As I walk into the classroom, I feel twenty pairs of eyes on me; expectant and waiting, watching, reviewing and analysing my every move. My words, actions and behaviour will help to shape these young people into the adults they will become tomorrow.
It is a huge responsibility.
Being the only hijabi teacher in a school of more than 2000 students, in which the majority is white, means I am often looked at with curiosity. My behaviour is my greatest form of da’wah. I have to remind myself of this on days when the teaching and planning can be stressful, or when I am not in the best of moods.
Indeed, when I have been tested with challenging behaviour, it has been vital for me to stay calm and proactive rather then aggressive and reactive. Not only is this bad da’wah but, with teenagers, the latter approach rarely works!
So what exactly does da’wah entail?
Da’wah is an invitation, to inform and educate non-Muslims about Islam, as well as to re-educate Muslims about Islam.
Da’wah is a direct command from Allah (SWT) and his Messenger Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as mentioned in Surah Yusuf (12:108):
“I call on to the way of my Lord with clear evidence”.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is our ultimate role model and this teaches us that giving da’wah is a fundamental duty. Furthermore, many scholars have stated that, for those of us who live in the west, it is our only legitimate reason for living in a non-Muslim country.
Giving dawah is also a part of our worship and ensures we obtain the best rewards:
“And who is better in speech than he who invites to Allah and does righteous deeds, and says: ‘I am one of the Muslims.’” (Surah al-Fussilat 41:33)
What is effective da’wah?
Effective da’wah is done in a gentle and loving manner.
I’ll never forget a da’wah course I attended, in which the speaker said that the best way to give da’wah is to “plant a seed in a person’s heart”. The purpose of da’wah is not to convert people as having that as goal will scare people away if nothing else. Instead, by planting a seed, we leave the person wanting more; let them know enough about Islam to interest them and, insha Allah, lead them to want to find out more when they are ready.
Secondly, it is more important to focus on similarities rather then differences. Do we not always relate better to people that share our view than those who disagree with us? There are abundant topics to discuss and agree upon, such as similarities in ways of thinking, motherhood, marriage, work ethics and so on.
So how can we give da’wah effectively at work?
The best way to give da’wah is to ensure it is suitable for a certain place or people. For example, in the school where I work, there is a strong move towards diversity. I have used many opportunities at work to give dawah in various ways.Here are some suggestions for how you may do the same.
1. Embody a good Muslim character. The workplace is full of challenges, and no doubt, that for those of you who work, you will have come across rudeness, impatience and moody people at some point in your career. My solution is to remain patient, smile and avoid confrontation. Being patient goes a long way.
2. Be generous and giving. Sharing and assisting others at work helps others warm to you. I made a good friend at work by replacing a stolen item of theirs, as it saddened me to see my colleague so upset. Alhamdullilah, giving and sharing really does soften the heart.
3. Promote da’wah through religious celebrations. When I started work it was Ramadan, so I suggested a question and answer session in the library about Islam and Ramadan for staff and pupils. Alhamdulilah, a number of people turned up, including senior management and it was a very positive experience for all those involved.
4. Use work policies to promote Islam. Currently, diversity is an important criteria for Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education), who review and grade schools. I used this opportunity to give diversity talks to Year 11 pupils (15-16 year olds) about being a Muslim woman. I made the talk personal and talked about my journey to Islam and the changes in my life from being a non-practising Muslim to being a practising one. Teenagers love personal stories, particularly when it gives them more information about their teachers’ personal lives! So remember to relate to people on their level.
5. Include da’wah in work projects. In teaching, there are lots of opportunities to bring in da’wah. For example, in a recent lesson I taught on stereotypes in the media, I discussed the portrayal of Muslim women in the media and introduced the concept of freedom and liberty. Simply challenging notions and introducing new concepts can instil a profound change in people.
Giving dawah is most effective if we practice Islam in its proper way, for example, praying at work, abiding by the Islamic dress code, keeping away from haram etc. Furthermore, witnessing how every aspect of our lives revolves around Islam leads to many opportunities of discussion.
Muslims give their insights into effective da’wah where they work
“Working at the airport, I am fortunate enough to meet hundreds of different people every day. I say, ‘Asalaamu alaikum’ to anyone who appears – from their name or dress – to be Muslim and I consciously greet each passenger with a smile. It makes me feel as though I’m doing something very small to help revive the sunnah. Smiling is contagious! Even the most tired or grumpiest passenger lightens up when greeted by a happy face. Once, I asked a Muslim passenger flying in from Algeria how he had just celebrated Eid there. He became happy at the mention of Eid and started to pour his heart out. He said that since he was a choreographer, he didnt get time to pray salaah and that made him feel sick in the heart. After our little conversation he said, ‘I will definitely do my salaah from today sister!’ I get many positive comments on my hijab and many people are happy to see a Muslim woman wearing Hijab and working in the UK. These people come into my life for a just a minute or two, but I find so much inspiration from our exchange of words and it seems that they do too.”
Fozia, immigration officer
“I find that simple things like praying at work really help. I never advertised it but some people knew and this led to them asking me about Islam. Also, if you’re friendly with the people you work with, they will want to accommodate your needs.”
A. School teacher
“I think praying at work helps to promote discussion. Also, drawing on similarities with other faiths, like Christianity, helps people to understand Muslims better. One of my Christian friends at work loves to hear about Islam and always wants to know more.”
Ghazala, Special needs co-ordinator.
“I think the best form of da’wah is teaching others through your actions, such as being respectful, polite, always being positive and, most of all, being proud of one’s Muslim identity as in the hijab etc.”
Amina, training co-ordinator
Ultimately, it is Allah (SWT) who is the changer of hearts, so as long as we engage in da’wah through our character and action, we can rest assured that not only are we multiplying our good deeds but also following the steps of the greatest man that ever lived, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).