The Fundamentals of Da`wah
By Dawood Adib



Say: 'This is my way: I invite to Allaah on/with clear knowledge - I and whomever follows me (does this). Glorified is Allaah, and I am not of the polytheists." (12:108),

This is one of the aayaat that our righ teous predecessors extract the rules/principles/basics of Da'wah from. The Arabic term is Usool ad-Da`wah and is used interchangeably with the word Minhaaj.

Qul ~ "Say"

We are instructed to inform the people whatever follows after the command of "say". This aayah, as well as all the others, is being addressed to the Muslims in general and the Prophet in particular as to how we are to give Da`wah. In it are important commands for us to implement. Thus, we should learn them, understand them, and apply them.

Haadhihi Sabeelee ~ "This is my way"

The word Sabeel is synonymous with the words Tareeq, Minhaaj, and Sunnah. The Companion Ibn Abbaas explained "the Shar`ee (laws) and Minhaaj (methodology) as the Sabeel (way) and Sunnah (example)" - Bukhaaree p. 16.

The instruction that follows is the Sunnah of Da`wah, and it is very important that it be adhered to. It is as follows:

Ad`oo Ilallaah ~ "I invite..."

This phrase is in the first person, singular of the present tense of the verb da`aa. It means: I am calling, I do summon, I bid/beckon/invite. to Allaah. This does not mean we call people to where Allaah is - above His Throne which is above the seven heavens over the heavenly waters. What it means is we summon people to the meaning of Laa ilaaha illaallaah which is "none is worthy of worship except Allaah, and it also to call people to His Deen, to His Uniqueness, and knowledge of Him by way of His Perfect Attributes.

There is a science of the Arabic language in which a part of a phrase can be used when it is actually referring to the whole phrase. This science is being applied when the aayah states to Allaah because it is referring to the Kalimah (Laa ilaaha illaallaah). The reverse of this is also a science in which an entire phrase is used when it is actually referring to part of a phrase, e.g. <>(2:19) The word fingers is used but it is actually referring to the fingertips (of possibly only two fingers yet the Jam` case of three or more is used).

So it is here that Allaah tells us to invite the people to Tawheed. Clearly notice that we are not commanded to summon the people to any individual (regardless of how knowledgeable), any organization or masjid, any way of thinking, any project, nationalism, interfaith dialogue, ism or schism, etc. We are only commanded to call the people to the meaning of Laa ilaaha illaallaah.

`Alaa Baseerah ~ "with clear knowledge"

This part the aayah tells us HOW to invite the people to the statement of Tawheed: Laa ilaaha illaallaah. The word Baseerah is not simple one to translate into English, however, for right now we'll use the word knowledge.

Baseerah means Daleel and Burhaan (clear proofs and evidences). The word Daleel literally means guide. Often people ask the question "What is your Daleel (evidence/proof from the Quraan and authentic Sunnah)?" So what they are literally asking for is "guidance" because this is what revelation does - it guides us. Thus, this is HOW we invite the people toTawheed: with proofs/evidences from the Ouraan and authentic Sunnah!

Evidence can be produce by two basic ways:

  • Naqlee - transmitted evidence: the Quraan and authentic Sunnah, and the statements, understanding, and practical application of the Sahaabah, and
  • `Aqlee - rational evidence: views based on scholarly understanding of the Quraan and authentic Sunnah related to the issue at hand (we begin with Sahaabah/ Companions, then the Taabi`oon/Successors, then the Atbaa` at-Taabi`een/Followers of the Successors, and any of the scholars who follow their Minhaaj (which is abiding by the Quraan and authentic Sunnah and discarding personal, unfounded opinions) e.g. al-Bukhaaree, Ibn Taymeeyah, ash-Shawkaanee, M. ibn Abdul-Wahhaab, al-Albaanee and several others; and the linguistics of the Arabic language which must always be dependent on and consistent with revelation. We must note that we always seek an answer from the transmitted texts, and only go to rational points that are made based on Quraan and authentic Sunnah when we - via the scholars - are unable to find an answer within the transmitted texts.
  • One of our eminent scholars, Ibn al Qayyim al-Jawzeeyah stated, "Knowledge is what Allaah says, what the Prophet says, and what the Companions say."

    Therefore, in light of the above, one must, be knowledgable in whatever he is inviting the people to. This is a very important condition of Baseerah because if one does not know what he's talking about he could be inviting people to Kufr and Shirk and Bid`ah and Kabaa'ir and other Muharaamaat. The Prophet said, The seeking of knowledge (of religious matters) is mandatory upon every Muslim (al-Bayhaqee); and Allaah says, <>(47:19) and <>(12:108).

    A second condition of Baseerah is that the daa`ee (inviter) should be familiar with whom he is giving da`wah to. This is important because having this knowledge may be benefcial in convincing the invitee(s) to accept Islaam because the daa`ee would know how (or how not) to approach his audience. When the Prophet commissioned Mu`aadh to be the governor of Yamaan, he abreasted him that he was assigning him to an area that was predominately of Jews and Christians (see Bukhaaree vol.9 #469 and Muslim vol. 1 #27). With this information it would be useful for Mu`aadh to know that he would be around people who had some knowledge of the previously-revealed divine scriptures because the approach we use with a Confucianist would not necessarily be the same approach we use for a Sabean or for a Christian, etc. Likewise, it may be better to send our Muslim brother Mustafaa O'Connell to Ireland than it would be to send someone of British origin (because generally people are more comfortable with others who are similar to themselves - and notwithstanding the ongoing conflict between the two nations).

    This hadeeth concerning Mu`aadh is also a proof for the first condition of Baseerah because the rest of the hadeeth informs us that the Prophet told Mu`aadh to instruct the people in the basics of Islaam. In order for Mu`aadh to do this he himself would first have to have knowledge of Tawheed, Ittibaa` ar-Rasool, Tahaarah, Salaah, etc. And let us take special note that the first tbing that the Prophet ordered him to do was: invite the people to Laa ilaaha illaallaah.

    A third condition of Baseerah is to be respectful, polite, humble, and the like, yet not compromising any Islaamic principles (like shaking hands with the opposite sex or sipping non-virgin cocktails) -while conveying the Da`wah. Allaah instructed Moosaa and Haaroon <>(20:43,44), and <>(3: 159). Furthermore, we should not insult those things that the disbelievers worship besides Allaah, e.g. in the 70's when I was a member of the Nation of Kufr (the "so called" Nation of Islam) I used to say to my parents "How can we you worship that white, blue-eyed, hippie devil [Jesus]?' Although, both of us was in a state of disbelief when I accosted them in this manner it naturally brought about a defensive response (which will make it harder to convice someone of your point). To ridicule and blaspheme the gods that people worship besides Allaah is in opposition to Allaah's command <> (6:108).

    Also, we don't use rap songs to give Da`wah. Yes, music and instruments existed in the time of the Companions, yet with their knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and practice of Islaam (that will not be superceded by any other generation before their time and after it) did not use music to give Da`wah. In fact they did not listen to music at all.

    This third condition of Baseerah means that we do not tell the people the consequences Allaah has planned for anyone who does not live according to His prescriptions and proscriptions. From several aayaat and ahaadeeth we can see that it is the Sunnah of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger to tell the people about dreadful and tormenting punishments for the disobedient.

    Anaa wa Manittaba`anee ~ "I and whomever follows me (does this)"

    The Prophet and whomever follows him obeys the orders that just was given by Allaah: to invite the people to Tawheed with proofs and evidences/certified and bonafide knowledge. For the second time in this aayah this command of Allaah is attached to the Sunnah of the Prophet. We should pay very strict attention to this because in Allaah's infinite wisdom He knows why this is being repeated in the same aayah. So if we adhere to the orders given to us then we can consider ourselves as believing and following the Messenger of Allaah as this part of the aayah states.

    The Arabic word man is a particle that is general. It is not restricted to any place or time. Whether one is a companion of the Prophet , or is born of Slavic descent, or lives in 17th century Salem, or emerges from the pre-historic Flintstone age, or plays golf on the moon, the whomever, wherever, and whenever does not make any difference - as long as he is following the Prophet he is abiding by the dictates of Allaah. <>(4:80).

    The Da`wah of Islaam has three aspectsto it: Tawheed(monotheism),Ittibaa` ar-Rasool (following the Messenger: Sunnah), and Tazkeeyah (sanctification of the heart: the result of believing in Tawheed and following the Sunnah).

    Wa Subhaanallaah ~ "and glorified is Allaah"

    This Dhikr is usually translated into English as such but the denotative meaning of this phrase is "Allaah is far above and removed from any indignities, deficiencies, limitations, and lies that are attributed to Him", which connotes that He is hallowed/glorified. Included in this He's far above having any partners, peers, equals, companions, mate, or offspring.

    Wa Maa Anaa Minal-Mushrikeen ~ "and I am not of the polytheists."

    This means that the Prophet and all those who follow him are not of the deen of the disbelievers.

    Usool ad-Da'wah/Conclusion

    The foundation or rudiments of inviting people to Allaah (there is none worthy of worship except Allaah) is given to us in this aayah and other aayaat. What we must do is learn them, understand them, and apply them. This is the methodology of Da`wah of all the prophets: Muhammad, Yoosuf (AS), Aadam (AS), et al. What these righteous individuals did was call the people to Tawheed with proofs.

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    Illuminating the Way: Priorities in Calling to the Message
    [Abridged & edited version of 1st Prize Winner in IANA's "Priorities in Bearing the Message Writing Contest"] Al-Jumu`ah Magazine, Ramadhan 1417 H

    In every age, the Prophets `alaihimussalaam, worked on reforming their societies by calling people to the message that Allah subhaanahu wa ta`ala sent them with. Today, Muslims are suffering in all spheres of life, while non-Muslim nations continue in their ignorance of purpose and path in this life. To reform these, it is essential for Muslims to follow the model of the Prophet of Islam sallallahu alayhe wa sallam and, after firmly grasping the message themselves, call others to it. Muslims therefore must exercise their efforts and use all permissible means to invite others to the truth they have. Bearing the message is a serious responsibility and a noble task and as such it has to be performed with knowledge, seriousness, consideration and wisdom. In embarking in such an effort, what are the priorities that one should keep as a guide?

    The Qur'an shows, in no uncertain terms, that the message and the top priority of all the Prophets was one and the same: The message of Tawheed.

    Tawheed means "the realizing and maintaining of Allah's unity in all of man's actions which directly or indirectly relate to Him. It is the belief that Allah is One, without partner in His dominion and His actions (Ruboobeeyah), One without similitude in His essence and attributes (Asmaa wa Sifaat), and one without rival in His divinity and in worship (Ulooheeyah)." Muhammad ibn `Abdillaah sallallaahu alayhe wassalam, the last Prophet to be sent to the mankind and the Jinn, was ordered by Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) in the Qur'an to say:

    "Say you (O Muhammad): 'This is my way; I invite unto Allah (i.e. to the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism) with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me (also must invite others to Allah i.e. to the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism) with sure knowledge. And Glorified and Exalted be Allah (above all that they associate as partners with Him). And I am not of the Mushrikoon (polytheists; those who worship others along with Allah or set up rivals or partners to Allah).'" [al-Qur'an, Yusuf(12):108]

    Tawheed is the single most important concept in Islam and the top priority in bearing the Message. The following evidence shows this in a clear way.

    The oft-quoted reference with regards to priorities and gradation in da`wah is the famous hadeeth reported by Ibn `Abbas radhiyallahu `anhu: The Prophet sallallahu alayhe wasallam sent Mu`aadh to Yemen and said, "Invite the people to testify that Laa ilaaha ill Allah [none has the right to be worshipped but Allah] and that I am the Messenger of Allah. And if they obey you in that, then inform them that Allah has enjoined upon them five daily prayers in every day and night, and if they obey you in that, then inform them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the Zakaat from their properties and it is to be taken from the wealthy among them and given to the poor among them.

    It was for this reason, that the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wassallam stayed in Makkah for thirteen years, calling people to the correct understanding of the Oneness of Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala), and making worship solely for Him.

    The best of generations, the Companions radhiyallahu `anhum, learned their religion from the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wassalam himself and continued in keeping the same priorities, strengthening belief before anything else.

    Abdullah ibn `Umar said, "We lived during an instant of time in which one of us would receive faith first before receiving the Qur’an and when the surahs were revealed we would learn what they permitted and what they ordered and what should be the stance towards them. But I have seen men from whom one is given the Qur’an before iman and he reads it from the opening of the Book to its closing and he does not know what it orders and what it forbids and what should be his stance towards it. He is like someone who is just throwing out dates [i.e. he does not get any benefit from his recital]."

    .Shaykh Abdur-Rahman Abdul-Khaaliq, in his treatise on the priorities of the Islamic work in the West, also clearly explains that Tawheed is the top priority:

    "The first priority Muslims of the West must preserve is Tawheed. Believing in the oneness of Allah and worshipping Him Alone is the reason behind creation. Tawheed makes a Muslim different from the disbelievers. Muslims who live in the West are different from the disbelievers because of their Islam. Iman (faith) is the way to success and the true Path of Allah. Whoever concentrates on this life and ignores the next life will be the one who loses both".

    "Da`wah should start with fundamental issues, before proceeding with those that are less central. The Oneness of Allah is the beginning and the end. Each deed should be connected with it."

    Having shown that the first priority is calling to correct beliefs and faith in Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala), it is important to understand the underlying reasons as to why this primary objective remains true in all places and at all times. As Sayyed Qutb writes in Milestones: "Those who call toward God's Religion and want to establish the way of life prescribed by this Religion should ponder at length over this significant fact, that for thirteen years the Qur'an exclusively expounded this faith and did not deviate from this issue to describe the details of that system which was to be established on this faith or any laws for the organization of the Muslim society."

    The basis and the strength of this call lies in our testimony of faith, "la ilaha ill Allah." Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) says in the Qur'an: "A good word is like 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. " [al-Qur'an, Ibraaheem(14):24-25] Dr. Al-Qaradaawee eloquently describes the effect of this da`wah upon the person, by influencing all of its personality and ultimately all of the society:

    "Da`wah seeks to penetrate the innermost recesses of man to transform him into a godly person in his conceptions, emotions and behavior by altering his thoughts, feelings, and will as well as the whole of his being, thereby shaping him into a different person. It also shakes up the structure of the society and alters its inherited beliefs, well-established traditions, moral conventions, and prevailing systems."

    There is no doubt that all our shortcomings are related to our level of faith. Many consider unity of Muslims to be one of the most fundamental issues that we should concentrate our efforts on, since without strong unity Muslims are unable to face their problems. However, unity cannot be achieved through organizations or lectures, nor can it be achieved by spending money. We need to realize that it was Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) Himself who united the hearts of the Sahaba, once faith entered their hearts: "And He has united their (believers') hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah has united them. Certainly He is All-Mighty, All-Wise." [al-Qur'an, al-Anfaal(8):63] So there is no way for establishing unity, brotherhood or an Islamic society except through profound faith and righteous action.

    Consequently, the first step for us to take is to correct our faith. Anything else would be short-sightedness and lead to failure. We must learn and teach the true Islamic faith; its realities, signs and benefits. Learning the faith should be accompanied by learning about shirk and disbelief, so that Muslims safeguard from the disbelief and misguidance of the disbelievers. To strengthen our faith we must put the Qur'an back to its proper place in the Muslim's life. The Qur'an is a book of guidance that is to be understood and abided by. Not merely recited and used as a talisman.

    Cultivating one's personality and character should also come under top priorities.

    The Prophet sallallahu alayhe wassalam said, "The best believers are those with the best character." One of the duties of the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wassalam was purifying people around him, by helping them acquire noble character and leave any evil that was in their souls. Spirituality and piety also need to be developed. Muslim scholars must act as Rabbaaniyyoon, teaching Muslims simple things first, before proceeding to more complicated matters, while Muslims must turn to their scholars for guidance and leave interpreting religion without knowledge. This is a very grave matter which is one of the major causes of many problems that both Muslims and non-Muslims are facing today. Every innovation and act of shirk in its origin have speaking about Allah (subhanahu wa taÕala) and His religion without knowledge. This is why it is such a great priority that Muslims learn to consult scholars in religious matters and speak only based on certain knowledge. Were Muslims to follow the way of Aboo Bakr as-Siddeeq, who said, "What earth will hold me, and what heaven will protect me if I say something concerning the Book of Allah which I do not know", there would probably be no secularism, modernism, feminism, rejection of the Sunnah and other deviations present among the Muslims.

    The concept of hijrah represents a major factor in the life of the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhe wassalam and a major struggle and effort to establish a community of Islam. This concept could be modified according to the situation in the West, to internal hijrah, whereby Muslims of all nationalities would gather themselves in various areas in the West, forming strong communities. Such communities do not exist today and due to that, protection and support of the Muslim community are lacking. Internal hijrah would provide easier circumstances for establishment of masaajid, Islamic schools and real institutions needed to satisfy the requirements of Islam on the personal, familial and societal level.

    While the priorities discussed more specifically refer to da`wah to Muslims, da`wah to non -Muslims is as important. The issue of priorities with regards to non-Muslims is clear: The most important matters are bringing the disbelievers away from their shirk to belief in Oneness of Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) and Messengership of Muhammad sallallahu alayhe wassalam, and teaching them the true purpose of their existence.

    Lastly, it is important to mention that the first ones that Muslims should call to Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) and warn are their families. Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) says in the Qur'an: "O you who believe! Protect yourselves and your families from the Fire whose fuel will be people and stones (idols). " [al-Qur'an, at-Tahreem(66):6] Family is the basic nucleus of the society and when that institution is healthy, all of the society will be alike

    The situation resulting from not giving necessary attention to priorities and concentrating on less central issues has serious consequences.

    Doing the wrong things, in the wrong place, at the wrong time can result in placing efforts in activities that can often be delayed or even eliminated, while those that have the strongest impact and that are most urgent are forgotten and neglected. Less central issues have been given a great deal of importance, while the fundamental ones have been neglected. Muslims even spend a lot of time arguing over subsidiary matters. Muslims have also given more attention to some voluntary forms of worship, and even those that have no basis in the Sharee`ah, over those that are obligatory. That is how dhikr became more important than enjoining good and forbidding evil. Ibn ul-Qayyim explained this as follows: "The Shaitan has misled most people by beautifying for them the performance of certain voluntary acts of worship such as voluntary prayers and voluntary fasting while neglecting other obligatory acts of worship such as enjoining the good and eradicating the evil, to the extent that they do not even make the intention of performing them whenever they are able to".

    This neglect with regards to priorities has resulted in Muslims losing their faith, the source of their strength. The present weakness is used by the enemies of Islam to further prolong the current state of affairs. Dr al-Qaradaawee says, "The only form of Islam allowed by the enemies of Islam is that upheld by the dervishes and the professional traders in religion; the 'Islam' which only celebrates occasions, supports despotic rulers, and prays for them to have a 'long life.' It is an 'Islam' based on Divine pre-determination and 'no-choice' in belief, sanctions Islamically condemned bid`a (innovation) in `ibaadah (worship), permits passive ethics and intellectual rigidity, and encourages emphasis on minor rather than major and vital issues. Those who follow and promote this 'Islam' are patronized by corrupt rulers. Even the irreligious, secularist rulers bless this form of religion, show respect and support to its advocates in order to enable them to lull the masses and induce them to the status quo, and engage the youth in a web of illusions, symbols, terms and trivialities. Perhaps this is what led Marx to claim that 'religion is the opiate of the people.'"

    Though tawheed always remains the central theme of da`wah and the end we want to reach, the situation may dictate different, more specific priorities, depending on time and place.

    While Islamic faith is relatively firmly established in certain areas of the world, in others there is a total ignorance of the religion of Islam. Obviously, the daa`iya would not speak about the same issues and on the same level at such two places. A good example of priorities changing according to place is that certain sects that appear only in certain places do not have to be refuted elsewhere. So while there is need to warn people against the deviations of the Nation of Islam in North America, that is really of little importance in Bosnia or Pakistan. Similarly, there are different shirk practices in different places that need to be corrected, but concentration of efforts and priorities will depend on the relevant deviation in a particular place. Nevertheless, da`wah may very depending on whether the people being addressed are atheists, Hindus or other types of polytheists such as Ahlul-Kitaab.

    Priorities also differ with time. Centuries ago, when the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wassalam was calling people to Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala), he did not have to emphasize the fact that Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) is the Creator of the Universe and the One Who owns it and administers it. This was common knowledge even among the Jaahilee Arabs, so the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wassalam concentrated on correcting their beliefs about Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) and calling them to worship Him, rather than speaking to them about Allah's existence. Nowadays, the situation differs in many areas of the world. Atheism and agnosticism are not uncommon, so therefore there is need to invite people to the belief in Allah's existence. All these relates to calling people to worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.

    At times there are certain pressing issues that need to be addressed. During Ahmad ibn Hanbal's time, the issue of non-creation of the Qur'an was very important, while today calling people to even more basic issues such as recognizing Allah's existence and worshipping Him is more important. Various books of creed written since the time of the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhe wassalam emphasized those issues that were most controversial at the time of writing. Therefore a book of creed that explained the differences between the Jahmiyya and Ahl us Sunnah wal Jamaa`ah that was written centuries ago would certainly be of much value even today. However the emphasis would have to be given to the issues that are more pressing today, such as irjaa', ash`arism, or secularism, which today is probably the greatest single challenge to the Muslims, and one of the main causes of disbelief.

    Also, knowledge of the events of which the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wassalam informed us that will take place in the future may dictate some of our concentrating of efforts in certain places more than in others. The Prophet sallallahu alayhe wassalam informed Muslims of various battles that will occur and we should therefore keep this in mind and support da`wah in places such as Palestine, so as to strengthen the Muslims’ position before events such as al-Marhamat ul-Kubraa take place.

    It is also important for Muslims when giving da`wah to realize that the issues and problems that require effort back in their homelands are not necessarily the same as where they are currently situated. Neglect of the true situation and the fact that priorities differ with place and time may result in undesired results, which is yet another reason for wisdom in da`wah.

    The first duty of the Muslims is to rectify their beliefs by means of learning on the basis of clear evidence and in accordance with the correct understanding of the early generations of Muslims.

    The main concern in da`wah should be calling to monotheism and the `ibadah of Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala). That was the way of the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhe wassalam, and the way of those who follow him. Once tawheed is accepted, we can proceed to explain other aspects of Islam, beginning with the five pillars. "Therefore, we want to correct the people's `aqeedah and make them aware of all kinds of outward and inward shirk and encourage them to do the obligatory things and avoid the forbidden, and we want to encourage them to stick to the sunan and the mustahabbaat [recommended deeds], to incite them to avoid the makruuhaat [disliked deeds]."

    It is our hope that by performing da`wah in this manner will help us fulfill our responsibilities and that Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) will count us among those about whom He says:

    "And who is better in speech than he who invites to Allah and does righteous deeds and says: 'I am one of the Muslims.'" [al-Qur'an, 41:43]

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