As the key subject in this Seminar is Da’wah, and there were questions raised wanting explanations regarding it. Allow me (at the risk of repeating what other speakers may have already said) to go over again the subject:
What “Da’wah” means to me?
ٱدۡعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِٱلۡحِكۡمَةِ وَٱلۡمَوۡعِظَةِ ٱلۡحَسَنَةِۖ وَجَـٰدِلۡهُم بِٱلَّتِى هِىَ أَحۡسَنُۚ
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعۡلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِۦۖ وَهُوَ أَعۡلَمُ بِٱلۡمُهۡتَدِينَ
“Call thou (all mankind) unto the way of thy Sustainer (Lord), with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the most kindly manner: for, behold, thy Sustainer (Lord) knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the right guided.”
(Qur’an: an-Nahlu: 16: 125)
“Da’wah” – (from the commanding verb “ud-‘uu”) meaning “to call or to invite”, in the context used in Islam (refer Qur’an: an-Nahlu: 16: 125) technically, refers specifically to efforts for proselytizing non-Muslim i.e. its connotation is missionary; viz. “to call and invite them all who are not Muslims towards the way of thy Lord i.e. al-Islam.” This is implied furthermore since in that verse, the approach even stipulates the possibility of ‘wa jaa-dil-hum’ (“and dispute with them”) which positions the one who calls or invites (i.e. the da’i) distinctly in the category of “bil-Muhtadiin” (those who are on the path of guidance) as opposed to those (mad’u) being called to here but who rejects, as “bi-man-Dhal-la an-sa-bii-lihi” (from those who are astray from the path of Allah s.w.t.). “Huda” (guidance) and “Dhal-la” (astray) are strong terminologies which demarcate between the “believers” and the “non-believers”. Also, the command for Da’wah (“Calling”) here carries with it conditions:
- that it be with Wisdom (not just knowledge. Is there not a great difference between Wisdom and knowledge? For that matter, even between knowledge and information?).
- that it be with goodly exhortation (not just any kind of exhortation).
-that if arguments and disputation is required it must be in the most kindly manner (not disputation or argument understood generally).
From these, I believe that such Da’wah requires one to be appropriately equipped.
Granted that our Prophet s.a.w. was sent (as a Mercy) to all mankind, and that every people, since his time until the end of the world, is the ummah of Muhammad, yet there is a distinction made between the ummah of his da’wah (every non-believers) and the Muslim ummah (those that have accepted al-Islam.)
لَقَدۡ جَآءَڪُمۡ رَسُولٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَنفُسِڪُمۡ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيۡهِ مَا عَنِتُّمۡ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيۡڪُم بِٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬
“Indeed, there has come unto you (O mankind) a Messenger (Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.) from among yourselves: heavily weighs upon him [the thought] that you might suffer [in the life to come]: full of concern for you [is he, and] full of compassion and mercy towards the believers.”
(Qur’an: at-Tawbah: 9: 128)
This would indicate a different manner of his “calling” all people to Allah’s way (if we assume “da’wah” in the general sense), i.e. towards both non-Muslims and Muslims, yet it alludes to difference in his approach, attitude and method for each group. In yet another passage Allah s.w.t. describes our Prophet s.a.w. and those who are with him thus:
مُّحَمَّدٌ۬ رَّسُولُ ٱللَّهِۚ وَٱلَّذِينَ مَعَهُ ۥۤ أَشِدَّآءُ عَلَى ٱلۡكُفَّارِ رُحَمَآءُ بَيۡنَہُمۡۖ
تَرَٮٰهُمۡ رُكَّعً۬ا سُجَّدً۬ا يَبۡتَغُونَ فَضۡلاً۬ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرِضۡوَٲنً۬اۖ
سِيمَاهُمۡ فِى وُجُوهِهِم مِّنۡ أَثَرِ ٱلسُّجُودِۚ
“Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger; and those who are [truly] with him are (a-shid-daa-u- ‘alal-kuf-faar) firm and unyielding towards all [kuffar] deniers of the truth, [yet] full of mercy towards one another (ru-Hamaa-u-bay-nahum.) You can see them bowing down, prostrating themselves [in prayer], seeking favour with Allah and [His] goodly acceptance: their marks are on their faces, traced by prostration.”
(Qur’an: al-Fath: 48: 29)
However, some Muslims today may only refer to the literal meaning of the word “Da’wah” (meaning “call or invite” generally), and may thus even extended their understanding of Da’wah to include every effort of calling (both non-Muslim and Muslim), without understanding that there is a distinguishing difference concerning “calling” (educating or improving plight of) the Muslims towards their adhering to the teachings of Islam, which have already been given another technical terminology i.e. “Islah” instead of the term “Da’wah.”
The appellation (title) of “Da-‘i” – a reflection
In my readings and learning of the life of our Islamic scholars, I realized that the title “Da’i” is such a high station that, only those who met certain standards in their lives (their immense knowledge, their exemplary character and sincere religious devotions, their life commitment to Islam and proven works for spreading the teachings of Islam etc.) are accorded such appellation. It is not self-claimed or conferred by institutes or learning centres, but recognition by their peers amongst Islamic scholars in the field of Da’wah and education. After all, our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., as described by Allah s.w.t. as “Ad-daa-’iyan- ilallaah bi-idz-nihi” (the caller towards Allah’s way by His permission – Qur’an: al-Ahzab: 33: 46), is their ultimate model for being a Da’i.
(So that I am not to be misunderstood, let me qualify) Here, I am not saying that “Da’wah is only to be done by a Da’i, or that other Muslims (who are not a da’i) therefore cannot do or assist in work of da’wah”. What I am saying is only that the appellation of a Da’i cannot be carelessly used just because a Muslim is doing or helping in work of Da’wah.
I detect some indication that many amongst da’wah activists may have different understanding of what “da’wah” and what a “da’i” is – which then may lead to possibility of differences in perspectives, methods and approaches. Allow me to comment.
Confusion in terms, a concern that must be corrected:
“The learned and wise among Muslims must use constant vigilance in detecting erroneous usage in language which impinges upon semantic change in major key elements and creates general confusion and error in the understanding of Islam and of its worldview.”
(Quote: Prof. S M Naquib al-Attas “The Concept of Education in Islam” pp. 37-38 )
I beg to differ to certain suggestion made that: “every Muslim is a Da’i”. Rather I would agree if we actually mean “potential da’i”. And if we do mean this, then let us not perpetuate or prolong this pretension.
Da’wah (technically) and terms used in da’wah have specialized denotation and connotation. The title of “Da’i” (plural is “Du’at”) is almost equivalent to that of “an emissary or ambassador” of Islam. Criteria, especially with regard to his having wide and profound knowledge of the Deen ( [sing] ‘aleem’ - “’ulamaa’ [pl.] “Islamic scholars” ), particularly in the science of Da’wah (Fiqh and Usul of Da’wah); his akhlaq, his commitment to elevating the words of Allah s.w.t.; etc.; are prerequisite conditions. Although ordinary Muslims with certain capabilities to assist in some of the work of a Da’i are encouraged or even at times obligated to do so, but his doing so does not therefore make him a da’i, yet, (although we may encourage him to aspire to be one by him pursuing further Islamic development for du’at). His education and development towards becoming a da’i must be seriously looked into by our community, and not left to their individual assumptions as to their preparedness in Da’wah. To thus confer upon him this appellation although he does not possess the required preparedness of a Da’i, would be callous and may be considered breach of Adab in Islam; and an injustice to those concern who may be oblivious to this. We should even fear that this can lead to leveling where the hierarchy of knowledge and ranking of Islamic scholars, would inevitably be seriously undermined.
To suggest that whoever has knowledge about Islam he can do da’wah (justifying it by quoting Hadith “bal-li-ghu an-ni wa-lau- aa-yah” – i.e. “convey from me even if it be one sign”) is to confuse “da’wah” with “tabligh” (to convey). A Da’i‘s role may require him to convey (as a “muballigh”), but not every one who can convey is therefore a Da’i; or even the title “muballigh” (from the verb “tabligh”) in the context of Da’wah, for this requires that the person concerned must possess certain knowledge of da’wah, skills and preparedness.
Some may have suggested that the command for “al-‘amru bil-ma’-ruf, nah-yu ‘anil-munkar” (“enjoining the doing of good and forbidding wrong”) as therefore referring to “ad-da’wah” as an obligation upon every Muslim. I do not disagree that it pertains to the general command towards all Muslims as a collective responsibility placed upon the community, but when it is carried out (enjoining / forbidding) towards non-Muslim I would deem it as “Da’wah”, but within or amongst Muslims it is “Islah” (in fact here “Islah” is the imperative to preserve the well-being of the community). And this being regarded as Fardhu Kifaa-yah, it would indicate that it is for those capable of doing it, not simply just any one.
As it is, I believe, direct da’wah (which is towards non-Muslims), have been sadly neglected (from perspective of my understanding the difference between “da’wah” and “islah”). We may have insulated our community from the actual da’wah work when we continue to attach label of “da’wah” for works which are in fact “islah” initiatives.
Why the need for further differentiation in this?
Perhaps some may think that this is somewhat petty, but please bear in mind that only with such differentiation, can we hope to extricate our community from many shortcomings in terms of our Da’wah efforts and improve activist management efficiently. Compare for example the following differences (let’s analyze it from human resource perspective):
- (a) Objectives are towards our own people; we can easily determine their needs which usually are of immediate nature, short term; tends to become seasonal.
(b) “Clients” generally homogeneous since they are all Muslims and therefore generally assume to have many similar values and they may already be ready to receive intervention and easily supportive of program.
(c) Exclusive (i.e. tends to be inward looking primarily for Muslim community.) Thus activists’ knowledge, comfort level and confidence in dealing with their clients easily developed to suit their work with clients or audience.
(d) Activists’ developmental needs can be only focused on the project at hand; need not have to know bigger picture. Can have different activist. Can harness their personal professional expertise, as high level of religious knowledge need not be so crucial a requirement.
(e) Program can have a general approach; can assume wide and ready catchments of audience.
- (a) Objectives are towards non-Muslims; we have to develop their need for Islam; programs usually have to be long-term and prioritize towards a long-term objective and require commitment for ‘long hauls’.
- (b) “Clients” are diverse with differing values, cultural background and may even have ‘hostile’ attitudes. Need to be sensitive and we cannot assume receptivity.
- (c) Inclusive (i.e. must look outward). Thus activist knowledge, comfort level and confidence in dealing with their clients cannot be assumed but require specific and intensive preparation, especially their knowledge of other community and how to interact with them.
- (d) Activists’ developmental needs must all be focused on Da’wah and therefore require commitment for continuous and specialized training. Need to utilize same activists’ involvement in various projects. Relatively high level of religious knowledge and good inter-personal skill, is crucial.
- (e) Program must be carefully planned, specific and must be sensitive in approach; no ready audience.
* These are just only some of the examples (not exhaustive) important to consider ….. without which there might be possible occurrence of: over / under utilization of human resource, blurring specific/general needs into one, mismatch, etc.
My humble suggestions for the organizers:
What is the real concern – “(a) lack of social initiatives or (b) lack of effective Da’wah?”
If (a) Remedy for lack of social initiatives, it is by inculcating concept of collective responsibility i.e. “Fardhu kifaa-yah” which offers variety of approaches under “Islah” rather than “da’wah”. Although da’wah is amongst one of the Fardh kifaa-yah, it is considered a specialized and distinct field that needs to be separately assessed. Whereas under Fardhu Kifayah, and using “Islah” as the appropriate terminology, it is clearly focused towards initiatives for improving our Muslim community, without need for some underlying motives directed towards others. If it has positive effect for Da’wah then it is merely coincidental.
Someone may say: ”But our community has already accepted the loose label of ”da’wah” for activities having Islamic orientation!” My respond is “the general Muslims can be excused for having such perception, but as Islamic activists, is this understanding correct?” How many organizations here have Da’wah as their main activity? Yet when their Muslim activists were asked to explain this kind of “da’wah” will admit that it is “indirect da’wah”, because they know fully well that the aim and objective (mad’u) i.e. target of this so-called “da’wah” is not directed towards non-Muslims but inwardly within Muslim community. Why the need to qualify with the word ‘indirect’? Is it to still claim that it is da’wah, when it is in fact ‘Islah’? Because no matter how we may console ourselves, we know that “da’wah” as the term denotes, is the efforts to call others (non-Muslims) towards Islam, and we are not doing it. And we unashamedly allowed this neglect to persist. And through usage, the actual da’wah now becomes almost totally neglected. Are we not concern for others to receive the message of our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. who has been sent as “raH-matan lil-‘aa-la-meen” (a Mercy for the whole world)? Is the message of “al-Islam” meant to be exclusive only for the Muslims?
As far as non-Muslims are concern, they can sense and will be able to confirm that the term “da’wah” denote missionary initiatives. And when they do, the non-Muslims who are ever suspicious of any activity that suggests proselytizing others, may even regard the continuous label of da’wah for our social reform program (specific to our Muslim community need) as a threat to them. So to remove this misconception viz. public education for the Muslims, is exactly what is “Islah” – (you see this need?) and not “da’wah”. Yes, it may be a long process, but it must begin with educating, firstly people who may influence general perception and future leaders and activists in our community.
Perhaps, the ‘perceived lack of social initiatives’ here is not that there are too little of it being done by Muslim activists. After all, are not all these so-called “Da’wah” (albeit “indirect”) programs already being done, are regarded as social initiatives since it can be included as social self-help project to improve our community? Why then would it still be viewed as being inadequate? Perhaps to some, by ‘social initiatives’ they would want to measure it in the wider context of our nation in which our Muslim community is in the minority. Furthermore, because our social programs are mostly “inward-looking”, they are seen by others as being too exclusive and therefore do not count for much in the context of national social initiatives. Also, by our own design, Muslim community may have deprived our selves from tapping into the available national funding and amenities provided for all social initiatives, perhaps mainly due to lack of knowledge/skills amongst Muslim activists on how to tap in to get them. Another factor is because, when our community ‘social initiatives’ are already perceived by us as “Da’wah” program, we ourselves would not identify it as those that can qualify to get (national) state funding and assistance. This is further compounded with the thinking that being a secular state, some believe that any such social initiatives funded by the government is required to be totally devoid of any religious connotations – whereas the effectiveness of our social programs for Muslims hinges upon (our) their adherence to the religious teachings itself. By Muslims not receiving national funding allocated for social initiatives, statistically our community may be thus perceived to be lacking in carrying out any. Maybe this is the worry that some may have. Therefore to differentiate and explain “Islah” as the social initiatives, that it is to improve the plight of Muslims rather than “Da’wah”, perhaps can help remove many misperceptions and possible confusion.
(b) Remedy for lack of effective Da’wah, it is for us to seriously review our Muslim community’s collective understanding concerning its definition, methodology, planning, approach, our community’s priority regarding it’s imperatives and focus vis-à-vis other agendas, the quality of resource and availability in the field of da’wah, etc. To only assume that any social initiatives can boost or heightened effectiveness of our Da’wah, we need to be convinced as to how this can be directly possible and not hope for it indirectly (coincidentally) because then we are only kidding ourselves by this approach in wanting our da’wah to be effective – when the focus or main agenda here i.e. “Islah” it seems is other than da’wah. Any Dua’t training and development program must already know the difference between “Islah” and “Da’wah”.
Some may bring up the point about “Da’wah-bil-haal” My understanding of this term is that even in this – Da’wah through providing assistance to alleviate their problems in life – still the (mad’u) people which this initiatives is directed to is very clear i.e. the non-Muslims and those whose hearts are inclined to Islam (mu-allafah-quluu-buhum). Thus it is that a portion of “zakah” collective is allocated for.
Social initiatives towards improving our own Muslim community using “da’wah” label is not wise, bearing in mind that this term denotes proselytizing (see my previous explanation). Actually social initiatives can be activated by Muslims in general, who are not necessarily a da’i. Perhaps the approach should use the Islamic (Qur’anic) concept with themes which is not directly link to the work of Da’wah but a general command for our community to fulfill (Fardh Kifaa-yah). So when we present these as projects, present it using themes which reflect our community social initiatives rather than Da’wah:
· Um-matan wasotaa -
“…..ummatan – wasotan – li-ta-kuu-nuu shu-ha-daa - ‘alan-naas…”
(Q: al-Baqarah: 2: 143)
Theme: “Building a balanced and just society”
· Ee-man wa – ‘amalan-Swo-li-haat -
“In-nal-ladzii-na – aa-ma-nuu wa – ‘amiluus- Swo-li-haat …” (Q: al-Kahf: 18:107)
Theme: “Moulding of a citizen: upon conviction and good deeds”
· Al-birr- wat-taq-waa –
“…wa-.ta-‘aa-wanu ‘alal-birr….” (Q: al-Maa-idah: 5: 2)
Theme: “Let us help in every good works and in piety”
· Al-khayraat –
“….Fas-ta-biqul-khay-raat…..” (Q: al-Baqarah: 2: 148)
Theme: “Let us compete in charity and good works”
· Al-Ihsan –
“…. Fa-aH-sin ka-maa aH-sanaAllaahi - ilayk” (Q: al-Qashash: 28)
Theme: “A Society that exude benevolence and righteous conduct”
· ‘Amr ma’ruf Nahi munkar –
“ …. Ta;-mu-ruu-na bil-ma’-ruu-fi wa-tan-haw-na ‘anil-munkaar ..”(Q: aa-li ‘Imran: 3: 110)
Theme: “Vigilance through community service”
· Taw-Swi bil-Haqq was- Swobr.
“ .. wa-ta-waa-Swau-bil-Haq-qi wa-ta-waa- Swau-bis-Swobr” (Q: al-‘Asr: 103: 3)
Theme: “A civil society that up hold Truth and display steadfastness with Patience.”
These are all the collective concern of every Muslims in the community to consider (admittedly, these are not exhaustive), termed as Fardh kifaa-yah. If it can assist to present positive image of the community, well and good (al-Hamdulillaah!) but, we must realize (in the sense of insaf) that its da’wah effect (insha-Allaah! if Allah permits), is only incidental.
More importantly by this approach we, the Muslim community (and our social initiatives) would not then be accused of attempting at proselytizing. And our resources (if any) specific to da’wah and development of du’at (which prepares them for direct work of calling non-Muslims to Islam) would not be unduly distracted or overburdened from attaining to its objective. And in the light of what have been presented here, I sincerely hope that our community may need to be focused and give just proportion on issue of Da’wah (as differentiated from “Islah”) and the development of our present and future Du’at, and not leave this to be vaguely interpreted to give us a false sense of achievement in Da’wah, but which is not Da’wah.
Da’wah in social initiatives
Though every Muslim aspiring to be a Da’i can be involved in social initiatives, they must already know how to utilize social initiatives for attainment of Da’wah objective. If not, their social activism may distract them, from being Da’i of Islam into merely becoming a social activist.
Another point of concern is that, despite every stress towards greater professionalism today, yet when it comes to Da’wah the approach seems to be the exception. Reliance on part-time or ‘volunteer’ involvement in Da’wah work seems to be the norm. In the past our Du’at (from amongst the Ulama’) has been able to carry it out when the community accord the proper respect and place for them. Yet sadly, today our community does not regard or think of such people as the professionals in Da’wah. Perhaps, some may question the quality in such people today (as compared to previous ulama’). Well, if this be the concern, it becomes a community obligation that we assist in their development towards attaining the quality we hope for.
Our understanding of professionalism may be flawed to our own detriment when such people are excluded or not placed in their rightful position in Da’wah. Having professionals (usually based on academic qualification and with certain profession only, whose main strength may not be in Islam) in doing Da’wah, does not necessarily mean that therefore Da’wah is done professionally (it depends on what profession the professionals heading the Da’wah are competent in). Remember, this is the field of Da’wah. If we have created a position of a Da’i (one doing full-time in Da’wah as a profession) we must have trust in his taking the lead in this. His input and direction, based on his knowledge and competency in Da’wah has to be respected, supported or complemented, and assisted in his development as Da’i – not to be usurped, manipulated or undermined. Da’wah is not a hobby or extra-curricula activity but a life-long vocation and serious commitment to Allah s.w.t. and His Messenger s.a.w. Remember that one who aspires in it must bear in mind that this role, as Du’at, is amongst the role and legacy of our Prophet s.a.w. And he, our Prophet s.a.w. has reminded us:
“I-dzaa-wu-sidal- ‘amr- ilaa –ghay-ri- ah-lihi, fan-ta-zi-rus-sa-‘ah”
“When the affair is given to one who is not its rightful person for it [ahli-ha],
then wait for the time (of its destruction).” - (Hadith reported by Bukhary))
O Our Lord! Take us not to task if we forget or unwittingly do wrong!
O Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden such as Thou didst lay upon those who lived before us!
O Our Lord! Make us not bear burdens which we have no strength to bear!
And efface Thou our sins, and grant us forgiveness,
and bestow Thy mercy upon us!
Thou art our Lord Supreme:
Help us against people who deny the truth!
(for Youth Leadership Seminar “Dakwahpreneur: “Incubating Social Initiatives” - 15 May 2005 – RELC International Hotel, Singapore)
 I have mostly used English translation from Muhammad Asad’s “The Message of the Quran”- (Dar-al-Andalus)
 It seems that our community’s apparent confusion may be traced to our general laxity in understanding profound meanings and definitions of terms (amongst many reasons). It is further compounded by careless coinage of new or ‘stylish’ terms without concern as to how it can affect general understanding of accepted terminologies already in placed within our worldview. Refer to my write-up “Melayu Baru?” (Risalah Pergas 2003).
 I apologize for having to use the qualification (i.e. “direct”) because of the presence in some peoples’ understanding of “indirect Da’wah” when actually what they are referring to is ”Islah”.
 Actually useful in terms of not just human resource alone, but for other purposes too.
 For the sake of accommodating participants familiarity with sociologist’ jargon, this term is here used. In “Da’wah” and “Islah”, this term is in fact offensive; the term “brothers/sisters” has always been used to manifest warmth, closeness, empathy and idea of inclusiveness that is what “ukhuwwah Islamiyyah” for the people being called ( i.e. mad’uun). Brothers/sisters in faith, and if not in humanity.
 “Islah” which concerns initiatives to improve our own community tends to be exclusive. With almost every Muslim’s organizations focusing on this which they then regard as Da’wah, non-Muslims (or even the Muslims themselves) may see Islam as being an exclusive religion, when message of Islam are only seen as being directed within the community in these “Islah” initiatves and activities. They the non-Muslims may wonder, “Does Islam have anything for me?”
 When non-Muslims began to approach Muslims after the “Sept 11”– initiatives towards building inter-racial confidence circle – many Muslim activists found themselves inadequately prepared to speak to these visitors about Islam, even though they are regarded by our community to be the “Da’wah” activists. Unless we realize that “Da’wah” is actually meant to be towards non-Muslims, our current approach in developing so-called “Dua’t” will remain inadequate and not seriously reviewed and focused to produce the desired outcome for “Da’wah”.
 Especially in the follow-up services to be given, when from being hostile and indifferent mode, the mad’u moves to become interested; and then perhaps to embraced Islam. This does not end here because we have to ensure their education and aspects of adjustment, assimilation etc. Activists whom they are familiar with can do a better task in these follow-up services because of the bonding already achieved and preparedness of the ‘service provider’.
 Trained social workers, counselors and those who sincerely wish to assist Muslims must note this. We strongly believe that the social dysfunction amongst Muslims today has a direct link to their detachment from adhering to their religious faith and practices. Contemporary tools in social intervention (using Western models) may not be of much relevance without considering Islam. Refer to works by Dr. Malik Badri of ISTAC (Malaysia).
 I am referring to the (asnaf) allocation for “muallaf”. And misunderstanding of this concept may lead to possible misallocation of the funds and resources specific to that which is intended for. As it is now, we need to find out how converts to Islam are coping. Have we really provided for them sufficiently? We need to study and learn from the manner of its utilization for Da’wah as seen in the Seerah of our Prophets.a.w. and the ways of the Khulafa’ Raashiduun.
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