Presentation: It Makes All the Difference
Presentation, Decorum, Etiquette, Akhlaq (أخلاق), Adab ( أدب):
دْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۖ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided. – Qur’an 16:125.
Allah commands us to argue (this word does not mean to quarrel; this is a common misconception), to reason with non-Muslims in a manner which is full of wisdom, good instruction and is best. In other words, don’t argue like this:
You’re wrong you pagan flesh eating dead God worshiping idiot! Stop lying! Deceiver! Kafir pig!
Would you listen to someone who’s insulting your God, your faith, your beliefs and your person? Yes, we realise that arguments and debates about faith and religion can get heated. We do realise that some people just can’t stop the insults or name calling. The Qur’an also offers a solution if you encounter such people:
وَقَدْ نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الْكِتَابِ أَنْ إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ آيَاتِ اللَّـهِ يُكْفَرُ بِهَا وَيُسْتَهْزَأُ بِهَا فَلَا تَقْعُدُوا مَعَهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ ۚ إِنَّكُمْ إِذًا مِّثْلُهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ جَامِعُ الْمُنَافِقِينَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ جَمِيعًا
And it has already come down to you in the Book that when you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation. Indeed, you would then be like them. Indeed Allah will gather the hypocrites and disbelievers in Hell all together – Qur’an 4:140.
It’s clear from these verses, that Allah prohibits us to sit or remain in the presence/ company of people who are insulting, mocking or ridiculing Islam. Since God prohibits us from sitting with such people, and because He commands us to use good speech and arguments, then it is against the ethos of Islam to ridicule, mock and insult the beliefs of others. No one will listen to what you have to say if you berate them. No one will care to take you seriously, nor would they have a good impression of Islam, if the only experience they have with Islam is Muslims insulting them. The only way anyone would be willing to read or listen to what you have to offer them, is if you present your arguments in a respectful, kind and simple to understand manner. Here is an example…
- Christian: You are murderers and rapists, you belong to a cult that is sick and medieval!
- Muslim: Hi, I’m sorry if you feel that way. As a Muslim my faith teaches me not to rape, or murder. I understand that you may have a certain understanding about Islam, or that you may be aware of some passages from our Scripture which you disagree with. I will be willing to discuss these beliefs with you if you’re willing to be patient with me. Thank you for your time and I do appreciate that you took your time to offer some of your comments about my faith.
What have I done in my response? I kept my cool. I didn’t insult him and I didn’t begin by disagreeing with the Christian. If you begin by disagreeing, then the first impression that the person gets is that you’re being defensive, or confrontational. You’ll want to calm them and given them a reason to think twice about their angry statements. By opening your reply to them with a pleasant greeting and an apology, you’re showing that you’re willing to listen to what they have to say. That’s important, because they clearly have something to say and they want everyone to hear it.
“I’m a lion of Allah, if Islam, the Prophet ﷺ or God is insulted, I will respond and destroy the one who does that, I cannot apologize to them or show kindness to such evil people!” – …….and this is the sort of thinking that will get you nowhere in life. This is not what Allah commands in the Qur’an, He commands us to preach in the best of ways. Screaming that you’re a lion of Allah while doing nothing but pushing people away from Islam is the height of irony to say the least. Reactionary behaviour, or emotive responses are actually discouraged in the Prophetic Sunnah. “Do not get angry…..“, this famous hadith and other ones similar to it, encourage the believer to temper their reactions, not to fall prey to them!
If someone insults you and you in turn insult them, then there will exist a circle of quarreling through vile insults that quite literally lead to nowhere. When both you and the person you were quarreling with, walk away from each other; what has either of you gained? Nothing! Therefore, the approach you must take is described in the following guidelines:
- Refrain from any insults, whether in regard to their faith, looks, claims or arguments.
- Never begin with a negative statement, “You’re wrong, I do not think that….., That’s incorrect, etc.”
- Always thank the person for being willing to share their opinions with you.
- Genuinely listen to what the person has to say and only tell them you understand what they’re saying if you really do understand them. Telling someone you understand what they’re saying, shows that you’re not joining that discussion for the sake of insulting, it shows that you want to have a meaningful conversation.
- Refrain from being loud if speaking, cutting into their speaking time, or if by text, avoid capital letters.
- Try to present your words as coherently as possible; if speaking try to avoid complicated language, slang or abbreviations. If by text, avoid lengthy replies, try to use proper punctuation and if possible, break your reply into readable paragraphs or points.
These steps have worked amazingly for me over the years. I have encountered very hostile persons and within a few minutes I often manage to calm them down and lead them to a meaningful conversation. There is a Latin saying I often abide by: disce aut discede. Which means, ‘learn or leave’. Either you’re entering into a discussion to gain experience and knowledge, and to exchange information which can aid the person or you should leave as you’re entering it for the wrong reasons!