Definition of Dawa
Dawa literally means just "an invitation". Most Muslims in South Asia use the word to mean inviting people to a dinner party. In America the term has come to mean inviting people to understand Islam.
Importance of Dawa in Islam
Quran and the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, give numerous reference on the importance and the obligations of Dawa:
- "Invite all to the way of your Lord with Wisdom and beautiful advice." (Quran 16:125)
- "you are made witnesses unto mankind" (Quran 2:143)
- "Let there arise a group inviting to all that is good" (Quran 3:104)
Provided below would be some suggestion that Muslim students as individuals and as a group should undertake to accomplish the above goal.
School Students: Receptive to New ideas
Schools students are routinely exposed in their classroom to new information and opinions, hence they tend to be more receptive to other beliefs and ideas. Bridges of understanding built and the friendships formed during the school years can go long way in achieving respect for all faith and cultures.
First and foremost the Muslim students should establish themselves into a Muslim group like Muslim Students Association, Iman Club, Quran Study Group etc. if they haven't yet instituted one. If your school does not allow organizations on faith group basis, then you can organize social clubs, ethnic clubs etc which could be open to your non-Muslim friends as well. Organized efforts give better results. The prime aim of this group should be to evolve Muslim themselves into dynamic personalities as good students, good citizens and a Muslim. Character always speaks louder than words.
It has been proven that one to one contact with other students in the classroom is the most effective way to achieve cross cultural understanding. Personal contact tend to be more informal and tend to be more invitational of the questions from the non-Muslims.
Muslims can create opportunities for non-Muslims to ask them question by performing simple conducts like: saying "insha Allah" when talking about a future activity; saying that they are going to prayer during Salaat time, not eating during fasting, brothers wearing kufi, sisters wearing hijab etc, not using swear words during conversation, not lying, using modest clothes etc. And the questions that do crop up from their peers should be dealt with in a very concise and eloquent manner. Doing this would require some basic knowledge on the part of Muslim students.
Be Prepared to Explain These Topics
Some of the topics that all Muslim should be able to explain are:
- War and peace in Islam
- Reasons for wearing hijab
- Reasons for praying five daily
All students should obtain the ways to explain these topics through their study Circle, by reading articles in Islamic magazines, videos, lecture, through experiences of other students.
School Newspaper is another effective method of developing a pluralistic enviorment which is welcoming to ethnic, cultural or religious minorities. Muslim students are highly encouraged to become writers and editors of their school papers. Offer the writing staff that you are willing to give feedback before they publish an article on Islam or Muslims. Being a writer will give you ample opportunity in providing articles which will insha Allah open the hearts and minds of its readers towards the issues of peace, justice, understanding, and pluralism.
When your Islamic group holds any Islamic event like lectures, religious/ cultural events etc, submit an article about this event as a "news" article. You can also write articles about Islamic holidays e.g. the two EIDs and submit them as "news" articles. It also helps to have a good rapport with the editor and the writing staff of the paper. Invite them to your iftar parties, gatherings, lectures etc.
Relief Booths to Help Disaster Victims
During the time of any natural and human created disasters, Muslims students should be the first one to respond by setting up a disaster relief assistance booth, which collects money, canned food, clothes etc. In terms of helping a poor, neighbor, a needy, or in matters of justice, there is no distinction in Islam whether that person is a Muslim or not. Even the motives to assist should be so pure that there should not be any expectation of thank you, any other reward or return other than to please God who have created all human beings.
Including Islamic Holidays in School calendar
Many schools events and exams are scheduled around the Jewish and Christian holidays. Muslims students should approach the school authorities as a group and had our Islamic date to be included in the school diaries and be considered during the scheduling of important school events.
Islamic books in School Libraries
Encourage the school libraries to shelf books and magazines on Islam written by Muslim, and provide the librarian a list of recommended books on Islam. If the library is unwilling to purchase it themselves, the students should raise funds amongst themselves and from their parents and come up with the required books.
Scanning Textbook for Misinformation on Islam
Students of all grades and their parents should constantly scan the text books to detect any biased material on Islam. If any is found, it should be brought to the attention of the teachers and the school authorities, providing them with the correct information with evidence, and have the teacher announce to the students the correct information. Also keep an eye that books which put down other cultures, faith, or group of people instead of promoting cross-cultural understanding and pluralism do not find waste school funds.
Build Peace & Justice Coalitions
A Muslim should always be ready to cooperate in the matters of justice, social justice, civilrights, and other just causes. Working with others always encourages cross-cultural understanding.
Incorporating Islam in Class Projects
Some aspects of Islam can be incorporated in the school projects. E.g. In the speech class, if there is a freedom to choose a topic, an Islamic topic should be selected, similar opportunities can be created in history, social science, writing and other classes.
Remember, It was always Muslim creativity, Iman and the help of Allah that has constantly won victories for the Muslims, and schools and campuses won"t be any exceptions.
Other Miscellaneous Activities
- Setting up Dawa tables with Islamic literature
- Hosting Islamic exhibitions
- Placing advertisements in the school paper with www.Islam101.com announcement
We should use every opportunity presented or created to sensitize non-Muslim peers and school staff with Islam and establish an environment in which cross-cultural understanding is promoted and bigotry is defeated.
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