mirror-logo49:13 O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.

The Why Islam Symposium that took place on March 18th 2006 at the Ritz Theatre in New Jersey was filled with knowledge and inspiration. The above verse reflects the nature and the spirit of the conference in that the speakers Imam Zaid Shakir, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Sheik Abdalla Idris Ali, Dr. Jamal Badawi, and Sheik Hamza Yusuf  all came from different backgrounds but each had a unique but powerful message.
The conference started off with opening statements from representatives
from 877 Why Islam and the unique opportunities that Muslims have to
utilize the organization to give Dawah. 877 Why Islam, an ICNA project,
has Dawah Booths at malls throughout New Jersey as well as in train
stations in New York.  Their billboards can be seen on Highways, which
people can sponsor for $5,000, advertising Islam in a place where
people can see it while they are driving. The 877 Why Islam number
itself can also be used for Dawah purposes. When people have questions
they can call and get a live person. It can also be used for prison
inmates who have access to a phone to get information about Islam. In a
video, Chaplin Yusuf Yee stated how the 877 number and the Why Islam
website helped him tremendously while he was Chaplin in the Army. It
helped him to get immediate answers to questions as well as find
resources on things that he already knew but wanted to back up.
After the introduction Imam Zaid Shakir opened the conference by
stating how happy he was to see such a large gathering and that it was
good for Muslims to gather in such a positive venue despite the
negative depiction that Islam has had in the media and this society. He
mainly spoke on what the challenges of Muslims in this society were as
well as general human challenges such as paying rent, keeping a car,
having time for family, being a Muslim and keeping our children Muslim
in a non-Muslim society. He said, “When we are faced with all of these
challenges, it marginalizes the effectiveness of our dawah.”
“Shaytan challenges us with poverty and desperation and when he
challenges us with this we forget to thank Allah for what we do have
versus what we do not have,” he said. He also expressed that Muslims
have to not get so caught up in defending ourselves and what we are not
when the media depicts us as terrorists or violent. “We have no reason
to leave this country when there is an explosion and we are blamed for
it wrongly. We have to stand up and represent Islam opposite the image
that the media has portrayed us.”
Imam Zaid Shakir closed with the history of Islam and how it relates to
its establishment here in America from the African peoples. “Some of us
have trouble identifying with the Africans and their contribution to
Islam in this society.” He stated that Islam goes back further than
today. It goes back as far as the 1500s when there was a Mexican Muslim
who was boiled to death for propagating the religion. Imam Zaid closed
his speech with this statement and used it as an example to teach us
the lesson that no matter what challenges we face as Muslims we still
have to be strong.
After Imam Zaid Shakir’s speech there was a short break and the
representatives showed a short video clip on Dawah Booth mistakes, the
dos and don’ts of what a representative should keep in mind at a Dawah
booth. The clips were amusing but at the same time were effective in
showing live examples of how a Dawah opportunity can be missed if the
individual is not prepared and is not able to detach his or her
emotions in order to do Dawah effectively. One cannot get upset if
someone who is misinformed comes up to the booth and asks provocative
questions about Islam or about your country if you happen to be from
another country. The clips stressed patience as a very important virtue
when one represents Islam at the booths. When you are dealing with the
public in propagating Islam there will always be someone who will ask
you a question that may offend you but you have to counteract it with
patience wisdom and understanding.
After the break the vibrant Imam Siraj Wahhaj came on to speak. His
topic was ‘Does Humanity Really Know Us?’ Imam Siraj’s style is to
begin his speeches with a live parable or an everyday encounter in his
daily activities. He began his speech with a story of a sheik that
taught him and other students the meaning of scholarship. And different
scholars apply different meanings to things. He then switched his topic
to books that are out there that talk wrongly about Islam. One book,
Infiltration by Paul Sperry was mentioned, as well as one by Daniel
Siraj then related this to a story of when he went to a barbershop over
the weekend and met a brother from the Nation of Islam at the
barbershop and he was going to a funeral of a Brother named Yusuf. Imam
Siraj met a minister at the funeral whom he gave Shahadah to years ago,
who did the Janazah the same way that Sunni Muslims do the Janazah.
Siraj also spoke of his experience in the Nation of Islam. In the
beginning the Nation of Islam believed in Honorable Elijah Muhammad,
did not pray the traditional way that the Sunni Muslims pray, did not
go to Mecca to make Hajj, only fasted in the month of December. But
Imam Siraj said that, “As a result of Sunni Muslims giving Dawah to
those in the Nation of Islam they had changed dramatically over the
years and are now doing more things according to how Islam
traditionally teaches us to do it.” He said this is a perfect example
of how Islam has grown over the years.
He later developed his topic on when he was growing up, his mother
taught him that “people are people”. And we have to approach the people
for what they are and who they are at that time in order to change them
and the condition of who they are at that time. Imam Siraj said that
one thing about the Nation of Islam is that they reach out to the
people. They cared about the people and went to the people’s
neighborhoods. He said it is important that we reach out to the people
of Niger and if we collected food for the people of Niger, the world
will look at us differently. Imam Siraj said, “The problem is not
Islam. The problem is the people who call themselves Muslims.” Imam
Siraj closed his speech with saying that that even though the Nation of
Islam did not start off on the right track, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad
took the teachings of the Quran and was able transform the people. He
closed the speech saying that, “We all have to have compassion for one
another even if we differ in opinion. Islam teaches us to have
compassion for one another.”
After Imam Siraj spoke, Sheik Abdalla Idris Ali spoke to the audience
on the importance of supporting the 877 Why Islam cause and why the
audience should be generous and donate to the organization. At the end
of his fundraising speech the organization was able to reach its goal
of $500,000 dollars in immediate donations and long term pledges.
After the fundraising break Dr. Jamal Badawi gave a powerful, speech
entitled “Prophet Muhammad: A Mercy for All.” His speech spoke on the
character of the Prophet Muhammad and his patience with those who
wronged him. He began his speech with a short history of the upbringing
of the Prophet as an orphan and how his character inspired his people
for his time and for years to come. He explained that Karen Armstrong
in one of her books stated that Prophet Muhammad’s image and character
has been distorted in Western Literature. He said that despite the
wrong depiction of the Prophet’s character in Western literature, in
the Quran the Prophet had displayed mercy to the people, the animals,
the jinn, the earth as a whole and his mercy should also have a
reflection in our character. The Prophet had many roles. He was a
teacher, a judge, a commander, an organizer, a reformer, and lastly a
family man. His character reflected the past characteristics of the
Prophets that came before him. He had the devotion of the character of
Abraham, the courage of Moses and David, the patience of Job and Noah,
and the humbleness of Prophet Jesus. Prophet Muhammad’s message was for
the whole of mankind.
Dr. Badawi gave an example of a man who came and shook the Prophet
demanding that he pay him what he owed him because the Prophet’s tribe
was known for not paying their dues on time. Umar, who was with the
Prophet, wanted to hurt the man but the Prophet said, “No, I will pay
the man what I owe him and more since he was scared when Umar
frightened him.” Dr. Badawi gave another example of a man who urinated
at a Masjid and the people wanted to beat the man up but the Prophet
stopped the people and allowed the man to finish urinating and then
explained to him gently that this is the not the place to do that. Dr.
Badawi ended his speech emphasizing that Allah made Prophet Muhammad a
walking Quran and we need to change the depiction of Prophet Muhammad
not by reacting violently to those who attack his character but with
patience and teaching those who are misinformed.
Last but hardly least came the powerful and politically correct speech
entitled “Turning the Tide: Reviving the Self” by Sheik Hamza Yusuf. In
his speech, the Sheik stated that our Islamic community is under siege.
Many apostates who left Islam have been utilized by those who are
trying to destroy Islam to put them on the forefront as experts on
Islam.  He also stated in a recent Gallop Poll over 50 percent of the
respondents said there was nothing that they liked about Islam and only
thirty five percent stated that they like the devotion of the people.
He said this was a direct reflection of us as Muslims in America
because we have gotten caught up as players in identity politics by
defending what we are not versus what we are. He said this is a natural
response to people who are under siege to defend themselves.
event3Sheik Yusuf called on us as a community to educate people in our
society on who we are and not what we are not. He said we have a job to
do, to make our world a better place so it there are not more wars and
our children do not have to grow up in such conditions. He said that as
Muslims we should not want America to go to war with Iran or Pakistan
and that America cannot win a war against Islam. We have to explain to
the American people as American Muslims that Islam is not a threat. We
as Muslims traded with Chinese people for their silk and the Chinese
were Buddhist. Sheik Yusuf quoted a Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad
salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam about trade.  He said that trade should not
be unfair with indulgence in the stealing of people’s natural resources
but that trade should be a mutual agreement between the people and they
should be happy with the price.
Sheik Yusuf said that he is not speaking as just a
Muslim, but that he is speaking as a human being. When a government can
use helicopters to drop bombs on an innocent village of a people who
are unarmed, then that is simply wrong. Anyone who is a compassionate
human being can relate to what is right and wrong and they do not have
to necessarily be Muslim. He said that what is wrong in one place is
wrong in another place. People in Africa are suffering from AIDS while
we as a country are spending money, not in helping them, but in finding
better ways of killing people. He said we want fairness. We as Muslims
can come together with others who know what is wrong with America. He
said religion is not left or right. It is straight.
The conference left everyone with much food for thought. All of the
speakers in their uniqueness were able to open up our minds and hearts
to become involved in our communities and change the face of our
nation, so that everyone who stands up for righteousness can benefit
from the message that Islam teaches us on peace, humanity and justice.
16:90 BEHOLD, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and
generosity towards [one’s] fellow-men; and He forbids all that is
shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; [and] He
exhorts you [repeatedly] so that you might bear [all this] in mind.
Article provided courtesy of http://www.readmirror.com

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