iERA’s Jesus Exhibition acted as the perfect dawah initiator in Latin America. It was held at a private university in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. The surrounding area was scenic and serene, with Honduras’ unique folds of hills with the dichotomy of humble shanty town-esque rusty huts alongside properties plucked from a Beverly Hills brochure. It was the idyllic location for us to spread the message of Islam in a positive light and show Muslims as doers of good through this exhibition.
iERA Outreach Specialist, Ayman Hammami’s somewhat unconventional approach of continually giving dawah to non-Muslims throughout the whole trip — was so subtle anyone looking in from the outside wouldn’t have noticed — however, this ‘everyday dawah’ approach paid dividends! Attendees ranged from the villagers we interacted with in St Lucia, to shopkeepers in the surrounding area and even the owners of the restaurant who served us margarita pizza the night before. The event began at 10 am but when we arrived to set up, there were already two individuals who had been waiting for two hours for the event to begin.
COMETH THE EVANGELICALS
According to Ayman Hammami’s estimate, 90% of the iERA Jesus Exhibition attendees had some form of Evangelical upbringing and were proactive in calling to Christianity. These individuals were well versed in the Bible and were offended at the prospect of Muslims holding an exhibition on the two central figures within their doctrine — Jesus and Mary.
The Evangelicals attending the Exhibition had one objective, to uphold the honour of their religious figures via a full-fledged debate. However, such advances were quelled due to the character, welcoming reception and great Arabic food sourced from a local restaurant which pacified them. The team — more specifically Ayman Hammami and his wife (a native Honduran convert) — answered their questions in a respectful and compassionate manner, after the presentation. The local Honduran team put into effect the vigorous training they received throughout the week prior with iERA Outreach Specialists Salahuddin Patel and Subboor Ahmed, as well as, utilising the experience they had built up over the years.
So what was the reaction of the attendees?
Utter shock combined with a hint of amazement and a sprinkle of intrigue. Salahuddin Patel noticed a significant change from entering the Exhibition to exiting it — “they are changed, people!” — he exclaimed!
The Evangelicals were bemused because of what they had been taught about Islam within their religious institutions — consisting of an inaccurate concoction of how it’s an archaic and ruthless religion to Muslims having an unwillingness to adapt to the times. However, after the initial presentation — jointly executed by Ayman and his wife — along with the question and answer session, their story about Islam and its stance on the role of Jesus and Mary was corrected.
They left well informed and with Ayman’s contact details for a follow up after the exhibition to gain further knowledge. The highlight of the exhibition, despite an initially hostile audience, was when a guest made the decision to embrace Islam at the exhibition.
UNDERSTAND QUR’AN FIRST, THEN SHAHADA!
Josh came with his friend — who even mentioned himself how he saw a lot of good in Islam. Josh was raised as an Evangelical. For the past few months, he had been doing his own research about Islam and began informing his own family about the Islamic beliefs concerning Jesus and Mary — and how highly revered they are.
When Josh was at the event, he informed Ayman that he needed to take the shahada, he had a sense of urgency about him. Ayman discovered he had tried to commit to the declaration of faith before but was advised by some local Muslims that it was a prerequisite for him to understand the Qur’an beforehand. Obviously, Ayman set the record straight and broke down the declaration of faith to Josh:
- Worship none other than God
- Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final messenger
Josh wholeheartedly accepted these preconditions, Allahuakbar! As a former self-confessed Evangelical Christian who was fully committed to the cause but after taking his shahada, he felt truly relieved and exclaimed: “I’ve truly found God!”
NUMBERS ON A PIECE OF PAPER
Ayman is currently speaking to everyone on the list who are interested in and learning about Islam. One person from this list did commit to the Islamic declaration of faith — the shahada! Her name is Nadia and she is the wife of a Catholic preacher Obviously, she has not publicly declared her new found faith as of yet because it will have drastic repercussions within her inner circle as they are steadfast Christians. We pray that Allah makes this transition easier for her a means for the guidance of others. Ameen.
WHATSAPP SHAHADA UPDATE
Another person on the list is Cindy, she’s 25-year-old accounting student, attending the National Autonomous University of Honduras. She’s described herself as a self-professed Evangelical — an orthodox branch of Christianity — but always had inklings of doubts about her faith. Cindy was always sceptical about how funds were raised for her local Church and how the proceeds were spent. Parishioners were expected to pay a certain percentage from their wage packet — already barely making ends meet — knowing well that their hard-earned income was lining up the pockets of the preachers.
Cindy felt a sense of community of belonging amongst the other churchgoers which she thought was only unique to their congregation and doubted any other religious congregation could match it. However, despite her already preconceived notions of Islam — which were mostly negative — she still wanted to explore the Islamic perspective of Jesus and Mary. She was totally mesmerised by the iERA Exhibition and how the Islamic explanation just fit together perfectly, answering all of her doubts which Christianity could not answer.
At the end of the Exhibition, Cindy left her details with Ayman, who passed them on to a sister on his team, Waleska. For the next several days Waleska was inundated with questions from Cindy about Islam. After this period, Cindy finally found what she had been searching for all her life — in the spiritual sense — and only had one option left!
After Cindy gave her testimony of faith (shahada), she mentioned what struck her the most during the Exhibition was how she fully identified with Waleska’s story about how she came to Islam. Cindy also admired the way she was treated during the day and how her doubts about God were dispelled. Cindy believes the concept of charity (zakah) within Islam, where Muslims give 2.5% of their wealth — which isn’t too burdensome at all — is the best way to help those who are in most need of it, as well as not debilitating for the giver.