Do not impose personal preference in the name of dakwah

‘Abdullah b. ‘Abbas reported: I and Khalid b. Walid went to the apartment of Maimuna along with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and there was presented to him a roasted lizard. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) stretched his hand towards It, whereupon some of the women who had been in the house of Maimuna said: Inform Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) what he intends to eat. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) lifted his hand. I said: Messenger of Allah, Is it forbidden? He said: No. It is not found in the land of my people, and I feel that I have no liking for it. Khalid said: I then chewed and ate it, while, Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) was looking (at me).

Points of Reflections

1. The hadith teach us a sunnah of the Prophet when presented with a food that is not to his taste or preference – to simply leave it and refrain from making any negative remark about it.

2. Despite his preference, the Prophet did not stop his companion, Khalid bin Al-Walid from eating the food.

3. This highlights an important principle of Islam and dakwah – however high a person’s status is he has no power to ban what is made halal to mankind by God, even if it does not suit his personal taste. What is mubah (permissible) in Islam can only be prohibited if it brings harm (mudarat) or go against a more fundamental interest (masalahat) of the syariah.

4. When doing dakwah, we cannot impose our personal taste/preference to our subject because dakwah is about inviting people to Islam not to our personal preferences / choices , whether they are in the form of religious practices, values or opinions. What is mubah in Islam cannot be made haram (forbidden) in the name of “dakwah”.

5. Even in matters that undoubtedly enjoined/encouraged by the syariah such as fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and nawafil (non-obligatory) prayers, we cannot impose them on others. When God do not make them obligatory, who are we to force others? What a Muslim can do is to encourage and motivate (targheeb). This becomes more pertinent in matters that are fundamentally cultural and not religious i.e. whether or not to wear a skull cap, or to wear Malay traditional or modern western style attire. Those who do not prefer wearing a skull cap or more fond of wearing shirts from Malay clothes cannot make it as a standard for others and vice versa.

6. Be warned! Behind our claim of enjoining people to practice preferred sunnah is self-righteousness which is more serious in danger. The latter is forbidden (haram) whereas our preferred sunnah is merely encouraged (mustahab). This is a pitfall in dakwah that many may not realise.