“What if you’re cycling and accidently eat a fly?”
That was one of the questions I received about fasting, among others, some equally as silly. I did my best to answer them because I knew the person enough to know they were genuinely interested - “it’s nice to be able to talk about this stuff, I never really learnt about it at school and if this had been school I’d have been given detention ages ago for all these questions”.
It’s a shame that non-Muslims are so uneducated on Islam despite it dominating the media every day of the week, in some way (“TERRORISTS!”). I sometimes take it for granted that people will know more about Islam than they generally do, probably due to being surrounded by Muslims most of my life. I still remember at 16 being shocked by another 16yr old Christian not knowing Muslims believe in Abraham too.
If we’re stuck in social circles made up of only Muslims then there shouldn’t really be any surprise that non-Muslims don’t understand our beliefs – if we don’t talk to them and explain it them, then who will? And nothing teaches our faith better than forming good relationships with those different to us, because no amount of preachy shouting can achieve the same as a friendly encounter.
This is why when someone recently said to me the Quran tells us not to be friends with non-Muslims I was so offended and angered. This person, in their defence, does not hate non-muslims and wouldn’t discriminate against them but thought that being friends, to the extent of inviting each other to your homes is considered wrong “if you’re not going to teach them Islam and if there’s a risk of you falling into their ways”.
Obviously, I would love everyone to be a Muslim, but I do not believe the best way to teach Islam is to preach about it all the time. There are people who do that as a job, but for me, as a common person, this is not the way to teach Islam.
Prophet Muhammad lived amongst his people for 40 years before the message of Islam was sent to him. In those 40 years his tribe got to know him as being a person of truth and one with the best of characters. His actions and speech allowed his people to trust him and respect him and *know* him enough to take his words seriously. The many who did not accept his message straight away knew his speech had authority and could not be ignored. He was not a random nobody with no connection to his people just shouting his views to strangers.
As for the Quran telling us not to take non Muslims as friends, that was a warning for war situations – for us to not fall for the hypocrites who say they have our best interests at heart, who say they will fight with but then stab us in the back. And, it goes without saying, we shouldn’t be friends with people who influence us to do bad.
But this does not mean we cannot be friends with and interact normally with non Muslims. After all, Prophet Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib was a non-Muslim all his life. He may or may not have converted on his death bed, but we know for sure that he never professed his faith in Islam beforehand. Yet, the prophet loved him dearly so much so that Abu Talib was one of his closest allies and, more importantly, a father figure. If we are not allowed to form such close relationships with non-Muslims then this relationship would never have been given as a lesson to us all.
If Muslims could not have non-Muslims come to their home, Umar (ra) would not have converted after going out with the intention of killing the prophet (saw).
"But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower." - Quran 8:61
If the character of a Muslim and words of a Muslim did not impact people so strongly then so many people would not have turned to Islam in the first place, and so many ignorant people today would not hate Islam based on the actions of the few that are amplified, today.
When I walk through my city centre there is a beautiful recitation of the Quran playing from a stall giving Islamic information, on the other hand, there is a Christian preacher shouting through a megaphone about people going to hell. I may be biased but I think even people who don’t believe in Islam wouldn’t be so angered by a beautiful recitation vs someone condemning them to hell. It’s this small difference that could make a big impact in my opinion. People don’t care about what you say unless you show you care, and you can’t show you care when you’re just shouting out at people about hell. You need to get to know people, build relationships, you need to help each other and grow together in order to be able to have a meaningful voice. And along the way you surely will be teaching them about Islam, little by little. They will ask you about Ramadan and Hajj and why Muslims don’t date. They should feel comfortable to ask you the questions that the media lies to them about, and you should be happy to answer them as a way of doing your bit of dawah, even if they become repetitive and annoying.
"Not even water?" - Non Muslim Proverb
We shouldn’t treat non Muslims as though they are beneath us, some non Muslims who have done the most awful things, in history, became Muslims in the end. I mean if someone who mutilated and tried to eat the liver of the Prophet’s murdered uncle can repent and become Muslim then we must remind ourselves that Allah has already elevated the status of people.
"And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference." - Quran: 17:70
And how can we look down on the average non-Muslim who has and never will do something as horrific as that. How can we know what their future holds? They are people just like us.
"There is no them, there are only facets of us." - John Green
"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted." - Quran 49:13
"Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant." - Quran 7: 199
If we don't try to try to build relationships and allow non-Muslims to get to know us there will only be more people like the middle-aged man who muttered Muslims are terrorists while walking past me, the other day.
Don’t waste your time on trolls though.
"And when you see those who engage in [offensive] discourse concerning Our verses, then turn away from them until they enter into another conversion. And if Satan should cause you to forget, then do not remain after the reminder with the wrongdoing people." - Quran 6:68