Islam in Japan - Da’wah in Japan

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Da’wah in Japan

The history of Islam in Japan reveals therefore some random waves of conversions. In fact, religious campaigns are no more successful for other divine revelations or “new religions”. The statistics indicate that some 80% of the total population believe in either Buddhism or Shintoism while as few as 0.7% are Christians.

The latest results of a poll conducted by a Japanese monthly opinion magazine imply however an important caveat. Only one out of four Japanese effectively believes in any particular religion. The lack of faith is even more pronounced for Japanese youth in their 20s with an alarming rate of atheism as high as 85%.The potential direct agents of da’wah represented by the Muslim community in Japan with its estimated one hundred thousand believers is itself extremely small compared with the total population of more than one hundred and twenty million citizens. Students together with various kinds of workers in precarious conditions constitute a large segment of the community. They are concentrated in big urban cities such as Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo but are seldom organised into established units in order to conduct effective programs of da’wah.In fact, the Muslim students association as well as some local societies organise periodical camps and gatherings in an effort to improve the understanding of Islamic teachings and for the sake of strengthening brotherhood relations among Muslims.

There is a continuous need for Muslims to withstand pressures to conform to the prevailing modern lifestyle which appeals to the passionate element of the soul. Further difficulties are faced by Muslims with respect to communication, housing, child education or the availability of halal food and Islamic literature, and these constitute additional factors hindering the course of da’wah in this country. The duty of da’wah is frequently perceived as the single obligation on Muslims to preach Islam to non-Muslims. However, important calls for reform (islaah) and renewal (tajdeed) constitute also distinct forms of da’wah to Muslims.

A betterment of the level of Islamic knowledge and living conditions of the Muslim community is therefore by itself the very da’wah needed in Japan. One should bear in mind however, that unless the attitudes of indifference and passivity of Muslim residents in Japan with respect to Islamic issues of congregational aspect are changed, the risk of the community being uprooted and diluted through severe distorsions of the Islamic belief will indeed grow higher. This likelihood is in fact pertaining to the permanent exposure of Muslims to the influence of many Japanese customs and traditional practices such as deep bowing as a form of greeting and collective participation in religious festivities and temple visits. The problem is perhaps being felt in more acute terms for Muslim children who, in the absence of any Muslim kindergartens or schools constitute indeed easy targets for the transmission and cultivation of unIslamic cultural and social habits. The remarkable lack of educational institutions of Islamic character is also reflected by the existence in all over Japan of a single mosque which resisted with fadhl from Allah (subhanahu wa Ta’ala) to the great Hanshin earthquake that nearly destroyed the city of Kobe on the wake of January 17 of this year. There are permanent efforts to build or transform housing units into masajids in many other cities and with the help of the Almighty, such good enterprises are expected to bear fruits in the very near future insha’Allah.

The misconception of Islamic teachings introduced by the western media stands to be corrected in a more efficient approach that takes into consideration the significant feature of the Japanese society of being one of the world’s most literate countries. Yet, because of poor distribution, even translations of the meanings of Qur’an into Japanese language are not publicly available.

Islamic literature is virtually absent from bookstores or public libraries to the exception of few english-written essays and books that are sold at relatively high prices. As a result, it should not be surprising to find out that the knowledge of ordinary Japanese about Islam is modestly confined to few terms related to polygamy, Sunnah and Shia, Ramadhan, Makkah, Allah the God of Muslims and Islam the religion of Muhammad! Will Islam echo louder in Japan?With increasingly significant evidence of a responsible recognition of its duties and rational assessment of its limits and capabilities, the Muslim community is showing stronger commitment to accomplish its task of da’wah in a better organised fashion.

There are indeed strong hopes that the future of Islam and Muslims will be better than their past inshaAllah as we believe that if Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) helps us, none can overcome us.

Br. Nabil Bin Mohammed El-Maghrabi – Osaka,
Br. Mohamed Ahmed Soliman – Kyoto, Br. Mehmet Arif Adli – Nagoya – Japan

1. Islam in Japan: It’s past, present and future. Islamic Centre Japan, 1980.
2. Arabia, vol.5, no.54. February 1986/Jamad al-Awal 1406.