After reading the situation carefully and correctly, you must now choose the subject. What are you going to talk about?
Choice of Subject
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told Mu`adh ibn Jabal, “You are coming to a people from Ahl Al-Kitab, so the first thing you should invite them to is Tawheed.” Notice the logic.
You are coming to some People of the Scripture; therefore choose to talk to them about Tawheed. When you know the people, the situation and the circumstance, now you choose your topic.
There was a time some years back when enthusiastic Muslims used to continuously engage Christians in discussions concerning the Gospel of Barnabus. The origin and history of the Gospel of Barnabus is a long story. It is enough to note that there is mention in it that Prophet Jesus was not crucified, and that a prophet would come after him by the name of Ahmad. Consequently, Muslims spent a lot of time trying to convince Christians about the authenticity of the Gospel of Barnabus. Was that really important? If they believed in the Gospel of Barnabus, would it save them on the Day of Judgment?
No. Is everything mentioned in the Gospel of Barnabas the Gospel truth? No. In fact there are passages and concepts contained in it which are incorrect and go against Islaamic teachings. Consequently, we must choose our topics wisely. We should ask ourselves: “What does this person really need to know to fulfill my obligation of conveying the clear message of Islam to them? What do I have to give this person so that on the Day of Judgment I can say to Allah: ‘O Allah! I conveyed Your message’?
The message which I have to give them is none other than Tawheed. We may begin our discussions by talking about the trinity, but many Christians do not believe in the trinity.
Some believe that there is only one God and that Jesus Christ was a prophet of God. In such cases, there is no need to go into a long debate about the trinity, since they have already rejected it. Consequently, we have to find out what their actual beliefs are and not preach to them based on assumptions. We have to take some time out to listen, as was mentioned earlier. If we do so, we may find that it would be more beneficial to talk about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Thus, the choice of topic to discuss or share is as important as reading the situation correctly.
Method of Delivery
The next thing which we need to keep in mind when approaching others is our method of delivery. We have to decide how we are going to communicate our message. Are we going to use an emotion approach? Although, emotional arguments are to be avoided in general because they tend to cloud the issues and the facts, sometimes they are the best method. On one occasion, the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave a sermon in which his eyes became red, voice became loud and his anger increased. (Muslim) However, that may be appropriate in a Friday Sermon, because people are there in the mosque for a particular religious reason.
It is also important for motivating people for Jihad, or for giving in charity, etc. At other times logic may be most appropriate. One of the Companions by the name of Mu‘awiyah ibn Al-Hakam, mentioned that he came to see Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) after converting to Islam, and he found him making his prayers, so he joined the prayers.
When one of those praying behind the Prophet sneezed, so he said, “Yarhamukallaah (May Allah have mercy on you),” while praying. The other Companions turned and stared at him in the prayer and he asked, “What are you all staring at?” So they started hitting their thighs to make him quiet. When the Prophet finished his prayer he simply said:
“Indeed, the speech of people is not suitable for this prayer.” (Muslim)
He gave Mu`awiyah a simple logical reason for not talking during formal prayers, as opposed to raising his voice and screaming at him for his error.
Where possible, visual aids should be employed in conveying the message as it helps get the message across. People today are very much visually oriented. TV, video, computer, CD, DVD, etc., etc. have become the most popular media for communication.
Consequently, using power point presentations, or charts and overhead projectors are great aids in conveying the message today’s audiences. The Prophet himself employed visual aids in teaching his companions.
On one occasion he prayed on top of the mimbar (pulpit) and then informed his companions that he only did so for them to learn his method of prayer. (Al-Bukhari)
On another occasion he drew a straight line in the dirt and other lines branching of from either side to demonstrate the significance of his straight path and the abundance of deviant paths leading away from the true path. And on another occasion he said, “The Last Hour and I have been sent like these two,” and he joined his forefinger and his middle finger, (Muslim) in order to indicate how close the Final Hour was.
Everyone likes to hear information relayed in the form of a story. The human mind seems to relax and be comfortable in the psychological environment created by narratives.
Consequently, stories from the bards and storytellers of the past to the authors of fiction of the present are held in high esteem by societies throughout the world. Oftentimes, social criticisms have found their widest audiences through the vehicle of the story.
For example, in David Copperfield, Charles Dickens attacked the exploitation of children by Victorian society; likewise, in 1984, George Orwell commented on state interference in the lives of its citizens. The 90’s movie, Primary Colors, taken from a book by Joe Klein, was a thinly disguised account of President Clinton’s philandering while campaigning for office of the president.
Stories about people and civilizations of the past are especially interesting because they represent mysteries to the people of the present. Hence the Qur’an and the Sunnah has, in a number of instances, employed the narrative format in order to convey its message to human beings in a most intriguing manner. It should be noted, however, that while many of the most popular narratives are made up by their authors, the Qur’anic and hadith stories are all true. They are not made up by Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) to convey His message, but are in fact true historical examples of the
message. This fact has been emphasized in the Qur’an in numerous passages. For example, Allah refers to the Qur’an as truth:
I revealed the Book to you in truth. (Al-Ma’idah 5:48)
Likewise, Allah repudiates the idea that these narratives are invented. At the end of the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) and his brothers, He says,
It is not an invented story but a confirmation of the previous (scripture). (Yusuf 12:111)
Consequently, it is not surprising to find that the use of examples from human life to illustrate points in the message is very effective.
Figurative speech is generally a more moving and effective method of communication than direct commands and detailed explanations. Hence, Allah has also used them frequently in the Qur’an:
Certainly I have made all kinds of comparisons in the Qur’an for humankind that perhaps they would reflect. (Az-Zumar 39:27)
There are also numerous examples in the statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) where he relied on the comparisons to get his message across.
The article is excerpted from the book Da`wah Training Course by Dr. Bilal Philips.