There once was a boy who loved eating sweets. He always asked for sweets from his father. His father was a poor man. He could not always afford sweets for his son. But the little boy did not understand this, and demanded sweets all the time.
The boy's father thought hard about how to stop the child asking for so many sweets. There was a very holy man living nearby at that time. The boy's father had an idea. He decided to take the boy to the great man who might be able to persuade the child to stop asking for sweets all the time.
The boy and his father went along to the great man. The father said to him, "O great saint, could you ask my son to stop asking for sweets which I cannot afford?" The great man was in difficulty, because he liked sweets himself. How could he ask the boy to give up asking for sweets? The holy man told the father to bring his son back after one month.
During that month, the holy man gave up eating sweets, and when the boy and his father returned after a month, the holy man said to the boy "My dear child, will you stop asking for sweets which your father cannot afford to give you?"
From then on, the boy stopped asking for sweets.
The boy's father asked the saint, "Why did you not ask my son to give up asking for sweets when we came to you a month ago?" The saint replied, "How could I ask a boy to give up sweets when I loved sweets myself. In the last month I gave up eating sweets."
A person's example is much more powerful than just his words. When we ask someone to do something, we must do it ourselves also. We should not ask others to do what we do not do ourselves.
O ye who believe! why say ye that which ye do not?
Grievously hateful is it in the sight of Allah that ye say that which ye do not.
-Holy Quran 61:2,3
Shaikh Ahmad Kutty, a Canadian Islamic scholar and senior lecturer at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, (who has been listed among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by an American research group) has emphasized the need to promote spiritualism in Muslim societies through education.
We should give importance to spiritualism in our education and religious discourse as our world is increasingly becoming too materialistic. We should also emulate the Prophet's (peace be upon him) character. He was a man of utmost humility and truthfulness.
Our curricula should have fiqh (jurisprudence), aqeeda (faith), akhlaq (moral values) and tasawwuf/ihsan (spirituality) content. Our educational institutions should also teach students the importance of protecting the environment.
Shaikh Ahmad Kutty explained how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) transformed Madinah into a clean city. Removing litter from the street is one of the charities taught by the Prophet. Several wells were constructed in Madinah during his period to provide clean water,” he said, while talking about Islamic teachings on environment. According to him, spiritual bankruptcy is the main factor that encouraged many Westerners to embrace Islam.
He believes that the best way to propagate Islam among the non-Muslims is to win their trust. Be a good friend and a good neighbor. I have a Christian neighbor. He cuts my grass and I cut his. We help each other in many ways. I did not talk to him about Islam but he sees what Islam is through my actions. He invited me to his church to give a lecture on Islam. We have to build our credibility. Preach through your own examples and practice. Let them see your action. This is the only way we can propagate Islam among the Westerners and other people.
He urged Muslims to be more open to criticism. "The biggest problem with we, Muslims, is that we are too emotional in our approach. We are not ready to accept criticisms. We think if somebody attacks Islam it'll crumble. We should be more proactive toward criticisms and use them as an opportunity to communicate with others and remove their misunderstandings. Believe me, nobody can defeat or destroy Islam.
Islamophobia is a major problem facing Muslims living in the West. Muslims have to take this challenge by reaching out and opening up to non-Muslims. We cannot hate them. Many people have misunderstandings about Islam. The only way to remove them is by establishing close relationships with them. We should convince them that there is nothing to fear about Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said ‘you are not a Muslim unless your neighbor is free from your harms.’ We have to reach out to people of other faiths and be good neighbors and friends.
He said a Muslim society that does not represent Islam is also a big hurdle in the way of Islamic propagation. How can we preach Islam when our society is full of injustice? People will not listen. We talk great things about Islam but we don’t practice them. Prophet Muhammad and his companions were living examples of Islam. The Prophet was the most compassionate and selfless person. He was giving more than taking and he treated everybody and everything as God’s creation. He was in harmony with nature and everything.
Shaikh Ahmad Kutty is an ardent advocate of Muslim women’s empowerment, which according to him is essential for the development of the Muslim community. We can talk for thousands of years that Islam is this and Islam is that, but people will not accept Islam until we change ourselves according to its teachings.
If we read Islamic history, we can see that women were in the Islamic movement from the very first year. Sayyeda Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) not only motivated the Prophet but also supported all his activities. Sumayya (may Allah be pleased with her) was the first martyr in Islam. Women had also played a big role in the Hijrah (migration from Makkah to Madinah) and during battles. There were several Hadith narrators among women, such as Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) and Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her). We have to restore women's position in Islam and give them their rights.
Shaikh Ahmad Kutty also stressed the need for Muslims to engage in more charitable and social works. The phase of building mosques is over. The new phase should focus on engaging in charitable and community development programs and activities. We should be in the forefront of charitable work, building homes for the homeless and giving food to the hungry. We have to confront the challenges facing Islam by making it a relevant religion for all times. Courtesy: Arab News -------- Ask The Scholar