I love hearing my brothers and sisters in Islam be enthusiastic about Islam. Islam is wonderful, that’s why I chose it. Let’s be careful now, though, about speaking. Each and every one of us has a limit to our knowledge. I could never even dream of being a legitimate scholar, nor do I expect all of my brothers and sisters to strive for that.
What I do expect is for everyone to realize the limits of their knowledge and not speak outside their knowledge base. I have two major issues, personally, when I hear brothers and sisters speak – no matter what their scholarly standing is. These fears apply to the youth as well, although I will be commenting for the sake of converts.
1) Speaking about Islam in absolutes when there is a legitimate difference in opinion.
Islam has multiple facets. There are some rules which are hard and fast, and others in which there is a legitimate difference in opinion. When I, a seeker of knowledge, know there is a difference in opinion and you are speaking (even going so far as to “clarify” that this is the correct way) as if it is the only option, my first fear is that you’re going to scare away newer converts than me with hardline ideologies.
Many people don’t know that there IS room for a difference in opinion. I often hear new converts talking about which madhab is the “correct one”, or which marja’a is on the “straight path”. Honestly, what does that mean? It means that the message of ease promised in the Qur’an is not being passed on to our converts. It means that we are presenting a confused, divided front to fresh minds eager to soak in knowledge.
2) Speaking of other religions with incorrect knowledge.
I was at a class last Sunday, and the speaker said this:
“This verse in the Qur’an is special, because it teaches the oneness of God. It counters the misguided idea of the trinity that Christians have. It’s funny, because Christians can’t even agree on who the trinity is. Protestants say it’s the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But then you get the Catholics, and they say it’s Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.”
Let me tell you – I was raised Catholic. Every Catholic knows that the beginning and end of every prayer is “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” That’s the trinity that is taught by the Catholic Church. Where the speaker obtained the idea that Catholics teach Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are the holy trinity, I will never know. I do know that he lost a few levels of credibility in my book.
Let me take this a step further: there was a new convert sitting next to me in this class. She converted to Islam from a Catholic family not even a full 48 hours prior to this class. I do not know if she took the man’s comment as a blatant lie, purposely misleading, or simply a glaring mistake – but I do know that she was shocked when he made that comment.
That is one of many examples I have encountered over the past few years. My point is, when we are speaking outside of our knowledge base, we run the risk of alienating new converts or those thinking of converting to Islam. This is because when we hear someone say something that we know is incorrect, we will be lead to believe they are mistaken in other parts of their knowledge. Additionally, speaking a mistruth about a persons’ religion of origin can be offensive, even to those who do not believe in that religion anymore. By guarding our tongues against speaking wrongfully, we can protect our credibility and the fresh, eager hearts.