Allah says about Khidr: “Then they found one from among Our servants whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves.” [Sûrah al-Kahf: 65]
This is what we all need: knowledge and mercy. We should cultivate these two qualities together, since they are both indispensable for a Muslim preacher.
We all make mistakes. No one can be right all the time. Everyone’s opinion is subject to being accepted or rejected. However, there will never come a time when all the Muslims agree upon a falsehood. We need to realize that one of the most important objectives of Islam is to unify our hearts upon faith and guidance. We need to be gentle in calling people to what is right.
On this basis, our young Muslim preachers should learn how to treat others. People who are concerned with Islam and with calling others to it – and whose intention is to follow the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to the best of their abilities in doing so – should be esteemed recognized for the good that they do. Muslim preachers should work together in obedience to Allah and in calling others to the truth. Whoever makes a mistake among them should be corrected not only with clear evidence – but with kindness and respect.
We need to teach people that though we need to acknowledge what is right and admit what is wrong, we do not have to go overboard in criticizing people for their mistakes. It is sad to see Muslims who are all committed to following the Qur’ân and Sunnah at treating each other with enmity and contempt.
We need to respect one another and the scholars of the past. At the same time, we need to keep our respect for others in perspective. We must not lose sight of the fact that the guidance is what Allah’s Messenger brought to us. The religion of Islam is what Allah revealed to His Messenger. Regardless of how well recognized a scholar is for his knowledge and sincerity, it does not mean that his views and opinions are above criticism. Scholars have always disagreed and they have always reviewed and reassessed their opinions on the basis of the Qur’ân and Sunnah. This is the duty of all of those who are involved in spreading the faith.
Islam, in its wisdom, does not place all of its focus on one aspect of life. We should be cognizant of this when calling Muslims to right conduct and non-Muslims to Islam. We should not be narrow-minded.
For instance, some callers like to focus all their attention on political activism. They speak about the sorry state of the Muslim world as if all of the Muslims’ problems have a political basis and a political solution. This is too narrow.
Then there are those Islamic preachers who wish only to address people of piety. They call people to account on the most minor of character infractions and exhort them to the most subtle aspects of perfection while neglecting to speak about the essential aspects of Islam and faith. Many preachers fall pray to this because of the positive response they get from likeminded listeners. However, this can lead to the development of a class of Muslims who are cut off from the rest of society and who may even feel antagonistic to the average Muslim. This approach, ultimately, does not provide a general benefit to society. Those who follow it often lose sight of the fact that they should be trying to awaken and cultivate the goodness that can be found in everyone.
Muslim preachers and callers need to have a practical outlook. This requires that they first understand what aspects of Islam are truly incontestable and what matters are open to different approaches and different points of view. Clarifying this distinction is one of the most basic and important aspects of Islamic Law, which is firmly grounded in the Qur’ân, the Sunnah, and consensus.
The Prophets and Messengers had been sent to people who were steeped in idolatry. Those who wish to follow in the footsteps of the Prophets should, likewise, be prepared to talk to everyone. All people are Allah’s creatures. All of them are called upon to work righteousness and shun evil. Muslim preachers and callers to Islam need to have patience in order to carry out this task, and they should encourage and support each other. They need to tolerate their differences in matters where there is room for various opinions and they need to respect that they may have different approaches.