Dawah Style and Content
[The Friday Report, now alJumuah Magazine]
When inviting others to Islam, Muslims must use the best possible way and manner. Allah said (S 16 A125): "Invite mankind to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious." This verse is talking about the correct style and manner of presenting Islam. But some people confuse between style and content. They think that the use of wisdom and good manner entitles them to distort the content of the message, to approve of deviations, to give the wrong answers or hide part of the revelation. They take style beyond its legitimate domain, beyond the way in which the message is presented, the appearance of the speaker, his gestures, the way he gets in touch with those he is calling and the means he is using to call them. They shy away from part of the revelation and hide it. Verses like: "Say, O Muhammad, to those who disbelieve: 'You will be defeated and gathered together in Hell, and worst indeed is that place to rest.' " are considered too rude and violent to be mentioned.
The conduct of the Prophet, sallallahu alaihe wa sallam, in differentiating between style and content is enlightening. His message has always been the same: believe in Allah and believe in His messenger. There were fundamentals he never accepted to negotiate: believers will go to Paradise, disbelievers will go to Hell, the religion of the disbelievers is false, Truth is Truth, falsehood is falsehood, Good should be sought, evil should be rejected, the attributes of those who are loved by Allah, the attributes of those who are disliked by Allah. But no matter how hard the Truth was, the manner in which he declared these facts was always marked by modesty, humility, compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness, love and truthfulness because these manners help the people who are called to Islam to accept the message.
The disbelievers were irritated by the Prophet's persistence on the content of his message and its substance, and his refusal to negotiate any part of it while at the same time presenting it in such a graceful manner. They wished he would compromise with them. But Allah forbade him to: "So obey not, O Muhammad, the deniers. They wish that you should compromise in religion out of courtesy with them, so they too would compromise with you." (S68 A8-9). They proposed to meet him halfway; that they worship his Lord one day and he worships their gods the next day. The matter was resolved by Allah's revelation (S 109 A1-6): "Say: 'O disbelievers! I worship not that which you worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which you are worshiping, nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your religion, and to me my religion." The disbelievers tried to convince the Prophet to deviate from the Truth that was revealed to him. But Allah revealed (S 17 A73-75): "Verily, their purpose was to tempt you away from that which We had revealed unto you to substitute in Our name something quite different, and then they would certainly have taken you as a friend! And had We not made you stand firm, you would nearly have inclined to them a little. In that case, We would have made you taste a double portion of punishment in this life and an equal portion after death, and then you would have found none to help you against Us."
The content of the Islamic message does not change because we were not the ones who have chosen it. Allah has decreed it and ordered us to convey it to mankind as it is. If we change it or distort it because our mere opinions tell us that it would not be accepted otherwise, we would be betraying the trust.