The methods and means of delivering Islam to the audience and missionary work in general, is among the critical issues which contribute to either success of missionary activities or its failure. This is so because the objectives which the Islamic message is trying to achieve and contribute in bringing into existence are fundamental issues. These are:
1- The Islamic principles, values and thoughts, themselves, in their capacity of being suitable and in conformity with the intellect, science and unimpaired human taste and their natural ability of solving the problems of mankind and building a growing civiliza-tion.
2 – The level to which Islamic mujtahids `jurist capable of exercising `Ijtihad’, thinkers and theoretic-ians understand those Islamic principles, thoughts and values which they address to others and their power of theorizing and formulating their `ijtihad’.
3- The means, procedures and institutions to be employed in delivering the Islamic Message.
4- The level of personality and extent of commit-ment of the Islamic missionary, his awareness, ability in social interaction, understanding others and examp-lification of Islamic principles and values in his behaviour and actions that can influence others.
5- The level of experience in applying the Islamic system, the adequacy of machinery of the Islamic government representing the religion of Islam and its capability of examplifying the Islamic principles in forming the state and society and in individual behaviour.
All these fundamentals have a great impact in the success of missionary work or its failure. Therefore, the Holy Qur’an has treated the issue of means and procedures of propagation, imparted awareness and activism to the propagators, stressed on the importance of presenting a living example for practising Islam and proper unders-tanding and awareness and the method of interact-ing with the audience in these words:
“And call you unto the way of your Lord with wisdom and kindly exhortation and dispute with them in the manner which is the best; verily you Lord knows better of him who has gone astray from His path; and He knows best of those guided aright.” Holy Qur’an (Nahil 16: 125)
The importance the Qur’an attached to means and procedures of propagation was as great as that which it attached to its aims, objectives and the results towards which the whole effort is made.
Because of the importance of the procedures and the personality of the propagators of the Islamic Message, the Qur’an commands that the mission is to be prepared both ideologically and socially and be equipped with means and procedures that will ensure their success. In a similar way it stressed that this important task be assigned to a group and enjoined their proper religious education:
“And that there should be among you a group who call (mankind) unto virtue and enjoin what is good and forbid wrong; and these are they who shall be successful.” Holy Qur’an (Al-e-Imran 3: 103)
And He said:
“â€¦; why should not then a company from every party of them go forth that they may acquire (proper) unders-tanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they return unto themâ€¦” Holy Qur’an (Tawba 9: 122)
A wrong procedure will definitely damage the reputation of the Message and those who convey it. Not only that, it will distort the pure and crystal clear picture and the attractiveness of the Islamic principles, values and goals. Thus, the procedures and means of conveying the Islamic Message have a mental, ideological and practical influence in the success and or failure of mission-ary work.
There is an important legislative issue here: The procedure and method of propagation is one of man’s actions, each of which is controlled by one of the following rules: Obligation `wujub’, forbidden `hurmah’ or allowed `ibahah’. The laws of Islam do not disassociate the purity of procedure and means from the ends and results at which it aims. The great Prophet (s.a.w.) alludes to this fact:
“Obedience to Allah cannot be achieved through sinful ways”.
This shows that Islamic principles do not approve the achievement of aims by all means, because, contrary to Michiviellian politics, the ends do not justify the means. It is, therefore, incumbent on those undertaking missionary work to choose only legal means and methods that conform to Islamic rules through which Islamic aims can be achieved.
The fundamental issues that must be considered here are:
1- The procedure and way of invitation to Islam and the level of thought and social realities. “We, the company of Prophets, have been ordered to address the people according to the level of their intellect”. What to note also is the particular situation of every invitee so that we can address him based on Islamic concepts.
Every individual is at a particular level of thinking and mental disposition, consequently, there are certain inlets through which his intellect and heart can be reached so that the Islamic thoughts would not face any internal resistance. This is why it is necessary to study persons and groups and reach a scientific understanding of their natures before addressing them. And objectives of Islam.
2- The real mental, economic, political, social, ideological, etc., needs of an individual or group must be considered. Contemporary man, is indeed, suffering from anxiety and psychological alienation, economic and political problems, social injustice and a host of other encumbrances, just as the society is weighted down by these problems. It is, therefore, foremost to address both the individual and the society on how to solve their problems. This will definitely open up responses from the depths of the heart and the Islamic message will readily be accepted when it becomes clear that it is the only alternative that can bring relief.
3- The invitation must be a gradual process and the Islamic concepts presented in stages so that it will easily be recieved, comprehended and practised.
4- It is worthwhile to arrange a programme which is cultural, informative and practical in nature. This will make propagation a clearly thoughtout affair and not an off handed one. The propagator should start with the fundamentals and the first principles to end up with the intended objectives and results.
5- The propagator should start by addressing his audience from the postulates accepted by both parties; the believer and the audience so that what is agreed on will form the foundation from which we work towards wider horizons and firmer belief in the principles “Say; O people of the Book, come you to a Word common between us and you,â€¦” Holy Qur’an (Al-e-Imran 3:64)
6- To respect the personality of the person and or the party addressed. Let there, in his mind be a correct picture of human dignity and responsibility and his ability to participate in reforming the way of life and building the society.
7- Strengthening the relationship between the present world and the next and making the invitee perceive it so that what motivates him in taking action and undertaking reform will be his turning towards Allah, the Almighty and developing the means of establishing a relationship with Him. This is, indeed, a spiritual and ideological force that gives man an endless stimulaation.
8- There must be a strong interaction of feelings between the caller and those he is addressing, and whose conditions of thought, ethics and worship he is struggling to change, so that they will have a real perception of his concern for their guidance and for improving their condition. This can be done by sharing their sorrows and joys, giving his donation in meeting their needs and feelings on their personal and social distress.
9- Removing the individual or group, which is under invitation, from a corrupt environment that can influence their thoughts, spirits and behaviours and procuring alternative ways of fulfilling their needs for activities and relationship. Such alternatives may include the libraries, a society, a social foundation and religious friends.
10- Mankind has been suffering from injustice and the tyranny of oppressive rulers throughout history. It is, therefore, a fundamental political issue to present Islam as an alternative system which delivers, supports and leads man. This will no doubt wipe out all non-Islamic theories, structures and thoughts and pave the way for man’s interaction with Islamic principles and values through active conviction.
11- Sometimes Islamic thoughts and concepts are presented directly by means of dialogue, or giving a presentation of the thought, stand and view of Islam or a comparison between Islam and other systems.
This often has a defined impact. Some other times it proves difficult to introduce Islamic thought directly. In this case, the believer who undertakes missionary work, whether he is a writer or debater or artist, should employ the recreational method that is symbolic and rather unrelated to Islam. This method is usually employed in stories, novels, the theatre, poetry, films, portraits, etc. and has the effect of convincing the other party.
12- To start dialogue on a neutral and objective beginning. If a dialogue starts by cornering the other party and defining the expected result and tenaciously stressing one’s view, it will make the other party experience the urge to resist and express his bigotry. Therefore, it is better to start from a position of neutrality and gradually search for the truth, jointly. This will positively affect the codiscussant by having a real feeling that both parties are meerly searching for facts and exploring for the truth in their dialogue. They can, thus, conduct their debate in a receptive and open minded atmosphere with defensive measures and mental obstacles removed.
The Almighty, Allah directed the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) to take up this method by saying:
“Say: `Who provides you with sustenance from the heavens and the earth?’ Say: `(It is) Allah, and verily (either) we or you are guided aright, or in manifest error?'” Holy Qur’an (Saba’ 34: 24)
Adapted from: “The Methods Of Propagation and Missionary Work” by: “Sayyid Bahashti”