Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Aren't Islamic Missionaries as Active as Christian Missionaries ?

Q) I am a revert to Islam from a very orthodox Christian family. However my hunger to delve deep into Islam and other religions never ceased. The sad part of the story is that I never found anyone able to give at least most of the answers for the questions I ask. But your newsletter seems to be doing a good job. Here are a few questions I wish you could answer.

a. Why aren’t Islamic missionaries active the way Christian missionaries are? Won’t Islam grow much faster and misunderstandings removed if there are good scholars to preach the faith? Why is there such a slack among Muslims?

b. Is it permissible in Islam to sponsor an orphan? Not adoption. Something like sponsoring his education, etc.?

c. Are the views of the so-called ‘terrorists’ like bin Laden really wrong or justifiable? I mean should a Muslim support his activities? Can children and innocent people be killed in wars when the prophet had declared not to do so?
Joshua Koshy

A) a. It’s true that Muslims today are not as active as Christians in propagating their religion, though the Muslims are expected by Islam to be the best of missionaries. Islam is a religion that should have the maximum number of missionaries because Da'wah (propagation of one’s faith) is obligatory / compulsory in Islam. The Glorious Qur'an says:

“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.” (Al-Qur'an 16:125)

But unfortunately we Muslims are not doing our job. Moreover, there is virulent propaganda about Islam and Muslims by the international media. Today the number of misconceptions about Islam has reached an endemic and epidemic level. It is the duty of Muslims to clarify these misconceptions and to present the pure Islamic teachings, based on the Qur'an and the authentic traditions of the prophet (pbuh).

But irrespective whether the Muslims do the job or not, Allah has promised to make his Deen (Al-Islam) prevail over all other ways of life and all other ‘isms’. Allah says in the Qur'an:

“It is He who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth to proclaim it over all religion: and enough is Allah for a Witness.”(Al-Qur'an 48:28)

A similar message is mentioned in Al-Qur'an 9:33 & 61:9.

It should be borne in mind that Allah is not in need of us Muslims in order to make his Deen prevail. He, however, has given us an opportunity to do a prophet’s job and to earn a prophet’s reward.

The slack among the Muslims is due to their inability to perceive the benefits of reading the Qur'an with understanding. It is through reading the Qur'an with understanding and meaning will we know what our Lord and Creator expects from us in order that we prosper in this life as well as in the Hereafter. Allah says in the Qur'an:

‘Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah, works righteousness and says, "I am of those who bow in Islam"?’

b. With regards to sponsoring an orphan, Islam encourages such acts of charity as is mentioned in various places in the Qur'an. The Qur'an says:

“Worship none but Allah; treat with kindness your parents and kindred and orphans and those in need; speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and practice regular charity.” (Al-Qur'an 2:83)

The Prophet (pbuh) is also reported to have said: "I, and the one who looks after an orphan, will be like this in Paradise," showing his middle and index fingers and separating them. (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7, Hadith No. 224)

Thus the act of sponsoring an orphan is highly recommended in Islam and Allah will surely reward you for that.

c. Regarding your question on terrorists, I say every Muslim should be a ‘terrorist for the anti-social elements of society’. A terrorist is a person who causes terror. The moment a robber sees a policeman he is terrified. A policeman is a terrorist for the robber. Similarly every Muslim should be a terrorist for the anti-social elements of society, be they thieves, pick-pockets, black-marketers or rapists. Whenever an anti-social element sees a Muslim, he should be terrified. It is true that the word ‘terrorist’ is generally used for a person who causes terror among innocent people. But a true Muslim should only be a terrorist to anti-social elements and not to innocent people. Infact a Muslim should be a source of peace and solace for innocent and righteous people.

Before India achieved independence from British rule, some freedom fighters of India who did not subscribe to non-violence were labeled as terrorists by the British government. These very individuals have been lauded by us Indians for the same activities and hailed as ‘patriots’. Thus two different labels have been given to the same people for the same set of actions. One called them terrorists while the other called them patriots. Those who believed that Britain had a right to rule over India called these freedom fighters terrorists, while those who were of the view that Britain had no right to rule India called them patriots and freedom fighters.

It is therefore important that before a person is judged, he is given a fair hearing. Both sides of the argument should be heard, the situation should be objectively and fairly analyzed and the reason and the intention of the person should be taken into account, and then the person can be judged accordingly. While there can be no justifiable reason for killing innocents, it is also patently unfair to accuse any of killing innocents without a fair trial and process of justice.

Regarding Osama bin Laden, one does not know whether he is good or bad. I have not met him personally nor do I know him. I cannot give my opinion based on the reports of BBC or the CNN. Most of the news on the international media is tailor-made to suit ulterior motives and suited to project the image what they want.

The Qur'an says:

“O you who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news ascertain the truth lest you harm people unwittingly and afterwards become full of repentance for what you have done.” (Al-Qur'an 49:6)

With regards to the last part of your question, Islam forbids killing of innocent people. The Qur'an says:

“ … If anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity.” (Al-Qur'an 5:32)

Killing any innocent human being, whether Muslim or non-Muslim is not allowed in Islam. Even in the circumstances of war, this aspect is not to be ignored. The first caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr

As-Siddique (R) is reported to have commanded Usama ibne Zaid (R):

“I command you to do ten things: you must not kill a woman or a child, or an elderly person; do not cut down trees, or vandalize homes, or wound a sheep or camel except if you must eat it; do not drown a palm tree, or burn it, do not be treacherous; do not be cowardly; and you will pass by people who have devoted themselves to monastery life: leave them alone with their devotions.” (Tarikh At-Tabari, V.3, p.210)

Thus killing children or innocent people are not allowed in Islam. And Allah knows the best.