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Dawah and Interfaith

Da’wah Challenge

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hands.jpgOne of the challenges of doing Da’wah in a multicultural society is in being able to effectively reach out, push past, and touch the hearts of those to whom culture is everything. Whether it be desis, Arabs, Latinos, African-Americans, or others, the way they accept and grow closer to Islam depends a great deal on their culture. This goes not only for non-Muslims, but for Muslims as well.

For example, my city is quite small with a small and scattered Muslim community, yet the Muslims we have here come from all over the world. Unfortunately, as with many other places, rather than uniting in the Masjid they seem to prefer clumping together according to their ethnicity and culture. They’re so used to just sticking together that it’s a battle to drag them all away from their little parties at each others’ houses to bring them to the Masjid or wherever else halaqaat, duroos, or other Islamic activities are taking place.

It becomes even more difficult when there are just one or two ‘leaders’ in the community who are trying to rouse the people from their slumber… and when they happen to not be members of the majority ethnic groups, then their job becomes all the more difficult because people don’t take their invitations and encouragements to heart. After all, to them it’s “one of the other” telling them to come here, or be involved in that, as opposed to “one of our own.”

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How does one overcome this kind of difficulty?

Ideally, I would deal with it in the following way: by approaching a member of one of the major ethnic groups, someone who has a similar Islamic mindset, and getting them to volunteer with the various efforts in the community. This way, when they’re invited to programs and activities, the rest of the ethnic group will be more willing to attend because of the fact that one of “them” was involved.

However, does this work? I would truly appreciate the advice, suggestions, and experience of those who have experience in dealing with this kind of situation… especially those who have managed to succesfully change this state of affairs!

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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Irum Sarfaraz

    February 3, 2008 at 10:59 AM

    You are absolutely right Mouse, but might I add that in the times of fitnas today, we also need to be very careful to find out who exactly is conducting these halaqas or daras and what they are going to be talking about. I will elaborate in my post as coincedantly that is just what I am working on at the moment…

  2. Yunus Yakoub Islam

    February 3, 2008 at 11:30 AM

    Research carried out in Northern Ireland (obviously a slightly more strained situation) found that Christian sectarianism was most most effectively overcome when mixed groups participated jointly in a positive activity. Friendship with one member of a community tended to provoke the response, “So and so is alright, but the rest are b…”

    There are Muslim groups internationally that unite Muslims across ethnic divides, such as environmentalism. What about a local caucas of the IFEES?

  3. Elzaharna

    February 3, 2008 at 11:54 AM

    “After all, to them it’s “one of the other” telling them to come here, or be involved in that, as opposed to “one of our own.””

    I feel that we have to work on changing that mentality. There are obviously many aspects of different cultures that are not compatible with Islam, but generally speaking Islam and one’s culture work hand-in-hand. Maybe try to work with these different ethnic/social circles on activities that everyone agrees on (feeding the needy, community service, etc.). Maybe that will bridge the gap. wallahu a3lam.

  4. Dawud Israel

    February 3, 2008 at 12:41 PM

    Learn to speak their different languages or at least bits and they will indeed regard you as their own. This may sound hard but it really isn’t. Just about every Muslim language is jam-packed full of words originating from the Quran and that ties people together. Other times, Muslim tongues are so inter-related its shocking how a person who doesn’t even speak your language, understands more from your words than you yourself!

    The other thing I would suggest is it isn’t necessary for them always be together. The desis have their halaqas, the Palestinians have their halaqas, the Libyans have their halaqas, the Bangladeshis have their halaqas and the Somalis have their halaqas. If it’s a good thing going already, don’t ruin it, just let the people in these groups know that if they need help, your there and that at some point it would be good if they could help bring together all the smaller communities to do something together.

  5. theManOfFewWords

    February 3, 2008 at 9:39 PM

    The one thing that has the most potential is going after the youth. Developing youth activities where young people from different cliques can come together is the first step. You will find parents are often eager to surrender their children to you if they feel they will be in good company.

    Do some football, soccer, lecture, high school or college survival events. You could set up Superbowl parties whatever. This will integrate the youth for the next generation and at the same time it gives you a few opportunities for the parents to socialize as well if you’re slick.

    As they say the youth are the key to the future, older people are less malleable. Go for the kiddies and mold their clay-like minds.

  6. ibn 'abd al-wadud

    February 4, 2008 at 7:27 AM

    Freaky!

    Your article is a carbon copy of the situation here in (old) York, ENGLAND.

    However, unlike you where you suggest some steps to overcome this challenge, I have tried, tried and tried again but to no avail. The problem here is that if anyone knows they are being “sold to” – thats it, they put the shutters down on any chance of getting something going.

    The “challenge” is further compounded where you have people from various madhahibs/manhaj’s in addition to the cultural divisions.

    Its not all gloom and doom though in our masjid , there is a good level of integration but it could be so much better and appealing.

    Maybe im being an idealist but we could do well in importing more of that Hajj-like brother/sisterhood back to out respective towns and cities.

    Another aspect also – this is just another reminder to myself of the beauty of the salafi manhaj – it transcends through cultures like a hot knife through butter! This is not to say that this is the only way , sure, this needs to matched with tolerance also.

    Your thoughts?

  7. AnonyMouse

    February 4, 2008 at 1:23 PM

    Re: working with youth

    Yep, we’re already doing that, al-Hamdulillaah… but I would like to focus especially on the adults. It may be a lot more difficult, but the point is that they’re still a part of this community and should be/need to be involved.

    Maybe im being an idealist but we could do well in importing more of that Hajj-like brother/sisterhood back to out respective towns and cities.

    I agree whole-heartedly with this! It’d be awesome if we could see the spirit of Hajj existing outside of Hajj!

  8. theManOfFewWords

    February 4, 2008 at 3:47 PM

    Well with the adults it can get trickier. First, what you need to do is schedule events that interest niche cross cultural groups. For example, get a guest speaker on investing your money wisely and do a workshop. Have them do group activities.

    Also maybe social business networking parties. People always love to get free food. Think up things that the aunties will like, maybe even encourage a few of them to start Muslim clubs around certain interests.

    This is excellent because what draws these adults are their common interests once you have them glued in you can pull the whole “Hamza Yusuf Hostage Crisis” on them and keep them listening to whatever you want them to until you get to the meat and potatoes of the event.

    Essentially, to bring people together you have to draw them in with their common interests. It’s just a little bit more difficult if there are language barriers.

    But honestly speaking if your aim is da’wah then there’s no reason not to do it with people who are more comfortable with their own ethnicities.

    If you aim is collaboration of the entire Muslim community in your area then that is different.

    PS i recommend a cultural food day. Everybody brings dishes from their native land and they all eat. i dunno if anyone else would like that but I sure would. The only problem is that we would need Muslims from Japan to bring the SUSHI!!!!

  9. AnonyMouse

    February 5, 2008 at 4:56 PM

    Awesome suggestions… keep’em coming! I’d especially like to hear from those who’ve had experience in dealing with this… any inspiring stories about uniting the many ethnicities in your Muslim community, for some good ol’ amr bi’l ma’roof wan-nahy ‘an’il munkar?

  10. Tryingtomakeadifference

    February 9, 2008 at 12:29 PM

    As Salaam Alikum,

    I completely agree with you! I think that if we could stir up the youth who are more like sponge then mirror. Most adults who have come from a cultural background tend to try and keep their children in that same culture.
    Our problem isn’t that we aren’t diverse it because we fail to share our salaams

    the Prophet (saws) once said-
    “Give salaams to those you know and those you don’t know.”

    I’m sure we have all been through this…walking through a Wal-Mart or the likes and a Muslim walks past you as if your not there? I know I have, and even if they do Salaam back its quite low and non-salaam-ish sorta salaam :/

    Maybe we need to start sharing our Salaams to increase our Brother/Sisterhood and begin to love one another because verily it was said-

    ” You will not enter Jennah until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another.Shall I inform you of something which that if you do you will love one another? Spread the SALAAMS”

    We have heard this over and over again, and yet we have done little to apply it. Why? Do we not want to enter Jennah?

    I think a Salaam to Salaam Weekend would be nice where the Imam, other heads of the Masjid, muslims event people of other masajid and set something up at a park or the likes and have where people set-up there cultural foods, sell cultural clothing, teach, laugh, talk, have fun, and SPREAD THE SALAAMS…

  11. Kian Gray

    August 3, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    youth activities are always centered on enjoying the day and socializing with other teens;~.

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