Islam is not just prayer, fasting, paying Zakah, and going for Hajj. These are the foundations of Islam; however Islam is a very comprehensive and all-encompassing religion that covers all aspects of life. In that sense, Islam is a way of life and a code of teachings and rules that makes life better. Da`wah means conveying the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is to help all people be always on the right track and guide those who have gone astray to return to the path of Allah the Almighty.
Sheikh Hamed Al-Ali, instructor of Islamic Heritage at the Faculty of Education, Kuwait and Imam of Dahiat As-Sabahiyya Mosque, says: “In addition to performing Salah, fasting and other pillars of Islam, we need to have the taqwa (consciousness of Allah the Almighty) in our hearts, be this in public or in
private life. That means we are required to follow the commands of Almighty Allah and avoid all what He has forbidden. The Qur’an and the Sunnah are the sources of guidance and knowledge for us, and as such, we need to resort to the Qur’an and refer to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in all of our actions and read them regularly to seek guidance. If sometimes we fail to find the guidance in the Qur’an and Sunnah to a particular problem or situation in our life, then we need to approach the Muslim scholars and ask them about things we do not know. This way we will make sure that we are on the right path of Allah Most High.
As far as the issue of da`wah in the sense of preaching is concerned, it is regarded as fard kifayah (collective obligation) on Muslims. But da`wah in the sense of setting a good example is fard `ayan (individual obligation) on Muslims to safeguard their religion and convey its message to Muslims and non-Muslims as well. With regard to the methods of giving da`wah, they are many: wise and gentle approach, giving speeches and sermons, setting good example for others to follow, etc.”
Dr. Su`aad Salih, professor of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) at Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, adds:
“`Ibadah (worship) in Islam is not restricted to the performance of the five daily prayers, fasting, Zakah, Hajj, and others rituals. The real meaning of `ibadah is very comprehensive and goes beyond these acts mentioned above. Literally, `ibadah stands for submission and showing humility to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, as He is the One Who has given us bounties and favors. Therefore, any act of goodness that is classified under righteousness and piety is considered to be an act of worship in Islam.
It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked Mu`adh Ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him): “Do you know what right Allah Most High has on His servants and what right they have on Him?” He said: “No, Allah and His Messenger know best.” Thereupon the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied: “The right people owe to Allah is to worship Him alone and associate no partner with Him. And the right people deserve from Allah is not to be punished if they do not associate any partner with Him.”
This Hadith indicates the broad concept of `ibadah in Islam, and that Allah the Almighty can forgive any sin except taking other partners with Him, Exalted be He.
People are required to strive against themselves and overcome their desires and not to respond to their evil-whispering soul. Allah Most High says:
“And those who strive in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right.” (Al-`Ankabut: 69)
In addition to this, people should spend in the cause of Allah, give charity to their relatives and others, avoid evils such as backbiting, slander, suspicion, spying, etc. They should abide by truth, honesty, keeping promises, and all Islamic manners that have been stated in the ever-lasting and all-encompassing book, the Qur’an. Allah Almighty says: “We have not neglected anything in the Book.” (Al-An`am: 38)
As for da`wah, it means to enjoin and call to what is good and forbid and warn against what is evil. It is the obligation of people who are qualified, have profound understanding of the Deen, have good character and manners, and have a broad knowledge of Islam.
Concerning the best method of giving da`wah, it is by wisdom and gentle approach, as Allah (Glorified be He) taught His noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in the Qur’an:
“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: 125)
And He says in another verse:
“Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair.” (Al `Imran: 159)
And He says elsewhere:
“Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” (Al-`Araf: 199)
Highlighting the importance and obligation of da`wah, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former head of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and member of the Fiqh Council of North America, says:
“We should first understand what da`wah is. Da`wah means to invite people to the way of Allah the Almighty, to call unto them to know the truth and follow it.
Da`wah is done in two ways. The first one is through example, through being a role model. In the Qur’anic terminology it is called “being witnesses towards mankind” (Shuhada’ ‘ala an-nasi). It is the duty of every Muslim, male or female, young or old, to be a witness of almighty Allah among the people. When people see a Muslim, they should see a good person, a person of truth, of sincerity and of virtue. A Muslim’s life should be an open invitation through which people see the beauty of Islam and find it an interesting code of ethics and teachings to follow. Allah Most High says in the Qur’an: “Thus we have appointed you a middle community in order that you may be witnesses towards humankind and that the Messenger may be a witness towards you… (Al-Baqarah:143). All Muslims must give da`wah through their good Islamic life as individuals, as families and as communities. People who come into contact with them should see Islam as a living and practical faith that makes the life of human beings better.
Another way of giving da`wah is through teaching, preaching, communication, engaging in dialogues, discussions and debates, writing books and articles, giving lectures, etc. Almighty Allah says: “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: 125) Of course this requires deep knowledge, preparation and training. Muslims should use the most effective and appropriate methods of da`wah in every place and time. Nowadays, for example, da`wah requires modern ways such as the use of radio, television, Internet in addition to the person-to-person preaching and teaching.
I know that every Muslim would not have time to go through this kind of training and give da`wah in this way. But some people must prepare themselves and engage in this field, as Allah the Exalted says: “And the believers should not all go out to fight. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk when they return to them, so that they may beware.” (At-Tawbah 9:122)
Thus, giving da`wah with proper training and specialization is regarded as fard kifayah (collective obligation). That means in every community some people must take the proper da`wah training and should do this work in a systematic and methodical way on behalf of all other members of the community. If some people do this work, then there is no blame on others, but if no one does it, all Muslims of the community are considered sinners. It is the duty of all Muslims to support this work by providing facilities and funds so that it can be done in a proper manner.”