By: Maria- Zain
For Muslims living in the West, there is a greater need to showcase Ramadan – not just as the month of fast, but as the month of inspiration...
From the beginning of times, our father, Adam (peace be upon him), had trouble in keeping his children on the right path of Allah, despite being one of the two original residents of Paradise.
It was through the Messengers that the same message of monotheism (and submission to the same) was continuously revived, and it was through men of the highest intellect, kindness, humility, confidence, and care for the human race that Allah sent His message to mankind.
Noah spoke, bargained, cajoled, begged, pleaded with his people, all until Allah told him to stop, due to their dire stubbornness and hatred towards His beloved Messenger.
And this happened over and over again to each and every Prophet, until Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was appointed as the last Messenger. He was also treated badly, mocked at, taunted, tortured, and hated upon – even by his own people who had loved him just moments before the first revelation. Yet he continued to spread the message through love and care for the Quraysh, even when it led him to social exile, and later when he was forced to escape to another town, Madinah.
Nothing Much Has Changed
Why I’m bringing all of this up, is that Muslims are still victims of hate and torment. Nothing much has changed. Perhaps not in the form of how the Prophets endured the torture, but in many other ways that vary in severity across the globe.
The reasons for this also vary – but of late, with the unfortunate highlights of the misguidance of Muslims, through their own wrongdoings, justifications of violence in the name of Islam, and general self-interpretation of the Quran to prop up personal or political agendas, struggling-to-practice Muslims have become the brunt of aggression and adversity.
In fact, it doesn’t take a Muslim to quote anything from the Quran and commit a crime, but the end result is the entire religion and Muslim populace will be set on fire by a single bad act of a single bad Muslim.
It is unfortunate that Muslims who strive to be better people in the world, pleasing to Allah, and those who try their best to emulate the kindness and love of the Messengers are also tainted by the misdeeds of the few.
But with the clear reminders of Prophets like Noah, Ibrahim, Hud, and others… their care and concern for their non-Muslim families and societies constantly outshone their fall into despair.
With Ramadan around the corner, it should be of even more a motivation for Muslims to break the shell of misconceptions and help shed the light on the beauty of Islam, before the minority fringes of extremism become so loud that they drown out the beauty and eloquence of Islamic thought and practice.
For Muslims living in the West, there is a greater need to showcase Ramadan – not just as the month of fast, but as the month of inspiration, the revelation of the Quran, the spreading of the Message, the solidifying of the prayer (Ramadan comes after Isra’ & Mi’raj), and the general remembrance of worship that upgrades us throughout the year.
The Plan to Share the Joy of Ramadan
Ideally, the “showcase” of being a good Muslim should be one that takes place throughout the 12 months of the year, and not just punctuated during Ramadan, since Muslims should be cohesively celebrative in society, without having to compromise their beliefs and principles, and to constantly be a driving force of good values.
But even if we feel we have done our best, we can always do better. So, with a few weeks left to Ramadan, here are a few steps to working towards sharing the joy of the Holy Month with non-Muslim neighbors, friends, colleagues, and insha’Allah, society as a whole.
Start with Du’a and Pleasing Intentions to Allah
You can’t go wrong with du’a and the best of intentions. Sharing something we love is inherent in our religion. Make sincere du’a that Allah puts blessings in our endeavors in spreading the joy of the 9th Lunar Month, and for our own personal betterment with Allah. After all, it is said that whoever pleases Allah at the risk of displeasing the people, Allah will be pleased with him or her, (and that is enough of a reward for the believer), but Allah will also make the people be pleased with that person.
What better way to start spreading love and care to others especially during the month where the gates of Jannah (Paradise) are the most welcoming.
Reach out to the Closest Non-Muslims
Prophet Muhammad harbored great amounts of compassion for neighbors, and did not discriminate between his Muslim neighbors and non-Muslim neighbors. He spoke to them regularly and exchanged gifts with them, shared meals, and spoke openly about our beliefs.
Our best advocates as Muslims living in the West are our non-Muslim neighbors and friends, if adversities break out, and Muslims fall prey to the misconceptions of Islam. Make an effort to speak to neighbors at the onset of Ramadan, send invitations to share iftar meals, or simple gifts representing the meaning of Ramadan.
I remember a friend of mine who was quite an inspiration. She and her children bought roses and churned out mini-pamphlets on Ramadan and Islam and distributed them amongst their neighbors a week before the fast started. They received plenty of wishes thereafter and made many new friends.
Look for Opportunities in the Community
If you’re already active in your local community (via the community centre, library, a multi-faith agency, or local college or university), look for ways you can “represent” Ramadan, perhaps through booths or small workshops.
In fact, the youth attending tertiary education are probably in the best position to be actively involved in da’wah. Ramadan offers a goldmine of ideas to do this, and it would help to be kept busy during the long summer months.
Many communities in the West that are diverse in nature tend to have seasonal celebrations of multi-faiths and cultures. If there is an opportunity to showcase Islam, step up as a volunteer. Sometimes, just doing a Ramadan craft with children is enough to introduce Ramadan to young families. It only really takes a little pique of interest to start inquisitive minds on a discovery reel of a new religion.
Other forms of community work could include working with organizations that fund Muslim and non-Muslim charities to collaborate in charitable efforts collectively.
Take to the Streets
There seems to be a surge in street da’wah programs across the globe, but especially actively seen in the West. If you can get in touch with a reputable Muslim organization that (preferably), has already made inroads with the non-Muslim community, this would be great training grounds on how to approach the non-Muslim community, all while in da’wah mode.
Giving out gifts prior to Ramadan, pamphlets, invitations to iftar, copies of the Quran translated into the local language, have all been means in spreading the love of Islam.
Take to the Internet
There is much inspiration in the hashtag of today. If a good hashtag on Ramadan comes along the way, (and it will), take advantage of it as being part of the global online Muslim community. While social media has sported plenty of evils, it’s still a fair playing field for da’wah causes.
Last year, Muslim majority Malaysia launched #Fast4Malaysia, which garnered plenty of interest amongst the multi-cultural, multi-faith citizens, amidst political debates that weighed heavily on racial and religious divide. #Fast4Malaysia encouraged non-Muslims to join the Muslim camaraderie for suhoor, the fast throughout the day, and iftar.
What better way to spread our love for Ramadan than to encourage a complete change in mindset that eliminates the “us vs. them” mentality?
It goes without saying that Muslims will often fall victim to the aggression, intolerance, and bias of the media. The truth is, media propaganda and hate-campaigns have been en vogue since the times of the Prophets. In particular, Moses had to deal with a defamatory campaign, launched by the Pharaoh of Egypt, while all Moses had, was himself, his brother, his staff (stick), and a handful of followers amongst the oppressed community of Bani Israel.
Prophet Muhammad had to deal with the smear campaigns by the likes of Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl, two of the most eloquent and powerful men of Arabia during their time. Hate spreads like wildfire, and it is only by the overwhelming Mercy of Allah that each Messenger “survives” the torture, even if it didn’t seem like it. At least we know that the ummah of Muhammad saw the religion through, so much so, that it has lasted until this very day.
The ummah today faces its own challenges, including a loud minority of Muslims who unfortunately peruse personal and political interests in the name of Islam, causing a lot of harm upon Muslims who only want to live in harmony in this world and the next when these few get magnified by the media.
Regardless of these challenges, it is incumbent that Muslims remain united and not fall into despair. Allah changes the condition of those who strive to make changes for themselves. And what better way to work towards those changes, with just a few weeks before Ramadan – it’s all in the blessings of the Holy Month.