It is important that all of us know the meaning and the importance of da'wa. Especially those Muslims living in the West need to understand the dynamics of da'wa and be an active participant in this process. It is the duty of every Muslim to explain what is Islam and to invite people to learn the essence of finding peace by submitting one's self to the Divine natural order.
The process of da'wa does not require us to convert people but it does require us to convey the message of 'submission to the will of God' through various means of communication and most importantly by being an example of our faith. Participation in the process of da'wa can be at various levels.
Every one of us has to bear witness to the truth before all mankind as Allah says in the Quran:
"And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind, and that the Apostle might bear witness to it before you". Quran 2:143
Under a rapidly growing influence of globalization, people are forgetting the meaning of faith, of religious practice and seldom think or speak about God. Following the example of the Prophet we should start with our family and relatives:
"And warn (whomever thou canst reach, beginning with) thy kinsfolk". Quran 26:213
This means that every one of us, man and woman, brother and sister, must first pay attention to what is going on in our own family and among our relatives. It makes no sense to go around speaking about Islam whereas our own children are left behind, abandoned and lost.
We need to focus on the fundamental principles and the methodology of Dawa as a reminder to ourselves so that we can adapt these to our day-to-day life.
Following are some major principles we must not forget when we are speaking about da'wa:
First: To speak about Allah, Islam, iman, and truth are by no means to speak about something new even when we are speaking with people of other faiths who may know little or nothing about Islam. They may not have any idea of what the Islamic way of life is but deep in their heart, without sometimes being aware of it, the knowledge and the intimate feeling of tawhid (Oneness of God) is imprinted on every human beings conscious. This is what we find in the Quran:
"And whenever your Sustainer brings forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam, He thus calls upon them to bear witness about themselves: Am I not your Sustainer? to which they answer: Yea, indeed, we do bear witness thereto. Of this we remind you lest you say on the Day of Resurrection, 'Verily we were unaware of this" Quran 7:172
Thus to speak about Allah, the creation and destiny is not to speak about something new but, on the contrary, it is to wake up and give a new life to a feeling which may be dormant. Allah says:
"O you who have attained to faith, Respond to the call of God and the Apostle whenever he calls you unto that which will give you life and know that God intervenes between man and his heart" Quran 8:24
Our call adds nothing new to our nature; our call needs to make people aware of something their hearts have forgotten. This must influence our way of speaking and dealing with people for we try to lead them to the origin and not to anything new. In Islam, to call is to recall.
The second principle we must never forget is that there exists a link of brotherhood between all the human beings. We are from the same origin and Allah says in the Quran "O men!" addressing all mankind for we are all 'sons of Adam' (bani Adam). As such we should develop in our heart, affection towards all of humanity regardless of their faith. Every human being is a sign of the greatness of Allah. With this state of mind, our sincerity should be reflected in the way we communicate, without being judgmental and as genuine callers to truth and justice,
A well-known hadith quoted by Muslim and Bukhari says "None of you perfects his belief (or truly believes) until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself". We often reduce the scope of this hadith to our brothers in faith. But this wish should concern, and especially in the West, our brothers in humanity and we should wish for them to be guided and to find the right path. To be a da'iya in the West requires that we avoid this conflicting attitude in order to present Islam as a reminder, a message of brotherhood, of love and hope. There are not simply words... but the genuine manifestation of a state of mind and of a state of heart.
Our methodology, our fiqh ad-da'wa, is based on these principles and is also constituted by three important elements. Our religion teaches us that the knowledge of the tawhid is written in the heart and in the soul of every human being but some of them have forgotten this truth. The function of the Prophets - and ours following in their footsteps - is to remind people by spreading the knowledge and the understanding of Islam. This is the function of ar-rasul, an-nazir, and ad-da'iya and it is only when this recall has been carried out that we can say that the people have denied themselves (are in kuffar). Al-kufr is to have been recalled, to know, and then to deny.
On the Day of Judgment people will be asked:
"Has no Warner ever come to you?" and the kuffar (those who denied themselves) will reply, "Yes, a Warner did indeed come unto us but we gave him the lie and said, Never Allah sent down anything" Quran 67:8-9
The first dimension of our methodology is then to spread knowledge and especially in the Western societies where Muslims are living in large numbers. As Muslims, we are taught that two things have to be avoided, ignorance and forgetfulness. Today we are witnessing a great lie: the people in general and the youth, in particular, think that they are free to choose and very often they know nothing about their religion. But freedom cannot be based on ignorance for they are antithetical words. The ignorance of faith and religion in our societies works as a constraint, as a coercion, and as such this fact sheds a new light on the well-known aya: "No coercion in matters of faith". There exists not only coercion through power and strength but there is another type of compulsion, more harmful in fact, for it uses the ignorance to deceive people and leads them astray. As Muslims, we need to spread all forms of knowledge so that all people have the opportunity to choose in full awareness.
Allah has power over all
To explain what are the fundamentals of Islam is important but the real message of Islam will be the manifestation of how our faith transforms us and helps us to be sincere, trustworthy, and confident. To be a da'iya is to be an example, a model as the Prophet was (quduwa). Good words, books, theories do not change or guide people, the example does. To bear witness to the truth is to act as a model and it is not necessary to speak so much.
"And who could be better of speech than he who calls unto God, and does what is just and right and says "Verily I am of those who have surrendered themselves to Allah" Quran 41:33
For this purpose, we need to live among the people, to be in touch with them and not to be isolated from the society we live in. There is an important verse, which gives us a specific teaching on how we should conduct ourselves with people. It reads:
"As for such (of the unbelievers) as do not fight against you on account of your faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably" Quran 60:8
As noticed by az-Zamakhshari "does not forbid you" in this verse implies a positive exhortation. Allah gives us two keys: kindness (al-bir, same root as the word used for our parents, bir al-walidayn) and equity. The kindness is related to our heart, our sensitivity: in our day to day life, our kindness, our generosity are means through which people can understand the intimate meaning of our religion based on faith, peace and brotherhood. This is the language of the heart and it comes first in this verse. - Then, we find the language of the mind and the acts: one of the great sign of our religion is to promote, to defend and to protect justice in every circumstance. This has to be our distinctive feature: to be fair, equitable, just intellectually, socially, and financially. To be Muslim is to respect both the heart and the mind of our fellow human, to be both kind and fair, with both Muslims and non-Muslims. Our message is love, our message is justice: not only in words, but also their real internalization in our day-to-day life.
To believe is a blessing from Allah and we cannot guide aright everyone whom we love and we must be aware of our limited role. However, the latter remains of a great importance and we will be called to account by Allah as to the way we bear and transmit the message of Islam to these societies in which we live.
Asked about the destiny of those who did not know anything about Islam, a scholar answered: "I fear that we will be called to account by Allah for not having conveyed the message as we were supposed to". Every one of us is a da'iya - a conveyer of truth and justice and an example for our family, friends, neighbors, and humanity.
Adapted from "Da'wa in the West" by Tariq Ramadan
Tariq Ramadan is a Geneva-based author and university lecturer.
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