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  • A country obsessed with racial and religious conflicts
    Sri Lanka, as a nation has been wasting time debating sensitive racial and religious issues for the past several years, without gaining anything. Only thing the country has been witnessing as a result is communities distancing themselves from each other, while portraying a false unity among them. 
    The situation seems to have come to a head with people of various communities being emotionally charged over these issues subsequent to the attacks on three Christian churches and three major tourist hotels by the Islamic terrorists on April 21, 2019, which was also the Easter Sunday.
    The terrorist attacks which caught the nation off-guard demanded united action by all communities and political parties to handle the immediate situation and to prevent future recurrence of...
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  • Burqa ban: Security, human rights and male chauvinism
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Responsibilities of Muslims towards Non-Muslims

by Dr Sulaiman Rifai, Naleemi (London)

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By Dr. Sulaiman Rifai, Naleemi, (London)

I have given here a precise summary of IERA’s research findings concerning perceptions of Islam, Muslims and how Islam is presented to Non-Muslim in England. Though this a sample survey with very limited numbers of respondents it tells lots about Non-Muslim perceptions of Islam and Muslim in general. This survey is carried out by Non-Muslim Company on behalf this Islamic education and Research Academy.  Finding of this survey were released on 23/07/2010 at London Muslim Centre.

This research finding is an eye opener not only Muslim minority in UK but also for the entire Muslim people all over the world particularly for Muslim minorities. These findings should encourage Muslims people to review and re-evaluate their attitudes and methodologies in reaching out to Non-Muslim people.

 

Highlights of Results

Knowledge of Islam:

80% had less than very little knowledge about Islam

51% learnt Islam from school

20% had come into contact with the Qur’an

93% had very little knowledge or no knowledge at all about the Qur’an

40% did not know who Allah is Presenting Islam (dawah) & Religion

5% described Islamic dawah material as quite positive and very positive.

71% had never come into contact with any dawah material.

70% did not change their perceptions about Islam after coming into contact with dawah

material.

14% slightly worsened or significantly worsened.

76% had never spoken to a Muslim about Islam.

63% had no change in their perception after interacting with a Muslim.

13% had perceptions that significantly worsened or slightly worsened.

62% preferred not to receive any information about religion.

Perceptions of Islam and Muslims:

27% had negative perceptions regarding Muslims

75% believed Islam and Muslims had provided a negative contribution to society

32% believed that Muslims are a major cause of community tension

2% responded positively concerning perceptions about Islamic law

76% did not agree to the statement that Muslims positively engage in society

36% did not know who the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was

61% did not respond positively when asked about the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)

71% of all participants did not agree that the media is negatively biased towards Islam and Muslims

63% did not disagree to the statement that “Muslims are terrorists”

70% did not disagree with the statement “Muslims preach hatred”

94% did not disagree with the statement “Islam oppresses women”

86% did not disagree with the statement “Islam is outdated”

72% did not agree with the statement “Muslims are law abiding”

85% did not disagree with the statement “Islam is irrational”

71% did not agree with the statement “Muslims are peaceful”

73% did not disagree with the statement “Islam cannot positively contribute to modern society”

Findings of this survey are very much self-explanatory and tell a lot about Muslims and about our failure to reach them with the message of Islam.   These finding reveal many negative perceptions of Non-Muslim people about Islam and Muslims. These findings tell us that the field of dawa has been untouched and millions of people in England never had a chance or opportunities to listen to the message of Islam or they are not been approached with the message of Islam by Muslim people at all. More 80% people do not have any clue about Islam and they do not know anything about Islam and 93% people know very little about the Holy Quran. This means that Muslim community in England have greatly failed to reach out with Islamic message to these people. This is despite of the fact English people are receptive to any views or ideologies. Muslim people could openly present the message of Islam without any repercussion from English people. Yet, we have failed in presenting Islam to these people. Muslims have been perceived with many negative adjectives such oppressive, violent, irrational and terrifying people. Muslim people are perceived as hatred and violence preachers.  These people come to such conclusions not after reading the Holy texts of Quran and Hadith rather after seeing actions and activities of some Muslim people around the world. But it is Muslim people’s behaviours; attitudes and action give these negative impressions in their minds.

One could compare these findings with Srilankan Non-communities in Srilanka. Most of Non-Muslim Singhalese and Tamil people are innocent and they know nothing about our religion. Even they have not been given chances to listen to basic teaching of Islam: They have never been exposed to teachings of Quran and prophetic traditions.  They have not been given access to our holy texts and holy places like our mosques to know and understand about our religions. For more than 1000 years we have been barring them from entering our mosques. We have never given them opportunities to listen to the divine voice of the Holy Quran and that of beautiful sayings of our prophet Muhammad. Yet, we have been judgmental in our religious prejudice and discrimination. We have failed to realise that Allah will question us on the Day of Judgment that about our responsibilities towards these innocent non-Muslim people. The Quran tell us on that difficult and horrific day that Muslim people will be integrated by Non-Muslim people as not why we not did not inform them true reality of Islam today on earth we were living with them in next door neighbourhoods   or as friends in this Island.  We should keep in mind this divine instruction and warding in our minds whenever we meet or see our non-Muslim brothers and sisters in Srilanka. We should have empathy and sympathy on them. We should have empathy on them to realise what would be our fate on the Day of Judgment if we lived like them on earth. Moreover, we should have a strong sense of feeling and remorse for their suffering and difficulties in their life.

Our beloved prophet has showed us a great deal of role models and examples in dealing with non-Muslim people: Our prophet was so sympathetic for the suffering of people and He wanted to save humanity from danger of hellfire. Consider for instance this Quran verse: (Perhaps, you would kill yourself O.Muhammed in grief, over their footsteps (for turning away from you), because they believe not in this narration (the Quran): (15:6) we should follow this prophetic tradition and example when we reach out to Non-Muslim people with the message of Islam: We should have empathy and sympathy on them. Rather than having this sense of sympathy we having looking down on them sometime with some sense of superiority in our faith and religion.

Rather than pointing fingers on others Muslims people should blame themselves for misrepresenting Islam in modern world and rectify their mistakes and faults to qualify  to become the best among nations( Quran: 3;110) and to become witness to whole mankind.  Muslim people have been maintaining “mentality of superiority in dealing with Non-Muslim brothers in humanity.  This is based on their wrong conviction that they have been predestined to go to Paradise while others will be doomed to go hell fire on the basis of their choice in faith. Undoubtedly faith and righteous deeds are fundamentals to secure a place in Paradise yet, Muslim people can not be pre-judgemental on other people. Only Allah knows the final destiny of man and moreover, the concept of kufr is wider than we think.

There is a huge difference between disbelievers and unbelievers. Unbelievers are people who are not believe yet because of many reasons. It may be that they have not received true message of Islam or it may be that they have not capabilities to understand the true meanings of Islam; or Muslim may have been negligent to reach them out with true message of Islam in proper professional manners according their level of intellect and understanding. It may that they believe in true God as directed in Quran and still conceal their faith for some societal influences. However, disbelievers are the people who have received the true message of Islam and know well that Islam is final divine message and yet they deliberately reject and object Islam intentionally with strong antagonism.  The majority of innocent Non-Muslims are unbelievers with possibilities of becoming Muslims if we could approach them in a professional way with the compassionate message of Islam. Millions of English people have sympathy towards Muslims people and millions of them know that injustice has been done to Muslim people around many parts of world.  Three models of communal relationship have been discussed in our modern times: total isolation, interaction or total isolation. While some argue that multiculturalism is an utter failure in modern times and there are some others who argue that borderless modern global village is a multicultural world in every sense and hence sense of tolerance, mutual cultural understanding and communal harmony are   imperative than ever before.  In English context, our behaviours, mentality, manners, action, activities, commutation, treatments of other communities should be re-assessed, monitored and adjusted to build a peaceful social harmony.   Muslim community should become an inspiring community. Our manners, belabours, actions and activities should attract other communities towards the noble teachings of Islam:  We should win the hearts and minds of people though our good manners and behaviours. While we are condemning all extreme elements of people we should also look at the mistakes and wrong doing of our people. When a Muslim does a wrong thing such wrong act not only gives discredit and disgrace to his name but also it bring bad name for Islam and indeed, for the Muslim community.  Muslims are identified in the name of their religion.

No doubt that reaching out to humanity with the compassionate message of Islam is a collective responsibility of International Muslim community. Wherever Muslims live tin this globe they are morally and religiously obliged to convey the peaceful message of Islam to our Non-Muslim brothers in humanity. Hundreds of Quranic texts and Prophetic traditions sanction the imperative nature of this religious duty and responsibility and yet, effectiveness of reaching out to Non-Muslim has been questioned. The competence of Muslims in reaching out with message of Islam in modern times has been questioned by Muslim scholars. The competency does not merely mean to have profound knowledge alone in Islamic sciences rather it should also mean to have inspirational and influencing human characteristics and qualities embedded in Muslim life. More and more Non-Muslim people are attracted into religion of Islam through personal interaction with Muslim people rather than reading through Islamic literatures or through listening Islamic speeches.   Of course, Islamic literature and speeches are vital today to reach out with the message of Islam to Humanity yet, exemplary and excellent personal interaction with good human quality bring more people towards Islam than any other methods of Islamic propagation.

Dr Manazir. Ahsan in his research article (Dawa and its Significance for the Future) notes on the historical account of Thomas Arnold that “ a Muslim jurist consult  who come to Eastern Europe at the Beginning of the eleventh century, not in freedom but in chains, was instrumental in brining thousands of Europeans to Islam  one wonders how this man, most probably not knowing the languages of the people, not familiar with their customs and traditions and not able to move freely, was able to accomplish what millions of Muslims living freely in the West in comfort and affluence, with freedom and opportunities, cannot perform these days. It is an indictment to one billion Muslims all over the world that in spite of all their facilities of freedom and publicity, they cannot achieve what a prisoner did centuries ago. In fact, what this Muslim prisoner accomplished is not unusual; the early history of Islam is replete with instances of individual Muslim savants, Ulama and Sufia, illuminating the heart of people with the light of iman, faith, spreading the message of Islam far and wide.( Manazir.Ahsan. p.13).

This is really true that Non-Muslim people are greatly inspired and influenced by the virtues of our good characters and manners than by our verbal preaching and writings. To substantiate this claim I shall recall here one more narrative. It was reported that one English couple went to Turkey on a holiday trip and they happened to go to a remote village to roam around the country side and Sun was setting and they could not come back to their hotel due to the darkness of night. They were approached by one Turkish elderly man with full of bird in his face and invited to stay over night in their country cottage with basic necessities of life. They reluctantly agreed to stay with them with apprehension and anxiety.  This elderly man in line with Islamic ethic of hospitability offered his cottage to this couple to sleep over and he took his wife and children to next door hut in a tree and stayed over night in the hut. Moreover, in line Islamic tradition of looking after the guest he prepared the breakfast early morning before the guest wake up and served them with break fast on time. For their surprise they asked this elderly man that how did he manage to prepare break fast in this early morning and the early Turkish man said to them that I had waken up for my morning prayer before  dawn  and made my prayers and made this preparation. After serving them break fast he took to the town the hotel they supposed to go and these people were so surprised and happy with this humble hospitability they had received from an educated elderly Muslim villager in Turkey. This lead them to find out more about Islam and finally they were convinced Islam is a true religion of peace and harmony and they become Muslims.

What I’m saying here is that Islamic missionary work and propagation activities are paramount important in our modern world of information technology and yet, at same time personal interaction and our manifestation of Islamic moral and ethnical code of life certainly will appeal and draw more people towards Islam than anything else. This exactly what happened in many part of world when Muslim traders when to many parts of African and Asian countries and yet, Muslims in Europe still struggle to portray true picture of Islam to Non-Muslims through their presentation and personal life. This should be done individually and collectively in our country.

 

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