Vision of Da'wah
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
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
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:
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
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.