Yesterday morning I heard a story on the BBC World Service about HIV in Africa and the Catholic Church. You see, condoms are apparently a big no-no for Catholics. But this just recently made big news because the Pope was actually visiting Africa. To be honest, I wasn't really paying attention--the reporter was just asking some people what they thought about the Pope's visit, or about condom use. And interestingly enough, one person the reporter spoke to was a Muslim, and she asked him what he thought about the Pope's visit.
At first I thought that kind of strange, of all the people to ask, why ask a Muslim. But my ears really started perking up when I started to hear what the Muslim was saying!
You see, he didn't really start talking about the Pope, and he didn't start talking about condoms, and he didn't start talking about HIV/AIDS. He started by talking about Jesus. Muslims believe in Jesus, he said, and he explained what that meant, and how nobody could really be a Muslim without believing that Jesus was a prophet and messenger of God, born of a virgin.
I was immediately impressed. Do you know why? Because that is pretty much exactly how Muslims are instructed to approach Christians for dialogue. And the overall message of the Muslim (who you should not be surprised to learn was actually a local scholar of Islam) was basically that Muslims and Christians should pursue dialogue--and he started it by explaining the Muslim view on Jesus. Right there in an interview where he could have criticized the Pope (as many people have) or Catholic policy, or could have spoken about a lot of things, he chose to give da'wah, to be heard around the world bi idhnillah, talking about Jesus.
And how many people might have heard that report, who knew nothing about Islam, and now might be interested in learning a thing or two about Islam after hearing his explanation!
I mentioned above that this is how Muslims are taught to speak to Christians, by starting with similarities, and focusing on Jesus. This is a lesson we learn not just in the Qur'an but also through the Seerah. For instance, Surah Maryam talks about Mary and Jesus and the Muslim views about the virgin birth and the role of Jesus--topics very near to the heart of Christians. This was revealed before the migration of Muslims to Abyssinia, and when the Najashi (Christian king of Abyssinia) was told by an envoy from the Quraysh that the Muslims were disparaging Jesus. The Qurayshi was saying this to persuade the Najashi to let the Quraysh take these Muslims back to Mecca where they were being persecuted.
The first time the Najashi had asked the Muslims about their message, their spokesman Ja'far ibn Abi Talib explained that they had been a people who worshiped idols and who didn't slaughter their meat properly, that they had committed fornication and adultery, that they used to cut their relationship ties and harm people, until the Prophet Muhammad (saws) came and told them to worship One God. So right off the bat, Ja'far is explaining the similarities that these Muslims had with the Christians!
And when the Najashi asked the Muslims about Jesus, Ja'far wisely recited from Surah Maryam, explaining about the Muslim view of Jesus straight from the Qur'an. And do you know how the Najashi responded? By saying that the difference between Islam and Christianity wasn't any more than the width of a stick!
So there is a lesson here for those who want to give da'wah--from the Qur'an, from the Seerah, and also from the African shaykh who started off talking about Jesus when asked about the Pope. MaashaaAllaah!
On the other hand, there are the "da'wah techniques" of non-Muslims, like some evangelists from Liberty University. This article makes for pretty hilarious reading, thanks to Taiyyaba who put shared it in her reader for me to see.