Do you know the most popular Japanese website on Islam and who is behind that? Yes, you guessed right. It is www.islamjp.com and the force behind its dynamism is Brother Sulaiman Akira Hamanaka from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. Has has been an avid player of badminton all his life and is now the president of Ehime Badminton Association. He embraced Islam in his school days more forty years ago.
Today, he sat with me to discuss the past, present and the future of Islam in Japan. As mentioned earlier, he has been a great player of badminton, he loved watching Indonesian and Malaysian Badminton players in his childhood who were world-famous at that time. During his school years, he visited an Indonesian Muslim family in Indonesia and stayed with them for some time to have a first-hand experience of the Indonesian culture. He was surprised to see that the family would pray behind their father and they would discuss issues of all sorts while dining. The Indonesian Muslim family exhibited strong bond among themselves and their affinity for their religion, Islam. He was also impressed with the strong community life in Indonesia in general as well.
On the first day of his arrival at the host family in the country, the family members started praying together. he was so impressed by the scene that he could not help but ask what they they were doing. When they told him that were Muslims and were praying to Allah to thank Him for the bounties He has bestowed upon them. He said if Is;am is like this, he would like to embrace Islam right away.
In those days, he also visited Singapore as he has been fond of visiting unknown places and countries, he noticed similar Muslim community life in the country. This time, he stayed with a Malay Muslim family in the country and studied a bit about the religion. On his return to japan, he got admission to Okayama University and studied about Islam by seeking the help of few Muslims students there.
The masajid have to act like a community centers for all the Muslims in the vicinity. Especially, the Japanese Muslims should be supported in every sense of the word. When they reach their forties or fifties, they naturally need a guarantee or assurance about what will happen when they die or, how their family, their children will treat them when they grow older or when they die. What is going to happen once they have died? Who will take care of their memorial ceremonies and the like.
They get these kinds of feelings when they have some important events in their lives as well. For example, when a woman gives birth to a baby, or when they go through a University exam and the like. That is an important stage for them to be reminded about what is going to happen to them once they dead.
A major reality most Japanese face when they get little older is that they have not studied any thing of religious nature up until that age. Now, they want to become religious. Hence, they look for some books to read and study the exact meaning of life according to their religious beliefs. Which is in most case Buddhism or Shintoism as they were not trained to think about any other religion except the two.
When they reach the age of fifty, they suddenly realize they no longer have the responsibilities they used to have when their kids were school-going and they had to take care of their kids by working harder and harder and give the necessary livelihood for them. But once the kids get older and take their own responsibilities, they no longer have any thing specific or any serious responsibility to fulfill. They suddenly start feeling lonely at that time. That is the time, Muslims should gently convey the message of Islam and give them the necessary literature they need to fulfill their inner desire to find the meaning of their lives.
His message for born-Muslims is that you have to be active in the society, understand the language and the culture and the basics of Tauheed and the need for it in one’s life. Then, gently give the message of Islam when they find any chances but they should not force anyone lest they will lose them. People will run away from them if they are forced.
Do not force them to accept Islam. Just give references of Islam and Allah here and there while interacting with them try to sugarcoat the message of Islam so they are not afraid of it and find some attraction to listen to what Islam has to say to them.
Sandwiching the message of Islam is a better technique than suddenly going out of the blue and try to give strong doses of the Deen which is against Islam as well.
He told that he used to come to Tokyo in his childhood and meet with Umar Mita san, the first Muslim translator of the Quran in Japanese who was then an old man in his eighties. Mita san would always encourage him to work harder in the path of Allah by saying that we would be considered pioneers of Islam if we worked hard enough to spread the Deen among the non-Muslim japanese
Akira san thinks that if we, the Muslims are able to transform our masaajid into strong Muslim community centers which offer shelters to its attendees in worldly, spiritual and moral sense of the word, Islam could spread in Japan rapidly.
Another important point he mentioned is that we need to have Khutbas in Japanese language as well as this is the only chance in a week for a Japanese person to learn about Islam in most of the cases. So he/she should be given an opportunity to show upon what Islam is and what it means to be a Muslims, especially in a non-Muslim society like this.
It was an amazing meeting and I learned a great deal about how to spread Islam in japan positively. The only regret I have now is I wish I could have spent some more time with such a knowledgable and experienced person as brother Sulaiman Akira Hamanaka. Inshallah, if Allah is willing, I plan to have a video interview when he is in Tokyo next time.