Have you ever been out and heard: “Excuse me, Are you a Muslim? What do you believe?” The last question often catches even the most knowledgeable Muslims off guard. They may start going into a long lecture about the importance of prayer and the prohibitions of drinking alcohol and then delve off into debating politics. The questioner is often left with a confused expression and doesn’t remember a word you said.
The Prophet(saw) had a method for giving da’wah(calling to Islam). His original message was simple tawheed (oneness of Allah) and Aqeedah(belief in Allah, angels, messengers, books, day of judgement and qadr) After that came the laws and prohibitions. What better method to follow?
Narrated Yusuf bin Mahk: While I was with Aisha, the mother of the Believers, a person from Iraq came and asked, “What type of shroud is the best?” ‘Aisha said, “May Allah be merciful to you! What does it matter?” He said, “O mother of the Believers! Show me (the copy of) your Qur’an,” She said, “Why?” He said, “In order to compile and arrange the Qur’an according to it, for people recite it with its Suras not in proper order.” ‘Aisha said, “What does it matter which part of it you read first? (Be informed) that the first thing that was revealed thereof was a Sura from Al-Mufassal, and in it was mentioned Paradise and the Fire. When the people embraced Islam, the Verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘Do not drink alcoholic drinks.’ people would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and if there had been revealed, ‘Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse, ‘they would have said, ‘We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.’ While I was a young girl of playing age, the following Verse was revealed in Mecca to Muhammad: ‘Nay! But the Hour is their appointed time (for their full recompense), and the Hour will be more grievous and more bitter.’ (54.46) Sura Al-Baqara (The Cow) and Surat An-Nisa (The Women) were revealed while I was with him.” Then ‘Aisha took out the copy of the Qur’an for the man and dictated to him the Verses of the Suras (in their proper order) . (Bukhari, Book #61, Hadith #515)
Narrated Abu Ma’bad,: Allah’s Apostle said to Muadh when he sent him to yemen, “You will go to the people of the Scripture. So, when you reach there, invite them to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Apostle. And if they obey you in that, tell them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in each day and night. And if they obey you in that tell them that Allah has made it obligatory on them to pay the Zakat which will be taken from the rich among them and given to the poor among them. If they obey you in that, then avoid taking the best of their possessions, and be afraid of the curse of an oppressed person because there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.” (Bukhari,Book #24, Hadith #573)
Although, there is nothing wrong with answering their questions related to the obligations. The first priority is the basic shahada. To inform them that there is No God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. So, often, we stumble over our words and end up in some kind of debate about the prohibited things in Islam, women’s rights, and politics. A debate which may have not happened had we been smart and followed the Prophet’s example. Perhaps, the simplest way to answer the question would be:
I believe that there is only One god (Allah) with no partners and I worship Him the way He has taught us.
I believe that Muhammad (Saw) was the final messenger of Allah.
I believe in All the books of Allah and that the Quran was the final revelation and the only one kept complete until this day.
I believe in All Allah’s Messengers such as Jesus(peace be upon him) and knowing the Muhammad was the seal of the Prophets
I believe in the Angels and all that Allah and His Prophet has told us about them and their duties.
I beleive in the Day of Judgement and all that Allah and His prophet has told us about it.
I believe in the Decree of Allah, that Allah knows all that is going to happen and has happened and that nothing happens without the Will or Decree of Allah.
After this, it would be good to invite them to visit a local masjid or give them the address to an Islamic website(I suggest http://www.whyislam.org). If you feel that you are knowledgeable enough you could also tell them that you would be happy to answer their basic questions. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. It is far better to tell someone that you don’t know an answer and refer them to someone who does know than to give incorrect information.
The Prophet(saw) said: Lying on me is not like lying on anyone else, whoever lies on me let him take his seat in Hell. When asked how they lie on the Prophet(saw) the response was by (intentionally)attributing things to him that he didn’t say. (Bukhari)
Debating is immature. It only reinforces their feelings that all Muslims are ill mannered and eager to argue. So, skip this and save your dignity,insh’Allah.
Remember the best da’wah comes from your mannerisms and interactions with people.
Any truth here is from Allah and any mistakes are from me and Shaytan.