A fascinating experience - within a few days of each other, I was given some info brochures on Muslim customs, culture, and theology and on Jehova's Witness customs, culture, theology. It's interesting to compare them - they take completely opposite approaches to educating people about their faiths.
I snapped a couple of pictures of each. I think these are pretty representative pictures -
The main point of the two Jehova's Witnesses brochures seems to be that you can be happier with more unity in your life -
When you look at the scene on this tract, what feelings do you have? Does not your heart yearn for the peace, happiness, and prosperity seen there? Surely it does. But is it just a dream, or fantasy, to believe these conditions will ever exist on earth?
Most people probably think so. Today's realities are war, crime, hunger, sickness, and aging - to mention just a few. Yet there is reason for hope. Looking to the future, the Bible tells of a "new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to [God's] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell." --2 Peter 3:13, Isaih 65:17
These "new heavens" and "new earth," according to the Bible, are not a new material heavens or new literal earth. The physical earth and heavens were made perfect, and the Bible shows they will remain forever. (Psalms 89:36, 37; 104:5) The "new earth" will be a righteous society of people living on earth, and the "new heavens" will be a perfect heavenly kingdom, or government, that will rule over this earthly society of people. But is it realistic to believe that "a new earth," or glorious new world, is possible?
The two Jehova's Witnesses brochures go along those lines. There's scenes of harmony and happiness and unity with family, nature, and religion. And it talks about loving the Creator, giving your heart to God, and learning God's will.
The brochures don't contain instructions - it's more a promise of what's possible contrasted against what's wrong with the world right now, and then they encourage you to get more information.
The "Invitation to Understanding Islam" brochures take almost the opposite approach. They emphasize conduct, custom, and the work you're going to be required to do. They make many less promises, and instead explain what actions are required and why (and they don't make it sound easy at all).
Why can't I pray my way?
Muslims are required to pray 5 times a day at fixed times.
During these prayers, they recite verses from The Noble Qur'an which is in Arabic.
The prayer positions include standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting.
After embracing Islam, I was wondering why do I have to pray in this way.
I liked the idea of stopping our daily activities 5 times to communicate to Allah The Permanent Who sustains everything.
But I kept fighting the need to recite rote lines in the Arabic during prayer. It is not my native language and therefore reciting in that language doesn't seem like it is from my heart.
The sitting position during prayer can be quite uncomfortable to someone who is not used to this way of praying.
Why would Allah want me to be so frustrated and be in difficulty when I'm trying to communicate with Him?
Wouldn't it be better for me to get into a relaxed position and really speak from my heart?
The brochure then goes on to explain that everyone is a slave to something - whether it be to their ego, or to God, or something else. And praying in the mandated way is a test that can deliver you closer to God or further away. It tears down your ego. Wanting to pray your own way is due to your ego, and serving in the commanded way tames your ego and does your life's work of serving God.
What interested me when I got these sets of brochures was how radically different they approached the concept of introducing you to their faith. The Jehova's Witness approach is to ask you if you're interested in a level of harmony and peace far beyond the modern world, explain that you'll need to know God's way to reach it, and encourage you to get more information.
The Islamic brochures are almost the opposite. They explain that you'll be expected to give a lot, and they don't go as much into the appealing benefits. I would say the Jehova's Witness brochures are something like 90% discussing what's possible and contrasting it against what's currently bad, and 10% telling you the action that's required. The Islamic brochures seem to be 90% telling you what's required and why, and 10% telling you the benefits of greater harmony with God and purpose in life.
It's interesting to me because they're both fast growing religions that put an emphasis on conversion and missionary work, yet their printed literature take 180 degree different courses on how to approach it.
I don't have too much analysis here, but I think it's worth having a think for a moment about why and how the two faiths might have chosen to go about this differently. I learned a lot by reading through both of these brochures - both about the respective faiths, whose members I feel I understand a bit more now, but also in different approaches to introducing people to something new. It might be worth you giving a couple moments to considering the advantages and disadvantages to presenting your a case a certain way - do you start by heavily stressing what's required, and then sharing the benefits? Or start by heavily emphasizing the benefits, and then telling people what the next step is?