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By Selma Cook

  

This article is based on an interview with Aisha Wangari Kaminjo.


“People are coming to Islam from every imaginable walk of life: barmaids, house servants, diplomats, business people, farmers, preachers, ex-cons, and many more. If you think I am the one who is bringing these people to Islam, you are wrong! This deen (religion) belongs to Allah and it is He who guides whomever He wills. People keep coming to Islam despite the bad behavior of Muslims and despite their own ignorance of Islam and apathy toward it.” These are the words of Aisha Wangari Kaminjo, a revert to Islam who is pioneering the Dawah work in Kenya.

A New Wave of Muslims

It is very clear to see that a new wave of Muslims is emerging in Kenya — new Muslims who have tasted the bitterness of life and the harshness of this world. After they embrace Islam, they cling to their new life as if it's a life belt because that is what Islam is, a life line.

To appreciate how amazing this really is, we have to keep in mind the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi a few short years ago. In the aftermath of this bombing, there have been a lot of hatred against Muslims, a lot of fear and mistrust, and consequently a lot of Islamophobia. More and more hate crimes have occurred and masjids in different areas have been destroyed. Everyone is talking about Muslims, hijab, and Islam with feelings of bitterness, rejection, and hate.

Then in the midst of all this when we see so many people turning to Islam, we have to stop and ask ourselves why. The beauty of Islam exists despite the bad behavior of some Muslims. So if a person really wants to know the truth, the information is there. And along with this information is a growing number of good examples of Muslims— people who are sincere, pious, humble, friendly, and kind. Such people take to the street without any thought of recompense except the reward from Allah the Almighty, and they spread the word of Islam in a clear and simple way.

Da`wah at the Center

At the Aisha Tusaidiane (Help One Another) Center in Nairobi, we have our own way of dealing with Islamophobia. First of all, we have two gatherings a month at the center where food is served and guests are invited. At one gathering we invite a guest to talk to the people about a certain topic, and at the other there is a dialogue-lunch where people come talk, ask questions about Islam, and express their feelings about Islam and Muslims generally. I invite our neighbors and people I come across who are angry and hateful against Islam, and we serve them graciously at the center and make them feel welcome. We ask them "Why do you hate us?" They know that we care, and we try to be good examples as our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us to be. They do not find any bitterness, hate, or aggression in us; we speak to them kindly and with wisdom and give the simple and beautiful message of Islam.

Some people enter these gatherings arrogant and bitter, but I have never had such gatherings where the people left in that way. If they didn't accept Islam, they became its supporters.

We have a number of volunteers who are educated in Qur'an and Islamic sciences, and they take to the streets with microphones and talk about Islam. We live in a free society and there is no problem to do such things. You will find people representing many beliefs and organizations doing exactly the same thing. Crowds gather and people throw questions at the speakers. We may say things that are against their beliefs and common thinking, but they do not fight us; they respect us because we dare to do such a thing; we are not afraid and yet we are not aggressive. We use a lot of material produced by Ahmed Deedat (may Allah have mercy on him). Very often people go home and think about what they heard. We present the truth to them in a concise and simple way; they know they are free to come and ask us more, and they know we are ready to help if we can.

 
A New Lease on Life

There are many kinds of people that the society looks down upon and rejects, and such people are flocking to Islam. People who used to be barmaids, criminals, beggars, and a host of hopeless, misguided people are making a fresh start in life and becoming upright contributing members of society. It is truly remarkable!

Not all, however, are poor, and those who have wealth want to do something for society. When they enter Islam they leave behind the selfish individualistic thinking and reach out to others. Many others are poor and unskilled, so to give them an alternative we teach them skills like cooking, tailoring, needlework, handcrafts, and so on.

One day an arrogant man asked me about Muhammad (peace be upon him). "Who was he?" he asked sarcastically. "What is the big deal about Muhammad?" he added with a snarl on his face.

I told him, "I can't prove to you that he is the final Messenger of Allah the Almighty because it's my faith, but why not take a look at the 1.3 billion people who follow him in the world today? Don't you notice that world powers chase information about him, discuss him, and his followers and try to suppress him and his teachings even though he died 1400 years ago? Don't call him a prophet if you don't want to. Call him a man — the man! Turn on the TV and you'll see he is the hot topic everywhere."

People such as this person are constantly asking questions and coming to the center. Once they embrace Islam, their lives change and they start to do volunteer work themselves. Other people see the decency in them, the light in their faces, the kindness on their tongues, and the graciousness in their deeds. These new, fresh, vibrant volunteers walk calmly and tranquilly down streets where they used to hang out, committing crimes with their no-good friends. Now they are dedicated to doing good works, and I can bear witness that I see so much barakah (blessing) coming from them and their actions.

The Change

These people who were once hungry, desperate, and bitter now prepare food to greet our new visitors. They help prepare a banquet for people who profess to be their sworn enemies, and they patiently wait for the change of heart as the enemy turns to be a friend or supporter. After the banquet they refuse to take food home, insisting on giving it to the security guards who stand long hours with nothing to eat or to someone else who is less fortunate than they are.

What we are doing at the center is not a program as such, but it is a natural response of people who have been showered with mercy and see their lives and what they can be as opposed to what they have been in the past. They are dedicated to move forward in their lives and to help others do the same. Perhaps many problems happen and much of the spirit of Islam is lost when Muslims try to turn Islam into a bureaucracy.

This growing, vibrant Muslim community responds to calls for help and finds there is plenty for all. They are driven by sincerity, not by timetables.

May Allah the Almighty open our hearts and give us love for humanity.

This article was first published at youth 4 the future at Islamonline.net

Muslims making a Difference