On our final Saturday of Ramadan Community Service, we stand together pushing sandwiches, chips, juice, fruit and granola bars into bags, but before closing each one, this week, a new item is added: a single neon sheet of paper, folded pamphlet style, containing information about Islam. It’s important to note that I had been thinking about including some literature in the bags, since we began distributing lunches.
As people the people we've seen for the past three weeks approach our table to receive a lunch, we tell them, "There's some really good information about Islam in your bag. Please, take a look at it. If you’re not interested please pass it on to someone else who might be."
There's nothing wrong with including some information about Islam in the lunch, right? If not, why do I have this feeling, our good intentions aside, that as these people look into their lunches they're thinking what these Muslims really wanted to give me was the pamphlet; the lunch was just the bait. Maybe what got me thinking this was the brother who stood in line, grabbed a lunch, walked no more than twenty feet away--opened his bag, saw the pamphlet, and promptly tossed it to the ground--that has me thinking that maybe there’s another way.
Now don't get me wrong, overall, our efforts seem to be genuinely appreciated by the community--Al-Hamdulillah ( The Praise is for G-d). If anyone else threw away their pamphlet they were considerate enough to do it out of sight. It’s a wonderful thing to invite others to this beautiful Deen...the beauty of which is most apparent when it is modeled, lived, and practiced out loud for those who have a spirit to appreciate it. Maybe, if the pamphlet were set aside on the table next to the water, those whose spirits moved them could take one of their own free will and we could cut down on the litter in the streets, and no one would feel that they were being baited into reading about Islam.
As we have become more intelligent, more accomplished, and more degreed, a tendency to overlook the beauty and effectiveness of simplicity follows. When Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), answered the question of what is Islam? He replied with profound simplicity: "Islam is to feed the people and give the Salaams (greetings of peace) to those you know and those you do not know."
After reflecting on the whole experience, I think we did our best when we kept things simple: feeding the people to our capacity, modeling zakat/charity, and giving those we came in contact with, and those who passed by, the greetings of peace. Insha'Allah (G-d willing) we will continue to show consistency in our efforts...a much more meaningful, thoughtful, expression of Islam--with or without a pamphlet.