The Qualities of a Successful Missionary

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1. Sincerity and Love of Allah, the Glorious

The most fundamental feature of a missionary is to be sincere to Allah and love Him. The more a person loves Allah, the Almighty, the loftier his soul will be. He will be endowed with a continuous power for action which will not dwindle. He firmly believes that his work is worship and that he is striving to attain Allah’s pleasure, introduce the people to Him, subject them to His service and bring them to His proximity. This impetus form, the strongest mental spur, propels man to carry out his work and really be attached to it.

If this reality does not exist in the mind of the missionary, his work will turn into a form of social responsibility devoid of spirit, impact and devotional value and the caller will lose perseverance and absorption in his work.

We can see this fact in Allah’s saying:

“…but Allah has endeared the faith unto you, and made it attractive in your hearts and made abhorrent unto you disbelief and transgression; they are they who are on the right guidance.” Holy Qur’an (Hujurat 49: 7)

2- Love for Others and Zeal for Reforming

When the Islamic worker acquires the feature of loving others and being benevolent to them, and carries a humanitarian spirit that makes him conscious of the necessity of salvaging man and reforming him, he will embark upon his work forcefully and committedly. His concern will be sincere and unabating, for he always possesses his thoughts and feelings.

In the following verses of the Qur’an we read about the love that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), the deliverer of mankind, had for the people, how bitter he was about their lack of response to the call of truth and his zeal in guiding them. These verses reveal the feelings of uneasiness he had because of their opposing stance vis-a vis the call of Allah:

“So maybe that you will worry yourself with grief after them, if they believe not in this revelation (the Qur’an).” Holy Qur’an (Kahf 18: 6)

And His saying:

“…so let not your self go (in vain) in grief for them…” Holy Qura’n (Fatir 35: 8)

These two verses of the Holy Qur’an aim at lessening the psychological pain experienced by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) as a result of his people’s disregard for his call and their opposition. These verses reveal the extent of his sincerity to the people, concern for their guidance and zeal for transforming the society and rebuilding it, also.

This distress and sorrow in the pure soul of the Prophet (s.a.w.) reaches this level because of his love for humanity, and his zeal for its delivery which can be likened to that of a compassion-ate father for saving his children and reforming their behaviour. This sincerity, love and zeal to guide others, is depicted by the saying of the Almighty Allah:

“Indeed has come unto you an Apostle from among your selves; grievous to him is your fa-ling into distress, (he is) solicitous regarding your welfare, towards the faithful (he is) compassionate, (and) merciful.” Holy Qur’an (Tawba 9:128)

Such is the nature of the sincere Muslim whose soul is zealous for other’s guidance, he bears the message of reform and transformation which propels him to work deligently and assidously. This is so because the internal and psychological feelings often nourish mental convictions with impetus and the desire to practice theoretical ideas.

3- Social Nature

One of the characteristics of a missionary is to be a social person capable of interacting with the people. He must be jovial and charming and be able to mingle with others. He can influence others with his feelings, thoughts and behaviour but would not be influenced by the polluted milieu he is working to reform, and from which he is trying to rescue others. He will be an active factor in changing and not a liable to surrendering whenever he encounters polluted ideologies or behaviours. Thus, an unsociable introvert cannot serve as a successful missionary.

An introvert may succeed in writing and exch-anging with the society in his publications but he would only address his audience from an ivory tower, his thoughts could not have the real contact with societal problems nor could they react to man’s needs. The Islamic call can only interact with man in his social activities, his daily life and his professional roles in society by coming face to face with him at social, cultural and humanitarian foundations and mass organizations. It must also take it upon itself to share the sorrows and joys of those it addresses, meet their needs, and take up the responsibility of solving the social, economic and political problems of the people. This will convey the deep concern that propagators have for the common good.

4- Good Behaviours

“And most certainly you stands on sublime morality.” Holy Qur’an (Qalam 68: 4)

“…had you been severe and hard-hearted, they would surely has dispersed away from around you…” Holy Qur’an (AL-e-Imran 3: 159)

“…and speak kindly unto all people …” Holy Qur’an (Baqarah 2: 83)

“And be kind unto him who follows you, of the believers.” Holy Qur’an (Shu`ara 26: 215)

“…Repel you (evil) with what is the best, when lo! He between whom and you was enimty, shall be as though he were a warm friend.” Holy Qur’an (Fussilat 41: 34)

“…and who restrain (their) anger, and forgive (the faults of) people…” Holy Qur’an (Al-e- Imran 3: 134)

“So turn you away from them and say: `Peace (be unto you)’; for they shall soon know (the result).” Holy Qur’an (Zukhruf 43: 89)

“And those who, from what is vain, keep (themselves) aloof.” Holy Qur’an (Mu’minun 23: 3)

“…and dispute with them in the manner which is the best…” Holy Qur’an (Nahil 16: 125)

The Prophet (s.a.w.) is quoted to have said :

“You can not suffice the people with your wealth, therefore, suffice them with your good ethics.”

Surely, to interact with the people and make friends with them is, in itself, an art and a form of knowledge and expertise. Good ethics and a nice interaction with others is one of the most influential ways to reach the souls. Where there is no response to an idea, the good manners find their way. The good ethics of a caller are more effective than his persuasive word, for they are the messengers to the souls whose movement is not hindered by obstacles. A bright face, a nice and soft speech which makes the distressed happy, cheers up the miserable and pleases the dis-gruntled; forgiving the wrong-doers and overlooking their faults and gentle behaviour in which importunity, anger and emotion are shunned and the opinion of others is respected are all means of practicing lofty morals, which, in turn, prepares the grounds for a favourable response from one’s audience.

The Qur’an summarizes the importance of good morals in the success of missionary work in its extolment of Prophetic demeanor, and his fruitful social intercourse in reconciling the hearts and uniting the people around him. It says:

“…had you been severe and hard-hearted, they would surely has dispersed away from around you…” Holy Qur’an (AL-e-Imran 3: 159)

This verse establishes an ethical and psycholog-ical method of attracting the people towards the ranks of the believers and winning their hearts. At the same time, it explains how unseemly interaction with others and uncouth and harsh behaviour would distance and disperse others from the believers. Thus, the believers would be left in isolation and lose their supporting masses; a situation that will give their enemies a free hand in cornering and destroying them since they are already mentally besieged.

The Holy Qur’an attributes the unity of the people and their obedience to the message, to the purity of the Prophet (s.a.w.) from all kinds of harshness and unwholesome dealings and his mild and refined character. “And most certainly you stands on sublime morality.” Holy Qur’an (Qalam 68: 4)

5- Wisdom and Foresight

“And call unto the way of you r Lord with wisdom and kindly exhortation and dispute with them in the manner which is the best.” Holy Qur’an (Nahl 16: 125)

One of the fundamental characteristics of a successful missionary is to have wisdom and foresight in his work and relationship with others. He must be able to plan for yrttuhe future, beyond the present stage and condition; and be able to place them under his forecast of the future. He works and plans for his future, the future of the coming generations and the clashes with other civilizations.

He does not limit himself to chang-ing the present deviation only. The sage is one who assigns to everything its rightful place. He is wise in thought, dealings, speech and choosing the appropriate language and the way he treats people. This is important because when a piece of work lacks wisdom, it turns into a damage and hinders the Islamic course.

The evidence of wisdom in a missionary consist of the following:

He plans his work, thinking for the future as he thinks for the present time.

He knows how to win friends.

He knows how to steer clear of enemies.

He knows how to win others who are unable to be rightly guided.

He knows how to employ the effort of opponents for the benefit of his stance.

He makes use of the experiences of others.

He knows how to convince others of his thought and scheme.

He knows how to successfully deal with the society in which he lives.

He knows how to take precautions for contingenc-ies and probabilities.

He knows how to select effective words.

He knows how to identify the correct stand and then selects it

6- Commitment to the Islamic Laws

It is imperative that the bearer of an ideology who invites others to it possesses such a behaviour as would make him the mirror of his thoughts and a practical model which others can emulate.

In a case whereby there is discrepancy between words and deeds, the trust of those invited to the cause who believe in it, act according to it and await its success will surely be shaken and shattered. Surely, accusation will replace their trust and despair their hope.

The Holy Qur’an has mentioned many a parable about the truthful believers who follow up word with deed, working even before speaking. Their way was work and commitment rather than exhortations given from the pulpits, nor was it by way of writing books, after which they withdraw it.

Based on the close relationship between word and deed, Islamic thought distinguishes between Islam (submission) and Iman (belief). Islam is to acknow-ledge the two testifications which will confirm his being a Muslim, although he might be uncommitted to the rule of the Shari’a. He who accepts Islam, but does not act according to it, remains a Muslim, although being a deviated sinner. Iman, on the other hand, means acknowledging the two testifications and acting in accordance with what the message bears, be it a belief system, ideology, legislation or values, in the fields of behaviour and overall way of life.

It is incumbent upon the person who calls people to sacrifice and strive in the way of Allah with wealth and life, to help the needy, to truth, faithfulness and trustworthiness, to stay clear of forbidden desires, to disregard the vanities of the world and to long for Allah’s recompense to apply these principles in his behaviour and deeds, so that he can be a real missionary in behaviour and action, not only in word and exhortations.

A society that could not feel and witness sincerity in the work of a missionary would not just accept empty words. The holy Qur’an has forbidden the act of talking without backing one’s speech with action, and informs us that the wrath of Allah awaits such people.

Allah, the Exalted, says:

“O you who believe! Why say you what you (yourselves) do (it) not? Most hateful is it unto Allah that you say what you (yourselves) do (it) not.” Holy Qur’an (Saff 61: 2-3)

Allah, the Most High, has sworn that man will be in vain unless he backs his word with action. And He says: “By the Time! Verily man is in loss! Save those who believe, and do good deeds, and exhort each other to truth and exhort each other to endurance.” Holy Qur’an (Asr 103: 1-3)

And He says:

“And say (unto them), act as you will, Allah beholds your deeds, and His Apostle, and thee believers.” Holy Qur’an (Tawba 9: 105)

Both the Qur’an and the history bear witness to the fact that the highest example for mankind in the issue of conformity of action with word is the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (s.a.w.). This is why he was the model for mankind by practicing the principles to which he called the people. He was able to build the ideological edifice and construct that great society and glorious, everlasting civilization on the foundations of tawhid, unity of Allah, and ethical values.

7- Ability to Handle Discussions

“…and dispute with them in the manner which is the best.” Holy Qur’an (Nahl 16: 125)

The success of the issue by which he addressses people and public opinion, depends on the value of its principles and on the people who bear the message and defend it.

A right issue can be a lost one if its presentation and defence is entrusted to someone who is not able to carry out the assignment. More so, he might also do a lot of damage to the cause. Because of the importance of the word he method of dialogue, the Holy Qur’an presented various verses that discuss the method and procedures of handling it. Discussion and holding dialogues with others, is indeed, an art in itself.

It, is, therefore, incumbent upon the missionary to perfect this art by rehearsal and practical drill. On the part of the foundation for propagation, it is imperative to groom the propagators, and those concerned with missionary work, by educating and training them on the method of handling dialogues and symposiums. There should be rehearsals in dialogue under the guidance and supervision of an experienced specialist. Where their strong and weak points, in the way of conducting the dialogue and debate, as well as, their method of presenting an idea and defending it, should be pointed out.

Perhaps, one of the foundations of a successful dialogue is to engage the opponent by starting from the postulates which were accepted by both parties, so that a desired result can be reached. One must not seek victory over his opponent just for victory’s sake, irrespective of whether he becomes convinced of an idea or rejects it. The objective of a discussant is to convince the other party of his idea and not to be victorious over him.

8- It is a well known fact that, conveying an idea or a word to its recipient and gaining accep-tance, is one of the loftiest arts in a human’s rela-tionship. This art has its own instruments and techniques for expression and has access to the mind of the audience.

It is imperative for the missionary to perfect the means of conveying Islamic thoughts and deliver it to the people with what he possesses. He, therefore, stands in need of the art of oration, discussion, writing or lecturing. He must train himself, putting much effort in mastering whatever he can of these arts, so as to enable himself to relay his thoughts and convince others of the Islamic enterprise, or the issues which he is working to change and reform. To procure enough speakers, writers and other experts is one of those obligatory duties that is a collective responsibility of the whole Muslim community (wajib al-Kifa’I), since the Islamic message and principles are in need of it.

9- Ensuring Islamic Consciousness and Culture

“…; 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 them…” Holy Qur’an (Tawba 9: 122)

“Say (O Our Apostle Muhammad): `This is my way, I invite (you all) unto Allah; with clear sight, (which) I and he who follows me (possess-es)…” Holy Qur’an (Yusuf 12: 108)

One of the essential elements and conditions thaat a person who intends to work for the propagation of Islam must fulfil, is that he must have social and political consciousness, the education the society needs and the knowledge of religion, its fundamentals and methods. This does not mean that Islam exempts those without much knowledge of the duty of commanding good and forbidding evil and inviting others to Islam. Every Muslim is duty bound to play his part in that field according to his knowledge of the rules of Shari’a (Islamic Law).

In the above-mentioned verses, the Holy Qur’an stresses that having religious knowledge and insight are among the fundamental pivots of calling people to Allah.

10- Acquaintance with the composition of the society, its situation, conditions and ideological, political, civil and psychological problems.

The Muslim missionary encounters complex societal ideas, customs, traditions and compositions. He relates with a society conditioned by its problems, anxieties, aspirations and expectations. Islam, being a civilizational scheme concerned with reforming the society, makes it obligatory on the missionary to be conversant with the ideological and psychological composition of his society and have full awareness of its problems. The following verse summarizes this:

“Say (O Our Apostle Muhammad): `This is my way, I invite (you all) unto Allah; with clear sight, (which) I and he who follows me (posses-ses)…” Holy Qur’an (Yusuf 12: 108)

Therefore, those undertaking the issue of propaga-tion have no recourse but to conduct studies and analysis and increase their comprehension and draw reform programmes.

11- Belief in the Fulfillment of the Aims of Propagation

One of the most critical problems facing missionary work is to have despair and be pessimistic in reforming the society and correcting corrupt practices, and thinking that the Islamic programme is unable to take up the role of a pioneering leadership. A Muslim imbued with the message starts his work with the hope for changing the situation. He is propelled into setting the divine commands into motion, those commands which call for opposition to corruption and crushing the tyrants however powerful and haughty they might be.

The Holy Qur’an has indeed roused the spirit of developing strong hope in the souls of the believers and removing their despair. Many verses try to curb this problem so that the dynamo of hope would move towards the objectives. For example, His saying:

“And indeed We did write in the Psalms (Zubur) (given to David) after the Reminder (Tawaith given to Moses), that the earth, shall inherit it My servants righteous.” Holy Qur’an (Anbiya 21: 105)

“And indeed We to bestow (Our) favour upon those who were considered weak in the land, and to make them the Imams (guides in faith), and to make them the heirs.” Holy Qur’an (Qasas 23: 5)

“Allah has promised unto those of you who believe and do good deeds that He will certainly appoint them successors in the earth as He appointed successors those before them.” Holy Qur’an (Nur 24: 55)

Indeed, the pioneering party of Islam, under the leadership of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), set out to oppose the tyrants of the earth, in spite of their few numbers and paucity of means. It created a miraclous feat having been victorious and overpowering the seemingly invincible. Thus, faith and the power of will, not the power of the sword and wealth, was the victor, despite the role of material wherewithal in awarding victory.

Indeed, the Holy Qur’an reminded the believers to this fact, and presented a lively picture of practical experience before them:

“Indeed Allah has succoured you at `Badr’ when you were contemptibly weak..” Holy Qur’an (Al-e-Imran 3:122)

12- Endurance of Difficulties and Tribula-tions

The bearer of the message and the reformer who calls for establishing Islam, changing the composition of society, changing the ideological and cultural content of the society, the reform of which he is working for, will no doubt face serious rejection and stiff resistance from the powers protecting the ignorant `ignorant’ system and existing social composition. They will do this, in order to protect their interests and selfish desires, which they will loose whenever the tyrannic leadership reverts to Islam.

In view of this, the patrons of the system will hasten, with all the means at their disposal, to destroy and eliminate those whose main aim is changing the society and establishing the Islamic alternative. It is necessary for those working for the sake of Islam to realize this fact and be ready to endure all trials, tribulations and tyranny with perseverance, steadfastness and unpliable resolution.

13- Considering the development of the human society and the complexity of its problems, institutions and active forces, it will be naive to regard impulsive, unprompted work as capable of executing any task and achieving the aims. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct studies and plan for the activities and sources that can carry Islamic thought, principles and objectives.

The missionaries must be capable of planning on two levels; the individual and institutional levels. Perhaps planning which is indispensable in the success of Islamic objectives is also obligatory in the Shari’a, and this is in accordance with a precept of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence `ilmul usul’ which says:

“Anything (or act) without which an obligatory act cannot be fulfilled, is itself an obligatory thing / act”.

Adapted from: “The Methods Of Propagation and Missionary Work” by: “Sayyid Bahashti”

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