Dawah Table Guys: you need to up your game. Big bushy beard, sincerity and a partial grasp of the English language won’t cut it any more. The people you’re preaching to know more than you. They come to you wielding the works of Ibn Ishaq, bamboozling you with quotations from a millennium ago, and all you have are stacks of pamphlets, neatly lined up in rows. So you call those you are preaching to liars, because they brought to you something you had never heard before, and instead of reaching out to them, fling insults and accusations about racism, Islamophobia and hatred of the other.
The dawah training isn’t working any more. Merely watching videos on YouTube won’t help. Your opponents read books and you won’t. They read widely and you don’t. They can quote to you a thousand tales from your authentic sources that will shake your faith to the core, because they undertook some research and you didn’t. You held fast to dogma, trusting in your teachers’ equivocations as they wrote off every question and concern anyone ever had with insults and accusations of heresy, but your opponents didn’t: they investigated the very sources you refused to.
What a sorry sight it is to see you brandishing insults when people come to you, quoting your own sources, at your well-stocked invitation table in the high street. What a sorry sight it is that you turn your back on them, and mutter under your breath, puffing up your chests to arrogantly look down on them for their supposed ignorance, which is in fact yours. Too busy have you been fighting heretical Muslims with your armoury of dogmatic certainty, that you forgot to do any research capable of spawning humility and introspection. So instead you respond with brutish arrogance, parading your ignorance before all the world.
To be sure, when you return home after a day promoting your faith on the high street, you will set those questions aside. If they niggle inside you, you will content yourself with the prevarication of your wise ones, as they dismiss the claims of the other. You have their faith to fall back on; their apparition of certainty, wisdom and faith to rely upon. And hopefully you will never encounter the learned opponent again, who knows your own sources better than you do; so rejoice in your reliance on the intellects of others.
Yes rejoice! Rejoice in your rightness, your purity, your true, authentic, untarnished faith. And go on… preach to the heathens, ignorant of faith, thrusting leaflets into their hands that will clear up every misconception and answer every question they have — to be sure, some souls will respond, their hearts momentarily nourished. So go on… take your battle to the heretics, whose faith you write off with well-rehearsed arguments, carefully memorised and refined by the Dawah Table Guys who passed before you, oblivious to the holes in your own narrative. Ignorance is bliss, so go on: as long as your opponents know less than you do, you’ll be fine.
Unfortunately that, right there, is the problem, for increasingly others know far more than we do ourselves, and in a few short minutes, quoting your own authentic sources, can blast your presumed faith to pieces. I suppose it is only natural at that moment that you go on the defensive, accusing your opponent of lies, rather than engaging their questions seriously. But in time you will have to.
In time you will either have to up your game, or realise that before preaching to others, you first need to reflect, ponder, learn, study and correct yourself. To climb to the mountaintops to contemplate. To walk a lonely road for a time. To pack up the dawah table and go out seeking knowledge instead, far away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds. In the long run, that may be better for all: you may be surprised by what transpires.