Tuesday 19 April 2016

Dawah for the Ordinary Muslim

A sister recently left a comment asking me about dawah, the work of sharing Islam with others. She asked if every Muslim was responsible for doing dawah, even if they were lay people and didn’t have much knowledge, especially in todays climate where it can feel as if everyone hates us.

I would always recommend that Sisters develop pathways to the scholars where they can, so that they can ask questions like these to people who have expertise and can answer confidently. This could be through the masjid, scholars that you meet through Islamic courses, or through the menfolk in your family asking the imam if you are not comfortable.

Saying that I am more than happy to answer the question as a lay person, but with the proviso that this is only my opinion and strong belief on the matter. There are a couple of things that inform the way I feel, the first is the following verse of the Quran:

The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those - Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. ~ Quran 9:71

All religions have the injunction to do good deeds and avoid bad ones in some shape or form, but for Muslims it isn’t enough that we do good deeds, we are instructed to call others to them as well. It isn’t enough that we avoid bad deeds we have to discourage others from them as well.

I remember a few years ago reading a news article about a Muslim charity who had been accused of using aid relief as an excuse to encourage people to convert to Islam, I don’t know the truth of the matter, but I remember thinking out loud that maybe aid should be given to those in need without religion having anyhting to do with it. My mum responded by asking “why is something so good for you, but not for others?”. Her words struck deep – the beautiful faith that is so good for us, would surely be a blessing and benefit for others too.

As a teenager I came across the following verse in a translation of the meaning of the Quran:

And there may spring from you a nation who invite to goodness, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency. Such are they who are successful. ~ Quran 3:104

I wondered at those words. Who were these lucky people that Allah SWT had promised success to? I wished I could be one of them, at the same time assuming it could not be an ordinary person. Many years later, after I was married, my husband re-engaged in the dawah work he had previously undertaken in Pakistan, through his local masjid. I was not sure about this, but when he encouraged me to participate I was willing to at least listen and see what it was all about. The experience changed my life profoundly in so many ways (that story is a post for another day insh’Allah), but it also taught me that those big promises in the Quran for the best of us, are not out of reach or only for others. Each ordinary person can do the work in their own small, imperfect way that will please Allah (SWT).

Not everyone has the courage to make dawah in a strong and passionate way. I know I get shy sometimes or am wary of how people might react. But for those who cannot stand on street dawah stalls to share the message of Islam, or knock on doors to call Brothers to the masjid, we have to do what we can within the means and courage we have:

On the authority of Abu Saeed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) say, “Whoever of you sees an evil must then change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then [he must change it ] with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his heart. And that is the weakest of faith.” (Muslim)

Our beloved mother, Lady Aisha (May Allah be please with her) used to describe the beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) like a walking Quran.  For the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), his every action and word brought to life the message and guidance of the Quran. His sunnah: they way he conducted himself in business, in marriage, in the community, with his children, were all so beautiful that they were like an invitation to the faith. In the same way, today you will find that when you act upon his beautiful sunnah, everything you do becomes beautiful and a call to iman (belief). 

I think that a person who tries hard to be a good person and to live in the best way they can according to their faith, undertakes dawah through everything they do. Their conduct, their good character, their kindness to others is dawah. Their good work in the community and their good treatment of neighbours is dawah. Their honesty in their work, business and day-to-day dealings is dawah. The way they dress is dawah and the way they conduct the ordinary business of their life: eating, shopping, playing with their children, caring for their parents, all becomes dawah.

The other thing that is important is to make yourself knowledgeable about the basics of your faith, even something like a children’s book on the basics of Islam is a good place to start (for those ready to learn more books like Taleem-ul-Haq and Heavenly Ornaments by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi are brilliant). Because you will find that your good conduct and kindness will make you stand out in this insincere and harried world. Your dress will make you stand out as modest in a immodest world and for some of you, your dress will mark you out as Muslim. People will be attracted to your goodness or curious that the good they see in you does not reconcile with what they hear in the media and the news about Muslims. They will ask questions about Islam and Muslims. This is our dawah. Even before we think of going to others, when we work hard on making ourselves better, people will come to us. They will want some of the peace and serenity that they see in us, in our prayers and our family lives.

This isn’t a small thing. It’s an enormous blessing. Why is the reward so high?:

Abu Mas`ud `Uqbah bin `Amr Al-Ansari Al-Badri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Whoever guides someone to virtue will be rewarded equivalent to him who practices that good action".  (Muslim).

Because there are so many people who are in so much pain. You find people who have every sign of success, who turn to drugs or commit suicide leaving people wondering why they would ever want to do that when they had everything: family, money, respect. You hear about teenagers picking up weapons and walking into schools to commit murder with no discernible reason except they didn’t see the point of life. In a more subtle way you will come across one person after another that is unhappy with their life, with the refrain of “What is the point?” or people who have so much but only complain about how miserable their life is. 

Islam provides purpose for our lives and a clear path to get to where we want to be. It teaches us to live in the world in the most beautiful way and benefit others as much as we can. It teaches us to serve our families, our communities and those most vulnerable amongst us and be grateful for what we have. How many people would find that this message and this faith would alleviate their pain? How will they ever know? If we cannot approach people, at the very least can we be open and ready for their questions?

The one other thing that stays with me is something that my husband said to me. Everything influences us: the media, our environment, society, marketing, our peers, our children even. We are all being influenced all the time. The exception is the da’ee (the one who teaches and shares Islam), the da’ee influences others and as long as he or she does so, their iman will grow and they will not be influenced by outside factors. Once they stop they are at the mercy of all of those things again.

So even if you don’t feel you have the courage, or the knowledge, or are not a scholar. Even if you are scared because of the times we live in, work on your character and make your conduct beautiful. Learn about the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)’s life and try to learn his beautiful traditions and habits one at a time and make them part of your life. Then when people come to you looking for answers, answer patiently and kindly, if you don’t know, say I don’t know but point them to a scholar that does know. If that is too hard, smile, have a cheerful countenance. If even that is impossible, make dua, for yourself that Allah (SWT) accepts you as a da’ee of his religion and make dua for the wellbeing and happiness of every human being, Muslim or not, because at the essence of dawah is a anxiety and concern for all of humanity.


  1. Salam

    Mashallah excellent advice. I couldn't agree more, especially when you say our actions and manners are a form of dawah. We can invite others to Islam through being the best Muslims we can be.

    1. Walaikam-assalam,
      Jazakh'Allah-khairun, thank you for your comment. I think we need to be more active in our dawah, but our good manners is the least we can do.

  2. MashAllah!! Great Article.

  3. السلام عليكم ورحمة الله
    Regarding the translation of the Quranic verse 3:104:
    And there may spring from you a nation who invite to goodness, ...
    Sister, could you replace this may by must/should? Mufti Taqi Uthmani Sahib translates it thus:
    There has to be a group of people from among you who call towards the good, and bid the Fair and forbid the Unfair. And it is these who are successful.
    The translation may just doesn’t seem to fit here as per 'Arabic grammar.
    In general, the article is a very helpful and instructive piece coming from someone actually living the life of Da’wah.

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  5. Jazakh'Allah-khairun -- Sister, could you please correct this to "JazakAllahu khairaa"?
    جزاك الله خيرا
    That's the correct Arabic sentence. It might look like unnecessary quibbling. But I do have utmost respect for your general knowledgability, and am also aware of your love for the Prophet and His Sahaabah صلى الله عليه وعليهم وسلم and also for their language which you tried to learn.
    It just somehow doesn't look right seeing a lovely white dress with a patch of dirt in the center, seeing a lovely Arabic sentence with grammatical errors in it.

    In general, it is fine to say JazakAllahu khairaa in all scenarios. However, if you are still reading and also interested in details, these are the correct forms for different scenarios:
    JazakAllahu khairaa -- to a single male
    Jazakillahu khairaa -- to a single female
    JazakumAllahu khairaa -- to two people
    Jazakumullahu khairaa -- to three or more males
    JazakunnAllahu khairaa -- to three or more females

    1. JazakAllahu khairaa Brother for the correction. I am always a little worried that I am not getting Arabic words right in their usage or pronunciation.
      I will make a note and amend where I can as I go insh'Allah.

  6. I would always recommend that Sisters develop pathways to the scholars where they can, so that they can ask questions like these to people who have expertise and can answer confidently.

    Very true. May Alläh keep us all committed to this way of thinking! The rightly-guided pious 'Ulamä – whether they are associated with Nizämuddïn's/Raiwand's Da'wah work or not – have with them the entire Dïn, the entire 114 Sürahs of the Qurän and their explanation, the entire 97 chapters of Bukhärï Sharïf and their commentary in 13-volume Fathul Bärï and 25-volume 'Umdatul Qärï. And they have sacrificed not only their teenage fun and youthful delights to learn these, but also their future job prospects. They have suffered ridicule and humiliation not just from the enemies but from awed-by-West Muslims as well. Yet they have persisted and persevered.

    Following the footsteps of the holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, they have kept trying to hold back people from falling into the Fire lit by their own sins. (cf. Riyazus Saliheen 163) Goaded on by Satan's deep pockets and unlimited propaganda resources, people keep trying to escape from the benefits 'Ulamä wish them to have. The 'Ulamä on the other hand keep sacrificing their personal lives, their personal-well being, the beloved sight of their smiling toddler, the safety and security and money that subservience to Kufr brings: all this so that you and I may get to see the holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, get to have a look at the majestic face of Alläh (which is unlike anything we can imagine), enter the never-ending pleasure of Paradise, escape the unbearable heat of Hell, and the intolerable stink of Zaqqum which the starving sinners will get to eat.

    Anyway, what do the 'Ulamä say in this regard? Mufti Saeed Sahib Palanpuri is Shaikhul Hadith of Darul 'Uloom Deoband, the institution rightfully labeled as the Preserver of Islam in India. He says:
    If you have the authority and capability to command virtue and forbid vice and you also feel that commanding and forbidding will have benefit, it is wajib (compulsory) to command wajib things and mustahab (desirable) to encourage people towards mustahab acts.
    But if you feel there will be no benefit or you fear severe harm to yourself, even commanding wajib things is no more wajib. However if a person displays courage and tries to reform the people nevertheless, he will get great rewards.
    (Tuhfatul Alma'i 5/539)

    So it is Farz for you to command your obedient, respectful adult daughter to perform regular Saläh. It is Farz for you to prohibit her from watching movies promoting unlawful love and unlawful war (love for a person of other sex not related to you nor married to you; and violence and bloodshed to impress a person of other sex or for the sake of your locality, region, county, country, continent, race, language etc.) It is mustahab for you to ask her to perform Tahajjud. Likewise, it is mustahab in normal circumstances to ask her not to play video games.

    If you feel the people around you are not willing to listen and you see no immediate or future benefit, it is not wajib for you to invite them to virtue. And how do you get this feeling? Through personal experience and experience of others in similar situations. يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ (المائدة: ١٠٥) (Believers! Take care of your own selves. The one who has gone astray cannot harm you if you are on the right path.)

    Let us thank Alläh who has given us guidance for all these situations, and who hasn't left us to our means in any of these scenarios.

  7. "If you are on the right path" includes commanding virtue and forbidding vice as Alläh's Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ says explaining the verse:

    ائْتَمِرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ، وَتَنَاهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ، حَتَّى إِذَا رَأَيْتَ شُحًّا مُطَاعًا، وَهَوًى مُتَّبَعًا، وَدُنْيَا مُؤْثَرَةً، وَإِعْجَابَ كُلِّ ذِي رَأْيٍ بِرَأْيِهِ، فَعَلَيْكَ - يَعْنِي - بِنَفْسِكَ، وَدَعْ عَنْكَ الْعَوَامَّ، فَإِنَّ مِنْ وَرَائِكُمْ أَيَّامَ الصَّبْرِ، الصَّبْرُ فِيهِ مِثْلُ قَبْضٍ عَلَى الْجَمْرِ، لِلْعَامِلِ فِيهِمْ مِثْلُ أَجْرِ خَمْسِينَ رَجُلًا يَعْمَلُونَ مِثْلَ عَمَلِهِ.

    Command virtue and forbid vice till you see people obeying their greed, following their desires, prioritizing their worldly selfishness, and you see each person happy with his own (misguided) view. Then you just take care of yourself and forget the masses. In future you will go through days of suffering requiring steadfastness, where staying firm on Deen will be like holding a burning ember in your palms. If you practice an act of virtue then, you get the reward of fifty people doing similar deeds. (Abü Däwüd: 4341)

    That commanding and forbidding are Wäjib only when you have the capability and authority is sourced from this Hadïth: مَا مِنْ قَوْمٍ يُعْمَلُ فِيهِمْ بِالْمَعَاصِي، ثُمَّ يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَى أَنْ يُغَيِّرُوا، ثُمَّ لَا يُغَيِّرُوا، إِلَّا يُوشِكُ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْهُ بِعِقَابٍ (Whenever sins get prevalent in a community, and there are people who have the capability to change the state of affairs yet they do nothing, then it is likely that Alläh will punish all of them with His calamity.) (Abü Däwüd 4338)

    The people commanding and forbidding and sacrificing their wealth and lives to stop tyrants and sinners are in fact world-savers, saving them all from the all-inclusive calamity and punishment. Because of them the East and the West, the First World and the Third World are living and thriving. If they get weak and get ignored, Alläh's punishments get stronger and more frequent. Fire and flood become the order of the day. The supplications of the oppressed commanders of virtue, the tortured prohibiters of vice and martyred callers towards Isläm see their fruition in this world as well:
    رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ آتَيْتَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَأَهُ زِينَةً وَأَمْوَالًا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا رَبَّنَا لِيُضِلُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِكَ رَبَّنَا اطْمِسْ عَلَى أَمْوَالِهِمْ وَاشْدُدْ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُوا حَتَّى يَرَوُا الْعَذَابَ الْأَلِيمَ. (القرآن ١٠:٨٨)

    Alläh! You have given Fir'aun and his group glamour and riches in the worldly life, which our Lord they use to mislead people from Your path. Our Lord, obliterate their riches and harden their hearts so that they may not come to believe until they witness the painful punishment.

  8. Even when you have no hope of influencing others, it is still compulsory for you to change the sins with your heart. If the person witnessing evil can't even change the evil with his words, he should change it with his heart. (cf. Muslim 78) That includes shedding tears and praying and crying to Alläh, like the prayer by Shaikh Sudais:

    اللهم أصلح شباب المسلمين. اللهم أصلح شباب المسلمين. اللهم وفقهم إلى ما فيه الخير لأوطانهم وأمتهم، يا رب العالمين. اللهم وفقهم إلى ما فيه غض أبصارهم، وتحصين فروجهم يا رب العالمين. اللهم اجمع قلوبهم على الهدى والحق، يا رب العالمين.

    Allah! Reform the Muslim youth. Allah! Reform the Muslim youth. Allah! Guide them towards what is beneficial for their regions and their Ummah, O Lord of the Worlds. Allah! Guide them towards a temperament that makes them lower their gazes, and keep their private parts chaste, O Lord of the Worlds. Allah! Gather their hearts on the path of guidance and truth, O Lord of the Worlds.

    اللهم أصلح نساء المسلمين. اللهم قهن شر التبرج والسفور والاختلاط. اللهم ارزقهن الحجاب والعفاف والحشمة والحياء، وصنهن أن يفتِنّ أو يفتَنّ، يا سميع الدعاء. اللهم اجعلهن قرة أعين لأزواجهن وأولادهن، يا رب العالمين.

    Allah! Reform Muslim women. Allah! Save them from the evils of skin-display, veillessness and mingling with males. Allah! Grant them love of veil, chastity, modesty and decency. Prevent them from tempting others or getting tempted by others, O Listener of prayers. Allah! Make them sources of comfort for their husbands and children, O Lord of the worlds.

    Also see the Taraweeh Dua here.