Sunday, May 18, 2008

Taqwa in Da'wah

Sometimes when a person becomes committed to the da'wah effort, he or she might lose sight of the importance of having taqwa, and relating their taqwa to their da'wah.

The only time I ever really hear about taqwa is at the onset of Ramadan, and throughout that month. That's because taqwa is supposed to be the reason Muslims fast--to acquire taqwa, to become muttaqeen (i.e., people who have taqwa, or people who are conscious of Allah.) So let me first review a description of taqwa that I have found, as I grow in Islam, to be a truly beneficial aid to understanding this concept.
'Umar bin al-Khattab asked Ibn Ka'ab for the definition of Taqwa. Ibn Ka'ab asked 'Umar how he would traverse a thorny path. 'Umar said he would carefully walk, gathering his clothes so they would not get stuck on the thorns and hence causing him injury. Ibn K'aab said "This is the definition of taqwa, to protect oneself from sin through life's dangerous journey so that one can successfully completey the journey unscathed by sin."

Now, I heard this description before my first Ramadan, and to be quite honest I didn't really understand it at all. But I wrote it down, to think about. Now let me tell a story to explain how it applies to da'wah.

There was a new Muslim sister who was eager to share her faith with the world. Browsing some blogs, she came across a man who had acquired an interest in Islam, and though he had emailed a local imam, he never received a response to her questions about Islam. So the new sister, wanting to reach out and give the man some da'wah, answered his questions, which he had posted on his blog, leaving a link to her blog. Appreciatively, the man followed her back and through what she had published he was able to learn her story about accepting Islam, and her reflections on how it now applied to her life. That intrigued him even more but he also became interested in the new sister, and began a correspondence with her to ask her questions about Islam.

Through that communication, the two became close friends--closer than was appropriate. The man shortly embraced Islam, and made his romantic inclinations clear to the girl, who through the process of teaching him about Islam, had also developed a friendship she thought significant. Because the sister had been trying to get married, the new brother began suggesting that he would make her a good husband and pressured her to meet, offline. The communication which had first been email, then instant messaging, then phone calls, escalated to a meeting in person. With neither particularly familiar or concerned with the Islamic etiquette of courtship, the two met alone. The sister, with no wali or even any friends in her Muslim community, agreed to meet with the brother very new to the faith who was beginning to seem much more concerned only with the sister than with Islam at all.

There are a few obvious problems with the scene--the couple being alone, the sister especially without anyone to watch out for her interests, and even the brother's conversion coinciding with an increase in romantic feelings for the sister.

Alhamdulillah, Allah saved her from further sin, and the sister managed to keep her Islam in tact although the brother apostated shortly thereafter.

I think this is a sad story, because it represents a real failure of da'wah (demonstrated by the apostasy) and also a comprising situation for new converts, who could not be alone except that Shaytaan would be among them.

Now maybe you're thinking about these two concepts--the description of taqwa, and the story--and wondering how they are related? So let me explain. When giving da'wah, having taqwa is absolutely essential (along with sincerity (ikhlaas), and mercy (rahma), and knowledge (ilm)) because this is what happens. Shaytaan, the avowed enemy of every Muslim, will try anything he can to lead a person astray. Which means, he might even try to convince them to give da'wah... or rather, use the excuse of da'wah to lead them to a compromising situation. And this is why scholars rightly caution men and women both against giving personal da'wah to someone of the opposite sex. Because Shaytaan will use the opportunity very swiftly to lay a trap.

But if a person has taqwa, and he is walking the path while trying to keep his clothes from getting snagged, he will stay away from this trap, seeing that it is a trap. And he will see that even though there is an opportunity for goodness (through the da'wah), that there is also a very dangerous opportunity for harm.

So what is the solution, in an example like the story? Da'wah is good, and if a person shows interest in Islam it is always good to give them some information, right? But if the person is someone whom you could marry (so this doesn't apply to siblings), the better approach is to acquaint the seeker with another Muslim of their same sex, who you trust to convey the message of Islam.

This is a gentle reminder to myself above all, and everyone else who might be interested in giving da'wah.

12 comments:

Faris said...

Amy:

ASA!

Great post on Taqwa in Da'wah and the dangers therein for men and women alike!

Faris

medgirl said...

Nice blog. Jazakallah khair for the reminder. Its something so important to always keep in mind.

On a lighter note, it kind of reminded me of something I read from ManiacMuslim.

-----

“You see brother, this girl here is a Hindu and she isn’t from the People of the Book so I cannot marry her and thus I can try converting her ya’ani right?”

Converting via dawah? Sure… $3.
Converting via Valentine’s presents? Errrr… $9.
Converting via back massages? Uhhhh… $15.
Converting via secretly-making-out-in-a-dark-hallway-of-a-library-hoping-nobody-would-see-them-but was-caught-by-yours-truly? Priceless. I’m out of 70 excuses.

http://maniacmuslim.com/2005/08/10/justifying-stupidity/

Jamilah said...

Asalamu Alaikum Amy

Once again a great post. I think we all need things like this to remind us of how serious dawah is.

brnaeem said...

AA- Amy,

Thanks for the reminder...I would just humbly add that Hikmah (wisdom) is just as necessary. I don't think it was a lack of taqwa on the part of the sister as much as a lack of hikmah.

Amy said...

Salaam Faris

I think it's also relevant to understand the danger inherent in even ordinary social conversations online between a man and a woman.

Amy said...

Salaam Medgirl,

I think that's a good idea of how a good intention might get totally twisted up when etiquette is not maintained.

Amy said...

Salaam Jamilah

Thanks. I always used to bristle at hearing scholars and the like talk about how women shouldn't or mustn't give da'wah to men (or men to women, but they seem to be less stringent on that point, unfortunately, while I think it should be the same.) But situations like the story show that it is a real and serious problem.

Amy said...

Salaam Naeem -

I think you're right, Hikmah was certainly lacking--and that might have been an even bigger problem. Hikmah is also an essential element in da'wah, which I forgot to mention in the post. JAK for reminding me.

Miss Muslimah said...

great post!

Jamilah said...

Amy

What do you think about women giving dawah is a public setting? Like giving a speech or something?

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Jamilah

I think that what scholars think matters more than what I think... lol. So I looked it up on islamqa for you.

http://islamqa.com/en/ref/1121
http://islamqa.com/en/ref/1497
http://islamqa.com/en/ref/59873/

I think that all the critical elements of da'wah should exist all the time--for example, sincerity, knowledge, wisdom, and taqwa. In general, according to the above links, it is allowed for women and men who are unrelated to speak. But they should take precautions to avoid the fitnah.

Personally, I don't have a problem with women giving a speech for the purpose of da'wah and I myself do so frequently. Most audiences are mixed anyway, so a man giving it could be in the same position.

But a woman who is speaking in public should mind a few concerns--special attention to her clothes to make sure they are modest, because she will probably be in a position where everyone can see her and will be watching her. Her voice, also--she should speak with strength and not in a way that would be tempting to a man in the audience. And of course other public speaking etiquettes about relating to the audience.

Provided that it is allowed, it should be conducted with the appropriate manners.

I think that giving da'wah in private, because it is so personal, is a much greater temptation and trap. For public speaking, most of the audience will never meet you again, and there is no privacy.

When we send speakers, we try to send two--usually a man and a woman. Very often, I think it is much better for a woman to answer any and all questions about women in Islam. She will have more credibility on the subject in the eyes of the audience, and isn't as likely (as a man would be) to offend women in the audience by trying to explain certain concepts like hijaab or polygamy.

What do you think about it?

Jamilah said...

Nice answer!

Mainly I agree with you. I've only seen one woman speaker and that was Yvonne Ridldey. She is definitely strong enough to speak in front of men without danger of any issues.