A true student of knowledge (may Allah ta’ala increase him) once shared the key to dawah to a group of college students some time ago in a beautiful house of Allah ta’ala on Long Island. His teacher once advised him and he gladly advised us with a precious gem of true awareness of the reality of affairs. So what was this key, this gem, the reality of affairs? When calling others to Islam, stir up in your heart the belief that every individual you meet is better than you. Regardless of what you see outwardly, recognize that you do not have the ability to see through this person into their hearts and very souls.
Do not be distracted by what you perceive or what is on display—whether this individual is non-Muslim, a non-practicing Muslim, a struggling Muslim (really, who is not struggling?), or a supposedly devout Muslim. This is their state at this single moment in time and you do not know where they are headed in their next moments on the path of life. It has been said that Umar ibn al-Khattab (rA), Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen (the leader of the believers), was beloved to Allah ta’ala when he was bowing to idols in Mecca. Allah ta’ala is outside of space and time and to Him, Umar was beloved because Allah ta’ala knew the deep devotion to Islam he would develop, the great man and companion of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) he would become, and what his true end would be regardless of his state at a certain moment in time.
This brings to heart a certain concept that I have been taught in the past from both scholars and peers (may Allah ta’ala increase each of them). In line with this idea of recognizing that a single moment and our perceptions do not determine a person’s final state with Allah ta’ala, comes the Islamic concept of separating one’s actions from his essence. Constantly, especially living in America and, more generally, the modern world, we witness haraam act after haraam act. We may notice women and men dressed inappropriately, or hear inappropriate language or blasphemous statements, or gaze upon relationships outside of marriage (just to mention some issues among many). We should hate these actions as we have been told by Allah ta’ala through the Prophet, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and we should never allow ourselves to become desensitized to such acts. We should never be “okay” with such things occurring but should try to discourage it, forbidding the wrongs, and replace them with values and morals by upholding the good.
However, while we hate the action we should not come to hate the individual or his essence. This act is occurring at a single moment of this person’s life and does not necessarily dictate his/her end. It does not dictate what is in his heart, or his state. It does not dictate what lies within the essence of this individual. We cannot see what turmoil and struggle resides within the heart of this person, only Allah ta’ala can, so we should not act like we have such abilities. We should hold compassion for this individual as we know how difficult it can be to do good when there is wrong all around you. We should constantly pray for his guidance and be examples with our actions—actions of respect, good-will, and concern. I truly believe that the world would be a far better place if we constantly prayed for guidance, not just the guidance of others, but our own more importantly.
Moreover, we have to recognize many of us have a blessing others do not have and without this deen, many of us would be lost. Our ability to refrain from certain sins is only a gift from Allah ta’ala and not something we can attribute to our own great will, for each of us, when we reflect and look within, knows how truly weak we are. Allah ta’ala also bestows on us at each moment the great gift of concealment—He ta’ala constantly conceals our sins, small and large, for us so that others may not be aware of an immense fault we hold within our chests. This is an enormous and immeasurable blessing from Allah ta’ala that should not be taken for granted. When Allah ta’ala chooses to make the sins of others apparent to you, it is a reminder—you do not like witnessing others committing such acts so stay away and do not fall into them yourself, thank Him for keeping you from it or concealing you, and also for you to fulfill your promise and duty as a Muslim—to uphold the good and forbid the evil—and to call others to the beauty and magnificence of our religion.
When we approach individuals with these points at heart, a certain humility will overcome us that will speak far louder and more effectively than our words. People can sense when they are being spoken down to, or when you belittle them with your mannerisms. Therefore, bring alive in your heart the conviction that you are not aware of the true essence of this person, humiliate yourself before Allah, and see the magnificence within this individual for he/she is a creation of Allah ta’ala and he is, unbeknownst to him, craving the blessing we have been so graciously granted, Alhamdulillah. With this, you will find your actions and state will reverberate with the person long after you have stopped speaking.
I will leave you with this thought. I heard in a lecture recently a teacher relating a story that occurred when a scholar came to visit the United States. While this scholar was riding in a car, another car came to pass with its music blasting, and one of the individuals with the scholar said something to the effect that this man was crazy. The scholar replied: “Don’t you hear him? He’s saying: ‘Rescue me. Rescue me.'”
May Allah ta’ala forgive me for anything incorrect. May He ta’ala grant us His tawfiq and taysir to perform acts which please Him and to stay away from acts that displease Him. May He make us individuals worthy of carrying the banner of Islam and make us examples for the Muslims and non-Muslims. May He increase us in our following of the example of the best of creation, the Prophet, and may He ta’ala shower His blessings upon him, his family, his companions, and those who follow him until the end of time. Ameen. Allahumma Ameen.