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June 29, 2005
My First Da'wah Opportunity Gone Mad

by Samira Amer

Summer classes are the worst, especially if they are 5 nights a week, they leave you with no summer at all! So the best thing to do would be to get ahead of the class so I can skip a few lectures here and there.

June 6, 2005, 90-degree weather, mid-afternoon, which means around lunch hours, in downtown New Brunswick’s Starbucks. That was my intended place to “get work done” with an iced Caramel Machiato and a view of successful people walking in and out in business attire as my encouragement. As I walked from my metered parking spot a block away from my destination, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is officially the first hot day of my first summer wearing hijab! I can’t wait till someone says ‘aren’t you hot?’ so I can reply with my favorite line, ‘Hun, its hotter in hell,’ then use some of the various techniques I learned on giving dawah.”

So the employees there were extremely friendly and the guy making my Machiato commented on how hot it was. I agreed, added a smile, and watched as he carefully made a grid pattern with the caramel syrup on the top of my drink. “Wonderful,” I thought to myself as I found a perfect place near the window and air-conditioning vent. I noticed an elderly African-American man reading in front of me on the high stool seats. He noticed me on my way in, and I greeted him with a smile. I always keep a smile on my face when people stare at me, because I always believe it gives the best impression, especially for a muhajjibah.

The gentleman was dressed in a plain blue T-shirt, old jeans, sandals. He approached me asking if he could borrow my cell phone to make a local call. Ironically, the number was handwritten on the part of a newspaper cut out that said “God’s last name isn’t Dumb!” whatever that was supposed to mean! He thanked me, retreated to his reading material then hesitated and came back and asked me if I was Muslim. Duh! Hijab would mean I’m a Muslimah right?

I was nicer of course, so I said, “Yes sir, alhamdulillah, all praise be to Allah” then he asked if I was able to “prove Allah” and if I was from Turkey.

“No, sir. I’m Egyptian, and yes, I am able to prove that there is Allah.”

He obviously didn’t know anything about the world, because he was surprised that Egypt was a Muslim country and for some reason he only associated Islam with Turkey, and the Nation of Islam. His sister was a Muslimah, a “true Muslim,” as he put it.

He told me he was confused about what his sister was practicing and some of the rulings that Islam had. He introduced himself as Jay and started asking about something I’ve never heard about. He was saying something about “a pearl or a jewel that us Muslims believe in.” Apparently, he was talking out of complete ignorance and confusion, but I was surprisingly able to answer his other questions about divorce, marriage, tawhid, and repentance.

He asked if I believed I was going to Heaven but couldn’t believe it when I said, “In shaa Allah, God willing, I will, but I have no idea and it is solely in the hands of Allah.”

He repeated, “So you don’t know if you are going to heaven?”

I replied, “Sir, only Allah knows whether I am granted Heaven or, God forbid, Hell in the Hereafter. I have no decision on that matter other than to strive to remain on the straight path that He has written for us to be on.”

This led into a discussion about repenting when leading a sinful life and striving to become good. He brought his Bible over when he disagreed with me that I was doing too much “work” as a Muslim when in truthful repentance. That if I was Christian I wouldn’t have to because Jesus died for us all and no matter what we do we would go to Heaven!

I did my best not to laugh, but I cracked a HUGE smile, put down my pencil and relaxed in my seat. He froze waiting for my response.

“So you are saying, sir, that you can lie, cheat, steal, kill, and commit various sins and enter Heaven?”

He got frustrated and beckoned me to listen to the verses he read from the Bible, and explained the action of being “reborn” into faith meant. It was all very interesting to me, since I did not know too much about the details of Christianity. I used a technique I learned from the NJ Dawah conference, “listen to the person, sometimes people just need someone who will listen to them!”

That, I realized, was all I needed in this situation because he went on to tell me about how he lead a sinful life before “God spoke to him.” How his wife took their kids and left him, and how bad people were to him.

Every time he told me about an incident that “God spoke to him,” he mentioned he was either smoking some weed, or drunk from alcohol.

Mr. Jay went on telling me how humiliated he was because of his past and how he is now a pasture but people point at him and say how he is a crazy man that came out of treatment after being in Bermuda smoking and drinking his life away.

I explained to him that it wasn’t much work to strive to be a better person and free himself from basic sins like lying and cheating. He did not believe one was capable of going through a day without lying or stealing something. That I did not have to try to keep away from these things if I was Christian!

I explained what true repentance was, and how Allah is merciful and forgiving. It upset him greatly that I was telling him that every “true Muslim” gives zakat (charity) and helps in the community. He thought that that was not necessary and had nothing to do with one’s relationship with their Lord. “Why should you do all that work if Christ died for you?” he kept repeating.

As Mr. Jay went more into detail about his life and how God spoke to him and took away everything from him, I realized that I should not interrupt him. At this point I was getting worried, because he talked about pushing drugs and alcohol. I was sitting, talking to a complete stranger and I was going to get up and walk to my car by myself soon.

I saw a familiar face walk past the window and he waved a hand at me. It was a Muslim African-American that I have seen around, maybe he gave a lecture at ISRU, but I couldn’t remember. His face was so bright from his eman that you couldn’t doubt for a minute that he was Muslim, especially wearing a kufi and a long beard. I wanted to signal him in, but for some reason I didn’t.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jay forgot the topic we were on and was looking for sympathy from me. Basically, he was a mad man who wanted someone to “listen” to him. I had to leave after an hour and a half of conversation with Mr. Jay for an appointment I had, an appointment called dhuhr (which I was half an hour late for), the second prayer of the day, along with another appointment with my academic advisor. He told me that he was here between 12 and 2 p.m. everyday. I smiled and he thanked me for the time I gave up for him.

I was a little frightened and hesitant, wondering if I should walk to my car alone or tell one of the cops sitting at the tables outside to escort me. At this point I was shaking, I had no idea why, so I just walked really fast to my car looking back over my shoulder to make sure Mr. Jay wasn’t going to follow me with the rest of his life story.

I got into the car saying, “Alhamdulillah!” Then, as I started my car, I asked myself if I lost my first opportunity to bring a lost soul to Islam. Apparently I realized I that I might not have been completely equipped to convert ex-patients of the mental hospital (I’m not being mean; he did tell me he was hospitalized on more than one occasion). But, all thanks is due to Allah, I did my best to give a good impression and an attentive ear!

of and relating to...
anonymous said

you actually wasted a good 1 hour and half of your time with born-agains that are really straying people away from God into a life of oblivian. Next time, in sha Allah use your time wisely. No need to do da'wah to those who are not going to listen.

on June 29, 2005 4:45 PM
ALTAF said

it wouldve been a waste of time had she not taken the time to share her experience... this is something i know i can relate to and im sure many others as well... sometimes when we try to give dawah to others, we end up giving dawah to ourselves... Allah guides in many ways.. jazak Allahu khair

on June 29, 2005 10:32 PM
Anonymous2 said

"you actually wasted a good 1 hour and half of your time with born-agains that are really straying people away from God into a life of oblivian. Next time, in sha Allah use your time wisely. No need to do da'wah to those who are not going to listen."

If only she had knowledge of everyones mind she would have done that. Alhamdulilah at least she did her part and may Allah reward her for that. It is Allah who guides and misguides. And its really not wise to say that she wasted her time since she earned reward Inshallah for her effort. That 1.5 in the summer could be used many illegitimate ways in the summer...... especially on campus.

on June 30, 2005 12:07 AM
amatullah said

as salaamu alaikum

ANONYMOUS : "Next time, in sha Allah use your time wisely. No need to do da'wah to those who are not going to listen."

I disagree. At least sister Samira will be able to answer Allah on the Day of Qiyamah with regards to her fulfilling her duty of Da'awah to Mr Jay.
Hidayah lies in Allah's hands...Look at the example of our Noble Prophet ( Peace Be Upon Him)...he was taunted, mocked at,children were deputed to mock him and he was stoned so much that his Mubarak shoes were filled with blood at Ta'if...YET did he say 'These people are a lost cause, I give up, they will never listen'?????Allah had given the angel Jibraeel (A.S) the power to crush them at Taif ( as Taif was between two mountains), all Nabi Sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam had to say was 'yes' , but no, he did not.He had the hope that maybe the decendants of these people would recieve hidayah.perhaps Mr Jay would one day think about what has been said and see the light, We make Dua that Allah guides him and the entire Ummah to the straight path.Ameen

So masha Allah sister, continue with this duty of Da'wah, which we are so blessed to be bestowed with ,as no other Ummat has been blessed with this duty except us, ( as we are continuing the effort of our Noble Prophet ( sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam)

on July 8, 2005 2:43 PM
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