Fifthly, I find that the Quran encourages discussions and dialogues. Communication is one the many gifts that the Creator has given mankind. It is through communication that civilization may evolve and develop. There more communication skills we have (not to be confused with capitalistic marketing tools, which to me is shameless manipulation, mostly), the more effective the communication. The Quran teaches much communication etiquettes, attitudes and modes (I will not be specifically covering these topics here).
One such skill is speaking relevantly and not “beating about the bush” or engaging in “intellectual dishonesty”.
“O you who believe! Guard your duty to Allah, and speak words straight to the point;” (Quran: 33:70)
Communication is so vital to living such that constitutions around the world, including in Malaysia guarantees freedom of expression and speech. The Ad-Deen approach of the Quran will accept these guarantees with ease. It welcomes dialogues, discussions and debates.
“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue/discuss with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance”. (Quran: 16.125)
The religious approach, on the other hand will try to set various unreasonable limits on what can be discussed, who can discuss and so on. This is largely because the religious approach comes from a monopolistic mindset and those who restrain others from discussing the religion take upon themselves as the “protector of the religion” while forgetting that it is they who need protection from the Creator! Some are arrogant enough to shamelessly take on the claim of being experts. Hence, they self assert that only they can speak on “religious matters” to the exclusion even of those who profess to believe in that religion!
But the Quran clearly warns mankind of such people (see also Quran 4:49):
“There is the type of man whose speech about this world's life may dazzle you, and he calls God to witness about what is in his heart; yet is he the most contentious of enemies (Quran: 2.204)
To me it is impossible to be an “expert” on the “Way of God”, as the Creator has said in the Quran that if all His words were to be recorded, even the entire ocean will be insufficient as ink for His words. It is impossible to be an expert on the Words of the Creator. For this reason, I consider myself as a student of the Quran till I die.
“Say: "If the ocean were ink (wherewith to write out) the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid”. (Quran 18:109)
Hence, the Ad-Deen approach allows for discussions, mutual learning and dialogues with those who are willing. In fact, it is common sense that discussions are not possible with a person who takes a stand he is the “all-knower” or has a condescending attitude. It is for this reason that in the “religious world”, all we see is monologues and no dialogues. The preacher preaches and all say “amen”. There is no active participation, mutual learning and self accountability which are important in the Ad-Deen approach.
Sincere discussions and dialogues apart from being educational may allow for the best interpretation of something.
“Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it: those are the ones whom Allah has guided, and those are the ones endued with understanding”. (Quran: 39:18)
Obviously, in some discussions, some of the participants may try to be naughty and try to unfairly trap you in some of your arguments. The best approach may be to be patient and to simply focus on the subject-matter. For the true seeker (scientists, for example), it is never about winning. However, human nature may want to retaliate and on this the Quran advises as follows:
“And if you do catch them out, catch them out no worse than they catch you out: But if you show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient”. (Quran:16.126)
Admittedly, some discussions may descend to very low levels with no regard for the subject matter being discussed. In such instances, frustration and even anger may mount. If the situation becomes very tense, possibly the advice below from the Quran may assist:
“When you see men engaged in vain discourse about Our signs, turn away from them unless they turn to a different theme. If Satan ever makes you forget, then after recollection, sit not in the company of those who do wrong”.(Quran: 6:68)
Discussions and dialogues are never the place to trade insults. The important thing should be the invitation to the journey of seeking the truth and to do good works.
“Revile not you those whom they call upon besides God, lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did”. (Quran: 6:108)
“Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to God, works righteousness, and says, "I am of those who bow in Islam/submission"? (Quran 41:33)