How to Deal with Atheists: An Islamic Approach

When practicing Da`wah among non-Muslims, a Muslim should be cautious and wise. He is to be gentle and kind with all people. He must study the nature of his audience so as to choose the proper method of addressing them. The prominent Muslim scholar, Dr. Muhammad Abu Laylah, professor of the Islamic Studies & Comparative Religions at Al-Azhar Univ. states:
“Atheists deny the existence of Allah, thinking that this world came by accident; no creator or controller. They also think that nothing will come after this world.
Atheism, in fact, is not a new trend of thinking. Actually, it has a history of antagonism to religion and religious people.
However, modern atheists are different in the sense that they are using scientific discoveries and new theories to support their disbelief. In the Qur’an, there are many verses that talk about atheists and non-believers in general. Allah draw their attention in many verses to their own creation asking them ‘who created them from a drop of semen until they became fully-grown men and women who are capable of distinguishing between right and wrong and darkness and light’. It is He who created them in the best fashion. Allah says:
“Read: In the name of thy Lord who createth, Createth man from a clot.” (Al-`Alaq: 1-2)
“Such is the Knower of the invisible and the visible, the Mighty, the Merciful, Who made all things good which He created, and He began the creation of man from clay; then He made his seed from a draught of despised fluid; then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His spirit; and appointed for you hearing and sight and hearts. Small thanks give ye!” (As-Sajdah: 6-9)
“We verily created a man and We know what his soul whispereth to him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” (Qaf: 16)
Also, Allah calls on them to reflect on the universe where they live and enjoy; He urges them to think and meditate on all the signs of miracles surrounding them. He wants them to ask themselves: who created it in such a beautiful system. Definitely, it is not the accident that created the universe as accident is an arbitrary and blind act. Such variety around us in colors, in shapes and smell can not be created from nothing and can’t stand by their own. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Have they not then observed the sky above them, how We have constructed it and beautified it, and how there are no rifts therein? And the earth have We spread out, and have flung firm hills therein, and have caused of every lovely kind to grow thereon, a vision and a reminder for every penitent slave.” (Qaf: 6-8)
“Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Sovereignty, and He is Able to do all things, Who hath created life and death that He may try you, which of you is best in conduct; and He is the Mighty, Forgiving, Who hath created seven heavens in harmony. Thou (Muhammad) canst see no fault in the Beneficent One’s creation; then look again: Canst thou see any rifts?” (Al-Mulk: 1-3)
“Allah it is who raised up the heavens without visible supports, then mounted the Throne, and compelled the sun and the moon to be of service, each runneth unto an appointed term; He ordereth the course; He detaileth the revelations, that haply ye may be certain of the meeting with your Lord. And He it is who spread out the earth and placed therein firm hills and flowing streams, and of all fruits be placed therein two spouses (male and female). He covereth the night with the day. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who take thought. And in the Earth are neighbouring tracts, vineyards and ploughed lands, and date palms, like and unlike, which are watered with one water. And We have made some of them to excel others in fruit. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who have sense.” (Ar-Ra`d: 2-4)
In your approach to the atheists, you should start from their own position and to try to know their faults in thinking. You might find among those atheists great scholars or famous scientists or ordinary people and you have to treat them as Islam treats non-Muslims from the beginning. Good behavior and wisdom can help you greatly to find your way to their minds.
We consider atheism as sickness and shortcoming in the character. However, this does not mean that you have to show them disrespect or violate their dignity. In your Da`wah, you should employ Allah’s principle: “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! thy Lord is best aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.” (An-Nahl: 125)”
Now, it becomes evident that it’s the Muslim’s role to call those people to Islam by wisdom and good admonition. He has to direct their attention to the marvellous signs of the Creator, Allah, in the universe and in themselves.