Basic Concepts and Framework

Once we have recognized the central place that Da'wah must occupy in Islam, and what it means to the very acts of 'being' and 'becoming' Muslims, we should try to determine the concepts and methodologies that should define and guide our work of Dawah.

I would like to point to three basic concepts which, in my view, provide the essential framework for the important attitudes and approaches that we should follow.

Firstly, one fundamentally important truth about Islam, as brought by the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be on him, is that it is not a new religion; it is the eternal message of God. The basic message of Islam that was given to the first Prophet, who was also the first man, was the same as that given to the Last Prophet. The Qur'an affirms again and again, and very emphatically, that he brought the same truth as was brought by all the earlier Messengers; he came to confirm what they had been given rather than repudiate it, to clear it of accretions and distortions rather than throw it away. Coming to Islam is like going back to one's own roots in nature, and in history.

This truth is well-known to us; we often assert and proclaim it, but seldom do we recognize or follow the profound implications that it has for Da'wah among nonMuslims.

Secondly, the Muslim Ummah has not been constituted to become just another nation among nations, to compete with others to advance its interests. No, it has been 'raised for all mankind'. It is the 'best community' only if it serves their interests their foremost interest being that they should find guidance to the right path (3: 110). The ultimate objective of all worship and strivings is that Muslims should be 'witnesses unto mankind', witnesses to the Truth God has given them, witnesses to justice (qist) thus performing the same mission as Allah's Messenger, blessings and peace be on him, performed (al-Hajj 22: 77-8; al-Nisa' 4: 131-9; al-Ma'idah 5: 7-10).

This, again, we know well and assert often, but seldom do we pause to reflect what important policy conclusions we should derive from this for our Da'wah.

Thirdly, the objective of Da'wah is not to win an argument, to score a victory, to silence an opponent; it is to win and activate a heart, a mind, indeed a life, for the cause of Allah. Equally important is to recognize that it is not within our power, even in the power of any of Allah's Messengers, to bring anyone to the right path. Da'wah therefore requires great patience, just as the Messengers were patient (al-Ahqaf 46: 35).

There are numerous instructions to the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, in the Qur'an, to this effect, but we are quite prone to forget them in our zeal to defeat the 'enemy' and establish our 'superiority', or to win as many people to our side as possible.