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"Invite people to the way of your
Lord, with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that
are the best and most gracious: For your Lord knows best who have strayed from
His Path, and who receive guidance." <Qur'an Nahl 16:125>
We cannot get away with merely affirming that we are Muslims and that we have accepted God as our only God and Islam as our religion. Rather, as soon as we acknowledge Allah as our only Lord and His guidance as our way of life, we take upon ourselves certain obligations and duties towards ourselves and towards others.
To be a man of principles and a pure source of good is not something easy to achieve. Justice, honesty, integrity, kindness, sincerity, and truthfulness are the qualities of the Muslims that opened the hearts of millions of people in Asia and Africa to the truth of Islam. People knew the tree of Islam by the fruits of the good conduct it produced in its followers.
To solve the problem thrown at us and at our identity by the real world outside
the mosque gates, we need to engage regularly with non-Muslim society. People
convert through personal experience of Muslims. And this takes place overwhelmingly,
at the workplace. Other social contexts are closed to us: the pub, the beach,
the office party. But work is a prime environment for being noticed, and judged,
as Muslims. There is nothing remotely new in this. Islam has always spread primarily
through social interactions connected with work. The early Muslims who conquered
half the world did not set up soapboxes in the town squares of Alexandria, Cordoba,
Fez, in the hope that Christians would flock to them and hear their preaching.
They did business with the Christians; and their nobility and integrity of conduct
won the Christians over. That is the model followed by Muslims; and it is the
one that we must retain today, by interacting with non-Muslims in our places
of work, as much as we can.
Guiding society by spreading the call of righteousness, fighting atrocities
and detestful things, encouraging virtue, enjoining all that is good, helping
the people, trying to win the public opinion to the side of Islam, and observing
the Islamic principles in all aspects of public life: these are the duty of
individual Muslims as well as the community working as a unit.
Let us remember that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) spent the first 40 years of his
life speaking the truth and became famous as Al-Amin (the truthful) before he
started preaching the Truth. Muslims must follow in his path and start condemning
intolerance within, even as we demand tolerance from without.
"...You enjoin the good, forbid
the evil, and believe in Allah"
Our life should be an ideal one which may draw the attention of Western people. It should agitate the minds of the local people who may be compelled to contrast their own lives with ours. That is one of the ways that will make them curious for gaining sound information about Islam. However, if we slavishly imitate the parts of the Western lifestyle that do not agree with Islam, and thus degrade ourselves, there will not be and cannot be any distinction between us and the local people. In this case, they will not feel any attraction towards us. Nor will it make them reflect on the Muslim behaviour or hold us in esteem.
However, when we present before them a unique way of life, it will make them curious. They will be forced to approach us, seeking the source of our worldview. They will naturally ask us how you learnt these high values and noble ideals. They will be keen to have literature about Islam and its philosophy.
It is really important that Muslims present a model and an ideal way of life which may make them interested in studying Islam and eager to know the source of your guidance which enabled you to follow a particular way of life and worldview. This is the only radical way in which you can play an effective role in non-Islamic societies.
One of the greatest blessings of Islam is it's admirable success in creating strong, warm, rich and durable bonds of love and brotherhood between men. It is this blessing of love and brotherhood which is the greatest source of sustenance and nourishment for man, but few of us can honestly say that we have experienced true brotherhood. True Muslim brotherhood implies that you should pray for your brother and want for him what you would want for yourself, and this is the fourth duty. You should pray for him as you pray for yourself making no distinction at all between you and him. You should pray during his life and death that he may have all he might wish for himself, his family and his dependents.
The importance of brotherhood is highlighted by the institution of this by the Prophet (pbuh) in his first state in Medina. As many Muslim emigrants were without means of livelihood, the Prophet (pbuh) laid the obligation of supporting them on the Ansar. The institution of brotherhood in its case was not simply a short term measure designed to deal with an immediate economic crisis but a major and permanent feature of the new social order that was emerging under the Prophet. It represented a deliberate choice in favour of a collective, co-operative spirit, over individualism and competitiveness. It was not an abstract unity. It was a real life organic unity that bound all Muslims. The Prophet (pbuh) has described it as such: "You find the Muslims in their mutual love and compassion, like one body, should any organ of it fall ill, the rest of the body will share in the fever and sleeplessness that ensues". (al-Bukhari)