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Da’wah A Practical Or Theoretical Field…

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Da’wah A Practical Or Theoretical  Field…

                        Abu Muhammad Abdullaah Flaming St. Fleur                          

 

      Da’wah[1] is a main theme found throughout the Qur’an and the sunnah  (prophetic tradition) of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) Hence da’wah is a duty upon all Muslims in general based on one’s capacity. With Islam being one of the world’s fastest growing religion with 1.9 billion adherents, the propagation of Islam has certainly cultivated as more scholars, preachers, students are calling to Islam in their communities, their books, videos, lectures, public speaking events, schools, universities, etc. As Muslims a foundation have been set for us regarding giving da’wah, however if we are to explore every da’wah organization, team or group we would find diverse concepts of methodology. From observing many Muslims in the act of giving da’wah, calling to Islam, one question arise is, to acquire da’wah a practical or a theoretical field? When asking the da’ee[2] is da’wah something they have studied or was it practical, I.e., learnt through experience? The replies came in various forms, with various answers which can cause alarm for the one in search for a clear answer. They’re many Muslims today more than ever, motivated to give da’wah and make a positive impact in their society sincerely for the sake of Allah Subhanahu Wa’ Ta ala. However, such question, whether da’wah is acquired practical or theoretical? is a question needing an answer for clarification of the path of those who desire to give da’wah. Depending on the answer, it maybe of enormous benefit giving clarity to the matter or perhaps cause great failure triggering confusion, loss of aspiration or even worse weakening in imaan (faith).

Today da’wah is learnt in many different forms. There are students of knowledge who attend universities, madrassas, intensive da’wah courses, seminars, workshops etc. who learn how to give da’wah from the classroom setting. Then there are those who have not attended any intensive learning courses, seminars, semesters in universities etc. however learned directly through real life practice and experience. In fact, one of the world’s biggest da’wah organizations in Islam, Tablighi-Jamaat is known for taking Muslims on khuruj[3] from out their homes into the mosques to encourage Muslims to return to their religion and various rituals, one of them being giving da’wah. Though it is highly debated if what they are doing is considered da’wah, or Islah[4] there methodology is bringing one to the realm of the mosque for several days (even weeks, months) so the Muslim may learn their beliefs, rituals, dress, behavior, speech, from daily practical routine. So, their approach is the practical form where one learns as they are in the field itself. Some of us may call it “learn as you go” basically learning the field as you commence it over time. Now if the questioned is posed is da’wah or why is da’wah a practical field and not a theoretical one? Or vice-versa why is da’wah a theoretical one and not a practical one? My response to both questions would be in the negative.

Everyone may hold an opinion, strategy or methodology of giving da’wah which may or may not have worked for them in the pass or even up until today. Da’wah is a form of worship however it is not restricted to a particular form, and one may implore methods outside of revelation if it is not comprising that which is prohibited. Neither should implore the means of da’wah by indulging in that which is detested. However, there is no doubt amongst us Muslims that the best da’ee, the best exemplary model is our beloved Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abd al-Muttalib (Peace and blessings be upon him). Therefore, in order to comprehend the utmost way of giving da’wah, is to investigate the sunnah to get the ideal way of the Prophet himself. In the sunnah is ample examples of not only how he himself performed da’wah but also how he instructed to give da’wah. While recognizing our beloved Prophet Muhammad as the exemplary model for the da’ee, we must also consider the verse, Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta ’ala mentioned in surat l-qasas (meaning of the ayah) “Verily! You (O Muhammad) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are the guided. “(Al-Qasas, 28;56, Mohsin Khan) Allah Jalla Wa ‘ala alone is the one who guides whom He pleases. Therefore, it is incumbent that the da’ee also examines the noble Book of Allah to get a broad scope of the matter. As many of our scholars, teachers and companions would often say, its referring matters back to the Book of Allah (Al-Qur’an) and the authentic Sunnah, and the understanding of our righteous salaf of this religion (may Allah have mercy upon them all). I would argue da’wah for us today is both theoretical and practical. The da’ee who fails to understand this point is more likely to fall into major error possibly causing more harm than good, though he or she is sincere in their effort. It is essential that the da’ee not only know but also comprehends da’wah is both practical and theoretical and unraveling why, will aid him or her in their endeavors of calling to Islam.

Da’wah A Theoretical Field

What is crucial to the caller to know is that da’wah does have a theoretical side to its field. Da’wah is theoretical as the caller must first comprehend the methodology of giving da’wah according to that which was revealed by revelation (wahy). Another reason da’wah is theoretical is because the da’ee must be well grounded upon firm knowledge (of the religion). If the da’ee is not well grounded upon firm knowledge of the religion, at bare minimum, should at least encompass knowledge of the matter at hand in its entirety. Therefore, how can one call to what he does not possess? How can one call to Islam without an accurate understanding of Islam itself? The question can be posed to the da’ee where or with what (topic) does the da’wah starts with (if the da’ee is in position to choose)? What is the first thing one is to call to? On what basis or strategy do we address whom we are speaking to? Is da’wah given to one person the same manner given to all persons? Such questions may seem intimidating to someone who happen to leap into giving da’wah in a practical format, face to face dialogue with no theoretical foundation. In fact, the da’ee may begin to answer such questions from his or her own whims and desires or perhaps more likely to guess some random responses.  This form of approach is incorrect as it may give the wrong impression of Islam or even lead to telling lies about Islam. The severity of telling lies is mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah and the believer should be ever mindful before speaking on matters without knowledge. Allah Ta ‘ala mentions (meaning of the ayah) “…Verily, those who invent lies against Allah will never prosper.” (An-Nahl, 16:116, Mohsin Khan) In surat hud lying is linked with the zalimun (polytheists, wrong-doers, oppressors, etc) and the curse of Allah.  “And who does more wrong than he who invents a lie against Allah. Such will be brought before their Lord, and the witnesses will say, “These are the ones who lied against their Lord!” No doubt! the curse of Allah is on the Zalimun (polytheists, wrong-doers, oppressors, etc.).” (Al-Hud, 11:18, Mohsin Khan) It also comes in a hadith sahih narrated by Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘Do not tell lies about me, for telling lies about me leads to Hell (fire).”  (Ibn Majah, 32) In another sahih hadith, Abdullah reported Allah’s Messenger (Peace be and blessings be upon him) as saying: “Truth leads one to Paradise and virtue leads one to Paradise and the person tells the truth until he is recorded as truthful and lie leads to obscenity and obscenity leads to Hell, and the person tells a lie until he is recorded as a liar.” (Muslim, 6307)

Examining the Qur’an and Sunnah one is to see we have been given instructions and advice in the method of giving da’wah. Such information is vital and much necessary to intake prior to calling to Islam. The da’ee intention should be purely for the sake of Allah, seeking the pleasure of Allah and should submit themselves to the guidance given by Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta ‘ala and His Messenger.  Allah Ta’ ala mentions in His noble book in surat yusuf (meaning of the ayah) …

“Say (O Muhammad): “This is my way; I invite unto Allah (i.e. to the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism) with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me (also must invite others to Allah i.e to the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism) with sure knowledge. And Glorified and Exalted be Allah (above all that they associate as partners with Him). And I am not of the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah; those who worship others along with Allah or set up rivals or partners to Allah).”

(Yusuf, 12:108, Mohsin Khan)

Pertaining to this paper, two things should be noted from this verse, (1) Allah Jalla Wa ‘ala mentions to His Prophet to say in meaning “Say (O Muhammad):, This is my way” Implying that calling to Allah should be in the manner that is pleasing to Him and one can not proceed in such manner by calling to Allah without imploring what He (Allah) has instructed. (2) “…I invite unto Allah with sure knowledge…” It is necessary emphasis is made on this ayah mentioning sure knowledge. The da’ee can not assume, guess, in his da’wah when calling to Islam. The da’ee must be grounded on knowledge where he or she is able to respond appropriately to questions pertaining to the religion of Al-Islam.  Therefore, the da’ee is required to have some foundation in calling to Islam based on the Book and Sunnah. The Qur’an and Sunnah are our guide and methodology in calling to Islam, thus we must extract its guidance for our endeavors in da’wah and in our lives in general.

Allah Subhanahu Wa ta ‘ala, the one who guides whom He wills, advised the Prophet and his community on certain instructions pertaining to calling to Allah in His noble Book in surat l-nahl (meaning of the ayah) …

“Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom (i.e. with the Divine Inspiration and the Quran) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided.” (An-Nahl, 16:125, Mohsin Khan)

Allah Jalla Wa ‘ala commands us when calling to Islam, His way, to call the people with (1) wisdom (hikmah) which is according to that which was revealed from the Qur’an, and the Sunnah (the way of our beloved Prophet)[5] and by putting things in its proper perspective and giving the matter its full right. (2) Fair preaching, meaning warning and advising them of incidents from the Qur’an about the people who disbelieved, disobeyed or turned away from the calling to Allah. Warning of the punishment of Allah that is near. (3) And argue with them with that which is best, means debating with them in the best conduct featuring various characteristics such as kindness, love, hope, compassion, justice, gentleness, humbleness, sincerity etc. Such characteristics are essential especially in a diverse community, with diverse ethnicities, nationalities while also interacting with people of different faith groups, non-Muslims and atheists. Just as our Prophet was of extraordinary persona and conduct, an exemplary example for our community, it is of great importance for Muslims to their best ability perfect their conduct and rectify their short comings in behavior. “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.” (Al-Mumtahanah, 60:8, Mohsin Khan)

Another point one should be aware of is made in the Qur’an is sequence of da’wah, as to whom should the da’ee begin with. Who should the da’ee attempt to call to Allah first? Allah Jalla Wa ‘ala mentions in His noble Book (meaning of the verses) …

“And warn your tribe (O Muhammad) of near kindred.” (Ash-Shu’ara’, 26: 214, Mohsin Khan)

In surat l-tahrim Allah Jalla jalaluhu also warn the believer’s those whom they are accountable for to protect them. One of the ways of this protection according to some of the commentators of the Qur’an is by knowledge; teaching, and educating them in regard to Allah’s religion I, e its commandments, prohibitions, aims, virtues and punishments etc.

“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” (At-Tahrim, 66:6, Mohsin Khan)

 

Both ayahs above, though in different chapters are advising of calling your family and nearest of kin to Islam first as a da’ee. It is them whom Allah Subhanahu Wa ta ‘ala have placed your responsibility over, first and foremost. Therefore, da’wah should always start with whom you are responsible for or in authority of then to those you know. We can extract the same methodology from the as-seerah an-Nabawiyyah (The Prophet’s biography) as he began calling his family to Islam then his tribe, then the people of Mecca and gradually spread the message throughout the Arabian Peninsula with aid of his noble household members (ahlul bayt), his wives (Mothers of the Believers) and his noble companions (may Allah be pleased with them all)

The da’ee should also be aware of not only it being the main issue of the matter but also, it is the first and foremost theme one must start the call to with, which is at-tawheed (the absolute Oneness, Uniqueness and worship of Allah alone; pure Islamic monotheism). The message of tawheed Is encompassed in the shahadah (the testimony of faith) affirming belief in the Oneness, Uniqueness and worship of Allah (alone)while negating all other deity being worthy of worship. Hence, this is a critical point when calling to Islam and is major concept one must exhort as it is the fundamental belief in Islam, which everything else lies upon. The Prophet Muhammad also exhorted this methodology for his companions and ummah who wishes to tread the path Allah Ta ‘ala is pleased with.

Ibn Abbas reported: When the Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) sent Muadh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) to Yemen, he said to him: “Verily, you are coming to a people among the people of the Book, so call them to testify there is no God but Allah and I am the Messenger of Allah. If they accept that, then teach them that Allah has obligated five prayers in each day and night. If they accept that, then teach them that Allah as obligated charity to be taken from the rich and given to the poor. If they accept that, beware not to take from the best of their wealth. Be on guard from the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allah (Muslim, 19)

The hadith of Mu’adh ibn Jabal being sent to Yemen is often mentioned for da’wah purposes as many benefits can be derived from it for the da’ee. The hadith priorities elements of da’wah and makes clear the priority in calling to Islam which is La Ilaaha Illa Allah (none has the right to be worshipped except Allah). This is what the da’ee should first and foremost call to when giving da’wah to the common folk. The hadith also details an important issue in da’wah which is gradually telling the commands and prohibitions of Allah and not being overbearing. Applying everything at once people may find it too much to bear at once, so the da’ee should keep in mind the approach advised to Mu’adh. It should be mentioned for the da’ee if one was to accept Islam to inform them of the command of as-salah (the obligatory prayers) after accepting Islam. After as-salah slowing moving towards the other pillars, I.e., Zakat etc.  Another important principle taken from the hadith is the concept of knowing who or whom you are giving da’wah too (if possible). This concept can be understood from the Prophet’s statement “you are coming to a people among the people of the Book”. Thus, the da’ee must (if possible) know the background of whom he or she is speaking to, in the aspect of belief, background, origin, if possible, customs etc.  The hadith also related to the da’ee warns about oppression and the da’ee should not be of those who oppress.

The character of the da’ee is also an importance, as the da’ee is the soul bearer of the message being put forth. It is of great importance that not only is the message put forth in a good manner but also the conduct of the caller. Consequently, the bad characteristics is just as harmful to the message. Mu’adh was also advised by the Prophet before going to Yemen about good character.

Mu’adh ibn Jabal reported: The last advice the Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) gave to me when I put my foot in the stirrup was that he said: “Make your character excellent for the people, O Mu’adh ibn Jabal.” (Muwatta, 1671)

The matter of conduct is very important and not only restricted to the da’ee but it is the nature of the believer thus in Islamic law there is many of evidences stressing the good character of the Muslim. The character of the Prophet is sufficient for anyone of his ummah (who accepted Islam) to adhere to, and call others too.

Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: The most perfect believer in respect of faith is he who is best of them in manners. (Abu Dawood, 4682) Hasan Sahih by Shaykh Al-Albani.

Narrated Masruq: Abdullah bin ‘Amr mentioned Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying that he was neither a Fahish nor a Mutafahish. Abdullah bin ‘Amr added, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, ‘The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.'(Bukhari, 6029)

The Qur’an and sunnah places great emphasis on giving da’wah and if one is to explore into it, would be able to find great benefit. From the benefit is various principals, instructions and wisdoms for those who are calling to Islam. Therefore, the one who is giving da’wah, should know the foundation placed in da’wah from the Book and sunnah in order to honorably and properly convey the message of Islam. From the abundant ayaat (versus) of the noble Qur’an and ahaadith from the authentic sunnah these are proofs that da’wah is theoretical as well as practical. One should call to Islam according to what have been revealed and in order to do so, the da’ee must delve into the sources of revelation. Failure to do the theoretical aspect of da’wah is incorrect and may lead to a negative impact not only on the da’ee but also the message of Islam being propagated.

Da’wah a Practical Field

It should be of no doubt that da’wah is theoretical from the many evidence from the Quran and Sunnah. However, it is also vital to know da’wah is a practical field. Learning and studying is not enough as the fruit of knowledge is putting it (beneficial knowledge) into action. Dialogue is essential to giving da’wah, one must be ready to engage and communicate the message to others whether through instruction, education or answering questions clarifying misconceptions. Da’wah can be upfront and combative; therefore, the da’ee should be ready and equipped with knowledge, examples, textual proofs, and rational proofs putting forth with sound reasoning to the call.  The practical field requires action to take place when calling to Allah that is by being present, going forth and speaking.

The verse in surat l-ta ha addresses Musa and his brother Haroon (Peace be upon them both) commanding them to go deliver the message to Firaun (pharaoh).

“Go, both of you, to Fir’aun (Pharaoh), verily, he has transgressed (all bounds in disbelief and disobedience and behaved as an arrogant and as a tyrant). (Ta-Ha, 20:43, Mohsin Khan)

Special attention should be noted that Allah Subhanahu Wa ta ‘ala commanded them two to “go” (اذهبا) entailing an action must take place. The theoretical aspect of da’wah is not enough and the knowledge must be applied in dialogue. Unless handing out pamphlets, books, CD’s, or posting information online majority and more standard da’wah scenarios obligates one to speak, communicate and engage with the opposed. Allah in surat l ta ha mentions to Musa in regard to Firaun.  (Meaning of the ayah)

“And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear Allah.”

(Ta-Ha, 20:44, Mohsin Khan)

Allah Ta ‘ala once again in one of the earliest ayahs revealed the Prophet Muhammad in surat l-mudaththir in the verses commissioning him as a Messenger to warn. Thus, warning entails speech and action which demands some form of practicality.

‘Arise and warn! And your Lord (Allah) magnify!”

(Al-Muddaththir, 74:2-3, Mohsin Khan)

Another example taken from the Qur’an is Ibrahim (Abraham) when breaking the idols in objection to polytheism and the act of his people committing idolatry. The people of Prophet Ibrahim, whom where idol-worshippers was made apparent that their idols where found destroyed except for the biggest of them. The Quran makes mentions of this in surat-l-anbiyaa (in meaning) “They said: “We heard a young man talking (against) them (the idols) who is called Ibrahim (Abraham).”  “They said: “Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may testify.” Ibrahim was then taken to the ruler in accusation of breaking the idols mentioned by the people. Ibrahim was then questioned about the destroyed idols “They said: “Are you the one who has done this to our gods, O Ibrahim (Abraham)?” The reply of Prophet Ibrahim is what I want to bring focus to… The Prophet Ibrahim (Peace and blessings be upon him) answered when question, if he was the one who destroyed the idols except for the biggest. His reply to them was said: “Nay, this one, the biggest of them (idols) did it. Ask them if they can speak!” The idols were taken as gods by the people, yet they could bring neither benefit nor harm.

Prophet Ibrahim engaged in dialogue with his people and prior to that destroying most of the idols they have taken for gods. In his dialogue he was able to draw his people to a rational assumption that the biggest idols could not have broken the others. This is a prime example of da’wah being practical as the da’ee must be willing to speak and address the people questions, concerns, misconceptions, make apparent what one’s fallacy is and at times debating, if to clarify the truth (to those sincerely in search for it) it is no problem. However, this is not the norm as argumentation cause animosity and harden the hearts. The Prophet Ibrahim case with his people was superb as it brought them to recollect with sound reasoning and concluded what he wanted them to, by his question posed. Their response was noted in the Qur’an said: “So they turned to themselves and said: “Verily, you are the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers).” (Al-Anbiya’, 21:64, Mohsin Khan) They did not know what to say as the argument put forth was very sound hence clear and precise.

Ibn Kathir in his tafseer mentions in regards to the reason surat l-ikhlas was revealed due the saying “When the Jews said, `We worship Uzayr, the son of Allah,’ and the Christians said, `We worship the Messiah (Isa), the son of Allah,’ and the Zoroastrians said, `We worship the sun and the moon,’ and the idolaters said, `We worship idols,’ ..Then Allah revealed surah Al-Ikhlas Allah revealed to His Messenger,

“Say (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)): “He is Allah, (the) One.   Allah-us-Samad (The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks).Allah-us-Samad (The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks). He begets not, nor was He begotten; And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him”

(Al-Ikhlaas, 112, Mohsin Khan)

The mentioning of Ibn Kathir tafseer was to also indicate that Allah Subhanahu Wa ta ‘ala revealed this verse as the polytheist was in dialogue with the Prophet about who Allah is. Another noted tafseer to the reason of this revelation was one of the polytheists who asked “O Muhammad! Tell us the lineage of your Lord.” Also indicating dialogue was taking place in result the surah was revealed.

In conclusion if one is to look throughout the Qur’an and Sunnah it is undeniable that one would conclude that da’wah is both theoretical and practical. The book and Sunnah gives plenty of advice, wisdoms and instructions how to go about calling people to Islam which is much needed. However, the instruction given from sources of revelation needs to be applied by speaking out, engaging with the people and clarifying any doubts and misconceptions and explaining Islam clearly as possible. Abandonment of one or the other will lack firmness in calling to Allah or will not go beyond pamphlets, books and CD’s which are still good however direct verbal communication is the best form of da’wah. As it was the ways of the Prophets to dialogue and engage with their people calling them to Islam and enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, advising the people with wisdom and fair preaching.

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

 

Uthaymin al, Muhammad bin Salih (2006) The Islamic Awakening. (Muhammad ibn, Faisal Trans.) Hijaz.

 

Halabi al, Ali Hasan Abdul Hamid (1995) Forty Hadeeth on the Call to Islam and the Caller. Al-Hidaayah

 

 

 

[1] Daw’ah– “invitation” or to invite or call. In Islam refers to propagating, teaching, promoting Islam, inviting to Islam, and/ or conveying the message of Islam.

[2] Da’ee– the one who engages in da’wah, conveying the message of Islam, or teaching Islam. The caller who call [or invite] to Islam.

[3] Tablighi Jamaat members and followers are encouraged to participate in spending time out of the home into the environment of the mosque (at times visiting) and its locality. During this stay at the mosque which ranges from 3 days, months to 1yr members are devoted to giving da’wah, visiting local neighborhoods of the mosque of stay, inviting Muslims to the mosque to connect them back to Islam rituals and daily practices and listen to sermons by elected Tablighi members.

[4] Islah is to reform Muslims, so their practice of Islam may improve, and prosper to being at a level where able to practice Islam properly. To revive and make better a Muslim’s level of faith through proper practice and understanding of the religion. Islah is often achieved through correction, education, training and self-development while removing iniquity and that which is harmful for growth etc..

[5] Ibn Kathir mentions in his tafseer, Ibn Jarir said “That is what was revealed to him from the Book and the Sunnah”

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