SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 – THE Muslim Story and A strategy for Coping – Part Two

 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
THE Muslim Story and
A strategy for Coping

Dr. Pasha

(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It —
And which One Does Not?)

 Draft document produced in the immediate 
aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001

 

Part Two
Presenting Islam to Non-Muslims

 

INTRODUCTION

As a result, this is an opportunity for Muslims, right in the midst of their pain, loss, grief and daily harassment and humiliation, to come out with full vigour and enthusiasm to present Islam to non-Muslims in America and Europe.

For, American and European non-Muslims today are filled with curiosity about Islam, as perhaps never before in history. So far, their interest in Islam was peripheral, passing and intellectual at best. Now, of necessity, it has become deep, personal and emotional.

This is the right time for the non-Muslim Americans and Europeans to find out what exactly it is that Islam represents and who exactly are the people they have come to know as Muslims.

For, what America and Europe need today, more than ever before, is truth – more than anything else about Islam and Muslims. And truth is what the Muslims have in their possession.

Truth with regard to who they are and what they do as well as truth with regard to what Islam is and how it operates in today’s complex world, especially in modern-day America and Europe.

In its final and complete form, Muslims have the truth of Al-Islam in their hands. For, Islam itself is truth. It is Al-Haqq – absolute truth — from God Almighty – the lord and master of Muslims, Jews, Christians and all others.

This is the time for the Muslims of America – and Muslims throughout the Western world – to stand tall and present the truth of Islam to the non-Muslims around them.

It is time for them to let the world see the true face of Haqq – truth – as it exists in reality, unalloyed and unmitigated by personal considerations and political interests.

Truth then shall set everyone free. It shall set non-Muslims free from their prejudice, suspicion, loathing and hate for Islam and Muslims.

And it shall set Muslims free from fear, self-doubt, sense of inferiority, guilt and all the other damaging effects that arise out of perpetual misinformation, propaganda and demonization that are directed against Islam and Muslims.

Thus will be ushered in a new era of peace, security, love and mutual respect for all – non-Muslims as well as Muslims.

The only losers in such a win-win outcome – win for Muslims; win for non-Muslims – will be those who hate truth for their own personal reasons and want to cover it up.

Such people, on account of their antipathy to truth, are friends of neither Muslims nor non-Muslims; of neither America nor of the rest of the world.

AN OPEN-HOUSE CAMPAIGN

Muslims in America have already done many things to reach out to the non-Muslims in this hour of crisis.

They have donated blood generously; they have volunteered to help; medical professionals among them have offered their skills; they have raised funds; and they have organized Open Houses in mosques.

An Open House in the local mosque is another effective way in which American and European Muslims can reach out to the non-Muslims in their communities.

This is a simple idea, but, if Allah wills, it will have a profound impact. I have been toying with this idea for several years and even completed a manuscript in 1996 or so.

I gave a manuscript to some individuals and groups at that time to be published, but the project never materialized. It appears Allah has decided that it should be published now in the context of the tragic events of September 11.

The following pages, therefore, present some ideas on what an Open House really means in the context of Islam and on how to do an Open House for a local mosque in a Muslim community.

MUSLIMS: A PEOPLE WITH A MISSION

The very first thing the Muslims must know is that they are a people with a mission.

And, even though at the present we are talking mostly about North America, this mission really transcends geography – as well as time.

That means, no matter where the Muslims are geographically, and no matter at what particular point they are in history, this was, is and always will be their mission.

The essence of that mission is this: To treat the people around them in the most wonderful, helpful, courteous, caring and respectful manner and, in the process, show a better way of life.

A cleaner, healthier and more wholesome way of life altogether. A way of life whose foundations are peace within oneself; peace with God; and peace with God’s creation all around.

And – as a result – a way of life that creates peace on earth.

And justice.

And fairness.

And compassion.

And, above all else, truth – what the Qur’an calls Haqq.

For one and for all.

For friend as well as for foe.

For Muslims as well as for non-Muslims.

Muslims cannot escape this mission, regardless of where they are.

Or at what point in history they are.

And Muslims must carry out this mission through both practice and precept.

Through personal example as well as through teaching and explanation. But no matter how they do it, it must be done in a manner that is user-friendly.

For, that is the way of Islam: user-friendliness. Islam is the ultimate user-friendly system of thought, belief and behaviour in the world.

As a result, the way of life advocated by Islam is based on genuine love, respect and concern: not only for self but also for others.

And on endless patience and perseverance.

And it embodies a spirit of great gentleness, and kindness, and tact

And great sensitivity.

Always taking the high road.

Always saying the good word.

Always using the nobler style and approach.

As the Qur’an requires people to do. All people in general, and Muslims in particular.

And as the Rasool, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, showed them how.

One way to do this is to bring to as many people as possible knowledge and understanding.

For, knowledge is a key requirement of human life on earth.

For, knowledge is a fundamental human need, on the fulfilment of which the satisfactory fulfilment of all other needs depends.

Knowledge is the light that illumines the path of life that people must travel. It is the power that enables them to do it.

Knowledge is also the compass that determines their direction and guides their steps.

As a result, without knowledge people are blind, powerless and lost.

Muslims, therefore, have a mission — a universal and eternal mission – to bring to people the simple, direct and accurate knowledge of two things:

a) What Islam is, and how it is directly, immediately and in a compelling manner related to what people are and do in their daily lives?

b) Who and what the Muslims are, both here and globally?

There are numerous ways to do this.

The exact method and means of doing this would change from place to place, situation to situation and from time to time. But what would remain unaltered across time and space is the basic nature and importance of this mission This is an enormous burden that Muslims carry on their shoulders. This, in a sense, is the debt Muslims owe to all others in this world – right here in North America and all over the world.

This the mission of Islam and Muslims on earth.

AN OPEN HOUSE FOR YOUR MOSQUE

One way for Muslims in North America to accomplish this mission is to throw open the doors of their mosques to non-Muslims on a regular basis.

Muslims need to remind themselves constantly that non-Muslims are their neighbours. And neighbours in Islam have rights.

Unbeknownst to many modern-day Muslims – and non-Muslims – “neighbourliness” is a fundamental concept in Islam. In fact, it is one of Islam’s most powerful and revolutionary contributions to human culture and civilization.

The first lesson for Muslims to learn in this regard is the fact that their neighbours, regardless of their religion or race, share with them their creator.

Whether they believe in it or not, all human beings are the creation of the same one true God. Regardless of whether the colour of their wool is black or white, they are all sheep owned by the same master. They are all part of God’s flock.

Additionally, humans also have a common origin. Looked at from what is generally referred to as a religious viewpoint, they are all children of Adam and his spouse, bound together by ties of blood.

Even from the point of view of secular science, humans, to the extent science is able to determine with any degree of confidence or certainty at this time in history, share a common origin.

Muslims must also learn that neighbours, Muslim as well as non-Muslim, are those who happen to share with them this particular spot on God’s earth in this particular portion of God’s time.

Together, they are companions on this common journey called life – Muslims and non-Muslims, all neighbours together, sharing common space and time.

A journey whose common origin is God.

A journey whose common destination is God.

For, it is to God, as the Qur’an points out that all humans belong, and it is to him that they all shall return.

Not just that. Human beings are also very special creation of God, even the seemingly least and worst among them. In fact, more special and extraordinary than words can describe or most human minds can comprehend.

God almighty made humans exalted and special: wa la qad karramna bani aadama: “And indeed we gave the children of Adam a position of great dignity and honour,” says the Qur’an.

All humans – without exception of colour or creed.

And then there is the fact, recorded in the Qur’an, of God creating Adam with his own two hands – how much honour and dignity does that confer on the human race?

And then, when God finished shaping Adam’s form from tinkling, smelly clay, he also breathed in him his spirit.

Humans, all humans irrespective of religion, race or gender, are heirs to that incomprehensible divine legacy.

Based on all this, how much more exalted or special can an individual human being possibly become?

And where is the room at this most basic human level for distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim, male and female?

ISLAM: A SYSTEM OF NEIGHBORLY RELATIONS

The Qur’an clearly highlights the obligation of neighbours to each other, irrespective of their belief, behaviour, denominational affiliation, party loyalty, colour, class or gender.

And in doing this, the Qur’an comes up with a scheme for categorizing and classifying neighbours that is nothing less than revolutionary.

Instead of inquiring into the race or religion of the neighbour, the Qur’an simply tells people to look at the blood relationship that binds them with their neighbours.

In this Qur’anic scheme of classifying neighbors, ties of blood come first. That means, you are obligated most to that neighbor who also happens to be your relative.

Then come sheer spatial considerations, as the Qur’an asks us to see who is the closest neighbour to us. That means, the closer a neighbour’s door is to ours, the more “neighbourly” must we feel and act toward him.

No matter what the religion or the race of that neighbour.

And then, the Qur’an completely closes and boards up the door of any likely ill-treatment of one’s fellow-humans – at any place or time.

The Qur’an now highlights the rights, not only of next-door neighbours, but also of those who are merely passers by. Not only of permanent neighbours of some kind, but also of pure transients of all kinds.

“And then the person next to you,” says the Qur’an, making it virtually impossible for a Muslim to be rude, mean or indifferent to the “next” person. That is, to the person who happens to be sharing space and time with you, whether in a bus, train or plane; or whether in a classroom or workplace.

Or just about anywhere else on the face of this earth, in just about any context or situation.

In other words, this is what the Qur’an is telling the Muslims: if you happen to sit or stand next to another human being, no matter where and no matter for how long, then you’d better know how to behave in the most neighbourly, gracious, kind, charitable, respectful, honest, caring and helpful manner toward that person.

What a revolutionary recipe this is for the creation and nurturing of a civilized society!

In such a society, every individual pushes the limits of care, concern and respect for the other, no matter who that other person is, so long as that person happens to share with you, no matter for how short a time, contiguous or proximate space-time coordinates.

NEIGHBORLINESS: A CONCEPT THAT GOES BEYOND INDIVIDUALS

The concept of neighbourly obligations in Islam transcends individuals and persons and provides the basis for defining mutual relationships between all kinds of entities based on physical juxtaposition.

In Islam, it does not matter if the neighbour is a global corporation, a local grocery store, a house, a school, a government office or a place of worship.

All these are entities that occupy physical space and they all must shoulder their obligations toward those that populate the space next to them, no matter what their shape, colour or form.

In this sense, the mosque — the Muslim place of worship — has its own neighbours. And, inevitably, these neighbours would come in all shades of colour, creed, character and commitment.

Some of these neighbouring entities would be places of worship; others should be places of business; and some others would be places dedicated to fun and entertainment. Yet others would be dwellings for human beings, who, in a society like the United States or Canada, would reflect a mosaic of faiths and ethnicities.

The position of Islam is that to each one of them, the Muslim places of worship, through the members of the Muslim congregation, must pay their neighbourly dues.

Mosques are houses dedicated to the worship of God, yet they are buildings constructed with lifeless material. As a result, Muslims, both as individuals and as a group, become responsible for making sure that the mosque’s neighbourhood dues are paid.

And if a congregation does not do this, individual Muslim members of that congregation would become liable from both sides before Allah.

One, they will be answerable before Allah for the mosque neighbours, who, on Judgment Day, will complain to Allah for being neglected or abused by the Muslim congregation or Jama’at.

Two, they will be answerable before Allah for the mosques themselves that will complain to Allah on the Day of Judgment how the Muslim worshipers did not fulfil their obligations on their behalf.

So, the Muslims in every congregation or Jama’at have an obligation to reach out to their neighbours in behalf of both themselves and their mosques.

That means, they need to reach out to their neighbours with any act, gesture or word of kindness or concern that they can. But above all, they need to reach out to them with Qur’an, with hadith and with the message of Islam.

For, no kindness can be greater than introducing Islam and its wonderful teachings to non-Muslims.

And there is no better way to fight the anti-Muslim prejudice that is breaking out everywhere in the wake of the terrible events of the recent past.

It goes without saying, however, that the best and most powerful introduction to Islam is the way Muslims live and act, and not just the words that Muslims speak praising the virtues of Islam.

This includes the way Muslims maintain their mosques and mosque premises and neighbourhoods.

In the ultimate analysis, it is not Muslims’ high-minded utterances that would provide the most convincing testimony in the minds of non-Muslims but Muslims’ actual deeds.

What would make a difference is also the condition in which the Muslims keep their mosques and mosque premises.

If the Muslims give to the non-Muslims the appearance of being a civilized, organized, successful, responsible and caring community, then in most instances the non-Muslims would attribute that to the effect of Islam on them.

If, on the other hand, the Muslims fall short on this score, the non-Muslims would, with considerable glee and with a knowing air, lay the blame for all this at the feet of Islam.

So also, if the mosques and mosque premises are kept clean, peaceful and free from trouble, noise and traffic congestion, then that would make the neighbours more open to the Muslim community as well as to Islam and its teachings.

If, on the other hand, the mosques and their premises are not kept clean, or if they are allowed to become a source of noise or traffic problems, then this would turn the neighbours not only against Muslims but also against Islam itself.

So Muslims must realize that their driving and parking habits in and around mosque premises would have a profound impact on the way non-Muslims view not just the offending Muslims but also Muslims and Islam in general.

What can the Muslims then do to reach out to those that live in the neighbourhood of their mosques?

Here is an idea, and an action plan, which if followed with interest, tact, imagination and enthusiasm would bring great advantages to the Muslim as well as non-Muslim communities in any North American city, town, village or neighbourhood.

The Muslims must hold an Open House for non-Muslims in their neighbourhood mosques.

BENEFITS OF AN OPEN HOUSE

If it is done systematically and following the basic Islamic principles of honesty, integrity and respect for self and others, an Open House would serve a number of purposes for both Muslims and non-Muslims in a community.

It would:

(1) Provide an opportunity for Muslims to meet their non-Muslim neighbours and get to know them.

(2) Boost the confidence of the Muslims through positive interaction with non-Muslims in the neighbourhood.

(3) Give Muslims a better and clearer understanding of the larger community in which they live and operate.

(4) Make conditions better for Muslims in and around the mosque as well as at broader levels in society.

(5) Help reduce prejudice, suspicion, hostility, hate, racism and xenophobia against Muslims among non-Muslims.

(6) Contribute to the safety and security of mosques and Muslims.

(7) Generate goodwill for Muslims and Islam on a wider basis.

(8) Introduce non-Muslims to Islam and its teachings.

(9) Provide an opportunity to non-Muslims to get to know and evaluate the teachings of Islam firsthand.

(10) Help Muslims to discharge their fundamental obligation of reaching out to their non-Muslim neighbours with Qur’an and with hadith, the twin foundations of the Deen of Islam.

Therefore, an Open House needs to be organized in every single mosque throughout the United States and Canada.

And elsewhere in the Americas. Without exception.

In all 2000 or more of the mosques in North America.

And in the United Kingdom.

And throughout Europe.

And in the rest of the world.

This much the Muslims owe to their non-Muslim neighbours and friends. In fact, they owe it to the societies that are their hosts in North America – and Europe – and to the place that they now call their home.

Temporary or permanent, but a home nonetheless. As permanent as any home would ever get on this earth. And in this life.

The Muslims owe this to their own children and families. And they owe it to themselves.

And they owe it to that most wonderful man. That most gentle, noble, compassionate, caring and sharing of humans.

That timeless leader, teacher and guide to humanity – Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. God’s messenger of mercy and love to humanity and to the world.

And, above all, the Muslims owe it to God almighty himself.

To Allah, the one and only maker and master of the worlds, the true and only God of all, on whose boundless compassion and mercy every part of creation has claim:

Whether Muslim or non-Muslim.

Whether human or nonhuman.

Whether living or nonliving.

The fact is that everyone in this world owes it to Allah to try and make this world a better place for all.

But more so the Muslims. The Muslims owe it more than anyone else. As a result, the Muslims must be aware of this responsibility more than anyone else.

And they must do more to fulfil this responsibility – the responsibility to make this world a better place, a more peaceful place, a more honest and truthful place, and a more just and a fairer and kinder place.

For all of Allah’s creation.

The mosque Open House program is a link in this chain, a step, and a very important one, in this direction.

PREPARATION

Thoroughness and careful attention to detail are the key to preparation. They are also part of the basic teaching of Islam.

The Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, laid great emphasis on the principle that whenever Muslims embarked on an undertaking, they must do it well and thoroughly.

Like everything else, purity of intention – doing things solely to please Allah – is a vital part of this process.

That means, in every thing they do, Muslims must seek the pleasure of their creator and not do it merely to gain some worldly gain or benefit. The mosque Open House project is no exception in this regard.

While, an Open House has many practical benefits for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, its primary objective should be to please the creator and not just his creation.

The key to this whole thing, therefore, is to make as thorough a preparation as possible for the project.

And here is how it can be done:*

(1) Before you do anything else, appoint an Open House committee.

(2) Make sure that the Open House committee would consist of people who have a number of key qualifications:

a. First, these people must be willing, motivated and excited to do the work. Often, people get thrown into committees in which they do not want to participate. As a result, after appointment they begin to drag their feet and show other signs of lack of motivation.

b. Second, make sure that you only appoint people who have excellent People Skills – skills needed to treat others with the same respect and consideration which one expects for oneself.

Islam is, among other things, a people culture. At every turn and with regard to everything, Islam places great emphasis on the way people treat people.

c. Third, they must be people who can work with others in a harmonious, positive, cooperative and constructive manner.

This is one of the things that congregational prayer – Salatul Jama’ah – teaches Muslims on a daily basis.

d. Fourth, these must be results-oriented people who know how to get things done.

They must be the kind of practical, pragmatic, common sense driven type, who are good at working toward negotiated, mutually advantageous solutions and compromises to practical problems on hand.

e. Fifth, make sure you seek the consent of these people before you nominate or appoint them to your committee.

Islamic culture is rooted in freedom and independence. Individual’s will plays a determining role in Islamic thought and practice.

So, don’t take people for granted. First ask them if they were willing and available, then go ahead and appoint or nominate them.

PLANNING

Planning is the key to Islam.

The hadith says: Organize your worldly affairs as if you will live for ever; but plan for your departure for the next life as if you will die tomorrow.

Setting clear objectives and identifying resource potentials of all kinds are central to effective planning.

First of all, do the Open House, if it were possible and advisable, once every week.

Or do it once in two or three weeks, if that were more convenient and more advisable.

But do it, without fail, at least once a month.

Here are some ideas on how to do this:

1. Once your Open House committee is in place, hold the first meeting. This would be your planning session.

2. In this meeting, thrash out every thing pertaining to the Open House. Don’t leave things to chance. Allah does not leave things to chance. Allah says everything in this world moves based on a meticulous calculus of divine planning.

3. Assign roles and responsibilities to people in a clear manner.

4. Decide to hold the Open House on the mosque premises. The idea here is to connect both Muslims and non-Muslims to the mosque. For, mosques are the centres of Muslim life.

5. Decide on a day, date and time.

6. Allocate funds for refreshments.

7. Assign specific responsibilities such as cleaning, preparation of the hall and arranging the chairs and tables to clearly designated individuals.

8. Obtain adequate quantities of quality Islamic literature for free distribution as well as for sale.

9. Widely publicize the project.

PUBLICITY

Publicity is part of the basic teachings of Islam. Effective publicity is also a vital requirement of program success.

There are several ways in which you can attract people’s attention and entice them to attend the Open House:

(1) Mass media such as radio, newspaper, etc.

(2) Word of mouth.

(3) Signs in prominent places including malls, schools and grocery stores.

While each is effective in its own way, the word-of-mouth method is often the most productive in terms of influencing people to try something new.

Here is how to do it with the mass media.

1. Place an ad in the local daily newspaper.

In this ad, invite non-Muslims to attend the Open House at the mosque and get to know Islam and Muslims – their neighbours.

2. Alert the local radio and television stations about the Open House.

3. Place ads in campus media, if a college campus is nearby.

4. Send out a press release to all these media about the Open House.

5. Invite the media to do some kind of a “feature story” on Islam and Muslims.

There is virtually no end to the topics and angles which the local media could use to generate a story on Islam and local Muslims.

Do not hesitate to suggest to the media any topics that you may have in mind. The media are always open to ideas provided they are offered courteously.

Here is how you can use the word-of-mouth method:

1. Ask the Muslims in the community to encourage their non-Muslim friends and acquaintances to attend the Open House.

2. Ask the Muslims in the community to bring a non-Muslim friend or acquaintance with them to the Open House, if they can.

3. Use the Jumah Khutbah to educate the Muslim community on what you are planning to do and what role you expect the members of the community to play in it.

THE Jum’ah KHUTBAH: ITS NATURE AND USES

Speech is a powerful instrument of social change in a community.

In Islam, speech is an integral part of the Deen.

Jumah prayers offer Muslims a unique and powerful vehicle for social contact and communication.

The expression Khutbah is simply Arabic for a public speech.

Jumah Khutbah is a gift God gave the Muslims to use every week for purposes of education, motivation, mobilization, social reform and community building.

It is a social, political, organizational, communication and educational instrument of extraordinary power and flexibility.

It was for this purpose that the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, used it.

It was also for this purpose, that his successors – Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali – used it after him.

At the same time, the Jumah Khutbah is also an act of worship – an Ibadah – which explains why it is such a powerful instrument of social change and community building in the hands of the Muslims.

Therefore, while preparing for the Open Houses for mosques, Muslims need to use the Jum’ah Khutbah:

(1) To educate their communities in all aspects of what these Open Houses entail and how to go about organizing them in the most effective manner.

(2) To motivate their communities to reach out to the non-Muslims in their area as neighbours and as fellow human beings.

(3) To impress upon Muslims the importance of introducing non-Muslims to Islam and Muslims.

(4) To explain to Muslims and to train them about how to conduct themselves with non-Muslims during the Open House and in general.

The Qur’an teaches the Muslims, that in their conversations, even in their arguments and disputes with non-Muslims, Muslims must be non-combative, non-confrontational, non-argumentative and low-key. They must be conciliatory and inclusive and always try to take the high road.

(5) To educate and train Muslims about how to conduct themselves with new Muslims.

New Muslims are new to the game. And they are pure and clean like a new-born baby. Almighty Allah forgave them all their sins the moment they embraced Islam.

As a result, we need to treat them with full understanding and acceptance, with a great deal of tact and respect, and with endless patience at many of the things that they may not know about the Islamic way of doing things.

MOSQUE PREMISES

Mosques are an index to the Muslim community. They are also the visible face of Islam. As a result, they should be kept in better condition than Muslim homes and offices.

Muslims must not forget that among all the wonderful things Allah gave to the Muslims, one of the greatest perhaps is the gift of cleanliness.

A Muslim’s whole life is firmly rooted in the Qur’anic concept of cleanliness called Taharah.

Muslims routinely wash themselves after they answer the calls of nature.

They routinely wash their hands and brush their teeth and rinse their mouths for salah – prayers.

They keep their houses and places of worship clean for prayers.

The Qur’an tells us that Allah loves those who are concerned about cleanliness.

It is important that mosques and their premises also adhere to the same strict principles of cleanliness. They need to be sparkling, neatly organized and well maintained at all times.

It is all the more important because Muslims take off their shoes for prayers; and they make Wudu – ablution – on the premises.

Therefore, the Muslim communities must prepare their mosque premises in advance for the Open House.

They must make sure that the premises look visually pleasing and attractive.

They must deodorize the place to eliminate odours caused by food, socks, shoes and such.

They must then lay out chairs and tables for guests and speakers in a manner that maximizes convenience, flexibility, access, attractiveness and personal interaction.

It is always a good idea to have a nice bouquet of flowers on the stage.

It is also important to make sure that the microphones and other electronic equipment and devices are set up, tested and ready to go well before the actual event is scheduled to begin. There should be no tinkering with electronic gadgetry during the function.

It is also important to provide light self-serve refreshments. Americans love American food, which is really a euphemism for Italian, Mexican, Chinese and every other kind of food, provided it is not heavily spiced.

So, beyond chips and dips, Sambosas are a good idea. Baklava will fly while Gulab Jaman may not. Vegetables and fruits, beside being pleasing to the eye, are both healthy and popular.

FOLLOW UP

It is important that you have clear follow up strategy to keep in touch with those who attended your Open House. The following ideas may help:

1. Have quality literature available for free distribution.

2. Encourage the non-Muslim guests to look at the literature and help themselves.

3. Train selected Muslims to mix with non-Muslim guests and answer their questions or entertain their comments.

4. Provide names and telephone numbers for your non-Muslim guests to call in case they wanted to follow up with questions or comments.

5. Invite your non-Muslim guests for a more leisurely follow up visit to the Mosque at their convenience.

6. Inform them about special occasions such as Eid and Ramadan and encourage them to visit the mosque during those occasions.

7. Encourage your non-Muslim guests to call with their questions and comments.

8. Inform your non-Muslim guests about the next scheduled Open House.

9. Ask them to encourage their friends and acquaintances to attend the next Open House.

10. Ask your non-Muslim guests for ideas and suggestions on how to reach other non-Muslims in the community.

11. Hold meeting of the Open House committee to discuss the outcome of your Open House: Evaluation Session.

12. Carefully and systematically analyse the Open House and decide on future changes and modifications if any.

13. Brief the Muslim community in the Jum’ah Khutbah, or after Jum’ah prayers, on the last Open House.

14. If there were to be any conversions to Islam, present the new Muslims to the community just before or after Jum’ah prayers.

15. Get set for the next Open House.

16. Get in touch with your neighboring Muslim communities and encourage them to embark on a similar Open House project. Share with them your experiences.

17. Once the neighboring communities agree to have their own Open House, provide them whatever help and ideas you can.

A CULTURE CALLED ISLAM

Culture is often the key to success or failure, for individuals as well as for societies.

Islam is the comprehensive cultural code designed by God for the all-time and all-round success of humans as a species.

People often tend to talk about this or that teaching or aspect of Islam, or about this or that ayah – passage – of the Qur’an, being unique or special or beautiful. In reality, every one the Islamic teachings, and every one of the Qur’anic Ayats, is a marvel in its own right.

That is why, for example, the Ayats of the Qur’an are called Ayats. They are signs and marvels that have come down from Allah. They are God’s special gift to humanity.

I list below what I consider to be some of the central qualities of Islam as a culture, as a message and communication and as a divine way of life.

Muslims must keep these ideas in mind when planning and carrying out their Open House events. These ideas would also be useful in other areas of life beyond the mosque Open House.

a) Simplicity.

Islam is a simple message from God. In fact, one of the charges against the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was that he reduced the complexity of idol worship to the worship of one simple God.

b) Clarity.

Islam is clear as daylight. Whether it is a question of eating or not eating something, or of doing or not doing something, the teachings of Islam are marvels of clarity.

c) Conciseness.

Islam does not waste time.

I often marvel at how concise the basic creed of Islamic faith – the Shahadah – really is: “No God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

No more than four simple words – or syllables: La Ilaha Illa Allah!

These are the four words that changed the world.

d) Directness.

What Islam has to say, it says in as direct a manner as possible, whether it is outlining a new principle of belief or behaviour.

e) Accuracy.

Falsehood is a form of violence. It is perhaps a more terrible violence than physical violence, for it is directed against the human mind. It is psychological and moral violence.

The Qur’an refers to falsehood as Batil.

Islam is the opposite of falsehood. It is truth. It is, in the language of the Qur’an, it is Haqq.

It is one of the central principles of the Qur’an that truth and falsehood cannot coexist. And Muslims, according to the Qur’an, are the bearers of the banner of truth – Haqq.

So nothing but the most accurate information can come out of the mouth of the Muslims, whenever they speak – or write.

f) Integrity.

Nothing perhaps is more important in Islam than honesty and integrity. While others may have the luxury of endless debates over means and ends, Muslims don’t. For, in the culture of Islam, it is the intentions that matter, even when the actions appear good.

f) Respect.

Islam requires respect, only to parents, but to all human beings.

g) Punctuality.

Respect for time is integral to Islam and its teachings.

Everything in the world of Islam works according to a schedule. In Islam, there is a time for salah or prayer; there is a time for Siyam – fasting; and there is a time for hajj.

h) Wisdom.

Part of the reason Allah sent the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was to teach people wisdom. The essence of wisdom in Islam – the Qur’an calls it hikmah – is the ability to translate, in every time and place, Allah’s commands into language and practice that fit the requirements of life in those times and places.

i) Tact.

Often, in the course of human interaction, there arise situations that call for special tact and resilience in their handling. Those organizing the Open House must be fully cognizant of this fundamental fact of life.

j) Patience.

One of the hardest qualities to master, and yet one on which Islam places great emphasis, is patience – sabr.

sabr means not only perseverance in your efforts, but also accepting the outcome of your efforts as a decree from Allah.

k) Perseverance.

It is part of concept of patience – sabr – in Islam.

It means, one must be steadfast in one’s efforts, no matter how hard the going gets. Allah’s help and success comes when he chooses it.

These are some of the qualities that lie at the heart of Islamic culture. They must characterize, inform and guide any Islamic enterprise that the Muslims undertake.

OPEN-HOUSE PROGRAMME GUIDELINES

With regard to the mosque Open House, Muslims must let their attitude, conduct and speech reflect these Islamic qualities to the fullest extent.

From Wudu to salah to hajj, Islam is a Deen based on carefully choreographed programs. It is, therefore, important for Muslims to keep in mind the following principles good programming:

1. Keep all speeches and comments brief, low key, non-threatening and non-confrontational.

2. At all times, avoid being combative, argumentative.

3. Avoid hyperbole. Exaggerations generally weaken your case. They reduce your credibility.

4. Only say what you know to be true. Otherwise, stay quiet and let it go.

If you are asked a question to which you do not know the answer, openly and clearly say so. But at the same time, offer to find out the answer for the person who asked the question.

Make sure you know how to contact that person once you have the answer.

5. Do not attack or insult the beliefs, behaviour, values or practices of your non-Muslim guests.

6. Stress commonalities of belief and behaviour between Islam and other faiths such as Christianity and Judaism. For, that is the way of Allah in the Qur’an.

For example, belief in God; personal and social responsibility; accountability for one’s decisions and actions; and family values.

7. Stress shared concerns. For example, future of children, education, growing violence, crime, hope and economic opportunities for the future.

Point out that security of person and property is a common concern of both Muslims and non-Muslims.

8. Use simple, non-technical language when presenting Islamic teachings and beliefs.

9. Focus on ideas and concepts rather than on heavy Arabic terminology.

10. Focus on the main points and avoid getting bogged down in details and fine points.

11. Do not argue. Make your point in a clear, concise, simple and gentle manner and move on.

12. In general, limit questions and comments to non-Muslim guests. If you have Muslims making comments, make sure they are brief.

13. Keep your own answers to questions brief, simple and to the point.

14. Speak softly, clearly and respectfully at all times.

15. Scrupulously observe punctuality.

A SUGGESTED PROGRAMME OUTLINE*

Welcome speech 5 minutes

Guided tour of mosque and premises                      10 minutes

Presentation on Islam & Muslims  15 minutes

Questions & Answers by non-Muslim guests         20 minutes

Refreshments & informal time 15 minutes

The entire program should not take more than two hours.

* I am indebted to Tanweerul Haq of the Islamic Centre of Central New York, Syracuse, for this section.

 

CONCLUSION

An Open House of this kind is something the Muslims must do at all times and in all places.

Given the troubled times in which we live today, it has become all the more important.

Prejudice is a common human phenomenon. North America is no exception to this general rule. Given all that has happened in the recent past, Muslims have become the main target of prejudice in North America.

One way to deal with this pervasive anti-Muslim prejudice in the society is to hold an Open House for the local mosque. If non-Muslims understand what Islam is, they would also understand who the Muslims are.

This will bring the communities together and build peace in society – and in the world.

For, Allah is peace – As-Salam.

And so is Islam – a message of peace.

And so must a Muslim be – a person of peace.

END

© 2001 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional 
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at] 
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com