With fall semester underway, campuses all across the nation are welcoming back students eager to learn, explore and define themselves. This is a perfect environment for any Muslim dedicated to fulfilling the obligation of sharing the message of Islam with others.
Chances are, if you are involved in a campus-based Islamic organization you have already begun to plan various activities and effective ways to draw non-Muslims into the fold of Islam. While this is essential in presenting Islam, the role of the individual is extremely vital as well.
Here are some tips for conveying your Muslim identity on campus:
1. Be willing to let others know that you are a Muslim
The first day of class usually involves introductions where you can at least let people know you are Muslim. By simply letting people casually know your religion, will allow Islam to become less foreign to them. When introducing yourself, if you toss in that you are a Muslim, you immediately solve a problem for those who have never met a practicing Muslim or heard of Islam.
It is definitely not a situation where you want to preach to people, but it does allow you to indirectly urge people to keep you in mind if they ever have any questions. If you are a sister wearing Hijab, it will also immediately answer questions, and further down the road encourage those that are interested to approach you.
2. Do not be ashamed of practicing your religion
If it is prayer time, do not think to yourself that you will simply wait till you get home and pray late. Be willing to find a quiet clean spot, perhaps in the union building and make Salat.
Do not make a show of it, but if others happen to see you and ask questions, you will have accomplished a positive first step by achieving dialogue. If someone is willing to ask questions, chances are they are willing to listen to an answer. By providing insight and being an example, you will have given someone something to think about at the very least.
3. Do not be afraid to quote the Quran in your writing
In nearly every paper you have to write, you are required to include outside sources. Whether it be a business class, a philosophy class or a science class, chances are, the Quran makes some statement or reference that could provide a useful quote.
People of other faiths are constantly quoting their religious text and with Islam being a complete way of life, this allows it to be a useful tool and should be presented as such. Dropping quotes from the Quran will most probably spark some interesting discussions and provide an intellectual environment to share basic Islamic knowledge with teachers and classmates.
4. Take responsibility in following up with those that seem interested
There are few things as tragic as when someone is interested in Islam and there is no one willing to take the time to help them and answer their questions.
If someone approaches you and begins asking questions, get contact information, something as easy as an e-mail address can keep you in touch with them. Invite them to any social gatherings on campus or at the Mosque which could help provide more insight into Islam and introduce them to more Muslims.
5. Get involved
Getting involved in campus activities allows you to meet new people and gives you the opportunity to share your beliefs with them as you get to know them and work with them.
Bringing awareness to Islam through your actions will not only open doors for you to share Islam with others, but will also keep you from straying or from getting involved in something unIslamic.
It is also important to get involved in Islamic organizations. If your school has an MSA (Muslim Students' Association) or something similar to an organized Islamic group on campus, be willing to dedicate some time to it.
If they have a table where they distribute literature, sit at the table and answer questions. If even one person remembers you and asks you questions later, or listens to your explanation of Islam, that will be one more person you will have helped.
If your group has regular meetings, make posters or stick signs on bulletin boards inviting others to attend. It may catch someone’s attention who has been looking for a place to learn more about Islam and has had no idea where to begin looking.
6. Always consider yourself an example of Islam
Whether people know you are Muslim or not, if you are always working to please Allah, sooner or later those around you will question why you do what you do and what dictates your moral behavior and modesty.
People believe what they see, and if they see you being a good example of a Muslim, they will take what you are saying and the religion itself more seriously.
7. Keep it simple
Once you get the dialog going, remember to keep it simple. You don’t want to scare people away with things that they are not going to understand the first time you approach them. If things seem difficult, people generally do not pursue them. You may want to think in advance what you would tell someone if they asked, it sounds silly, but you may only get one opportunity to share the beauty of Islam with them.
8. Do not pretend to know everything by being disrespectful
While you are trying to present Islam, other religions are out doing the same and confrontations can get ugly.
If you are approached by someone of a different faith, working to inform you, you may want to listen with the condition that they in turn listen to you. By understanding each other and respecting one another both parties can grow.
If done in a manner to increase understanding, rather than see who can yell the loudest, the truth of Islam may enter their hearts and change them. By seeing everyone with the potential to be a Muslim, you will be less condoning and disrespectful in your encounters, and hopefully more successful.