Dr. Muhammad b. Lutfî al-Sabbâgh
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sought out opportunities for dialogue as a means of establishing the truth of Islam. It was an important means He employed to call people to the faith. He understood that dialogue is a noble way to convince others of what is right.
The ability to engage in dialogue with others is an important one for Muslim preachers to cultivate. Indeed, we can find in the Qur'ân where Allah instructs us in this skill
For instance, we see many places in the Qur'ân where Allah draws attention to his blessings upon us by commanding Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to ask a number of questions. Allah then gives the proper answers to these questions and develops these answers into a moving form of exhortation.
Allah says: "Ask (O Muhammad): 'To whom – if you know – belong the earth and all beings therein?' They will say, 'To Allah!' Say: 'Yet will ye not receive admonition?' Say: 'Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme?' They will say, '(They belong) to Allah.' Say: 'Will ye not then be filled with awe?' [Sûrah al-Mu'minûn: 84-87]
We also see where Allah tells us to argue with the Jews and Christians in the best manner: "And do not dispute with the people of the scripture except by what is best – unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury) – and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit." [Sûrah al-`Ankabût: 46]
Allah says: "Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the best manner. Surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way. " [Sûrah al-Nahl: 125]
Dialogue, when it is used sincerely by all parties as a means to seek the truth and understanding, actually fosters love between those who are engaged in it. However, it is important for those engaged in dialogue to be free form a desire to defeat the other party. Personal triumph is never the goal. It is critical to maintain at all times a sincere intention to use dialogue as a means of arriving at the truth.
Al-Shâfi`î said: "I have never argued with anyone without hoping that Allah would manifest the truth upon his tongue."
It is in such a spirit that one's words become acceptable to the other party. When one is not out to defeat the other person by way of argument, but rather to uncover the truth, then when the other person makes a valid point, one is ready to concede it and admit when one has made an error.
One aspect of this is not to try and "catch" the other person by his or her words. It is part of the etiquettes of dialogue to try and understand the other person as best we can, and take his or her statement in the best intended light. This is more likely to induce the other party to reassess his or her own stance than adopting a confrontational "out to get you" attitude.
It is essential for one to remain composed and objective, to keep one's tone form becoming impassioned and emotional. We must never become defensive and never stoop to promote our individual selves. Instead, we must try our best to overlook and forgive the slights the other party might make against our persons.
Allah says: "Goodness and evil can never be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better: Then the one with whom there had been enmity between you will become as though he were a bosom friend! " [Sûrah Fussilat: 34]
Allah says: "And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a garden as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil); those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon all people – for Allah loves those who do good." [Sûrah Âl `Imrân: 133-134]
Allah quotes Luqmân as saying: "O my son! Keep up prayer, enjoin the good, and forbid the evil, and bear patiently that which befalls you; surely these acts require courage." [Sûrah Luqmân: 17]
A caller to Allah, therefore, should be recognized as being a kind person. The Prophet (peace be upon him) called us to be gentle, saying: "Whenever kindness enters into something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is absent from something, then that thing is maligned." [Sahîh Muslim (2594)]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "Allah is gentle, and He loves kindness. He bestows upon kindness what He does not bestow upon harshness or anything else." [Sahîh Muslim (2165)]
When we engage in dialogue, we must be precise and careful in what we say. We must be just at all times with both those who agree with us and those who oppose us.
Allah says: "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. " [Sûrah al-Mâ'idah: 8]
Beyond all this, if we want others to accept what we say, we need to assess what their level is and determine what they are able to understand. We must also be sensitive to their feelings and consider what motivates them and what offends their sensibilities.
If we apply these etiquettes in calling others to Allah, we will be able to convey our message clearly, and in a manner that will foster understanding, tolerance, and – with Allah's help – acceptance.
Rasulullah SAW bersabda: "Barangsiapa yang Allah SWT menghendaki kebaikan (Surga) baginya, niscaya ia dibuat pandai dalam ilmu agama." (HR. Al-Bukhari dari Muawiyah)