Taking it to the streets…
UMA Dawah Volunteers Spread The Word
One of the most fulfilling stories that I have written in the 18 months of stevedabliz.com was an article I posted in April 2020 at the height of COVID-19.
Titled “Sheikh Shady: An Inspiration In Tough Times”, this item related the story of the inspirational founder of (and the driving force behind) the United Muslims of Australia – UMA – my very dear friend, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman.
Of course, Sheikh Shady also wears a number of other very important ‘hats’, including those of President of the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) and Chairman of the Australian Muslim Community National Summit.
But this article mainly concentrated on the UMA, an amazing multi-layered organisation which these days has its magnificent headquarters in Enterprise Avenue, Padstow, a suburb of south western Sydney.
World renown Muslim cleric and scholar Mufti Ismail Menk (3.5 million Facebook followers) has described the UMA Centre as the best establishment of its kind in the world, housing the Brotherhood gym, a recreational complex which includes several basketball courts, a temporary mosque, offices, cafes, meeting rooms and 10 classrooms.
As an organisation, the UMA has an incredible infrastructure.
It has almost 60 departments and in the course of an average day, anywhere up to a thousand Muslims visit the centre.
The Dawah Department is without a doubt the hub and the ‘engine room’ of the UMA, and as Dawah Department representative Omar Chaar explains: “it is the entry point for newcomers to the UMA and where they can decide which initiative they wish to become involved in, with the ultimate aim for them being to give back to the community.”
As an example, the New Reverts course which is held from 7.00pm to 9.00pm every Monday over seven weeks (the next course is scheduled to commence on Monday week, February 1) is a program where brothers and sisters who have recently accepted Islam – as well as non-Muslims – are able to find out more about the beautiful religion of Islam in a friendly, welcoming and caring environment.
But of course Islam has never been about sitting back and waiting for potential new Muslims to ‘see the light’.
According to the Qur’an, not only was it our beautiful prophet Muhammad PBUH who was made responsible for spreading and propagating Islam – indeed, it was all the believers who were held responsible for the propagation of its message and teachings.
That is, it remains the responsibility of all of us.
In this regard, the UMA is extremely proactive, with its Street Dawah team ‘hitting the streets’ of suburban Sydney and the CBD every weekend, with bands of volunteers engaging in friendly conversations and providing information and literature to non-Muslims as they pass by.
Bilal Darwich is the chief co-ordinator of the Street Dawah team and I caught up with Bill last weekend to discuss the vital role performed by this hard-working and enthusiastic team.
“We have up to two hundred volunteers who put their hands up to assist with this very important and engaging work,” Bilal informed me.
“Not everybody is available every week of course, but each Saturday we have teams of four or more visiting our regular locations at Bankstown, Newtown, Glebe, Revesby and Central, while we always send a team to the QVB of a Sunday….so on any given weekend, we would have around 30 brothers volunteering several hours of their times doing Street Dawah work.
“We have a seven man leadership group (“Shura”) which plans and oversees everything, makes administrative decisions and provides motivation, advice and encouragement to the brothers on the Street Dawah team.
“I have been involved in the Street Dawah initiative for six year now, the past five in a co-ordinating role and I find it extremely fulfilling.
“Of course, everything we do is for the sake of Allah and alhamdulillah for everything.”
Ahmed and Saleem are both devoted members of the Street Dawah team and can be found on Newtown’s busy King St from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays – come rain, hail or shine.
“I’ve been involved with the Street Dawah team since April 2019 and as much as I put into it, I can tell you that I get a lot more out of it,” Ahmed said.
“I became involved after seeing some brothers on the internet doing similar work in London and these guys motivated and inspired me….they were fantastic.
“The training we go through to do this role is very thorough; we are educated on numerous topics and themes including the Hajj, Islamic Law, Sharia Law and Women In Islam to name just a handful.
“We hone our skills and do role plays to prepare us for questions and situations which may arise when we are on the streets.
“This role has taught me to be patient and to use this patience and show decorum when engaging with members of the public.”
The onset of COVID-19 led to Saleem joining the Street Dawah team and he rarely misses a Saturday morning at Newtown.
“I was teaching the Qur’an at a mosque every Saturday morning but when COVID hit, those classes were cancelled, so I opted to do Street Dawah work each weekend instead of just the school holidays,” Saleem explained.
“I have learned so much from my role on the Street Dawah team and every week I am further enlightened.
“Doing this work constantly emphasises to me how much we all need Islam and I mean the entire community, Muslims and non-Muslims.”
SISTER ACCEPTS ISLAM
The need for and the great work done by the Street Dawah team was never better highlighted than one rainy Saturday morning in October of last year.
“The weather wasn’t the best so I moved from my regular position in King Street to a drier location outside Newtown station,” Saleem recalled.
“I was just performing my usual role, handing out leaflets to interested commuters on their way to and from the trains when I noticed a mature-aged lady heading in my general direction.
“So I approached her and asked her if she wanted to know more about Islam and she was all ears.
“Often when talking to people on the street, they already have their own set ideas on Islam and it is almost a fulltime job to rebut their misconceptions but this lady acknowledged everything I said, which of course I attribute totally to Allah SWT.
“She explained to me that she already believed in the oneness of God and that Muhammad PBUH was the Messenger of Allah and the final prophet …. and when I invited her to testify her faith by making the Shahadah she did not hesitate!
“It was a very special moment and something I will never forget.”
The achievements of the Street Dawah team and the other 130 initiatives at the UMA are a tribute to the vision and inspiration of Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman and the hard work of the hundreds of brothers and sisters who visit the UMA each and every week, determined to make a difference to this world.
May Allah SWT reward each and every one of them.