First of all: What is daw’ah?
The Quran instructs believers to: “Invite to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. For your Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance” (16:125).
In Islam, it is believed that the fate of each person is in Allah’s hands, so it is not up to individual Muslims to “convert” others to the faith. The goal of da’wah, then, is merely to share information, to invite others towards a better understanding. Then it is, of course, up to the person to make their own choice.
Now to some thoughts and reflections about giving daw’ah to Christians.
If we are really serious about this I strongly recommend reading the Bible from cover to cover. Watching Dr Zakir Naik videos on youtube might be ok but is no substitute for having your own knowledge base to draw from.
Here is a summary of the gospel message you might hear from evangelical Christians:
The Bible says that we are all sinners. This means that we have all offended God. We have all broken His law. Therefore, we are guilty of having sinned. Because of this, we are separated from God and are dead in our sins, and will suffer eternal damnation. The only way to escape this judgment is by receiving Christ – by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross.
You see we cannot remove our own sins, God must do it.
Jesus, who is God in flesh, took our sins in his body on the cross. He died in our place. He paid the penalty of breaking the Law of God that should have fallen upon us.
It is only through Jesus that we can escape the penalty that God will execute upon all who have broken his holy and perfect law. Christians will ask you: Do you want to be saved from the righteous judgment of God?
Now if as a result of this message being preached you believe this gospel and become a born again Christian you will more than likely have some life-changing religious experiences: feelings of peace, a sense of forgiveness of sins, a feeling that God is real and loving, a new spiritual vitality, maybe the sense that Jesus Christ is very real to you. I certainly did. And these experiences confirm the truth of the gospel message. Or so we are told. I find in my conversations with Christians that though it is relatively straightforward to expose the errors and contradictions in their views about God and Jesus, they hold on tight to their religious experiences as proof of the truth of Christianity.
But there is the catch. If you go on to the internet and Google:
“Krishna changed my life…”
You will find many testimonies like this:
“I knew about Krishna as a God whom all Hindus worship. One day I came to know from a friend about Hare Krishna Maha mantra. I really did not know that everything will start changing once I start chanting the Maha mantra. By reading Bhagvad Gita and chanting all my doubts about life, about God started vanishing. I started understanding that we worry about so many unnecessary stuffs which should be given least priority in life. My habits started changing. Somehow Lord Krishna started providing me with more and more resources which helped me to love him more and more. I started seeing Krishna in my dreams. Hare Krishna chanting cleansed my mind of ignorance and I became fearless day by day. Chanting Hare Krishna provided the first step for knowing Krishna, my purpose in life, and answers to all the questions which troubled my mind.”
“When I chant I am filled with such joy that I can not hold back tears for being able to experience The Most High will down here on earth.”
If you Google: “Mormonism changed my life…”
‘Something strange started to happen; it got real dark in my very small apartment. I didn’t think anything of it at first; thinking it was just a tropical storm coming and it would be over soon like it usually is.
But strangely enough it got pitch black dark and I got real weak and tired and couldn’t understand what was happening. All I could do was turn my head to the wall of the apartment and I saw this little circular bright light, ever so small and getting bigger and bigger each second, I think time stood still for me.
Suddenly a being walked through it, wearing what Joseph Smith described as what Moroni wore the night Joseph Smith was visited three times. I was a bit frightened at first and dared not say a word until spoken too.
I stood up and could see we were about the same height and build. He had a book in his hand and opened it up and faced it towards me. He smiled, closed the book, and walked off back through that circle.
Just a couple of things here, this being was NOT of Spirit, it was flesh & bones just like you and I. Secondly, we communicated without moving our mouths, my thoughts and his were readable to each other.
The angel did not come to judge me although I deserved being chastised, but rather to deliver me a message that I had requested. I know the Mormon Gospel is true beyond the shadow of a doubt.”
If you visit the website of the Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) at http://www.lds.org you can read dozens of stories about changed lives and moving religious experiences.
If you Google: “Jehovah’s Witnesses changed my life…”
‘I learned that my lifestyle was not pleasing to God and that I had to quit taking drugs and smoking. But the drugs had a strong hold on me. I begged Jehovah God several times a day to help me break free from my bad habits. I wanted to please him. After six months of studying the Bible and associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was able to quit drugs. Now my life is more meaningful. I’m no longer depressed all the time. I met a wonderful Christian man and married him. I have raised my son according to Bible principles. I am so thankful that Jehovah heard my prayers and helped me!’
You can find numerous examples of similar phenomena from the Roman Catholics (who may tell you how the Mother of God, aka the Virgin Mary, has answered their prayers, perhaps appeared to them and healed them); and from religious Jews; Sikhs and so on.
An important lesson to be learnt here is that these diverse faiths have significantly different creeds and teachings about God, about who Jesus is, and even what is right and wrong. So however wonderful and seemingly compelling these religious experiences are to the people who have them, they cannot all be right. Maybe they are created by jinn or are simply hallucinations – who knows? But they cannot guide us in our search for the truth about our lives and our Creator. We need to find a more reliable way to the truth about God than rely on contradictory religious experiences alone.
Perhaps uniquely amongst the scriptures of the world the Quran addresses its message to people who “think” and reflect (see Quran 10:24), who use their ‘Aql’ their ‘intellect’.
The Quran does not ask for blind faith in absurdities and contradictions and religious ecstasies.
Let us see how our God given common sense and simple logic help us distinguish what is from God and what cannot be. After all Bible tells us that ‘God is not the author of confusion’.
As we have already seen, Christians believe Jesus is God in the flesh who died in our place on a cross.
But how can God die? God is eternal, uncreated, ever-living. Even the New Testament says “God is immortal” (ie not subject to death) see 1 Timothy 6:16 which reads: “It is God alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see”.
So clearly God does not die. The idea is irrational and contradictory and is therefore unlikely to be true.
There are other serious contradictions that tell us a great deal about how God’s teaching has been corrupted and changed from its pure original.
Careful readers of the earliest gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) have long noticed that what Jesus teaches about the attributes of God; the forgiveness of sins; how we are made right before God; the importance of obeying the Jewish Law – all these are very different indeed from the teaching of the apostle Paul and most Christians today.
Lets look at some examples of these stark differences:
How are our sins forgiven according tho Jesus? In the famous Lord’s Prayer he taught his disciples to pray, we read a petition for forgiveness to God which reads:
‘Forgives us our sins as we also have forgiven those who sin against us. For if you forgive others their trespasses, God will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.’ (Matt 5:12-14)
No sacrifice, no rituals, no mention of a Trinity of divine persons. Jesus says pray to God directly without any mediator or priest.
Compare this to the apostle Paul in Romans, “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood”. Romans 3:25
Islam however places great stress on God as a God of mercy and forgiveness whom the individual can approach directly without the need of any mediator or priest. God says in the Quran:
‘O My servants, who have transgressed against their souls. Do not despair of the mercy of
God, for He forgives all sins, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ (39:53).
The gospel of Luke tells a story about a Jew called Zacchaeus
‘Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him,
‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’
So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said,
‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’
Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Notice that the man received salvation that very day – not later as a result of Jesus’s alleged death on the cross.
New Testament scholars have long noticed that for Luke salvation and forgiveness of sin does not depend of Jesus’ atoning death. Rather, like an Old Testament prophet Jesus calls the people of Israel to sincere repentance and faith in the One God. Jesus as such is not the object of his proclamation, a fact that is curiously ignored by many Christians today. These Christians do not follow the religion of Jesus but the religion about Jesus.
According to apostle Paul (who never met Jesus, yet over half the New Testament is either by him or about him) you must “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16
Jesus, in contrast, mirroring the teaching of the Quran, teaches that God knows our weakness and forgives those who, in the self-surrender of faith, bow before the compassionate Lord of the universe.
Once, the Prophet Muhammad reported that the Devil said:
“By my honour, O Lord, I shall never stop misguiding your servants so long as life remains in their bodies!”
The Almighty, the Glorious Lord, said: “By My honour, I shall never cease forgiving them, so long as they ask forgiveness of Me!” (Ahmad).
* Obedience of the Jewish Law is central to discipleship in the Kingdom of God read Matthew 5:17-20, – and then read Paul’s radically different belief in Ephesians 2:15.
* How do we enter eternal life? By obeying the commandments says Jesus in Matt 19:17 (something Paul would never say – Ephesians 2:15).
* John the Baptist, revered as a great prophet in Islam, appeared proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in Mark 1. People were baptised in the Jordan – thus their sins were forgiven. So if there sins were forgiven wha was the point of the cross? Superfluous! unnecessary!
There are numerous other examples I could recount. These sayings constitute the gospel *of* Jesus. Paul and later Christians preached a gospel *about* Jesus. The Proclaimer had become the one proclaimed. Jesus preached the Kingdom of God and it was the church that came.
The Quran acknowledges that the gospel of Jesus or Injeel is to be found in the existing gospels but is not coterminous with it. Christians are called by God in his final Testament to mankind, the Holy Qur’an, to judge what they believe by the gospel *of* Jesus, and this teaching is confirmed by the Quran. The Quran also corrects the mis-interpretations by Christians who wrongly believe Jesus is God. Jesus bears witness in the Quran that he is just a man.
The New Testament endorses this view. The apostle Peter is reported to have said:
“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, was a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know”. Acts 2
Peter was Jesus’s most senior disciple. He clearly did not think Jesus was God!
Clearly the four gospels are not the Injeel. They make claims (eg about the crucifixion) that God has made clear are quite unhistorical. The Quran suggests that the ‘Gospel’ (Injil) is something given to Jesus by God (see surah 5:46). So it is evident that in the Qur’an the divine Gospel was once revealed to Jesus and it is not books written about Jesus. This is an important point to make with Christians.
Some personal tips on how to Give Da’wah
Be friendly, respectful, and gentle
Be a living example of the truth and peace of Islam
Choose your time and place carefully
Find common ground; speak a common language with your audience
Avoid Arabic terminology with a non-Arabic speaker
Have a dialogue, not a monologue
Clear up any misconceptions about Islam
Be direct; answer questions asked
Speak with wisdom, from a place of knowledge
Keep yourself humble; be willing to say, “I don’t know”
Walk away if the conversation turns disrespectful or ugly
Provide follow-up and support for anyone who expresses interest in learning more
(The above is based on a talk I gave at London Central Mosque on Saturday 3rd September 2016)