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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Be inviting while you are inviting

By Asim Ranginwala

Your heart beats faster. Trying to avoid eye contact is not going to work. The victim is onto you. Your palms are sweaty, and you try to crack a smile to break the tension, but that doesn’t work either. You see him try to avoid you, almost like two positive sides of magnets, but you studied his movement patterns for half a block now and you’re ready to intercept his sway. He’s within arms length, this is your chance. You extend your arm to reach the prey. Using the wrist action you’ve been practicing for a while, you’ve put the bait out there. Now, the waiting game… will he take the bait? The victim’s arm starts moving in the right direction. You can almost hear Chris Berman exclaiming “AND LOOK AT HIM GO! HE – COULD – GO – ALL – THE – WAY!” And there it is!

You have just handed out your first Islamic pamphlet. The crowd goes wild, and now you too can join the rest of the people who have turned this activity into their habitual way of Dawah. You too can count how many leaflets you’ve handed out while Dawah mode was in the on position.

Yes, unfortunately, there is a state of mind called “Dawah Mode”. This concept has percolated throughout the fabric of the Ummah in my part of the world. Somehow, somewhere, some people got the idea that others would love to read about their way of life, especially if printed on crusty paper with “exciting” colors. Add in a few grammar and spelling mistakes, take away as much human interfacing as possible, replace “keepin’ it real” with prepared Islamic statements and memorized explanations, mix it with a “pick-your-own-hours” schedule, and you have “Dawah Mode”. You can be sure that you were in Dawah Mode if, once you are out of Dawah Mode, you can relax, think back, and say, “Boy, that was good Dawah”.

Brother Habeeb Hussaini recently related a story to me that will further elucidate my point. He and another person had just walked out of his building, and they saw a man snatch a purse from a lady and jet faster than I run to food (and once again, you could hear Chris Berman’s voice, but we won’t get into that here). Taking quick action, Habeeb started running to his car so that he could chase down the purse snatcher, but was stopped by the other person who screamed, “No, wait! I have a better idea!” He quickly ran inside. Habeeb stood there comforting the lady, thinking that his friend is calling the police or hopefully something better. The man came running back with a big smile on his face and dawah pamphlets in his hand. He hands the lady the Dawah literature and requests that they be on their way.

Yeah, great idea buddy! Why do what's right when we can have people read about it. I mean sure, you could have at least gave chase, but that would be going a little overboard, don't you think? Especially when a pamphlet can explain what they should have done, and isn't that what really counts?

I don't know what enrages me more. This story or the fact that falling coconuts kill more human beings than sharks, and The Discovery Channel has NEVER done a special on "Killer Coconuts".

I'm sure if I could speak to the person who first used dawah pamphlets, she would explain to me that it was used complementary to all the other efforts that were happening. This was not supposed to turn into the main form of invitation. And even if it did, someone out there would be observant enough to see that it can only be used at specific times and places, and that it has the potential of turning more people off than on. Some people have taken this creative and informative idea, and overdosed on it. The situation has gotten so bad that the terms "giving dawah" and "giving pamphlets" can be used synonymously. These people believe that handing out pamphlets is the raison d'etre of the existence of the opposable thumb in human beings.

The idea of dawah is being debased. People are now looking at it as just an activity to do, words to preach, and finding the right time to do it. Dawah is all these things and much more. The word means to invite. What can invite better than sincerity. Someone giving me a drone-like invitation to an event is not as appealing as the person giving a sincere invitation. Plus, when it's an invitation to something that guarantees to improve life as we know it, it better be evident, in the most real form (as opposed to disingenuous smiles and hypocritical talks about great changes while their life is falling apart because of it), in the person inviting.

Let’s play a little game. Think about what comes into your mind when you see the word “inviting”, but this time think of the adjective, not the verb. What makes something inviting. Sincere, prosperous, tranquil, peaceful, attractive are some of the usual words that come to mind. When you invite, keep some of these things in mind. You must be inviting while you are inviting.

After hearing a lot about Islam, a person attending a session at a Young Muslims event in New York said, "All this sounds really good. But what would convince me about Islam is seeing someone actually doing these good things".

And that is what really counts.

www.interactiveislam.com

"And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them [polytheists], the splendour of the life in this world, that We may test them thereby." [Qur'an 20:131]

"Truly, the life of this world is nothing but a [quick passing] enjoyment, and verily, the Hereafter that is the home that will remain forever." [Qur'an, 40:39]

"And know that your possessions and your children are but a trial and that surely with Allah is a mighty reward." [Qur'an 8:28]

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