A world-renowned Islamic scholar and founder of the International Open University (IOU), Dr. Bilal Philips, spoke on the current need for religious tolerance and open dialogue, while stating that the correct methodology of Dawah (sharing/promoting Islam) is that the teachings of Islam be explained in kind words and conveyed in a nice way as instructed by God in the Qur’an.
The iconic religious leader was speaking during an interview with our journalist held in the IOU headquarters, at the Kanifing Municipality in Banjul, The Gambia.
When our reporter engaged Dr. Bilal on whether Islam has clearly indicated those sects going to the hellfire and those going to paradise, he replied that “Islam does clearly identify the characteristics of those people going to paradise and those going to hellfire. The Qur’an has clearly spelt out the traits of those going to paradise and hell, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) further elaborated on that.”
However, he stated that informing people directly that they are going to hell is not an effective way to get them to change their beliefs and habits.
He further reiterated that although those going to hellfire have been described and identified in the Qur’an, the Qur’an also instructed the Prophet and the believers speak to them using good and kind words.
He continued that how people applied the information goes to Dawah, stating that the correct methodology of Dawah is to explain to people in kind words, a nice way and not shout at people or call them disbelievers.
He further emphasised that one’s Dawah should address the issues where people differ and divided.
Dr. Bilal,who was born in Jamaica to a Christian family and later migrated to Canada. He explained that he grew up in Toronto, Canada and studied at a Canadian University in Vancouver, majoring in biochemistry.
While studying at Simon Fraser University, he was influenced by communist revolutionary propaganda from some of his professors and classmates and he eventually concluded that communism was the best solution for humankind’s woes.
“As a result of that, I not only became a communist, but also a propagator of communism among revolutionary organisations in the United States, like the Black Panthers, and others. After returning to Canada, and being in a Black nationalist and socialist organisation called the Black Youth Organisation (BYO), I decided to convert to Islam in 1972 partially due to my becoming disillusioned with Communism and partly due to the influence of some American converts to Islam who had joined the BYO.”
Following that, Dr. Bilal narrated that he went to Saudi Arabia in search of in-depth knowledge of Islam and studied at the Islamic University of Medina where he graduated with a bachelor’s in Islamic Sciences in 1980.
He also went to Riyadh and did a master’s in Islamic Theology (Aqeedah) while teaching Islamic Studies in a high school in Riyadh for 10 years. Following that, the experienced scholar and teacher went to the UK and completed a PhD in Islamic Theology.
“I later moved to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where I became a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the American University in Dubai (AUD) for 10 years. I later set up a department of Islamic Studies at Preston University in Ajman, UAE. Following that, I went to Qatar where I set up the Islamic Studies Academy, an online college connected with Omdurman Islamic University, Sudan. From there, I went to India and set up the first accredited Islamic University in Chennai,Tamil Nadu, called Preston International College and began the process of preparing for the launch of the Islamic Online University in 2010, which became known as the International Open University (IOU) from 2017 onwards.”