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Doing Dawah or Driving them Crazy?

Wednesday May 11, 2011 06:49:38 PM, Nigar Ataulla

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I wish born Muslims could be far more sensitive to new converts to the faith. By imposing a ritualistic brand of Islam on them, they are not doing dawah, but only driving them away from the religion.


Osama has been eliminated, one terrorist less in this world. But can someone enlighten me on how does one tackle people in the community who ‘terrorise’ new converts to Islam with terrible consequences if they do not follow their brand of Islam? So much so, that these converts flee from Islam back to their old faith.

I write this with great pain as I heard the story of Vikram, just a few days ago. Vikram, a freelance writer and musician, had been researching Sufism and had acquired a wealth of knowledge about Islam. He did not affiliate himself to any group, but books were his guides. Later, he encountered a very well-known organization that claims itself to be doing dawah work not just in India, but across the globe. He attended Friday sermons in its mosques, and the content of these sermons was the usual fiery, anti-Jew, anti- Christian, anti-all non-Muslims stuff, ending with talks about who would be in heaven and who in hell! Absolutely nothing on contemporary social issues or problems facing people today. Vikram seemed hypnotized and mesmerized by these sermons to which he was dragged along by his so- called “born” Muslims friends, who unfortunately wore the “self-righteous” label on their fancy scented kurtas.

Weeks and weeks of sermons and speeches later, Vikram recited the Shahadah and came into the fold of Islam under the ‘guidance’ of these kurta-clad self-righteous men.

So Vikram was a now Muslim and there was jubilation among his circle of born Muslim friends. It would have been nicer if these friends had left Vikram in solitude to reflect on his faith. They did not. They became his self-appointed ‘groomers’ and imposed a long list of do’s and don’t’s which he was supposed to follow now that he was a Muslim. He could not listen to music. He could not wear shorts, even at home on Sundays. He had to discard the tiny earrings he wore. He had to throw all the paintings and pictures that adorned the walls in his home into the dust-bin. He could not read books or literature of other religions any longer. He had to be careful about interacting only with the “pure” Muslims.

Life went on for Vikram like this, till came a day when he realised how fed up and sick and tired he was getting with all these impositions. “ I was never given the space, freedom and time to discover Islam after I came into its fold at my own pace. These born Muslims put their rules on me and I was following them for their pleasure. Their robotic and ritualistic form of Islam drove me away from the faith and now I have gone back to my old faith formally. I cannot be pleasing these Muslims who never once told me that I had to please God and not them. Their brand of Islam which they imposed on me made God into a fearful and cruel creator who would throw people into hell for every minor error. I felt burdened by this and have gone back to my old faith. When these Muslim friends got to know about this, they said I would be thrown into Jahannam (hell),” he said.

So that is how some Muslims do dawah and treat new converts? I call this 'mental terrorism'! We have loads of these types floating in the community who have made it their mission to spread the word of God by reducing Islam to a ritualistic religion.

Going through my diary from the past, I can never forget a mail from a young writer belonging to another orthodox organization who was excited about Yvonne Ridley, who had then converted to Islam, visiting his city. He wrote, "We are planning to ‘catch’ her for a talk at one of our sessions, you know she is from the West and has embraced Islam and she will surely draw crowds”. I wrote to him, "Respect Ridley--she is not a rock-star to draw crowds for your session.”

I can never forget the elation when a Muslim friend of mine married a new convert to Islam. Her relative told her, “You have taken yourself and seven of your generations straight to heaven.” My friend still lives in the illusion that she is a pied-piper and that soon she and seven generations will take the escalator to heaven.

I wish ‘born’ Muslims could inculcate some sense of sensitivity towards those who wish to come into Islam or have embraced the religion, by giving them the freedom to reflect on the spirit, rather than the rituals of Islam.

Their discovery of God and faith is a personal journey, and when we throw our own impositions on them, it will only make their journey rough and tough.

In search of our own heaven, we end up making their lives a hell!





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