By Nadeem Ashraf
Today I prayed Jumma at my local masjid after many months and years of living away. It was a cold afternoon, and after the Jumma prayer, I stayed back to meet some of my old acquaintances.
I left the premises shortly, disappointed. The few conversations I had just had left me with a lot to think about- and hopefully, much to learn and take heed of.
Let me first take you back to the year 2003.
I was in Pakistan then, charged with the passion of Islam. At that time, my local area in Britain was thriving with Dawah (inviting people to Islam) and there was a thirst for authentic Islamic knowledge. Our small community of sincere practicing Muslims was continuously growing with the onset of regular lectures, events and halaqah sessions.
So on this particular visit to Pakistan, being a part of the Dawah movement abroad already, I felt naturally inclined to converse with the locals of Islamabad.
I spoke to my cousins, uncles, and family friends about Islam and the importance of living a purposeful life. The response to even the smallest of ‘Islamic’ gestures was remarkable! Using terms like Ma-sha’Allah (Literal meaning: what God wills) and Alhamdulillah’ (All Praise be to God) frequently in everyday conversation brought startling reactions from the people I conversed with. These were minor terms. If I quoted a hadith or a verse from the Quran, on the other hand, the reactions were even stronger. Many people were surprised that a young lad, born and raised in a land where the vast majority was non- Muslim, had so much zeal for Islam. For me, it was both tragic and surprising that in a land with a Muslim majority, the reactions towards my practice of religion were of awe and astonishment. Many of the people I came across also said that they were inspired by my example, and felt a freshness from conversations with me..
That was Islamabad in 2003; no Youth Club, a budding Al Huda and very few authentic scholars. Access to scholars and knowledge, especially for the youth was almost non-existent. International level Islamic conferences and events with speakers from all over the world were a far-fetched dream.
We now come back to the present day (February 2016), to my reflections over the conversations I had just had outside the local mosque in England, on a cold Friday..
The brothers I’d just spoken to had been actively engaged in Dawah many years ago in this very town when I’d last seen them! But now, all these years later, they answered my questions the same way the Pakistani uncles had when I had initially moved to Pakistan in 2003. When I mentioned tazkiyyah (purification of the mind and soul), or other similar Islamic ideas, they reacted as if I was bringing something completely new and foreign to them. A few people even went on to say statements such as “You’re still the same! Same passion!” As if they had all moved on to far more important things, while I had regressed (by their standards).
The body language, the tone and the surprised reactions they had shown me were quite disappointing. It seemed as if they had died inside; many of them confirmed my worries by telling me about how the local Muslim community was lifeless, and there were no dawah activities taking place.
I personally felt the effects of this ‘dead’ vibe! This very town, some 20 years ago, had had a thriving Dawah culture. But now, perhaps due to neglect, it was all gone. No remains of the productive Muslim community I had been a part of remained to be seen. As someone coming back to the area after all this time, the changes, which were perhaps not so clear to the residents of the area, were clear to me.
There are a number of valuable lessons I would like to convey to those actively engaged in dawah, wherever they may be- but especially to those people who I have left behind in Pakistan.
Across Pakistan, there are currently many dawah-related activities currently taking place- there is a rise in the numbers of those teaching religion, working for Islam, and those studying it. All over Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and other major cities, there are many scholars available, who deliver classes that cater to every kind of group.
But my dear brothers and sisters, can you guarantee that this will go on forever? What if by our neglect, our excuses, being busy in the dunya and by our ungrateful stance, this is all taken away from us? All the organisations we have built and all our hard work; what if they all amount to nothing in a couple of years once the ‘hype’ over the dawah movement dies down
I advise the Pakistani community to take advantage of the ‘golden years’ of the spread of Islamic knowledge and dawah. Our history shows that every age has its eventual demise. This may be the peak of Dawah culture and scholarly activity in Pakistan. Likewise, I remind all engaged in the promotion or study of Islam to continuously refresh their intentions and keep all their actions pure- and for Allah alone.
Narrated `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As:
I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying, “Allah does not take away the knowledge, by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray.”
(Sahih al-Bukhari: 100, Book 3, Hadith 42)
I pray that Allah keeps our hearts and tongues moist with His remembrance, and that He keeps us steadfast on any good act we engage in- both on the community level, and as individuals.