Short Answer: First, before meeting mosque guests, make du`aa (supplication) and ask Allah to put the words into your mouth. Then let Him do the talking. Try to remain calm throughout the interview. If they try to raise an objection to one verse or hadith, try to counter it with another or the tafseer (explanation) if you know it. This is where your effort to learn more becomes important.
Salam Dear Umm Bassel,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
I must say; I don’t envy your position! It is much easier to answer questions in writing so that you can think of what to say. I myself am not usually good at answering questions from the top of my head.
First of all, many of those argumentative people are, in fact, expert – and perhaps even professional [paid] – evangelists.
Their goal is to raise doubts about your own faith! My husband saw many of these when he worked in a mosque in the United States.
The Quran advises us in Surah 25, verse 63:
And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them [aggressively], they say: ‘Peace!’
Also, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“I guarantee a house in Paradise for whoever leaves an argument, even if he was right, and a house in the middle of Paradise for whoever leaves lies, even if he was joking, and a house at the top of Paradise for whoever has good manners.” (Reported by Abu Dawood)
So, if a situation gets really difficult, there is nothing wrong with saying: “Peace! I’m not here to argue.”
But before you say, ‘Peace!’ you might start by introducing yourself as an educated woman who reverted to Islam before marriage. Then, fill in briefly some of your reasons. By starting this way, at least you will cut them off from their assumptions.
Also, you need, of course, to be well-read on the topics that non-Muslims usually use to attack Islam, so that you can answer their questions and arguments. Try to answer their questions when you can.
But, if you really don’t know an answer, say: “I’ll have to ask someone who knows more, because if I say something wrong, God will hold me responsible for that.” Say that with self-confidence and no hesitation.
When I was first learning about Islam, that answer really impressed me because it seemed to me that evangelicals always made up answers if they didn’t know them.
Also, I do use “God” rather than “Allah” when talking to non-Muslims. It emphasizes that we worship the same God, even if we don’t agree on everything about Him.
Take your personality into account
Any other way of handling them – prior to saying: ‘Peace!’ – is going to depend partly on your personality and partly on how the mosque administration wants you to handle this.
Definitely, you should discuss this issue with the imam and others, such as the chairman of the board of directors. You should agree together on how they want such people to be dealt with.
For example, I myself am very direct, sometimes even blunt, so that I might look such a person in the eye and say: “If you already have your mind made up – or: know the answers – why are you here wasting my time?!”
But, such a response might not fit your personality or the way the administration wants to deal with them.
As for dealing with your own anger and frustration, the best way is to pray.
First, before meeting mosque guests, make du`aa (supplication) and ask Allah to put the words into your mouth. Then let Him do the talking.
Try to remain calm throughout the interview. If they try to raise an objection to one verse or hadith, try to counter it with another or the tafseer (explanation) if you know it. This is where your effort to learn more becomes important.
Learn as much as you can beforehand
Here, your duty as a Muslim is to try to learn more and more about your religion. In the situations you are facing daily, you should have more authentic knowledge of Islam. You should try to memorize more verses of the Quran and study some authentic tafseer (commentary on Quran).
Also, you need to study the science of authentic hadith and sirah (biography of the Prophet), along with the other disciplines of Islamic philosophy and knowledge. You might even need to study some kind of comparative religion.
Also, consider the idea of joining some formal institution to study more about the religion.
Ask Allah to help you
You might also try, before meeting mosque guests, to say the du`aa for encountering an enemy or those in authority, mentioned in the book Hisn al-Muslim (Fortress of the Muslim):
“O Allah, we place You before them and we take refuge in You from their evil.”
The same book also has du`aa to be said when feeling anxiety or sorrow. They can help you when feeling such anger.
Also, always remember that you will be questioned for your efforts, not for the results. By doing your best to remain calm in the face of such people, you never know what seed of doubt you might plant in their hearts. Pray for their guidance.
In fact, I know a sister who was once such an evangelical and used to go to mosques to raise doubts in Muslims’ hearts, but one day Allah touched her heart and now she is active in da`wah for Islam!
So, just always do the best you can and do not give up hope.
I hope this addresses your concerns.
Salam and please stay in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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