Category Archives: toronto

Satan The Humble: A Story

Earlier today I came across a Christian man shouting into the face of a Muslim sister. At first I wasn’t sure what to do, but the sister was accompanied by her husband who was able to manage the situation quite well.

I calmly encouraged the Christian to walk away and to talk with me instead. At first he was a little bit hesitant, but this one interaction led to what was perhaps the strangest conversation I’ve ever had. The Christian man was clearly angry, agitated, and upset. As I was walking with him, we both quickly realised that we were Trinidadian (from the same country) and we spoke a little about our shared heritage. I thought we were making progress until his next sentence:

You’re stupid.

I have to admit that this caught me off guard, but I didn’t insult him in return, they are not our teachers in this regard. This would turn out to be an impactful action that led to a good end, keep it in mind as the story continues. Apparently I was stupid because I’m a Muslim. I’ve been called worse before so this was tame in comparison.

He decided that he wanted some coffee so I offered to buy a cup for him and so we began our brief journey to the nearby McCafe. Along the way he asked me why I believed in Islam and why I rejected the ‘truth’ about Christ. I simply let him know that I’ve studied both Islam and Christianity and that I simply find Islam to be more coherent, consistent and considerate than Christianity. He didn’t like this answer, but it was a truthful one. I mentioned that I couldn’t believe in the Bible because of its lack of preservation. He tried to argue that I likely hadn’t read the Bible, so in response I gave a few examples of the surviving New Testament papyri which contained variants affecting his beliefs, specifically that the papyrus containing the earliest text of ‘Doubting’ Thomas’ “my Lord and my God,” was lacunose. He quickly shifted topics to the ‘Qur’ān having 27 versions’. I shut down that argument pretty quickly and he seemed happy to move on from it.

Finally we got the coffee and sat down for an hour long conversation. On multiple occasions he referred to me as “a dumb Muslim”, “a stupid person”, “Satanic/ Satan”, “demonic”, etc. I’m old enough to know that when someone insults you in this way they’re looking for you to validate their perception of us as being angry, hateful people. He was trying to provoke me into confirming his prejudice. Yet, I simply smiled and ignored it. Over time, he stopped the insults. He tried to claim that the Qur’ān stated that Muslims should kill all non-believers, I asked for a reference, he quickly tried to Google an answer but he couldn’t find any verse that made any such claim. One by one his arguments fell apart.

He mentioned that the Qur’ān isn’t in chronological order therefore it can’t be understood, I pointed out that it wasn’t a Greco-Roman bios (like the Gospels), so it didn’t need to be in chronological order, much like the Psalms in the Bible. His next argument was that Muslims want Islam to be the dominant religion, I responded that everyone wants their ideology to be adopted by the masses, nothing is wrong with that. He followed up by saying that only Islam is bad as an ideology because of the violence Muslims commit. I responded by referencing Zechariah, chapters 12 to 14, where forced worship, torture and mass genocide is what happens to non-Christians when his version of Jesus returns, so it would be more rational for me to be afraid of his faith than he should be of mines.

Our conversation was quickly coming to an end, but I had him read for me 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[a]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”[b]

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[c]

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”[d]

7 Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

He didn’t want to read these passages out loud, in fact he tried on multiple occasions to avoid discussing it. I stuck to my course and kept returning to these few verses. I remarked at him, look at the derogatory way in which it refers to ‘unbelievers’, look at how it says we’re unclean, that we can’t be touched, that we must be segregated! He didn’t enjoy this at all, his demeanor had changed, he was no longer boisterous. He had lost his gusto. He then tried one last argument, that it’s only Muslims that force their faith on others. Somehow this ended up with him wanting me to touch the cross he was wearing, I made it clear that I didn’t want to touch an idol. So he proceeded to touch me with the cross. I don’t think it hit him, the irony of the situation, until I pointed it out. I had expressed that I didn’t want to touch it and yet he forced it upon me. Once the realisation hit (that he was forcing his beliefs on me), we decided to end the conversation and he promised to be in contact with me.

On our way back to the street, he actually said I was very ‘humble’, that I didn’t shout at him or insult him in return, he confessed that my reactions to him were puzzling. In fact, he specifically mentioned that it’s likely I am Satanic because of how good my behavior was as a non-Christian, especially given the heated situation underwhich we met. As we were about to part ways, he walked up to his Christian buddies from Christ Forgiveness Ministries and made a comment about me, what he said I couldn’t hear but when he returned to me, I was in the company of the sister he initially was shouting at. Surprisingly he came with a smile and said that I was his ‘buddy’ who was very ‘humble’ and pleasant to talk with.

It’s amazing what good adab can do. Da’wah isn’t only about explaining what we as Muslims believe but it’s also about our behavior, mannerisms and etiquette:

“Invite ˹all˺ to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and kind advice, and only debate with them in the best manner. Surely your Lord ˹alone˺ knows best who has strayed from His Way and who is ˹rightly˺ guided.” – Qur’ān 16:125 (translation: The Clear Quran, by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

If you would like to support the work we do, please try to help by donating:

https://www.paypal.me/ijazdawah

and Allah knows best.

Spending Time with Dr. Shabir Ally

Over this summer I had the opportunity and privilege of learning from and teaching alongside Dr. Shabir Ally.

To be honest it was quite a surreal experience. Here is someone I had been learning from for a number of years and now I stood beside him with his approval to teach on subjects that he had mastered decades ago. I had not yet had the opportunity to pen my thoughts on the da’wah training, but suffice it to say that it went extremely well (alhamdulillah). During the month of November I also had the opportunity to meet him a second time for the year, where we took a few photos and did a few videos together:

What a lot of people don’t know is that I believe I’m actually tiptoeing in the video! Dr. Ally towers over me quite easily. Needless to say, I’m often asked about his persona, his mannerisms, his views on his debate opponents. Who exactly is Dr. Shabir Ally? Is he in any way different from the man we know on the debate stage?

The answer may shock you. He’s exactly as you see him. I don’t have a single bad word to say about the man. He has always been pleasant, loving, kind and respectable. Behind the scenes, he is the same man that you see on the debate stage. His persona does not change. Sometimes I’m asked if Dr. Ally holds negative thoughts or remarks about his previous debate opponents and I can honestly say that he does not. He speaks of them as if they were in our company, that is to say that while he may disagree with his debate opponents he does not manifest any hate for them, he is truly a man of good and reputable character.

While most will know him because of his interfaith events, he’s even more well known locally for the work that he does for Muslims in Canada. Everywhere I’ve gone, regardless of which Shaykh or scholar I’m sitting with, they’ve always had a good word to say about him. I believe that his Islamic Information and Da’wah Center represents who he is as a person. Permit me to explain myself. His center is very eclectic in terms of ethnicities. People from all walks of life, from all ages and all races, speaking in so many different languages, seek out and come to his center to keep up with their Islam. Attending Jumm’ah Salaah (Friday Congregational Prayers) is an experience that is difficult to forget. In essence, it’s equitable to a micro-Hajj, with so many different people around you. At first it may be overwhelming, but there is something quite special about seeing the diverse collection of Muslims at the center.

Just as people seek Dr. Ally, so do people also seek out his center. People understand that the Islam Dr. Ally practices is not something to be afraid of, but something that makes them feel safe. This is why non-Muslims and people of non-Islamic backgrounds find conversation with him and interaction with his center so beneficial. Dr. Ally treats people with kindness and respect that is based upon the Prophetic Sunnah. His simple and genuine acts of love, really do impact the people he interacts with and the community where his center is located. Even if one were to disagree with with Dr. Ally, his demeanour does not change. He’s okay with folks disagreeing with him, but he does not escalate those disagreements into antagonistic personal issues.

I have a sincere and genuine love for Dr. Shabir Ally, I have sat and learned from him so many times, but each and every time I do so, it certainly feels as if I’m meeting the man for the first time. At the end of the day, I think there’s one anecdote I can leave that sums up the man, the myth and the legend that is Dr. Ally. Some 24 years ago, one of my colleagues had come to Canada as an immigrant. They used to attend the Masjid where Dr. Ally performed the Friday Congregational Prayers. What they found was that people from all backgrounds came to listen to his Friday sermons (what we refer to as a Khutbah), in those sermons, they found comfort and love, to the point that they began to invite one and all to hear Dr. Ally speak. It’s been 24 years since then and they still hold him as someone special and monumental in their lives. It’s been almost 3 decades of hard work from Dr. Ally and I pray that Allah continues to bless him and his endeavors, ameen.

and Allah knows best.

How Street Dawah Toronto Changed My Opinion on Street Dawah

Having been in the da’wah field for sometime, I found it difficult to be convinced of street da’wah. By street da’wah, I mean those folks that stand on street corners and hand out pamphlets and little books about Islam, sometimes books about Islam and Christianity. One of the things that made me dislike street da’wah was its emphasis on getting shahadahs (conversions). I always asked myself, would a person truly change their faith or accept a new one after a few minutes of conversation? I’m sure that there are people like this, but the vast majority are not. Yet, this issue has persisted in my mind, most of the people giving street da’wah are either themselves new Muslims or they know very little about Islam, much less so about Islam as it compares to other faiths. This form of popular da’wah became quite mainstream over the last decade or so. Videos of conversions on the street are some of the most popularly viewed Islam-related videos on the internet. This emphasis on getting new conversions truly bothered me.

sdt1

The emphasis more or less seemed to be on getting new conversions as often as possible, with the caveat of having the conversion recorded on video at the same time. Thus, one’s da’wah was only deemed successful if conversions were regularly taking place. Yet we need to ask, how many of those new converts (or reverts) have stayed in Islam? How many take the shahadah (testimony of faith) due to being pressured publicly, or due to that person simply being polite or easily manipulated? How could we know if these people had truly accepted Islam? Were there any follow ups? Did they have classes or sessions or ongoing support for the new converts? These questions honestly bothered me, and despite knowing many people in this area of da’wah, my doubts could not be mitigated. There was at least one group of young Muslims from my neighbourhood in Trinidad who did street da’wah and I spent a night or two with them. Their efforts did make me consider this form of da’wah differently, as I saw that their main interested was on education as opposed to bullying someone to change their religion.

sdt2

With these questions in mind, I had the pleasure of attending three sessions with Street Dawah Toronto. Something was different about this group, and I have to admit that it is these group of Muslims who need to be applauded for their hard work and dedication. In my time with them, I experienced things I never thought I would, had conversations that were meaningful and beneficial, while also having the opportunity to witness sincerity first hand. To begin with, what immediately stands out is the juxtaposition between the brothers and sisters of Street Dawah Toronto speaking calmly with pedestrians, while right next to them are a few different Christian missionary groups screaming and shouting about everyone’s damnation and their guarantees of going to hell. Of course, not all missionaries in Dundas Square behave this way, but of the few groups I observed over the weeks, there were at least two or more Christian groups preaching this way in the immediate vicinity of Street Dawah Toronto. It almost seemed to me as if passersby were actually drawn to the Muslims because of the missionaries shouting at them.

sdt3

What also stood out about Street Dawah Toronto, was that they didn’t have any signs or posters putting down any group of people, or damning people to hell, as other groups in Dundas Square had. None of their literature was offensive or aggressive, neither confrontational. They neither shouted nor screamed, or put anyone down during conversation. No insults were hurled, no threats were made. They didn’t crowd around any one individual, they spoke person to person, thus putting pressure on no one to accept Islam. My questions were quickly being answered, my doubts put to rest. Not once, did I observe any of them trying to convert anyone, or push them to accept the shahadah. In almost every conversation they were eager to hand out resources in the form of free literature so that passersby could do their own research, come to their own conclusions, learn Islam at a pace they can without being pressured. I was quite elated to see this. Words could not express the joy I had seeing this same pattern of loving, caring, sincere behaviour occurring week after week.

sdt4

Finally, there came a test. I watched one evening as a gentleman approached the da’wah stall and began to insult Islam. “This book (the Qur’an) was written by Satan, it’s from Satan!” he shouted as he approached a sister by herself. He then stood right next to the sister and shouted this statement at her a number of times while touching the literature on their da’wah stall. And that’s all it took. The sister didn’t even flinch, she didn’t shout in return, or insult the guy, or even call a brother over for help. She simply said, “okay sir,” and that was all. She was not angry, she did not retaliate, she did not become aggressive. What did she do after the man left? She continued to smile and hand pamphlets out. Not a sweat broken. That sister’s name? Tabasum. Her name literally means “smiling”. I was personally quite upset by the man’s aggressive behaviour, but on that day I witnessed with my eyes the Prophetic Sunnah of mercy. I witnessed the Prophetic Sunnah at work personified in the form of a smiling sister. That was the moment that almost brought me to tears. Hearing about the Prophetic Sunnah is one thing, but to witness it at work, being fulfilled by a sister in a tense situation truly showed me the beauty of Islam.

Yet, this was not unique to her. All the members of Street Dawah Toronto smiled incessantly, were pleasant and kind, warm and polite. Over the years I had seen these same faces every week giving da’wah, but seeing these guys at work is something else. Their humility cannot be emphasised enough. These folks have been using the very same da’wah stall that they originally started off with. It’s been about 6 years and it has remained the same. Just imagine that!  They didn’t change it to include a speaker or audio system, they didn’t change it to make the stall appear to be more flashy or “different”. They didn’t have to dress the stall up to appeal to anyone, because it was there enacting of the Prophetic Sunnah that drew people to them. I witnessed with my own eyes, both Muslims and non-Muslims gladly approaching them and looking with keen interest at the literature they had on display. I witnessed agnostics from Turkey, apostates from Iran, Turkic Saudi Arabian Muslims, Chinese Muslims approach the brothers and sisters at Street Dawah Toronto with smiles on their faces, eager for hugs and conversation.

I witnessed a Malaysian sister being greeted by a few people every couple minutes, she had in the past spoken to them about Islam (despite English not being her first language) and they remembered her and returned to speak with her. I witnessed a Somali brother engage with an angry man who still returned week after week, simply due to the brother’s kind attitude. I witnessed a Filipino sister bring her baby with her, yet came just to help the group out. I witnessed brothers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh all come out to do da’wah. So many nationalities, so few natural English speakers, yet so much sincerity. The fact that there were entire groups of non-Muslims returning week after week to discuss Islam, is testimony to the excellent decorum of these brothers and sisters.

In the end, I spent over 8 years disliking popular street da’wah, but it took me 15 minutes with Street Dawah Toronto to change my mind completely. May Allah continue to grant them mercy, goodness, sincerity and protection ameen.

and Allah knows best.