our direction. I looked around and noticed my father and I were the only two people in the area. I quickly calculated the chances of these two strangers running towards us or just towards our general direction. It seemed that they were actually running towards us, as they were waving at me in particular to stop walking as they desperately continued to catch up.
Several thoughts rushed through my mind; were they thieves attempting to take advantage of a young Muslim woman? Didn’t they see that I had a male figure with me, so they could not dare try anything? Or did I drop my purse somewhere and they were eager to return it to me and ask for a reward? Perhaps I had a huge sign at the back of my head with the words, “When you see this, please run towards it”? Those few seconds of contemplation seemed to dawn on me forever, and I began to prepare myself of their inevitable interaction. “Please wait!” I could hear them gasp, finally catching up. They leaned over and gasped for air. The young middle-eastern looking man held his chest and coughed hard, whereas the young woman looked desperately through her bag for something. She found a book and shoved it into my hands, asking me if I could read. I looked at her and then back at my father in disbelief.
There were two things I could tell this woman in her mid-thirties with an Australian accent. I could inform her that “The Hijab just covers my hair; it does not hinder me from being an educated individual who can read and write”. Or I could smile and reply with the affirmative, that I could read. I chose neither, and decided to take it from a different approach. “Do you want me to translate this for you?” The leaflet in my hand was in Arabic, which read “The path to paradise”. I looked at my father and we both knew what was to come. We were both to learn what these two eager preachers wanted from us and if they knew they had come face to face with two humble Muslims eager to spread Islaam. They weren’t to know that. After all, there is the misconception that Muslim women are uneducated, oppressed creatures who are desperately asking to be saved from the supposed evilness of Islaam. There is also the stereotypical notion that men with beards, like my father, do not speak English and do not live in the 21st century. These two preachers ran to us as though they saw a sinking boat that needed to be saved. At the end of the conversation it was evident that their thoughts changed about this stereotypical image of Muslim men and women.
The woman was a bit baffled by my reply; she was certainly not expecting it. My father and I took this as our cue to begin informing them of Islaam, as we did not want to let this opportunity pass; after all, they had literally raced towards us, two humble and eager ambassadors of Islaam. Not surprisingly, they were uneducated about the religion. The woman had not read the ’Qura~n, whereas the man claimed he did. However he had all the typical misconceptions about Islaam that he learned in Sunday school, and they were all impolitely thrown at us.
Typical Questions & Misconceptions
We politely informed them that we do believe in Jesus, a highly credited and respected Prophet in Islaam. However, we believe he is just a Prophet, and do not go to the extreme of claiming that he is the son of God. We cannot place human qualities to God; He is incomparable as said in the ’Qura~n, and is unlike any of His creations. I took out the ’Qura~n I had in my bag and informed them of the following verses:
Say: He is Allaah, the One and Only; Allaah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Alikhlaa’s, verses 1-4)
Their argument was that to attain Paradise, devoted Christians had to follow the way of Jesus. They repeatedly claimed that Jesus was the son of God and therefore part of the trinity.
Regarding this, I informed them that the ’Qura~n, God’s final message to mankind, says:
“They do blaspheme who say: Allaah is one of three in a Trinity, for there is no god except One God” (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Almaa-dah, verse 73)
Moreover, the ’Qura~n states:
They say: “((Allaah)) Most Gracious has begotten a son!” Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin, That they should invoke a son for ((Allaah)) Most Gracious. For it is not consonant with the majesty of ((Allaah)) Most Gracious that He should beget a son. Not one of the beings in the heavens and the earth but must come to ((Allaah)) Most Gracious as a servant. (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Maryam, verses 88-93)
I went on to quote Suzanne Haneef, in her book What Everyone Should Know About Islaam and Muslims (Library of Islaam, 1985), where she says “God is not like a pie or an apple which can be divided into three thirds which form one whole; if God is three persons or possesses three parts, He is assuredly not the Single, Unique, Indivisible Being which God is and which Christianity professes to believe in.” (pp. 183-184)
The ’Qura~n also informs us that:
In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allaah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: “Who then hath the least power against Allaah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every - one that is on the earth? For to Allaah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allaah hath power over all things.” (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.], Chapter of Almaa-dah, verse 17)
To this, the two preachers argued that Christianity is a monotheistic religion that believes in One God. How is this the case, we told them, the Trinity appoints God as being three separate entities- the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If God is the Father and also the Son, He would then be the Father of Himself because He is His own Son. This is not logical. Therefore Christianity is a polytheistic religion.
Concerning Jesus, Allaah says in the ’Qura~n: Christ the son of Mary was no more than an apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allaah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth! (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] chapter of Almaa-dah, verse 75)
Another important verse regarding this issue states:
And behold! Allaah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allaah” He will say: “Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest est in full all that is hidden. (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.], Chapter of Almaa-dah, verse 116)
They seemed impatient, not wishing to listen to the truth. Instead they avoided my reply and went onto their next question.
When they carried on to argue that Jesus was crucified to save mankind, we stated that the most Merciful God would never use such an example to save mankind, as illustrated in the ’Qura~n. He can forgive mankind without using such a grotesque ideology, and no “father” would be cruel to his “supposed” son, a seriously false claim.
In the ’Qura~n, Allaah tells mankind that Jesus was not crucified, he was saved. This is a miracle! Why couldn’t they believe that? Why would they rather look at it the other way round, that he was crucified- where is the miracle in that? The miracle is that he was saved and raised to the heavens, and will return to lead the world to the truth- Islaam.
That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allaah;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Nay, Allaah raised him up unto Himself; and Allaah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them;- (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] chapter of Maryam, verses 157-159)
These are God’s final words on this matter, yet they do not want to believe. How can one reject Allaah’s final message- the ’Qura~n? Despite all the clear proofs the ’Qura~n reveals, they turn in disbelief, without even trying to open their minds and hearts to it.
In fact, I added, going back to the earlier question of why Muslims do not believe in the trinity: the doctrine of the trinity was formulated in the forth century after Christ, by Paul of Tarsus, the man who could rightfully be considered the true founder of Christianity. References in the Bible to a Trinity of divine beings are vague, at best. In Matthew 28:19, we find Jesus telling his disciples to go out and preach to all nations.
While this “Great Commission” does make mention of the three persons who later become components of the Trinity, the phrase “...baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” is quite clearly an addition to Biblical text -that is, not the actual words of Jesus- as can be seen by two factors:
1. Baptism in the early Church, as discussed by Paul in his letters, was done only in the name of Jesus; and
2. The “Great Commission” was found in the first gospel written, that of Mark, bears no mention of Father, Son and/or Holy Ghost. (See Mark 16:15)
The only other reference in the Bible to a Trinity can be found in the Epistle of I John 5:7. Biblical scholars of today, however, have admitted that the phrase “... there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” is definitely a “later addition” to Biblical text, and it is not found in any of today’s versions of the Bible.
It can, therefore, be seen that the concept of a Trinity of divine beings was not an idea put forth by Jesus or any other prophet of God. This doctrine, now subscribed to by Christians all over the world, is entirely man-made in origin.
They stared at me, apparently trying to find words to say, but instead avoided my reply and changed the topic to another erroneous misconception.
This is a generalisation and therefore a sterotypical statement. It is an obligation for every Muslim to seek knowledge in the religion, so that we are satisfactorily convinced with the truth. There is a hadeeth which states: “It is obligatory for every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to seek knowledge.” Even the ’Qura~n stresses the importance of acquiring knowledge. The first word ever said to the Prophet Mu’hammad (P.B.U.H.) was “Recite!” Having said that, I went on to modestly inform them that, (without showing off, rather proving a point), I was a successful English Literature student, graduating with honours, and excelled in comparative religion studies throughout my educational life. Therefore I had read the bible, gospels, torah, and other scriptures, and came to acknowledge with full conviction that Islaam is the truth.
Plus, statistics reveal that Islaam is the fastest growing religion in the world; people are not dropping out of it, rather they are embracing it with full “sighted” conviction! Weren’t the preachers in front of me the sightless followers, I thought to myself. They were the ones who were criticising a religion they hadn’t independently learned about in any depth, so who out of us was supposedly blind?
Again, they avoided my reply, and “ran” onto another misconception.
My educational and work background also defied the stereotypical misconception that Muslim women are oppressed in Islaam. If that was the case, I wouldn’t be an educated young woman with the choice of learning specialised subjects in educational institutions and succeeding in the work field.
There is a difference between culture and religion, I pointed out. Therefore not everything a Muslim does derives from the teachings of Islaam. Even if the Muslim claims an action does derive from the teachings of Islaam, people hold the responsibility to research and discover if that is indeed an authentic source of information.
Regarding the gender issue in Islaam, in front of God women are men are equal in terms of their faith; however their roles are not necessarily identical. One of the various numerical miracles in the ’Qura~n is that the word “woman” and “man” are equally mentioned 24 times each. Surely this is a sign for those who want to reflect. In Islaam, women are allowed to inherit, something that women in the Western world could not do until recently.
The Western woman was regarded as an object, a pawn that men could buy and sell, whereas women in Islaam are honoured and respected. In pre-Islaamic Arabia girls were buried alive because it was believed they were a disgrace to the entire family and community. This list is a summary and does not give justice to the full description of the mistreatments carried out towards women. However, Islaam came to abolish these mistreatments and gave the woman the status that is rightfully hers. Clearly an intellectual person should research these points before claiming that Muslim women are oppressed. They should also know the difference between culture and religion, two seperate entities.
Again, they avoided my reply, and defensively attacked with another fallacy.
There is no doubt that Mu’hammad was illiterate. This fact was acknowledged by the Arabian tribes well before Mu’hammad received the mission of his prophet hood and is also recorded in authentic historical sources. This is indeed the miracle of the ’Qura~n. To convince mankind with the last message, Allaah chose someone who could neither read nor write. The first word sent to the Prophet was “recite” which he could not do.
So with the will of God, the Angel Gabriel embraced the Prophet, giving him the ability to memorise the ’Qura~n with his heart and mind. Besides these facts, the ’Qura~n contains various scientific and numerical miracles that a human being could not have known more than 1400 years ago. In fact, scientists have only just begun to recently discover these facts, and various non-Muslim scientists have announced that the Prophet Mu’hammad must have received the ’Qura~n from a divine being, i.e. God.
Even the ’Qura~n informs us of those who claim that the Prophet Mu’hammad wrote the ’Qura~n:
“Nay,” they say, “(these are) medleys of dream! - Nay, He forged it! - Nay, He is (but) a poet! Let him then bring us a Sign like the ones that were sent to (Prophets) of old!” (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Alanbiyaa-, verse 5)
The ’Qura~n repeatedly informs us that the above is a false statement, for example:
We have not instructed the (Prophet) in poetry, nor is it meet for him: this is no less than a Message and a Qur’an making things clear: That it may give admonition to any (who are) alive, and that the charge may be proved against those who reject (Truth). (The Holy ’Qura~n [T.M.Q.], Chapter of Yaaseen, verses 69-70)
Or do they say, “He has forged it”? Nay, it is the Truth from thy Lord, that thou mayest admonish a people to whom no warner has come before thee: in order that they may receive guidance. (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Assajdah, verse 3)
The two preachers were surprised and the fact seemed to dawn on them that the Prophet did not write the ’Qura~n. However, they continued to “run” from the straight-forward and rational clarifications we gave them, and rushed to another misapprehension.
The prayer in Islaam is boring and repetitive? Were you a Muslim before? I asked the young man. He shook his head. However, he believed that it was restrictive and uninteresting to pray a certain amount of prayers per day and repeat certain verses from the ’Qura~n. He also found it restrictive that we had to wash before praying and pray towards a certain direction. He claimed these rituals were meaningless.
Here, both my father and I spoke passionately about the prayer which connects millions of Muslims worldwide to the Creator of the universe: Allaah.
Regarding ablution, washing is an essential part of the prayer. We cannot meet Allaah while we are dirty and untidy; this is disrespectful. One would not enter a meeting with a president in an unclean and untidy state. One would take a shower before meeting the president, dress in their most respectable attire, wear perfume even, and make sure their hair is combed before meeting with such a person. So what should we do when we meet God, the Creator of the whole universe? Therefore, Muslims must perform ablution (wu’doo-) before the prayer, to purify themselves and attend to the prayer in a clean condition in front of His Majesty. The ’Qura~n stresses on this importance, stating:
O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say,- nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (Except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole body. If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For Allaah doth blot out sins and forgive again and again. (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Annisaa-, verse 43)
With regards to the prayer, there are 114 chapters in the ’Qura~n, with thousands of verses. Everyday a Muslim chooses to recite a few verses from this generous list, so how can it ever be boring to recite the words of God. The prayer is a beautiful and spiritual flow of movements that Muslims perform five times a day. Even ballet and various dance performances have chorographical and restrictive movements.
Everything in this universe has its own set of laws, including when the sun rises and when it sets, and the balance between night and day. We don’t view this as restrictive. When it comes to praying to our Creator, why do we overlook its value? The importance of the prayer is repeatedly stated in the ’Qura~n, where Allaah says:
Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the Middle prayer; and stand before Allaah in a devout (frame of mind). (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Alba’qarah, verse 238)
The importance of prayer goes further than a spiritual connection towards Allaah. Scientists have recently discovered that the prayer in Islaam is a rotational set of movements that coincides with the rotation of the planets around the sun, the solar system around the galaxy, and the galaxy around the whole universe. We are basically rotating alongside the natural laws that Allaah created. We are all synchronised into harmony with this rotation, congregationally co-existing and uniting to the One that is the centre of our lives: Allaah.
Even the prostration plays a significant importance in our lives, as recent scientific studies have shown. As we prostrate on the ground on our forehead, substances are released from our brain that are vital for the functioning of our bodies. By prostrating, we also permit the purest, freshest air to enter our lungs, which is why the Prophet Mu’hammad described in detail how to prostrate correctly, with our arms above the ground, (not like camels with our arms on the ground), and our backs arched slightly and not pressed on the floor. The Prophet Mu’hammad, (P.B.U.H.) stressed this by rhetorically asking the companions: (Does) one of you kneel down in his prayer as a camel kneels down (i.e. put his knees before his hands).
They continued to nod at my reply, yet not truly accepting it, nor debating with any of the information I had given them. Instead, they moved onto the next fallacy.
Did they know how many people the Prophet killed in his lifetime? I asked. Confidently they replied, “Surely he killed a lot!” They were wrong, I replied. He only killed one person in his lifetime, and it was out of self-defence. A brutal enemy was going to unmercifully kill the Prophet, and so he defended himself.
Naturally if someone was going to kill these two preachers, they would put up a fight, I told them. They agreed. So what was the problem then? We asked them. The Prophet was sent to a nation whose majority was spiteful and cruel; they were born in the desert, which naturally made their characteristics as harsh as the desert sand and climate. When they started attacking the Muslims, and wanted to kill the Prophet so they could stop the message of Islaam from spreading, the Muslims had to simply defend themselves.
Furthermore, every Prophet was born in a different period of time, with different social, political and economical circumstances and in different environments. Jesus was sent to a nation of people who were different to the nation the Prophet Mu’hammad was sent to. They were also sent to different countries and different periods of time. Therefore, every prophet had to deal with their nation differently, according to the factors mentioned.
By the end of the discussion the two preachers were exhausted, whereas my father and I were ready for more questions. While the two preachers ran out of weak arguments, they became defensive; naturally because they were aware they didn’t have anything valuable to say. Since the only reason I was there was to inform them of the true Islaam and not listen to irrational accusations they had begun to blurt out, I told them to halt and recited the following verses of the ’Qura~n:
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allaah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allaah heareth and knoweth all things. (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Alba’qarah, verse 256)
Before they could interrupt, I recited to them another set of verses from the ’Qura~n:
Say: O ye that reject Faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine. (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.], Chapter of Alkaafiroon, verses 1-6)
Obviously they were still adamant on their beliefs, despite our clarifications. However, we had tried, the rest was up to Allaah, for He guides whom He wills, and leads astray whom He wills.
It is He whom Allaah guides, that is on true Guidance; but he whom He leaves astray - for such wilt thou find no protector besides Him. On the Day of Judgment We shall gather, them together, prone on their faces, blind, dumb, and deaf: their abode will be Hell: every time it shows abatement, We shall increase from them the fierceness of the Fire. (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Alisraa-, verse 97)
As previously mentioned, they were exhausted, and were eager to leave. They asked for my e-mail address, wishing to send me more information on their beliefs. However, the lady was literally terrified when I asked if I could have hers in return, so that I could send her more information on Islaam. She made up the excuse that she didn’t have an e-mail address, to which both my father and I smiled. Were they that afraid of the truth? Glory be to Allaah, the Lord of the worlds and what is within them.
Months have passed, and this event was forgotten until recently. I have not received an e-mail from them since then, which I expected would happen. I’m sure they did not want to hear more from my father and I. We had made perfect sense to them, it was written on their faces, it was visible in their eyes, yet they could not admit it.
When I returned home and uploaded the photographs I had taken of the park on my computer, I realised something. I had unknowingly taken quite a few photographs of these two preachers talking to other visible Muslims in the park.
It is quite strange how Allaah plans things for us. Perhaps my father and I were meant to be there to patiently and politely shine a tiny bit of the knowledge we had in their direction.
It was later that night while reading the ’Qura~n that I came across a verse that sent shivers down my spine.
If then they run away, We have not sent thee as a guard over them. Thy duty is but to convey (the Message)... (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] Chapter of Ash-shoora, verse 48)
As I sat there, staring at the beautiful words of Allaah, everything came into place. It was indeed a sign from Allaah, to persevere in the study of Islaam and to continue to spread it, and not to be disheartened if all they do is preach and run.
Marwah El-Azhary will continue with Part 2 of this series in future Issues of I-MAG.
1. The Meaning of the Holy ’Qura~n in the English Language, Yusuf Ali.
2. Who made the trinity, Islamweb.net
3. Hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah.
|< Prev||Next >|