Vision of Da'wah

Da'wah Consciousness

The most fundamental question is that of our vision of Da'wah. Many problems emanate from that. Many things become problems because of that. Dawah in Islam, unlike Christian mission, is not a profession. It is not a subsidiary occupation that one may or may not engage in. No battery of paid workers and Da'iyas, no amount of literature and modern equipment, no number of sermons can solve our problem, unless we adopt the right view of Da'wah.

Da'wah, prior to everything, is a state of mind, a world view, an attitude to life, indeed a kind of life. The critical prerequisite to Da'wah is a consciousness, personal and collective, imbued with a true vision of Da'wah in Islam. Once we have understood what Islam is and what it demands of us, what place Da'wah should occupy in our Islamic life, we will have taken the first essential step towards understanding and solving our problem. This may sound too simplistic but, then, real solutions to complex problems are often simple.

What is Islam? It may seem rather naive to ask such a question here. But it is important, for a proper answer will set the whole perspective right. Islam means living in total surrender to Allah, in private and in public, inwardly and outwardly. This has two clear, important implications. One, as most of human life comprises of relationships with other people, living in surrender to Allah cannot be actualized fully unless other people join us in our endeavour, unless the whole society lives in surrender. Hence, at least inviting others to join in our venture, that is Da'wah, is an essential part of being Muslim. Two, Islam is not a once-in-a-lifetime decision; it is a process, it is a life-long pursuit. Hence we must continuously invite ourselves and everyone else to join in this pursuit.

Thus Da'wah is integral to Islam. To be a Muslim means to continually strive to become Muslim, that means to do Da'wah. In my humble view, there is no other way of becoming Muslim.

Da'wah is essential to the fulfilment of the very purpose of this Ummah, the purpose of its existence: the mission of Shahadah.

Thus We have charged you to be a community of the middle way, so that you may bear witness [to the Truth] before all mankind and the Messenger may bear witness [to it] before you (al-Baqarah 2: 143).

This mission of Shahadah is the same, in nature and import, as that entrusted to all the Messengers of Allah. Da'wah is an essential part of that mission:

O Messenger. We have sent you as witness, bearer of glad tidings, warner, caller to God, with His leave, and a radiant lamp (al-Ahzab 33: 45-6).

Da'wah has to be addressed to the 'self' as well as to the 'other', to the individual as well as to the society, to the black as well as to the white, to the Muslim as well as to the non-Muslim. It cannot be restricted to any race, colour, community, or religion.

This mission and duty we cannot shirk or evade or postpone on any plea whatsoever under any circumstances. We cannot wait to become 'purified' and 'perfect'. For, firstly, at no point in time can one consider oneself to have become purified and perfect. If one does so, indeed that very act will be the most impure act, an act of arrogance and pride; and at that very moment decline and decay will begin. Secondly, doing Da'wah, as I have said, is itself essential to becoming a good Muslim. Thirdly, considering oneself 'good' and superior to others is antithetical to the nature, spirit and methodology of Da'wah.

Da'wah is the most important, most significant, most obvious Sunnah of the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him.

O Messenger, deliver that which has been sent down to you from your Lord. If you do not, you will not have delivered His message. God will protect you from men (al-Ma'idah 5: 6).

Every Muslim is therefore a Da'iya. Da'wah cannot be given up or be a part-time occupation; it must become the life he lives.

Before we start thinking about approaches and methods, skills and techniques, we must create this consciousness. This dimension we seem to have lost. Our collective consciousness is devoid of it; so is our personal consciousness. That is why we have a billion Muslims on this planet and yet make no impact on non-Muslims. That is why we have non-Muslim minorities living among huge Muslim majorities, untouched by Islam. That is why we have significant Muslim minorities claimed to number two million in Britain who fail to make the slightest impression upon their neighbours and societies. That is why we have mosque after mosque built on landscapes which had no mosques before, and yet they make no impression on their vicinities. Is it possible that there should be fire in the heart and yet its warmth and glow not reach those who are in its vicinity?

At least some persons, if not all, should make this vision of Da'wah their state of mind. An individual imbued with a message and mission may look like an insignificant, ineffective entity. But was not there only one Da'iya in Makka? You may say: Ah, but he was a prophet. Yes, but he is the example, the norm, the uswah hasanah. And a very tiny seed can grow into a tall, large, leafy tree.

As a seed that puts forth its shoot, and strengthens it, and it grows stout and rises straight upon its stalk (al-Fath. 48: 29).

A good word is as a good tree, its roots are firm and its branches are in heaven; so it gives its produce every season by the leave of its Lord (Ibrahim 14: 24-5).

The collective consciousness of the Ummah at large we may not be able to change in the foreseeable future. The attitude of Muslims living within non-Muslim societies we may not modify. But at least those who have made their commitment to Islam as their life mission should take stock of themselves. Can their purpose creating a new man and a new society be achieved unless a significant proportion of non-Muslims join them in this mission? But what priority do they accord to this task in their thoughts and programmes?

What proportion of their time, their attention, their resources, their activities is devoted to this task? Have they not become content with merely preserving their own cultural identity as a minority? In view of this, why should any non-Muslim ever consider becoming part of a minority culture? What attraction does that culture hold for him? Have new Muslims found an appropriate place in Islamic organizations or on Islamic platforms during the last 25 years? Is there anything in the programmes of these organizations language or content which would be attractive to them?

Simple questions? Yes, but the answers will reveal the degree of our apathy and indifference. At least the Islamic groups should rethink their priorities and correct their course.

Other Muslim groups, even if they do not profess allegiance to Islam as a life mission, may then be approached and persuaded to remould their thinking and attitude. There are good grounds to do so. Such approach and persuasion in itself is an important part of Da'wah.

Da'wah by Example

Da'wah cannot proceed successfully irrespective of whether Muslim conduct and behaviour provides a true example of Islam or not. Nor can it replace the need for such Shahadah. The image of Muslims, as created or reinforced by our conduct as nations, as communities, cannot be separated from the image of Islam. As I have said, this Shahadah of the Ummah, as a whole, is against Islam, it creates a false image of Islam. Muslim conduct is indeed a hindrance in the way of Da'wah.

At the collective level this aspect is presently, as I have said earlier, beyond our reach. But we can try to do something at two levels.

Firstly, each individual should examine the state of his own personal Shahadah: how much does his behaviour represent Islam in the neighbourhood, at his work place, in the community? We tend to forget that personal example is still the most powerful resource needed on the path of Dawah.

Secondly, by word and deed, we should be upholders and champions of justice, human welfare, and man's dignity and freedom. This I will explain in more detail a little later.