It’s one thing to witness to non-Muslims by being strong in our faith. We shouldn’t shy away from practicing the Five Pillars or being open about who we are. But how many non-Muslims will feel comfortable about approaching us if they see this impenetrable wall of Muslimness? And how do we reach through that wall if we know nothing about non-Muslims’ hopes, dreams and beliefs?
Why did Allah make us all different?
The Bible implies that God made us all to speak different languages as a punishment for man’s attempt to reach heaven by building the Tower of Babel. Islam puts a much more positive spin on our differences. Allah means for us to learn from one another. People who have different experiences of life can add to our wisdom about how to live. I don’t think it’s incidental that Muslims are taught to seek knowledge. We should always be open to learning new things. And one of the things we will learn is that people are not so very different at the core.
It’s wrong for Muslims to think that they are better than non-Muslims. If anything, we are just more fortunate. To harbor hate or prejudice in our hearts toward those who don’t embrace Islam runs counter to everything Allah intends for us. Hate and prejudice diminish the person who holds onto them. The only way to make an impression on non-Muslims is to show charity and love toward them. Love is the most powerful force in the world.
What can we learn from the Bible?
You may think that I sound too much like a Christian when I write things like that. But why do we consider Jesus to be one of the greatest of prophets if we don’t listen to what he had to say? Muslims have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Because we reject Jesus’ divinity, we tend to ignore his teachings. I know that Muslims think the Bible is corrupted, but that doesn’t mean that it has nothing in it that can teach us how to be better Muslims.
I was led to convert to Islam by a combination of knowledge and being loved. I didn’t come to Islam because I was afraid I would go to hell if I didn’t. In fact, I had to get over my fear of hell if I did. As a Christian, I was taught that the only way to God, and to eternal life, was through Jesus Christ. If I didn’t believe that Jesus was God and that he died as a sacrifice for my sins, I would go to hell. Even after I had stopped believing that Jesus was divine, I was afraid to stop going through him to get to God.
But then I met Muslims who were secure and happy in their faith, who accepted and loved me even though I wasn’t a Muslim. They answered my questions about Islam, but left it totally up to me whether I would convert or not. And I know that even if I hadn’t, they would have remained friendly and caring toward me, because I’ve seen the way they are with other non-Muslims.
Non-Muslims think of Muslims as hate-filled and resentful toward Western culture. I won’t deny that there are some who are, just as there are some Christians who are hate-filled and resentful toward Islamic culture. But a Muslim—or a Christian—who is truly submitted to God isn’t like that. Submission to Allah means submission to His will, and His will is that we all come to Him. Anything we do as believers that causes non-believers to turn away from God is against His will, and therefore a sin.
Reaching through our Muslimness
Islam is simple at its core, but complicated in its practice. Sometimes I think that we make it too complicated. I know there are Muslims who believe that the simplest way is to follow all the precepts in the Qur’an and in Mohammad’s (pbuh) teachings. But what if you don’t know all there is to learn about Islam? You could become paralyzed wondering which way you should turn. Sometimes I feel afraid to do anything; it seems that the safest way is to reject anything that is not specifically labeled Islamic. But if you do that, you lose touch with the world, and I don’t believe that Allah wants us to do that.