How do you give Dawah?
Yet we have a common misconception that we can convert people to the truth. In fact, no one can convert people.
Then, if they argue with you, say: “I have submitted myself to Allah, and (so did) those who have followed me.” And say to those who have been given the Book, and to the unlettered: “Do you submit?” If they submit, they will be on the right path. Yet, if they turn back, then you have only to convey the message. Allah is watchful over (all of) His servants. (3:20)
Guidance is not in our hands
Even the prophets and messengers did not have the power to convert people. It is Allah who converts hearts.
Therefore we see examples from the prophets and messengers of their own family members who did not accept Islam, such as Prophet Nuh’s son, who was not a believer. And the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) who desperately wished for his uncle Abu Talib, whom he loved dearly, to accept Islam, but under the pressure of the Quraysh, he did not.
Allah says in Surat al Qasas that guidance is not in our hands:
Surely you do not guide whomever you love, but Allah guides whomever He decides, and He knows best the ones (who are) rightly-guided. (28:56)
Types of dawah – direct and indirect
There are two types of dawah – direct and indirect.
Direct dawah is when you ask someone ‘Have you thought about Islam?’ You have a good discussion and you put forward why Islam is the truth and will benefit them, choosing the right words at the right time.
Indirect dawah is often more effective than direct dawah. By being truthful, trustworthy, helpful and showing mercy and compassion in your relationships and dealings with others, you become an ambassador for Islam. Mirroring prophetic character is the best dawah.
Your character is your dawah
The Prophet (peace be on him) gave dawah by reciting Allah’s words as well as by demonstrating the attributes of a perfect believer through his character. He was sent as a mercy to the world.
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds”. (Surah Al-Anbiya, Verse 107)
Abu Umama (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said:
Indeed Allah sent me as mercy to the worlds and a guidance for the worlds. (Al Musnad, Tabarani)
The Prophet (peace be on him) also said:
I am not but as a gifted mercy. (Sunan Al Darimi, Bayhaqi)
As Muslims, we have to reflect this mercy in our all facets of our life. This is how the message of Islam will shine through you.
Many countries like Malaysia and Indonesia came to Islam by being impressed by the character of the Muslim merchants they dealt with. Not direct dawah.
When doing dawah who should we target?
Should you put your effort in doing dawah to your friends, colleagues and neighbours or focus on more influential people in the community, as people follow them?
Those who are very influential cannot be directed but they can be reminded. When doing dawah, we should not prejudge people’s reaction, but sound them out. Unless we try, we do not know if it will benefit them, so our dawah has to be open for everyone.
Sometimes, people spend time trying to convince another person who just keeps arguing back, and fail to notice that there is someone close by who is seeking guidance but being ignored. They are the low hanging fruits who are much more worthy of our attention.
Assess your skills
There are people who can speak to the wall and the wall will listen. It is a talent Allah gave them. All of us have unique talents. Focus on what Allah gave you and do dawah through those gifts.
Allah has given people different talents and gifts. Put your efforts where you heart is. If you are excelling in something, don’t divert your efforts but trying to do something else.
What to do if someone is unreceptive
If you meet with a brick wall, there is little point wasting time trying to convince someone of the truth. You can keep reminding them gently from time to time, but your efforts are better spent elsewhere.
The Prophet (peace be on him) tried persistently to convince segments of society that were unyielding in their disbelief. Allah Almighty comforted him by conveying that it was not his failure that they would not believe, but their own stubborn refusal to accept the truth.
It is this denial of the truth staring them in the face, that is kufr. These are the people that Allah Almighty is referring to when he talks about the ones whose hearts are sealed.
The prophets had to deal with opposition from their nations, and they had the ability to put forward proofs and evidence to counter the arguments and excuses his opponents made. Allah Almighty supported them in this.
And that was Our [conclusive] argument which We gave Abraham against his people. (6:83)
Argumentative people ask seemingly innocent questions but their intention is to provoke us. When they ask ‘Why don’t you drink?’ or ‘Why don’t you eat pork?’ or ‘Why are you fasting for 18 hours?’ they are not interested in the answer by trying to trap us into a debate.
Interviewers are adept at asking loaded questions. They have an agenda. We shouldn’t be gullible enough to the bait. If we do, we will be subjected to a barrage of arguments and if we are not savvy enough to see this coming, we could be ripped to shreds.
Columnists write deliberately provocative articles, attacking Islamic practices. Viciously judgemental, they take a superficial view of situations, refusing to acknowledge an alternative point of view, or take a fair approach to something they are not familiar with.
Our reaction can be defensive and we can get embroiled in pointless circular arguments, which waste our time and energy. WhatsApp chats and social media forums get filled by hundreds of comments and, worse, descend into personal attacks and abuse. Rising to their challenge does not make the situation better: it only inflames animosity on both sides. Such writers and editors gain the grim satisfaction of irritating and upsetting the Muslim community in an easy swipe.
How should one deal with provocation?
• Be aware of when a question is not genuine, but inflammatory.
• Don’t get side-tracked.
• Stay focused on your priorities. We have more important things to get on with.
Certain speakers in debates refuse to answer questions, staying doggedly focused on their agenda. They make their statement and the press release is over. Such brusqueness can take us aback, but we can learn from it.
Does this mean we ignore argumentative people? No. Just that we should remind them clearly and succinctly of the truth and then let the topic drop.
Do not overdo it
The Prophet (peace be on him) delivered ‘mo idha’ (counsel) every few days. He did not do it every day, as people would have become bored. It is in our nature to get bored. If we eat haleem for suhoor every day we would be fed up with it.
Sometimes we expend unnecessary amounts of energy trying to change someone’s habits. For example a wife might be so focused on getting her husband to pray, that she forgets to remind her children. Sometimes we are not the key. If we keep trying to force the lock we could break it. It’s not in our hands. Be careful not to overdo it. The one we are trying to change will hate us. Even worse, we might need a new lock!
This is why it is important to be considerate and to be aware of the people who are close to us, but whom we don’t get to know well. Sometimes we assume people are fine, but they are not. When we ask, we discover that the situation is not how we thought.
Do not get disheartened
Yunus (peace be on him) became so disheartened when people refused to follow Allah’s guidance that he abandoned them. However, his story is a lesson to us that it is not our job to convert – that is with Allah – it is only our job to convey.
It is our responsibility to convey the message of Allah, even if it is only one verse. As the Prophet (peace be on him) passed the baton on to us, he said in his Farewell Sermon:
O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.
All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.
Shyness and apathy
Two reasons people shy away from passing on the message as they are either afraid that they will make mistakes or are apathetic, thinking it is not their job, but the responsibility of scholars.
In fact we are in a position to do it because we mix with people and can relate to them in a way scholars may not be able to. Sometimes Allah gives us the ability to open minds, that scholars couldn’t. Particularly, when we are sincere. Sincerity can reach places when nothing else can.
A universal message
Allah asks us to convey the message to both the People of the Book, who are people of knowledge and the umiyeen (the ones who have no knowledge).
In every community there are sophisticated and educated people, as well as simple and uneducated people. Islam is not an elite club, it is for everyone. Anyone and everyone is welcome. There is no sign on the door saying that certain people are not allowed.
So we need to speak to people at their level of understanding – approach people in a way that they understand. If a message is beyond their understanding it is irrelevant to them.
Our responsibility to pass on the tranquillity that Allah has gifted us through His deen to others. Our methodology is not debating. We are to be gentle not aggressive, nor humiliating to others. We are offering them an alternative to argumentation and rebellion, and feeling peace and connectivity with Allah instead.
then in public, and in private with the utmost discretion (71:9)
The important lesson for us is that times have changed and the tools we need to do dawah have to be commensurate to the technological age of the time. We need to use tools that are relevant to people’s understanding and suitable for them to access with ease.
That means we need to be creative, such as but not limited to using different platforms on social media and the appropriate technology. We should exhaust all the means and the methods as much as we can.
Yet an even more important lesson is to ensure that we do not get caught up in our preparations and personal efforts and forget the sincerity of our intention. We should ask Allah Almighty to use us for delivering the message and to purify our intentions. If the ikhlas in our hearts is the driver then, the message can reach people’s hearts within seconds. It is important that we combine the two together.
Have knowledge and wisdom
In any argument, and particularly in the delivery of the message, of Allah we need knowledge AND wisdom. You cannot deliver the message without authentic knowledge. And you cannot deliver it without wisdom.
You might have huge amounts of knowledge, but if your style has no wisdom, and your delivery is harsh, your tone is wrong – the message will fail. Even if everything you say is right, if the delivery is wrong, you will not be able to pass it on successfully. I have seen this many times. Someone might be quoting an ayah from the Quran, but the way he quotes it lacks wisdom.
The clear vision and clear mission
Our vision is to be guided personally and our mission is to spread the guidance, so that it is collective. Getting sidetracked will only hinder our efforts. We need to pass on the message to the right people at the right time in the right manner. So we shouldn’t argue, and we also shouldn’t bombard people. We should convey the message through well-judged persistence.
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March 17, 2022