In the quiet and unobtrusive labours of many Muslim preachers their faith has historically been carried to every part of the globe. These peaceful methods of preaching and persuasion were not adopted, as some would have us believe, only when political circumstances made force and violence impossible but were part of the basic text of the Quran.
Ad-Da’wah means literally ‘issuing a summons’ or ‘making an invitation or calling’. It can be interpreted in the following way:
- The active business of the propagation with the end result of making conversions.
- The effort to bring back those who have fallen away from Islam.
- Taking the responsibility to live quiet lives of Muslim piety and charity with the hope that by example they can encourage others to the appropriate path to Allah.
Islamic Mission and Christian Missions Contrasted
- Christian mission: has used social action as a means of showing love that could lead to conversion – Islam uses social service within their mosque as a part of the service that a believer can obtain after conversion but most do not consider it as part of dawah.
- Christian mission uses large numbers of full-time missionaries who are involved in a cultural incarnation ministry (i.e. immerse themselves in local culture), Islam depends mostly on semi-trained laypeople and mosque leaders in their work of expansion.
- Christian mission emphasises a cultural divergence that seeks to create indigenous churches within the existing social system while Islam seeks to bring uniformity in law, culture and religious practice.
- Christian mission emphasises going while Islamic dawah emphasises coming.
- Christian mission invites people to become members of churches Islamic da’wah invites people to become members of the Ummah.
- Christian mission engages in the establishment of schools, hospitals, and other benevolent institutions through cooperative methods Islamic dawah stresses the construction of a mosque and then establishes its ministries.
- In Christian mission the church is responsible for the propagation of the faith but in Islamic da’wah the ummah is responsible for the propagation of the faith.
- Conversion through conquest is no longer considered a valid form of mission in Christian mission while conversion through armed conflict is considered helpful to da’wah.
- Islam reaches out to try and fill the void of not belonging to a community. The centre of this responsibility is the mosque. The mosque, unlike the church is a hub of activity mostly due to the five day prayer salat. On average a Muslim visit’s the mosque about 35 times a week. The Ummah community focuses on its relationships with the community and build bridges based on common ground and connect with various elements of the community.
Islamic Mission and Christian Mission Compared
- Both have well-defined philosophies as well as fully thought-out methodologies.
- Both see their faith as a worldwide faith, although their areas of strength are localised.
- Both see the source of their communion as issuing from their Holy Book, which gives support to their position.
- Both have mission organisations that have as their main purpose the furtherance of their faith.
- Both see conversion to their belief as a positive aspect of their actions.
- Both see the actions of the other as satanic and have some fear of the other’s success.
- Both are ‘fractured religions’ in the sense that they have different expressions and theologies.
- Both are aware of the paradigm shift taking place worldwide and feel there is a spiritual vacuum that they can fill.
- Both have a broad community expression: Christians into the kingdom of God and Muslims into the ummah.
- Both are a witnessing community: The Quran states: “Thus, have We made of you an Ummat justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves” (Al-Baqarrah 2:143) – ‘Allamah Ghulam Rasool Sa’idi writes: Da’wah is a fard kifiya (an obligation that rests upon the community, not the individual). If there are individuals within a community inviting people to da’wah, then others within the community are relieved of the obligation. If no-one in the community issues the invitation, the sin falls on every individual within that community.
Foundational texts which are used by Muslims mission work.
From the Meccan suras:
- “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (An-Nahl 16:125)
- “But truly those who have inherited the Book after them are in suspicious (disquieting) doubt concerning it. Now then, for that (reason), call (them to the Faith)” (Ash-Shuara 42:14,15).
- “And have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble (dignity)” (Al-Muzzammil 73:10,11)
- “Tell those who believe, to forgive those who do not look forward to the days of Allah” (Al-Jathiya 45:14)
- “But what is the mission of messengers but to preach the clear message?” (An-Nahl 16:35).
- “And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation)” (Al-Ankabut 29:46).
- “Thy duty is but to convey (the message)” (Ash-Shu’ara 42:48).
- “Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!” (Yunus 10:99b)
- “We have not sent thee but as a universal (messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not.” (Saba 34:28)
From the Medinan suras:
- “Thy duty is to convey the message; and in Allah’s sight are (all) His servants.” (Al-Imran 19:20)
- “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.” (Al-Imran 3: 104)
- “To every people have We appointed rites and ceremonies which they must follow: let them not then dispute with thee on the matter, but do thou invite (them) to thy Lord: for thou art assuredly on the right way. If they do wrangle with thee, say, “Allah knows best what it is ye are doing.” (Al-Hajj 22:67,68)
- “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error” (Al-Baqarrah 2:256a)
- “So obey Allah, and obey His messenger: but if ye turn back, the duty of Our messenger is but to proclaim (the message) clearly and openly.” (At-Taghabun 64:12)
- “We have truly sent thee as a witness, as a bringer of glad tidings, and as a warner: In order that ye (O men) may believe in Allah and His messenger, that ye may assist and honour Him, and celebrate His praise morning and evening.” (Al-Fath 48:8,9)
Muhammad the preacher
The life of Muhammad not only serves as the standard of conduct for the ordinary believer but it also is the standard for the Muslim missionary. A brief survey of some of the events in the life of Muhammad show a pattern of behaviour which the missionary can follow.
- Private preaching: The first objective of Muhammad’s persuasion were his own family.
- Public preaching: After an increased following through mostly slaves and the poor he then turned to public preaching, calling his kinsmen together and inviting them to the new faith.
- Enduring opposition: He endured threats, and insults and received the offer of worldly honour but his faithfulness and endurance was the cause of drawing some influential people.
- Centre for preaching: Persecution was probably the reason for taking up residence in the house of a convert Al-Arqam. It became a central place which was visited by pilgrims and visitors, here he was able to preach unhindered. Many Muslims dated their conversion from the propagation of Islam in this house.
- Attempts to make Islam ineffective: Islam had become a powerful faction and those affected by persecution were advised to go to Abyssinia. A three-year ‘ban’ was imposed on the community with the hope that the restrictions may make Islam ineffective. Sympathy for Muhammad and his companions in the end won the day and the ‘Ban’ was withdrawn.
- Islam unites: The city of Mecca remained unresponsive to Muhammad’s preaching for ten years but the Khazraj tribes from Medina were more disposed to accept his claims particularly as Muhammad could unite them with the Aws. This showed that Islam could be a uniting policy.
- Teaching converts: Musa’b b. Umair was sent by Muhammad or as an another account states Yathrib requested teaching in writing. He gathered the converts in the house of ’Asad b. Zurarah and sometimes in a house belonging to the Banu Zafar. Within a year most non-Jewish tribes had accepted his teaching.
- Nationalism: Later came the affirmation of a nationalism in that the ‘revelation’ was to the Arabs : “We have made it a Quran in Arabic, that ye may be able to understand (and learn wisdom)” (Az-Zukhruf 43:3,4 c/f Ash-Shura 42:7, Fussilat 41:44)
8. Universalism: Invitations were sent to international governors for them to acknowledge Islam. The universality of the message comes out in the Quran in the following way: “This is no less than a message to (all) the Worlds.” (Sa’d 38:87) – “We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures” (Al-Anbiya 21:107, Al-Furqan 25:1, Saba’ 34:28).
- It was to be a religion over all other religions: “It is He Who has sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that he may proclaim it over all religion, (As-Saff 61:9) To further the idea that it was a universal message it is argued that Billal was the “first-fruits of Abyssinia”; Suhaib was the “first-fruits of Greece”; Salman was the first Persian convert (a Christian slave in Medina). Islam’s argument for its universality is that it is a divinely appointed religion for the whole of mankind and has been revealed anew by Muhammad, the seal of the prophets : “Say: “I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the messengers” (Al-Ahqaf 46:9 c/f Al-Baqarrah 2:213)
- Early unsuccessful Islamic missions: It was in Medina says Ibn Sa’d that Muhammad sent letters to chiefs and other members of Arab tribes and potentates who lived beyond Medina inviting them to embrace Islam. He also sent missionaries to preach to unconverted members of their tribe; they were largely unsuccessful e.g the chief of Banu Amir visited Medina in 4 A.H. On the advice of this leader Muhammad sent forty missionaries to the Nejd.
- Early successful Islamic missions: The conversion of the tribe of Banu Sa’d b. Bakr came about through their envoy Dimam b. Tha’labah who came to Muhammad asking him difficult questions. On returning he told his tribe to abandon their false deities and by the evening there was not one in the camp who had not accepted Islam. — Another missionary was ’Amr b. Murrah who went to the tribe of Banu Juhaynah was the first of his tribe to abandon the gods of stone and follow Muhammad A.H 5. Only one person refused to accept Islam. In 9 A.H a deputation of thirteen men came from Banu Kilab, a branch of Banu Amir and informed Muhammad that they had been converted through one of his followers Dahakk b Sufyan who had come reciting the Quran and teaching the doctrines of Islam (Ibn Sa‘d p 85). Another branch of the same tribe Banu Ruas b. Kilab was converted by one of its own members Amr b. Malik who had been to Medina, accepted Islam and persuaded his fellow tribesmen (Ibn Sa’d p 86).
- Total success: In the year of deputations 9 A.H. an enormous number of Arab tribes sent delegates to Muhammad to accept their submission to Islam. He had achieved something family blood ties could not achieve. Now there was a sense of national unity and a consciousness of rights and duties towards one another. In the conversion of the Arab tribes there is continual mention of the promise of security against enemies. While Muhammad was alive the tribes could live in safety from their enemies.
- Zeal of converts: It seems that political expediency was behind much of the conversion of Arab tribes for many apostacized after Muhammad’s death. Yet, even amongst these tribes there were those who had a true zeal for Islam, even giving their lives to spread the message. The true believers became instrumental in pressing home the ideals of Islam and completely reversing the pagan ideology.
- The Brotherhood of Islam: The equality of the brotherhood of Islam ran counter to the proud clan-feeling of the Arabs. This was once considered to be a virtue but now it was looked upon with contempt.