Communication in the Qur’an (01/11)
How communicators present themselves
In spiritually ignorant societies, people behave politely to gain some benefit. Such a society’s members are well aware of these expectations and so naturally wonder what others are seeking to gain by taking an interest in them. This attitude does not change when someone sits down with them to tell them about a new worldview. What they fail to realize is that the believers do not follow this social “norm”; rather, their only purpose is to carry out Allah’s command to spread His word. Thus, they seek only Allah’s good pleasure and hope to receive His mercy and compassion. For this reason, they expect no profit or gain from others. If the people they are talking with decide to embrace Islam and live a religiously moral life, they will not ask for any favors, because they are not communicating their own ideas, but the religious morality established by Allah, Who has created everything from nothing and has told everyone to practice religious morality.
But the unbelievers are most often not aware that the person talking with them is a believer. And even if they are, they would not know that nothing is expected in return. For this reason, when a believer starts talking with them about the Qur’an’s moral teachings, they will most likely ask themselves what the underlying expectations are. Given this reality, the believers must remove such unfounded suspicions from the unbelievers’ minds before talking with them about Islam. The unbelievers must understand that the believers’ goal is not to gain any advantage, but only to please Allah. The prophets and messengers did this when they communicated Allah’s religion to others. When we consider their words, as recorded in the Qur’an, we see that they first emphasized that they are trustworthy:
And to ‘Ad We sent their brother Hud. He said: “O my people, worship Allah. You have no deity apart from Him. You are merely fabricators. O my people, I do not ask you for any wage for it. My wage is the responsibility of Him who brought me into being. So will you not use your intellect?” (Surah Hud: 50-51)
When Nuh’s (as) people told him that “we consider you to be liars” (Surah Hud: 27), he replied:
... “O my people, what do you think? If I were to have clear evidence from my Lord and He had given me a mercy direct from Him, but you were blind to it, could we force it on you if you were unwilling? O my people, I do not ask you for any wealth for it. My wage is the responsibility of Allah alone. I will not chase away those who have faith. They are surely going to meet their Lord. However, I see you as ignorant people.” (Surah Hud: 28-29)
The unbelievers may feel different forms of unease when met with believers who are only interested in communicating Allah’s message, because they are used to dealing with harmful and dangerous people. Therefore, they are inclined to keep their distance from and be wary of them.
In this case, the believers must stress their trustworthiness and deal with that person’s likely or visible fears. If the latter are uneasy with the believers’ intellectual struggle, then the logic of that struggle must be laid out clearly according to the Qur’an. They must be told that the believers’ intellectual struggle is only against those who are hostile to the religion of Allah, oppose the Qur’an, and spread trouble in society. In addition, the believers must explain that they treat everyone in a friendly manner and within a framework of justice, tolerance, and respect. As that person might have heard many negative things about the believers, the latter must dispel their preconceptions. For example, they explain how, according to the Qur’an, all prophets, messengers, and believers have been slandered throughout history. This is also a good time to make the point that such character assassination is actually a sign of the target being a “genuine believer.”
However, the factor that will really cause these explanations to bear fruit is the believers’ own “state.” Inspiring confidence is possible through behavior, looks, and gestures or, to be more accurate, a state of mind that gives rise to these. Believers can influence the other party in direct proportion to their determination to live by religious moral values and their resulting purity, sincerity, and deep faith. So long as they maintain complete determination and an unshakeable persistence, the unbelievers’ doubts about them, as well as any slanderous accusations, will have no impact on them. In this way, trustworthiness becomes an ingrained part of the believers’ character and is reflected in all of their behavior.
This can be seen most clearly in the people Allah sent to communicate His religion. For example, Yusuf (as) did not abandon his submission to Allah and nobility when he was thrown into a dungeon on false charges of adultery. In fact, his fellow prisoners immediately recognized his good attributes. According to the Qur’an, two prisoners asked him to interpret their dreams. The reason why they felt that Yusuf (as), despite his “crime,” possessed such wisdom was his nature and the trustworthiness apparent in his behavior. They told him: “...Tell us the true meaning of these dreams. We see that you are one of the righteous” (Surah Yusuf: 36).
One of the main reasons why believers have such high quality and reliable natures is that they consider inviting others to Islam as a religious observance; they are not responsible for ensuring that the other party actually comes to believe, for a person can only come to have faith by Allah’s choosing, a secret set out in the verse:
When Allah wills to guide someone, He expands his breast to Islam. When He wills to misguide someone, He makes his breast narrow and constricted as if he were climbing up into the sky. That is how Allah defiles those who have no faith. (Surat al-An‘am: 125)
According to the verse “Many of humanity are deviators”(Surat al-Ma’ida: 49), many people will not believe. Such a reality must not be allowed to affect the believers in any way. Allah only expects them to observe the Qur’anic morality and convey His message; He alone will determine their ultimate fate. Believers who understand this will never pursue other people to “persuade” them to convert. In addition, those being addressed must be reminded that they will only benefit by embracing Islam. Those who think that they will be doing the believers a great “favor” by abiding by religious virtues must be disabused of this mistaken idea, for their supposedly “superior” attributes play no role in attracting the believers’ attention to them:
They think they have done you a favor by becoming Muslims. Say: “Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. No indeed! It is Allah Who has favored you by guiding you to faith, if you are telling the truth.” (Surat al-Hujurat: 17)
Faith benefits only the person concerned. Each person needs to understand that he or she needs faith, for Allah, Who is perfect, has no need for anyone to believe in Him. However, everyone needs to believe in Him and obtain His approval. Those being called to Islam must understand that they are doing no one a favor when they become Muslim, for this causes them to see themselves as very valuable, when such is not really the case. They must understand the falsity of self-praise and that, because of their unbelieving worldview, they are standing on the edge of the abyss. The only way to eternal salvation is Islam. For that reason, believers who have called them to Islam are, in fact, a very great blessing.
The fact that believers take an interest in others is in itself an honor. Unbelievers should be made aware of this, and of how Allah has blessed them by letting them hear about Islam. They must realize that the believers are preaching Islam because they have been charged with calling everyone to eternal salvation and warning them about Hell. If the unbelievers can transcend their society’s worldview and norms and begin to respect and trust the believers, then they can be told about the real issue: the facts that Allah reveals in the Qur’an. That is because these preparatory measures that impart this trust are intended to make it easier for the other party to comprehend the faith.