The Art of Dawah

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SHAFAQNA-

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

(In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful)

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (H.Q. 16:125)

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    Advertisement and marketing are two areas that are focused heavily on in the west. You see that businesses devote a great deal of their profits in these fields. These companies have come to an understanding that the key to success in business is proper presentation. They know that the more alluring a product or service is made to appear the more in demand it will become. No one wants a product that is ragged, torn down, or unattractive. This approach of putting forth a good product with good presentation has to be employed by the Muslims.Â

   Today there are powerful marketing and advertisement campaigns that are being produced against the Muslims. We as Muslims are being labeled as terrorist, lunatics, and amoral and un-Godly people. We are being presented as people that hate each other and everyone else as well. We have been given the title, “The Enemy”.

  The dilemma that faces us now is how do we remove these misconceptions? How do we clean up our image? How can we change the world’s view of us? More importantly how do we propagate Islam? (give Dawah)

   Let’s address these issues as if they were a project. We will look at Islam like it is a property that we are trying to sell. Before investing in a potential property there are certain procedures that one must undertake. Maybe the most important of these procedures is the inspection of that property. When inspecting a property the inspector has to check the roofing, plumbing, electrical, foundation and landscape. Now the inspector doesn’t have to be an expert in all of these fields but he has to have general knowledge in order to be effective. As Muslims we are the inspectors and Islam is our property. We have to be able to explain our concept of Allah, define Islam, and what a Muslim is. We need to know our Prophet, his book, his mission, and who is responsible for the continuation of that mission. Just like the property inspector we don’t need to be experts but we need to have general knowledge. Insha Allah these brief descriptions will help up in this endeavor to obtain knowledge.

Allah (swt), this word comes from two words al ilah, which means the only One worthy of praise. Allah is the Absolute, The Originator, Uncreated Creator, Evolver and Sustainer of the world. He is the One without Whom everything will cease to exist. He (swt) has said of Himself, “Say, He is Allah, the Absolute One, Needless, the Eternally besought of all. He begets not nor was he begotten and there is absolutely nothing that can be compared to Him. Â

Islam means among many things peace, total submission, and surrender to the will of Allah.

A Muslim is one who willfully submits his will to the Will of Allah.

Our Prophet Muhammed (saaws) is the Prophet that was prophesized by all previous Prophets (as). He is the Beloved of Allah that He (Allah) chose to complete and convey the message of Islam to mankind. He is the seal of the Prophets there are none to come after him. He is the one that whose enemies named the Truthful, and Trustworthy. There is no man in the history of mankind that has been quoted or more written about than him. Allah has labeled him a mercy for all the worlds. He is the best example that has ever lived. He was the walking, living embodiment of the Qur’an. He is the slave of Allah.

The book in Islam is the Holy Qur’an. Allah has said, “This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah;” (H.Q. 2:2) Allah has also informed us who it was reveled to and what it came to do He said, “Blessed is He Who sent down the Furqan upon His servant that he may be a warner to the nations;” (H.Q. 25:1) Ayatollah Pooya (ra) has said “Furqan is that by which we can judge clearly between right and wrong and distinguish between the true and the false. The Qur’an (Furqan) is the standing criterion for distinguishing between right and wrong.” (Qur’an commentary)

He continues “The Qur’an was revealed to the Holy Prophet as light and guidance to show the right path (the religion of Allah) to all mankind in every age. The mission of the Holy Prophet is universal. He came as a warner to all creatures. See Nisa: 79; Araf: 158; Anbiya: 107; Ahzab: 41; Saba: 28 and Fat-h: 28 and 29. The Qur’an is the final revelation given to mankind and protected from all corruptions by Allah. “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message (Qur’an); and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption). (H.Q.15: 9)

The mission of the Prophet was to invite all to the path of Allah. Exhorting mankind to the pure monotheistic worship of Allah (Tawheed). To explain to man that Allah has no equals, partners, associates, parents or children. To enjoin the right and forbid the evil. He was sent protect the rights of all great and small. He was sent to deliver the message of Islam. However this mission of Islam didn’t start nor end with him. The revelation was ended with him but the explanation and protection of that revelation continues to this day.

Islam is an ocean of information guiding mankind in all of his affairs, physical and spiritual. This complete and total way of life has to continually be explained so that we will not go astray. The continuation or extension of this mission after the Prophet was given to the Imams (as) from his household. The concept of Imamate must be explained but not here. I will explain what an Imam is, He is a divinely appointed successor to the Prophet Muhammed that has been endowed with the knowledge of the Prophet but he has no Prophet hood in him. He is our guide after the prophet. These guides were spoken of in the Bible and ahadith. There are twelve Imams and we live in the age of the final Imam from the Prophet’s house. He is the awaited reformer and He is guiding us from behind a veil through our scholars. The scholars are next in line to uphold and continue the mission of the Prophet. Finally the responsibility of upholding the mission falls on every Muslims shoulders. Our job is of the utmost importance because we are on the frontlines and we are the most visible. Unfortunately we are mostly the cause of our negative image. Insha Allah that will be fixed soon.

Knowing these terms and concepts will take us far. We must be able to explain our faith. The recurring theme here is we need not be experts but have general knowledge. Now that we can fully inspect our property we can get a good assessment of what we are working with.

   Now that the repair list has made from the inspection we can address the problems and begin the process of beautifying our property. Beautification has it’s own process. It takes painting, filling holes frankly getting a total makeover. We will need tools for these jobs such as paintbrushes, rakes, hammers etc. With Islam we also need tools to beautify our concept of it and ourselves. Our beauty comes from Akhlaq “good manners”; the Prophet said, “He has come to teach us good manners”. Remember no one wants anything unattractive. What are the tools of “good manners”? They are prayer (salat), fasting (saum), charity (zakat) and patience (sabr). These tools purify the mind body and soul. We must utilize these tools and be able to explain them and their benefits.

  First is salat the prayer. This tool will help us out tremendously. Prayer is the best reminder of Our lord. We pray at least five times a day. This is the vehicle for the ascension to our Lord to seek his nearness and favor. The prayer instills taqwa  (piety and God consciousness). It keeps us away from the sin. It allows us to understand that we are constantly under attack and it provides us with an armor of protection against the Satan. With this knowledge we know we must always be on our best behavior. The more we pray the more conscious we are of our other acts. The Prophet (saaws) has said that if our prayers are accepted our other acts of worship would be accepted. And he has said if the prayers   aren’t accepted the other acts of worship would not be accepted. We must establish the prayer in our own lives so that we can tell others of the great benefits that we get from it.

   The next beautifier is saum the fasting. The fasting has been prescribed to teach us self-restraint and compassion for our fellow man. If a person is unmarried it is said to him to fast to help him abstain from committing illegal acts. The repayment for committing certain sins would be to fast. Another benefit to fasting is that it makes you experience hunger, thirst, and weakness. Theses experiences opens your heart for those that less fortunate than we are. This also builds taqwa and build the armor against sin. Again we must practice this in our own lives and be able to explain its benefits to others.

   Third we have zakat the charity. The word zakat actually means to purify. By giving what Allah has given to us we purify our money and property. By fasting, praying and observing other acts we purify our souls. Allah (swt) has said, “He will indeed be successful who purifies it (the soul), and he will indeed fail who corrupts it.” (H.Q. 91: 9-10). In Islam we know that when we are grateful to Allah and thank him for his bounties he blesses us with more. We must also realize that we did nothing to deserve this mercy from Allah and all He asks for them is that we worship Him alone. We must learn this and be able to explain it.

  The final beautifier is sabr the patience. We were only placed here in this world for a trial. What will bring us success on this trial? Allah (swt) has said, “O you who believe! be patient and excel in patience and remain steadfast, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, that you may be successful.” (H.Q. 3:200) Allah has shown us how to obtain success. Not only success but also his assistance comes along with patience when we add prayer. Allah (swt) has said, “O you who believe! seek assistance through patience and prayer; surely Allah is with the patient.” (H.Q. 2:153) This is very important because when we deal with people we have to remain patient. People will say things that will anger us we must bear it patiently. We will hear them say the wrong things we must listen until they are finished before correcting them. That takes patience. The Akhlaq is truly shown when patience is observed. We can obtain all these beautifier by following the advice of Imam Ali (as) who said, “ Worship Allah (swt) as though you can see Him knowing that Allah (swt) sees you. This completes the beautification now we are ready to show the fruit of our labor.

   Dawah is inviting people to the path of Allah. In order to invite anyone to anything it has to be presented properly. Now that we know how to present the property, whom do we target as customers? In this case it is everybody. How can we sell to everyone? In order to tackle this dilemma we must break down our potential clients into individual groups. If we viewed this property as a home that we are trying to sell we can separate these customers into four groups. The first of these groups are the homeowners. They already own their homes but they want to compare their houses others to assess their true value. The second are those that who are seeking a house because they don’t have one and see the importance of having one. The third group, they don’t own a home either, they like looking at others peoples homes. The fourth and final group, are those that say that there’s no need for anyone to own their own home. It is imperative that we sell to all of them and convince them all that our home is a perfect fit for them.  However in our case we will need to rename these groups in order that we show how to give proper Dawah. The first group represents people who follow a religion other than Islam. The second are those that have no religious affiliation but are seeking for the straight path. Those that have a little religious knowledge but hadn’t decided what religion if any he should follow will represent the third group. The final group flat out rejects the belief in God and religion. Again we must sell or invite all to the way of Allah, and here’s how we’ll do it.

  The first group will be comprised of Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhist. We can group the Christian and Jews together because they share a similar belief and a lot of the same arguments can be used on them both. Allah (swt) has said, “Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to an agreement between you and us: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will).”  (H.Q. 3:64) When the Christians and the Jews hear this verse they get defensive. The reason is because they say that they worship none but Allah. But when you investigate there religions you find where Christians have made one God into three and both Christians and Jews taking the laws of their holy men to be greater than Allah’s. This happens when (Tawheed) true monotheism is taken from the picture. Remember the mission of the Prophet was to teach this. Once this concept of Tawheed is taught we will see them moving towards Islam. Like wise with the Hindu he doesn’t understand Tawheed. It must be noted that the Hindu in his truest essence is not a polytheist. He believes in One God that manifests himself in everything. That makes him a pantheist. We have to explain that everything is not God, but everything belongs to God. The right concept of Allah will bring him towards Islam. The Buddhist doesn’t ascribe to any god. His way of life is best characterized as a religion or in Arabic deen. He bases everything on cause and effect. It is a fact that no effect can exist without a cause. So reason dictates to us that there has to be a primordial cause that brought all effects into being. We just need to show them that it is Allah that is the Primary cause. It is Him that has brought everything into existence and without Him nothing will exist. This may seem difficult to convey but if we remember we don’t have to be an expert just have general knowledge we can do the job. We can sell Islam. (Give Dawah)Â

   The second group may be the easiest to give Dawah to because they are seeking guidance. They have no religious background. Most times all that’s needed are a good character (Akhlaq) and good general knowledge. If we present Islam in a proper way, Islam itself will win them over. We really have to make sure that our lifestyles mirror Islam so that we aren’t the cause of these people turning away. We cannot fail at giving these people the message. They are searching we must guide.Â

   The third group is those who have some religious knowledge but has not taken any one religion as their own. These people are also searching and it is doubly important that we present Islam in its proper form. This is because they have seen the other religions and need to be shown why Islam is the best.  We have to be able to compare and contrast these other religions to show Islam’s superiority over them. More importantly we have to use good reasoning and beautiful arguments to convince this group. We must be sure not to offend them.

   The final group will be your agnostics, atheist, Satanist and others that reject God and religion all together. This group may seem to be the most difficult to convince but they to can be persuaded with sound reasoning. Has not man reflected on his own creation? Allah (swt) has said, “He has created man from a sperm-drop; and behold this same (man) becomes an open disputer!” (H.Q 16:4) He has also said, “There surely came over man a period of time when he was a thing not worth mentioning. Surely We have created man from a small life-germ uniting (itself): We mean to try him, so We have made him hearing, seeing.” (H.Q. 76:1-2) Look at the arrogance shown by man and the lowness of his creation and there was a time when he was not worth mentioning. We as men can’t determine where we are born, when we are born, if the family we are born into is rich or poor. We have no choice in our color, hair texture or height. When man comes into this world he doesn’t have to make a conscious effort to breath or to eat these functions are innate in him so that he can survive. Man also follows rules that are divine and man made. No one likes to be lied to, stolen from, oppressed, or threatened with lost of life. These injustices don’t have to taught Allah has placed them in us. When man breaks the laws that are made to protect him he knows that there are consequences that await him. In the same manner by breaking Allah’s (swt) laws there are consequences. Man sees the order in the universe He knows he didn’t bring it; it comes from Allah (swt). He desperately wants to see the same order in his life, and that too comes from Allah (swt). Can’t man see that Allah (swt) has given him dominion over the earth and provides you with signs of His Greatness? He gives us rain, food, air, intelligence, strength and good forms. This begs the question, “Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny?” (H.Q. 55:16) I find it amazing that man will deny his Lord after he gives him everything. We have to express these arguments in beautiful ways. But when all else fails Allah (swt) has assured us of this,“ Every soul must taste of death and We try you by evil and good by way of probation; and to Us you shall be brought back.” (H.Q. 21:35) So rather we submit willfully (become Muslims) or reject the message we all return to Allah.

Man has been in search of the fountain of youth and has yet to find it. Every soul must taste death. It doesn’t matter what you believe the truest statement that is being proven every second of everyday is, “Surely we are Allah’s and to Him we shall surely return.” (H.Q. 2:156).

   We find ourselves full circle. We will end where we began. Allah (swt) has said, “Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (H.Q. 16:125) We as Muslims have aided our enemies in there campaign against us. We have presented ourselves as a ragged, hateful and ignorant people. Sometimes we as Muslims have to agree to disagree, agreeably. The truth of the matter is no one outside of Islam cares about your sect. All they see are Muslims. We have to present a united front for the work of Dawah. We are the fastest growing religion in the history of mankind not because of us, but despite of us. So if we want to give Dawah we must have good Akhlaq and allow our actions to speak louder than our words. And when we do speak let our words be intelligent, well thought out and informed. To reiterate, we need not be experts but we do need to possess general knowledge. The chief source of this general knowledge can be found in the Qur’an. We as Muslims neglect the Qur’an. But this is the library of all things religious. If we read Qur’an with tafseer (commentary) we will find all the information we need to deliver the message of Islam properly. We need not go elsewhere. All the information about how the Prophets, Imams, and rightly guided companions dealt with the Jews, Christians, Idolaters, Polytheist, and non-believers can be found. All we need to do is read the Qur’an. Another source of general knowledge can be found in the Islamic centers. There at the centers we can have Qur’anic studies with our local scholars. The scholars in general, and the local scholars in particular have a wealth of information and they are here just to answer and explain any thing that we throw at them. We also must understand their position. The Prophet Muhammed has said, “ The Ulema (scholars) of his community will be regarded higher than the Prophets of Bani Israel. That is a very high status we must never forget that. All of these must be utilized. It is a sin and a shame that we know more about a sports team, athlete, movie star or television program than we know about Islam. We must become educated about our religion so that we help Islam to grow and not be a deterrent for those that are seeking the straight path. We must be able to cite Islamic facts like we cite the life story of our favorite athlete. Once again no need to be experts just have general knowledge.

   In conclusion we began with the overwhelming power of effective marketing and advertising. But oddly enough we find that the most powerful means of marketing and advertisement is still word of mouth. Societies are made up of individuals. If you want to change society, improve the way people view you and propagate Islam, You have to do it one individual at a time.

I pray that Allah (swt) is pleased with this humble effort.

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