By Calisha Bennett
“O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered.” (Quran Al-Anfal 8:24)
Early on in my life, Islam was not deeply understood or communicated to me. We were more cultural Muslim than anything with my mum being born a Muslim from the Cocos Keeling Islands and my dad converting to Islam at the age of 21 shortly before they married. Whilst we did practice the basic elements of Islam and the five pillars (and I did learn some essentials whilst at an Islamic primary school), the deeper meaning and teachings of the faith weren’t made known to me as a child.
It wasn’t until I reached my mid-teen years when I was homeschooled for a year and tutored in my Islamic studies by a learned woman in the community, that I became more aware about Islam, Alhamdulillah. My father had always enjoyed learning and reading about Islam and comparative religion. He had come from being born into a Christian family and then discovered the truth of Islam as a young adult through my mother. He used to particularly enjoy the recordings and literature from the works of the renowned Ahmed Deedat (a South African preacher who passed away, may Allah have mercy upon him) as well as other prominent speakers and scholars. I would also often overhear my dad’s conversations with people he met day to day as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who would door-knock regularly to preach, and so my exposure to dawah-related topics and conversations was quite the norm in my childhood years.
As a young child my heart felt a consciousness of Almighty God and a desire to do good and to be good. With my limited knowledge I didn’t quite know what that meant, but thanks to Allah SWT, this consciousness resulted in my decision to pray the five daily prayers at the age of eleven as a minimum commitment to my faith and I continued on with this habit into my adulthood Alhamdulillah.
My first exposure to a deeper, evidence-based understanding for the beauty and value of Islam took place in my year of homeschooling at fifteen years of age as I was taught Islam from the very basic foundations. I was also blessed to witness a living model of the teachings by the family in whose home I was tutored in my Islamic studies as their home dynamic was truly beautiful and centred around a connection with Allah SWT in every aspect. Learning the basic teachings of the Quran and authentic Sunnah confirmed what I had felt in my heart as a young child and so my instinctual beliefs now had a solid basis and foundation.
I dove further into learning as an insatiable appetite for Islamic knowledge had emerged within me. I would listen to all of my parent’s limited audio and video tape lecture collections and I also read much of our families’ Islamic book collection. Unfortunately in my teen years many of those closest to me from my friends and cousins strayed into some of the common social ills, mainstream pop culture and experimentation with drugs, alcohol and partying. I have to be honest that on some instances I too at times was swept into some poor decisions, however it was the Islamic learning which I had benefited from, which prevented me on countless occasions from taking things too far.
Alhamdulillah my faith had grounded me and solidified my sense of purpose and identity so that I was able to resist peer pressure and temptation on many instances. This grounding resulted in my decision to settle down, marry and start a family early on in life Alhamdulillah. I continued my learning and felt a strong drive to instil the teachings of Islam within my home and community. I remember in 2005 when Shaykh Khalid Yasin (an outstanding dawah speaker and African American convert) had come for the first time to my city in Western Australia to do a speaking tour. He presented Islam in such an articulate, relevant and soul inspiring way. I was so spiritually and emotionally moved by what he said and the way in which he said it. Not only did his talks greatly affect the Muslim attendees but dozens of non-Muslims also attended and were impacted with quite a few non Muslims who embraced Islam after his talks.
As the years passed I would try to volunteer when I could, to support dawah (sharing of Islam) causes, by writing articles, holding information stalls and helping at dawah events. Eventually, I started to teach the Islamic basics to converts, non-Muslims interested in Islam and born Muslims as I wanted to share the guidance and goodness I was blessed to learn and benefit from with others. I felt that Islam was the treasure of my life. For me, Islam was the essential ingredient to feeling a sense of fulfilment, purpose, guidance and meaning in my life. Having the Quran as the Divine speech and miraculous word of Almighty God (the Quran) and the Sunnah (teachings and example) of the Prophet Muhammad SAW to help me understand what this life is all about, was a true and priceless blessing.
Through this blessing I was able to discover what my deepest identity was and how to navigate every aspect of life as a human being. Whilst I realise that being a Muslim and the journey towards properly understanding and implementing Islam is most definitely an ongoing process of learning and implementation for me and every Muslim, it is nonetheless my guiding compass in life. The many realisations and benefits led me to the conclusion that this treasure and message simply must be shared with the world.
This is why I love sharing Islam with others – because I feel I am sharing what has been the greatest blessing and gift in my life with others whom I feel have absolutely every right to at least know about it. Whether it be through writing, speaking, teaching, sharing, giving or interacting with my local or wider community, I hope to always strive to share my faith however I can and with whoever I meet.
“And who is better in speech than he who [says: ‘My Lord is Allah (believes in His Oneness),’ and then stands firm (acts upon His Order), and] invites (men) to Allah’s (Islamic Monotheism), and does righteous deeds, and says: ‘I am one of the Muslims.’” (Quran – Al Fussilat 41:33)
Some of the reasons that I choose to share Islam with others are:
· Everyone deserves to know who Almighty God in His Oneness is
· Everyone should have access to Divine Guidance and hear about God’s message to mankind
· All humans have the right to know their ultimate purpose in life
· If we are Muslims ourselves, then it is a responsibility to share what we are blessed with
· An Islamic principle is to want for others what you want for yourself
· Islam has the ability to transform individuals and society for the better as it is an all-encompassing system of belief, thought and practice
· When non-Muslims discover what Islam is and what it stands for, they will better understand and respect Muslims and Islam
· Misconceptions about Islam and Muslim can be cleared and Islamophobia can potentially be reduced
· To share the commonalities and connect more with other individuals and communities of faith
· Allah SWT will reward us for our efforts
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever calls others to guidance will have a reward like the rewards of those who follow him, without that detracting from their reward in any way. And whoever calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like the burden of those who follow him, without that detracting from their burden in any way.” (Muslim)
Ways in which we can share Islam are:
· Be friendly and establish good connections and relationships with our neighbours, co-workers and peers who are non-Muslim
· Practice our faith openly and be a good example to others
· Give back to society and be in service to those in need and who are less fortunate
· Volunteer for our local dawah and/or Islamic organisations
· Help out with dawah work online
· Help out at Islamic awareness events, open mosque days and the like
· If your community currently has none of the above, then consider starting something yourself!
Important points to remember:
· The best way of sharing Islam to others is by simply living its teachings in your every day life. There is no need to be overly ‘preachy’ and constantly verbally giving dawah. Sometimes the best dawah is what others see in your character and conduct. As they say, ‘actions speak louder than words’!
· Learn and implement the basics of your faith thoroughly before teaching others so that you don’t unintentionally teach others the wrong thing.
· Continuously work on reforming your character and conduct because not only is it counter-productive but it is also hypocritical to present the beauty of Islam to others, yet have bad manners and behaviour which is contradictory to the Islamic teachings. Practice what you preach!
· Remember that every person deemed as a ‘non-Muslim’ is simply a ‘not-yet-Muslim’ who is on their own unique life journey. Guidance could come to them at any stage of their lives and it is not for us Muslims to look down upon someone who doesn’t yet see the truth in Islam.
· Be patient and expect results only from Allah SWT and His decree (and not from or because of yourself). Trust that Allah SWT knows best who, if and when someone is to be guided to Islam.
“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma‘roof (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.” (Quran – Aal ‘Imraan 3:104)
I hope this article inspires and motivates you to embark on a path of both personal learning about Islam as well as the efforts of dawah in the wider community in both little and big ways. If I can be of any support to you in that journey – please do let me know.
About the author
Calisha Bennett is the daughter of an Australian convert father and Cocos Islander mother. She is a home-schooling mother of 5 with over a decade of experience as an active speaker, community teacher and mentor of Muslim women, converts and youth. She has a background in Quran Tajweed, Islamic Shariah, youth work, education, coaching and fitness studies. She is the founder of Developing Diamonds which provides identity and success coaching, workshops, courses and retreats for Muslim women around the world. To find out more visit: www.developingdiamonds.com.au
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