At about the age of 15, I became more connected spiritually with my faith, and started making a conscious effort to become closer to Allah ; it was my mission to “enjoin the good and forbid evil”. Since I had discovered how beautiful faith was, I needed everyone around me to discover it too. The more I learned, the more I needed to ensure people around me were implementing what I had learned. My method of doing usually was something like this:
“Excuse me, a classmate who I rarely talk to, you know you’re not actually wearing proper hijab.”
“If you died tomorrow, imagine if this sin took you to hell.”
“Why are you reading that, like how can you even be attracted to that?”
“Muslims have so many issues, so many Muslims are like this and like that…”
As you can probably tell, my dawah efforts weren’t very successful. Rather than becoming compassionate and soft-spoken, I became judgmental and critical. I actively looked for ways to correct people and blamed them for not receiving my criticisms as heartfelt advice.
In my attempt to teach others about Islam, I sought to perfect people’s ritual acts, whilst overlooking my own shortcomings. I became convinced that I could change people because I was obviously doing it to help others get closer to Allah . Alhamdulillah, I like to think that I have made a lot of progress since then, however, there is always room for improvement.
Recently I watched an amazing talk about prophet Musa , and when Allah sent him to Firawn, and I was really surprised to learn that Allah told Musa to go to Firawn with gentle speech, so that perhaps Firawn would humble himself and fear Allah . Allah commanded soft speech towards a tyrant because perhaps his heart would be moved.
“And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah ].” [Qur’an: Chapter 20, Verse 44]
This got me thinking about the power of soft speech when calling people to Allah , and I started reflecting on myself: what were the things that I used to do that pushed people away, and how I can improve. So, here is what I learned.
Start with yourself
The beloved prophet said “I was sent to perfect good character”. [Adab Al Mufrad]
By recognizing that embodying Islam started firstly with myself before others, I started questioning, what was my intention when I became more practicing? I knew that Allah had not created me except to worship Him, however, was I sincerely trying to worship Allah or feed my ego?
“The Compassionate One has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, He Who is in the heaven will show mercy to you” [Abi Dawud]
Mercy and compassion are two main attributes that the Creator uses often to describe Himself, and yet in my attempt to call people to Him, I displayed neither of those traits. Starting with myself didn’t mean becoming harshly self-critical and negative, and seeing only my flaws, it meant having mercy on myself. Recognising that my Iman would never reach a stage of comfort where I would stop needing to work to maintain it, meant I could no longer avoid my own shortcomings by focusing on others.
The Prophet said,
“No one of you becomes a true believer until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself.” [Bukhari]
Everyone has heard of this hadith, but when trying to share Allah’s message, it is so important to remember that just like we want to be treated with respect and kindness, we need to offer that to others. We’re not just carrying any message, we’re carrying a message of success and contentment in this life and the next.
Sometimes emotions like jealousy, paranoia, anxiety, and even our own failures can skew the sincerity of our actions towards others, and that’s why we constantly need to renew our intentions and maintain empathy.
Go with a soft word
Calling people to guidance is a beautiful thing, but it needs to be done with wisdom. Bring people up, don’t put them down. Focus on how a person can improve, not on what they lack. Building a love of Allah does far more to encourage someone than telling them they’re falling short in their practice.
“Make things easy and do not make them difficult, cheer the people up by conveying glad tidings to them and do not repulse (them).” [Bukhari]
Someone gave me a piece of advice that I have never forgotten. And that was to not fall into a “bitter mindset”, i.e: The one who consistently complains “Muslims are like this, Muslims are like that” That person is venting their own personal grievances and alienating others rather than giving speaking sincerely.
Words are incredibly powerful. Think about the times when someone through their eloquence and softness has brought peace to your heart…
I have someone dear to me, who professionally is very firm and very stern, but when it comes to Islam, her softness and sincerity overwhelm me. Whatever hardship I go through, I know that when I ask her for advice, she will say exactly what I need in the most beautiful manner.
Think about the way you phrase something, and if it could be done better. It may just be words, but they have so much power.
The message of Islam would never have succeeded through harshness as Allah said:
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you.” [Qur’an: Chapter 3, Verse 159]
Have wisdom in your approach
When Nuh gave dawah, he called people day and night, in secret and in public. He reminded them of the beautiful rewards of Allah . He was always thinking about what methods to use to bring people closer to their Creator.
When it comes to giving dawah to someone, pause, reflect and ask yourself if this is an action that will bring someone closer to Allah . Do you have a close enough relationship with this person to even have this conversation? Are you doing it at the right time? Will you like what you hear if it was spoken to you?
Do not be solely results-driven
You were never giving advice or enjoining the good to see an immediate result in people. If this was the case, Nuh would have given up centuries ago. You were doing it for the sake of Allah . If you quit being kind to someone and advising them because you think they’re a lost cause, then were you sincere in your compassion to them or your service to Allah ?
“Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided.” [Qur’an: Chapter 28, Verse 56]
When it comes to people, we only see what they want us to see. We can’t see their pain and struggles. We don’t know what experiences have shaped them into the person that they are, and so, with that in mind, maintaining a soft word consistently with no expectations does more good than you can ever imagine. Drawing our own conclusions on people’s behavior can make a situation much worse.
Empathizing with someone and being kind is the most you can do, the rest is up to Allah . Guidance comes from Him and we shouldn’t become frustrated with people for not listening to us. Maybe they will be guided in a few years and have stronger iman than us.There are so many possibilities.
So rather than allow myself to be frustrated with people who don’t change in response to my words and give up on them, I learned to have mercy instead and just keep being kind.
Never lose hope in others
Someone recently told me that the nafs is an empty vessel that can be good or bad depending on what we fill it up with. Meaning, everyone has potential to be better regardless of where they are.
That’s why Allah sent Musa to talk to Firawn with a soft word even though he was a tyrant. There was still a possibility that he would humble himself and accept the message. If Allah said that there was hope for Firawn, then what about the rest of us?
“What would Allah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allah Appreciative and Knowing.” [Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 147]
Allah gives every one of us a clean slate whenever we want it, and doesn’t hold anyone’s sins against them. There’s mercy and inspiration in that every day you have a chance to be the best version of yourself. So reflect on yourself constantly, and never underestimate the power of the soft word.