Paper written by Prof Dr Omar Hasan
for the International Seminar on Islam in New Zealand’ organized by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Islamic
Cultural Center in Australia and the Federation of Islamic Organizations in New Zealand’ in the period 20-22 June 2003
1.0 NATURE OF ISLAMIC DA’AWAH
A. CHARACTERIZATION OF DA’AWAH
DEFINITION OF DA’AWAH
Da’awah is conveying
the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims. Da’awah is a communication
process involving the caller, the called, the message, and behavioural change as a result of the message. The change could
be accepting or practicing Islam better. Included in da’awah are efforts
at establishment of freedom of choice, of conscience and of religious practice. Any effort to stop oppression and violation
of human rights is da’awah. Whatever prevents people from free access to
the message must be opposed. Once freedom of access and freedom of choice have been established, there is no compulsion to
accept Islam. People must be free to choose. Tauhid is the basis for all da’awa efforts, al tauhid asaas al da’awa[i].
DA’AWAH IN THE
QUR’AN and SUNNAT
All people involved in da’awah should understand
that accepting Islam is a favor for the called and not the caller[ii]. The caller conveys the message and it is Allah who guides[iii]. Allah guides who He likes to the right path[iv]. The facts of Islam should be presented as they are because truth displaces falsehood[v]. The Qur’an is the main tool of da’awa.
The Qur'an was made easy for understanding[vi].The caller benefits from da’awah.
Ordering good and forbidding bad benefits the caller by helping improve himself[vii]. The Qur’an has recounted the da’awah experiences of previous prophets: Ibrahim[viii], Nuh[ix], Shu’aib[x], Saleh[xi], Ilyas[xii], Luqman[xiii], Yunus[xiv], Ya’aqub[xv], Idris[xvi], Yusuf[xvii], Hud[xviii], Lut[xix], Musa[xx], and Isa[xxi]. Several effective methods of da’awah can be used. The caller should use wisdom,
beautiful exhortation, and good argument[xxii]. Influence by example is an effective tool for changing people[xxiii]. The caller must stay with the community being called in order to influence them more[xxiv]. The best argument is used[xxv]. The called should not be provoked to abuse back[xxvi]. The caller should be aware of and take precautions against the human tendency to be
argumentative[xxvii]. The caller must be lenient in his approach[xxviii]. He must know halal and haram and apply to himself what he enjoins others[xxix]. Preaching must be brief[xxx]. Too much preaching should be avoided[xxxi]. It is best to preach at intervals so that people do not get bored[xxxii]. Effective da’awah requires speaking in the language of the called because all
prophets were sent with the language of their people[xxxiii]. Credibility of the caller is a very important ingredient of successful da’awah.
The prophet Muhammad started by establishing his credibility with the Quraish[xxxiv]. Heraclius asked about the prophet’s character, behavior, and background when he
received the letter calling him to Islam[xxxv]. Da’awah should start with the nearest relatives[xxxvi]. Material contributions can be useful for those whose hearts are being reconciled to
Islam[xxxvii]. Acts of kindness can lead to conversion[xxxviii]. Da’awah can be by letter for example the prophet’s letter to Heraclius[xxxix].
B. DA’AWAH and DYNAMISM
Da’awah is a very important mission for
the ummah and was mentioned in many verses of the Qur’an[xl]. Da’awah is an indication of dynamism.
Islam is a missionary religion. Whenever Muslims are serious about their religion, they automatically find themselves engaged
in da’awah. Da’awah involves reminding. Human beings are not perfect. They forget and transgress and must be brought
back to the straight path.
C. OBLIGATION OF DA’AWAH
Muslims are obliged to undertake da’awah,
wujuub al da’awah[xli]. The obligation is collective, fardh kifayat,
and is discharged if some people undertake it on behalf of the community[xlii]. This however does not make da’awah
the vocation of professionals. Everybody is required to use any opportunity they get to undertake da’awah however small the effort may be. Da’awah must be
undertaken at all places and times. No occasion should be missed without making da’awah. All avenues must be used. You
must knock on every door.
D. LEVELS OF DA’AWAH
Da’awah can be at three levels. The first
level is calling people to accept the creed and this is accomplished by the pronouncement of the kalima. The second level is calling upon individuals and families to practice and live Islam. The third level
is calling upon the whole society to be organized according to the teachings of Islam.
E. IMPACT OF DA’AWAH
Da’awah has impact on the caller, the
called, and the society at large. The caller has to live up to certain expectations. You cannot give of what you do not have.
The called may be guided to the truth now or later. The society at large will learn more about Islam and appreciate its beauty.
This will consequently lead to decrease of hostility.
2.0 THE CALLER
A. REWARDS OF DA’AWAH
Every adult Muslim is obliged to do da’awah
to the extent of ability. This is an ummatic duty. The caller gets the reward for
calling people to guidance equal to what they themselves get[xliii]. Accepting Islam is a favor for the called not the caller. As a caller you have
a duty to convey the message. You get rewards for fulfilling the duty. Guidance in the end is from Allah. He gives that gift
to whomever he wants.
B. THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD AS A MODEL
The prophet Muhammad is the best model of a caller as described in the Qur’an. He conveyed
the message in the best of ways[xliv]. The message is universal, ‘aalamiyat
al risaalat[xlv] and clear, wudhuuhu al risalat[xlvi]. He undertook several duties[xlvii]. He was well behaved[xlviii]. He was a human who carried the message, bashariyat
Muhammad[xlix]. He was always concerned about the believers, hariis
ala al muuminuun[l].He was humble[li]. He had mercy, rahmat[lii] and was sympathetic, rauuf[liii]. He was patient[liv].He balanced giving glad tidings,
tabshiir[lv] and warning, mundhir[lvi].
We can learn a lot from the da’awah experiences
of Muhammad (PBUH). He made da’awah among the tribes of Yathrib[lvii] when they came for pilgrimage to Makka. He made da’awah
to various Arab tribes during the hajj season in Makka[lviii]. He traveled to Taif for da’awah[lix]. He met a lot of problems in his work. ‘Uqbat bin Mu’idh attacked him[lx]. Waste was thrown on his back while praying at the Ka’aba[lxi]..
C. OTHER MODELS OF DA’AWAH
We can also learn a lot from the da’awah
of previous communities, da’awat al umaam al saabiqat[lxii]. The Prophet Yusuf even in prison did not forget the da’awah
D. ATTRIBUTES OF A CALLER
The caller must have the following personality characteristics: patience, wisdom, insight,
iman,‘Ilm, kindness, consideration,
firmness, commitment, good personal relations, generosity, practicality, flexibility, and humility. The most important attribute
is commitment, ikhlaas[lxiv].
The following characteristics make a caller more persuasive: Being perceived as honest,
personal power, attractiveness, similarity to the called, being of the same gender as the called, expertise, and credibility.
E. DA’AWAH and SELF IMPROVEMENT
You do not have to be perfect to start da’awah.
Da’awah will help you get better. Da’awah
helps you improve yourself. The challenge is that you have to live up to certain standards if you to call others. You are
therefore more on your guard than others to avoid making any mistakes. You have to check yourself continuously: self-criticism,
self-evaluation, looking for mistakes in ideas, methods, and personal life. All da’awah
workers whether full-time or part-time must be trained. The training program must answer the following questions: Why train?
Who trains? What is the content of training?. The training program should be tailored to the local situation.
3.0 THE CALLED
A. VARIOUS TARGETS
The called are the target of da’awah.
Everybody is targeted, Muslims and non-Muslims, all races and nationalities, all social classes, and all parts of the world.
Da’awah can be targeted at non-Muslim believers, non-Muslim non-believers
(atheists and agnostics), or the general society.
Da’awah to Muslims involves calling them
to practice Islam.
Da’awah to non-Muslims exposes the truth
and positives of Islam while correcting the disinformation by the enemies. It aims at returning them to the natural state
of human beings, which is Islam. Da’awah to the general society involves
propagating to the general public with the aim of making them aware or conscious of the presence of Islam.
D. SPECIAL POPULATIONS
Da’awah programs could target special
populations such as women, youths, patients in hospitals, prisoners, students, laborers, and workers. They could also target
special social classes such as artists and stars, aristocrats, middle class, professionals, and ordinary people.
E. THE MARGINALIZED
The marginalized and rejected members or classes of society are a special target group
for da’awah because they are so susceptible. These include: criminals in
prisons, drug addicts, the socially deprived, etc. They are looking for an alternative that will take them out of their sad
4.0 STRATEGIES AND METHODS
A. DA’AWAH STRATEGIES
Da’awah approaches could be defensive
and reactive or aggressive and pro-active. It is better to take the initiative to take the message to the people rather
than wait to defend it from attacks and distortions. When attacked, you should not take a defensive stance. Do not waste time
in warding off ill-meant attacks and you fail to present the positives and strength of your message.
A phased approach must be used. The prophet started da’awah in secret. He called relatives first before addressing the public. He called Arabs before calling
the rest of the world. The strategy is to gradually expand the circle of truth by defections from the circle of falsehood
Gradualism is needed in da’awah,
al tadarruj fi al da’awa[lxv]. Start by calling people to tauhid and
to worship of the creator. Emphasize ‘aqiidah because it is the basis of
the Ummah. People enter and leave the Ummah on the basis of ‘aqiidah. Present
only the basics that are agreed on by everybody. Avoid any matters of differences or unclear issues.
Foot in the door approach is to present a weak point that will be accepted easily
then present the stronger one later. The door in the foot strategy is to present a strong argument at the start and
after it is rejected you present a weak one that is accepted as a concession.
Iman is not only intellectual conviction or acquisition of knowledge. It also includes
emotional attachment and practical application. Da’awah will have a permanent
impact only when it is followed by tarbiyyah.
Remember that influence by example is the most powerful tool; your character and
behavior must be impeccable even in the face of hostile attacks. You must mix and socialize with the people called.
You should never seek to convince people with your message by offering them material
incentives. They will return to wherever they came from as soon as the material benefits stop. It however helps to offer
some help to people in need as a way of establishing relationships and closeness which as was said above is a positive preliminary
step to da’awah. Material help strengthens the new Muslim against temptations
of being diverted from the new faith. Living with the called and getting to understand them as well as sharing their happiness
and sorrows helps a lot. Acts of kindness however shall open up people’s hearts.
B. WISDOM IN DA’AWAH
Wisdom in da’awah, al hikmat fi al
da’awah[lxvi], is always effective. You must be wise in your approach. Do not antagonize or provoke
people. Your arguments should be polite. They should aim at convincing and not defeating people and making them feel bad about
themselves. There is a human tendency to be argumentative. Some people will argue for the sake of argument. Watch out for
such people. They will waste your time and you will get nowhere with them. Do not attack or criticize. Provide the alternative.
Always concentrate on presenting the truth. Truth automatically displaces falsehood. You need not attack the falsehood in
all cases. Attack provokes counter attacks and may become a psychological barrier to the conveyance of the message.
C. DIRECT DA’AWAH METHODS
Da’awah may be by direct or indirect
approach. It may be by personal or remote contact. In our experience the most effective methods are those that involve
personal contact. Personal contact methods may be one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one, and many-to-many. Direct contact
and oral discussion are effective because of the personal rapport and immediate feedback. Occasions for direct contact for
purposes of da’awah include: the street, the work place, the mosque, the
market, the theater, and public celebrations. Storytellers and griots in rural
areas are a resource that has not been used. Public adhan over the loudspeaker
has an impact by daily reminding listeners, Muslim and non-Muslim about Allah. The methods of da’awah used in direct contact include: good personal relations to influence by example, teaching and tarbiyyat, preaching (wa'dh, khutbat),
lectures, seminars, conferences, debates, discussions, providing social services, material assistance to the muallafat qulubuhum, treating people with justice, telling people to do good and forbidding the bad, telling
stories and proverbs, and poetry. It is better to start da’awah with people
you already know or with whom you have some sort of relationship. This is easier than complete strangers. Preaching, maw’idhat[lxvii], is an effective method of da’awah
but should not be misused. Do not preach too much to people. Avoid being a nuisance. Do not impose yourself on people. Make
sure that when talking to them they are indeed interested. It is better to talk to people briefly but repeat the process than
bore them with a long presentation.
D. INDIRECT DA’AWAH METHODS
Indirect/remote contacts include: letters (personal and circulars), books, newsletters,
newspapers, flyers, the public library, artistic works, cartoons, films and videos, radio and TV, audio cassettes. Try to
talk to people in the language they understand. By language is meant not only English, French, or German. You must use idioms,
examples, expressions, and concepts that they understand. You must gear your communication to the cultural and educational
background of the called. The biggest mistake is to talk to everybody alike. There are differences that must be respected.
E. TYPES/STAGES OF CONVERSION
Conversion can be intellectual, emotional or both. Every body comes to Islam
through a different sequence. Some people start by reading and getting intellectually convinced. Then they make contact with
Muslims and get emotionally and cultural involved. Some people live with Muslims, see their behavior and get attracted to
their religion and way of life. They accept Islam and study to get the intellectual dimension. Calibrate the content and method
of the message to the appropriate stage of conversion. Philosophical understanding of the faith is not a condition for conversion
and is not an obligation. It will come with time. Moral transformation is individual. The aim should be to raise the level
of the individual. The message should therefore be individualized and customized as much as possible to the intellectual and
emotional state of the target. The message conveyed is simple and direct; keep it so. Do not complicate it at all. Ideas are
powerful and are infectious. True ideas are the most powerful. We have to continue propagating even if there are no tangible
results. People are always infected but the manifestation of changed attitudes, convictions, and beliefs may be delayed.
5.0 PLANNING, EXECUTION, AND EVALUATION
Da’awah has its own dynamics.
It is very difficult at the beginning. Once you start getting some success with some people accepting the call, things get
easier. Success leads to more success. People tend to get convinced if they see others like themselves being convinced.
Planning da’awah is very important in
the complicated society of today. Planning basically helps use available resources in the most efficient way. The main
elements that a da’awah plan covers are: the caller, the called, the time
dimension, resources (money, material), and program control.
Da’awah requires funding. It however
can never succeed if it is fully professionalized. Volunteers will always be needed to do the legwork. Blessings are in the
motivation and enthusiasm of the volunteers.
Da’awah must be coordinated to
avoid unnecessary duplication and competition. Individual initiative should never be curtailed or suppressed in the name of
unity and coordination. What you should aim at is unity of purpose and not necessarily one da’awah organization.
Da’awah programs must be evaluated for effectiveness; the results of evaluation being used to improve the program.
Lack of immediate success should not be a reason for giving up. Continue and persevere. Most evaluation is that of the process.
Outcome evaluation very difficult and unreliable in da’awah. Results of da’awah are long-term and are difficult to quantify. Never forget to pray to
Allah to guide the called. You may do all what is humanly possible and not succeed. It is Allah who guides. Opposition should
never tempt you to consider a violent approach. Da’awah is a peaceful process
that targets the hearts of men and not their bodies.