Sudais – Thanks, no thanks.

Respectfully, Sudais, try giving your leaders and followers at home some useful advise before lecturing Muslims in the West.
Sudais says that people shouldn’t be afraid of Islam. But on careful reflection of his own words perhaps they should. If the underlying reason we Muslims in the West should be “good to others” is because it makes Islam attractive to them, then they can’t take anything we say and do at face value.  Why does conversion have to creep into the message every time these guys open their mouths to speak?

What we need as my friend Fuad Nahdi recently said, is convergence of faith not conversion to faith. Shaykh Hamza said in a speech years ago that we need to rescue the concept of Da’wah from the missionaries. This beautiful Quranic concept has been hijacked (certainly not the only concept) by modern day Islamists and transformed into an instrument, not of representation, but of subversion for the purpose of conversion.

The question I would like to ask d’aee oriented scholars and our friends in the so-called “movement” (Ikhwan or Jamaat etc.) is whether the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, acted with ‘Ihsan’ to others because he was inherently good – i.e. good by his Divinely inspired character – or was he good to others because he wanted to win them over to Islam? In other words, when he visited his non-believing neighbors and acted with kindness, justice and generosity towards the Jews and Christians, was conversion his goal or was he acting in a manner pleasing to his Lord? Why then do we put winning hearts and minds on the menu when we exhort Muslims to act well towards others?

If someone in the position of Sudais (a person of spiritual authority) tells non-Muslims not to be afraid of Islam and then tells Muslims to do good to others because it will win them over to Islam, I would say he is recommending soft subversion and who could blame a non-Muslim for being deeply suspicious the next time a smiling Muslim comes knocking on his door. The “don’t be afraid of Islam” message is yet another form of double-speak when you can’t tell people to be good in their conduct because it is the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah. Full stop. He was of the best khuluq and when we emulate him we benefit in ways beyond our intellect could imagine.

And while I am on the topic of the need to rescue core traditional Islamic concepts from those with missionary zeal in their hearts,  I am happy that some scholars are beginning to speak up. For example, the Jakarta Globe reported the following:

Said Aqil Siradj, the head of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) called on his own organization not to conduct “sweeps of entertainment venues” on the eve of Ramadan. He offered an explanation which included this: He said NU members must follow the teachings of Prophet Mohammad when he established the state of Madinah. “The concept he used is not for establishing an Islamic state or an Arab state but a civilized state.”

And that’s evident from the name of his adopted city which seized being Yathrib and became “Madinah”…from ‘daana’ to suppress, i.e. one’s nafs, the basis of what makes it possible to live in a civil society. Civil society is not about “me, me, me” but rather about the collective, the community, i.e. others. An idea the Salafis seem to have trouble with. I never expected this from NU much less from its current leader. I believe that from the periphery of the Muslim world will come the ideas that will present Islam to the West as ‘deen’ and not as a political ideology filled to the brim with  fear, conspiracies and an obsession with conversion.  Who becomes Muslim and who doesn’t is not up to us. It wasn’t even up the Prophet himself, peace and blessings be upon him.  The One who guides to His Path does not ask for our opinion even as we must seek His guidance

Islam is not a missionary religion

I read this interesting article by Mehdi Hasan. I am not a fence-sitter, so I am either posting this because, bravo Mehdi, I agree, or, holy crap, this guy is full of nonsense. He isn’t.

Title: Islam Should Not be a Missionary Religion

Muslims must shun the divisive idea of a marketplace of religions which all compete for believers

Islam, it is often assumed, by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is a missionary faith.  It isn’t.

Yes, the Qur’an does of course encourage the believers to spread God’s word: “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.” But it also recognizes religious, cultural and ethnic diversity: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” How can Muslims presume to convert to everyone to Islam when God Himself, in His infinite wisdom, chose not to? “And if Allah willed, He could have made them [of] one religion, but He admits whom He wills into His mercy.” In fact, the Qur’an tells Muhammad, at one stage, to adopt an “agree to disagree” approach to the non-believers: “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”

In a diverse, globalised world, which depends upon religious tolerance and harmonious relations between communities, Muslims have to learn to live together with non-Muslims without surrendering to the “I must convert all the kafirs” itch. There is no need for an Islamic equivalent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So it frustrates me when many of my co-religionists get excited at the prospect of people converting to Islam, especially celebrities. Does it matter if Michael Jackson was on the verge of a deathbed conversion to Islam? Should we encourage Simon Cowell to become a Muslim? (No and no.)

Faith is being reduced to a numbers game. “Islam is the fastest-growing religion on earth,” is the mantra that my Muslim friends recite with glee. So? I’ve never quite understood how adding to the world’s burgeoning Muslim population helps me, the Islamic world or the faith itself. We have enough theological, political, cultural and socio-economic problems as it is, without mindlessly adding to our numbers. I can’t help but sympathise with the senior Indian Muslim cleric who once revealed to me his (private) advice to Hindus considering converting: “Don’t bother. Not until we Muslims get our house in order.”

These days, it is converts themselves who often damage the Islamic cause. The majority, of course, are peaceful, law-abiding citizens whose conversions have enriched their lives and those of the Muslim communities into which they have been welcomed. But what about men of violence like Richard Reid, Germaine Lindsay and Dhiren Barot? Others that the “ummah” could have done without include Adam Gadahn, Al Qaeda’s media spokesman and Colleen La Rose, aka “Jihad Jane”.

Then there is the thorny issue of Islam’s apostasy laws, which prevent Muslims from converting to other religions. We cannot expect to “compete” with other faiths for new recruits if those faiths aren’t given a similar opportunity to try and recruit from inside the Islamic world. In Kuwait, in 1996, amid a row over the conversion of a businessman to Christianity, one cleric argued: “We always remind those who want to convert to Islam that they enter through a door but that there is no way out.” This is as illogical as it is unIslamic. How can you expect people not to change their minds? Or dare deny them that freedom?

Above all else, religion should not be about competition, which is for bankers and financiers, not for the faithful. The idea that there should be a marketplace of religions in which priests, imams, rabbis and pandits jostle with each other to sign up new believers is deeply divisive. The only “invisible hand” in the world of the religious should be God’s.
If there is to be mutual respect between religious communities, and much-needed inter-faith dialogue, there can be no hidden agendas. Muslims, Christians, Jews and the rest should never go into discussions or debates with the secret aim of trying to convert one another. Nothing could be more counter-productive or damaging to relations between the faiths. For Muslims, in particular, accused by the far right and sections of the liberal left, of trying to “Islamize” Britain, and Europe, it also makes tactical sense to avoid feeding this false narrative.

We are not missionaries. The role of a Muslim is not to convert the rest of the world to Islam. We should instead focus on becoming the best possible Muslims, and leading the best possible lives, that we can. If the rest of the world then chooses to follow our lead, so much the better.

(Source: The Guardian (guardian.co.uk) Friday 2 July 2010)