Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.
- (The Holy Quran 03: 104)
The Muslim world is admittedly in crisis and a biased media has added its own negative colour to the conflicts that are festering in far corners of the Islamic planet this negative stereotyping gives an idea that everything Muslim is evil. But away from this glare is a silent revolution that is underway with a mission that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) placed on the top of his priorities; spread of the authentic message of Islam.
Called Da‘wah – the concept of propagation of Islamic faith - the huge army of preachers are silently transforming the lives of those who have no perception, or perhaps a wrong understanding, of Islam. Armed only with sleeping bags backpacks, and a simple message, Da’wah activists are going door-to-door in more than 200 countries. It evokes tales of Prophet Muhammad’s companions who trekked hundreds of miles and braved bandits and armies to spread the word of Islam back in the 7th century.
Now, in the age of mass transit and modern technology, the hardships are fewer, but challenges and prejudices are much stronger. If the Prophet’s companions sacrificed their lives to preach Islam, surely present age Muslims can do the same thing.
Da‘wah is an important obligatory duty for every Muslim. Da‘wah (Arabic: invitation) etymologically means the proselytizing or preaching of Islam. It literally means "issuing a summons" or "making an invitation", being a gerund of a verb meaning variously "to summon" or "to invite”. A Muslim who practices Da‘wah, either as a religious worker or in a volunteer is called a dā‘ī (plural du‘āh/du‘āt).
Islam’s propagation remains a cardinal duty of every Muslim .This is particularly relevant in modern times where negative stereotyping of Muslims has brought a bad name to the faith. It underlines the importance of the participation of educated Muslims because the knowledge explosion requires more sophisticated intellectual equipment to navigate the complex environment.
For Islamic civilization, moral conduct is the rationale for its existence. It is this fundamental value that distinguishes it from any other civilization in history. The argument that other civilizations, too, have a moral core is countered by the fact that Islam is a way of life -- ad-Deen -- and not simply a religion. Our values shape our lives; they are the qualities that define us. They make us who we are and guide us in our life choices, what we believe in and what we commit to.it is finally or conduct that will influence the perception of others about us.
Islam has a simple but highly effective evangelical message that boils down to five points to mirror Islam’s five cardinal pillars of practice: grasp the true meaning and implications of the creedal statement that there is no deity except Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger; pray conscientiously five times a day; acquire learning and engage in the frequent remembrance of God; honor fellow believers; and participate in missionary work (da’wah) by spreading awareness of Islam.
Da’wah is God’s way of bringing believers to faith and the means by which prophets call individuals and communities back to God. Historically, missionary da’wah accompanied commercial ventures or followed military conquests. It was also the function of the caliph, extending authority over Muslims outside Islamic lands and promoting Islamic unity.
The “invitation”, or call, to accept Islam should be extended not just to non Muslims, but also to Muslims who do not observe Islam in its fullest form. Calling non-Muslims and “inconsistent” Muslims to Islam is considered by Muslim theologians to be an unconditional duty inherent to Islam that the Muslim community must fulfill. Every Muslim is considered a missionary of Islam.
The da’wah message is nonviolent and harbors no hatred for other faiths or peoples. Instead, it seeks to show Muslims that the injustice and oppression they face are a symptom of a society that has lost its morality. They insist the solution lies in spiritual renewal. In their lessons, drawn from Qur’anic verses and the recorded sayings of Prophet Muhammad, da’wah supporters lay out two simple aims. First, they encourage fellow Muslims to return to what they believe are the standards and morals of the prophet’s companions. Second, they recruit, asking worshipers to join da'wah and take part in kharooj. Kharooj is a the designated mission defined by the number of days involved in the spiritual journey ,typically 3 days,40 days or four months.
Da’wah can be pursued through writing, speaking, one’s conduct, one’s attitude, through behavior, through interaction. The best da’wah is through demonstration of one’s good conduct. Some of the important Qur’anic verses that guide da’wah are enumerated below:
“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (Q 16:125)
“And have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble (dignity)” (Q 73:10,11)
“But what is the mission of messengers but to preach the clear message?” (Q 16:35).
“And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation)” (Q 29:46).
“Thy duty is but to convey (the message)” (Q 42:48).
“We have not sent thee but as a universal (messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not.” (Q 34:28)
“Thy duty is to convey the message; and in Allah’s sight are (all) His servants.” (Q 19:20)
The most accomplished modern missionary is Mohammed Ilyas Kandhlawi. When he began his revivalist movement in northwest India in 1927, it was a response to a dominant Hindu culture that Muslims feared could sweep away centuries of Islamic norms and traditions. Kandhlawi wanted to take his teachings from the classroom to the common man and woman.
What began as a revivalist movement in British-ruled India has over the past century transformed into a global phenomenon that may have as many as 50 million followers. Strictly apolitical, da’wah urges members to undertake a personal spiritual journey in the manner of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers. Their task is to travel lightly and spread the word to fellow Muslims – from village to village, mosque to mosque – so that more are brought into the fold. In Urdu, it was dubbed Tablighi Jamaat, or proselytizing group. Its name later evolved to da’wah and Tabligh in Arabic, meaning calling and proselytizing.
Kandhlawi died in 1944. But the decentralized movement he created has become a global network, propelled by its simple revivalist message and by the dedication of mostly young men drawn by its idealism.
Every day, thousands of groups of da’wah followers go on missions, called kharooj. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, they approach people door-to-door. They give a two-minute speech, offer a blessing to the people they visit, and make one request: that they join them for prayer and a brief lecture at the neighborhood mosque. Instead of adopting the frayed coarse discourses , the da’is should use interesting anecdotes from the Islamic scriptures to enthuse the initiates.
An important point a da’I must emphasize is that the Islamic concept of spirituality differs from that of other religions. In contrast to the renunciation of the world and physical self denial, the Islamic concept of spirituality lays stress on being in the midst of life, facing all the difficulties and hardships, and performing all the activities with the sole objective of seeking the pleasure of God. Man is God’s vicegerent and must fulfill the specified duties and obligations.
Far from proselytising and inducing others to change their religion or way of life against their free will, Islam doesn't permit use of coercive, aggressive or violent efforts even while exhorting people to the common good of whole mankind. To set an example, da’wah followers attempt to emulate the social practices of Muhammad in all aspects of life, ranging from which foot should exit the mosque first to which direction to face when sleeping at night. They eat from communal platters on the ground and brush their teeth with twigs known for their antibacterial properties, as did the prophet’s companions.
In fact, the Qur’an has made it explicitly and repeatedly clear that the method of both Islamic call (da’wah) and preaching (balagh) should be fair, balanced, moderate, peaceful and non-violent. While the Qur'anic term “balagh” means "to convey the message”, and” not to convert” it involves wisdom and prudence on the part of the preacher.
“You cannot guide whoever you please: it is God who guides whom He will” (Q28:56)
“It is not up to you to guide them, but Allah guides whom He wills.” (Q2:72)
God already knows who is blessed or destined for paradise and who is doomed for hell. This has already been written with Him: So Islamic preachers have to call people to God, but with no insistence, force or coercion. All they have to do is try to convey the message, not to convert, and it is God Who guide them on the right path.
[Moin Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker. He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades. He can be reached at email@example.com.]