The Fundamentals of Da`wah
Say: 'This is my way: I invite to Allaah on/with clear knowledge - I and whomever follows me (does this). Glorified is Allaah, and I am not of the polytheists.">>(12:108),
This is one of the aayaat that our righteous predecessors extract the rules/principles/basics of Da'wah from. The Arabic term is Usool ad-Da`wah and is used interchangeably with the word Minhaaj.
"Say" We are instructed to inform the people whatever follows after the command of "say". This aayah, as well as all the others, is being addressed to the Muslims in general and the Prophet in particular as to how we are to give Da`wah. In it are important commands for us to implement. Thus, we should learn them, understand them, and apply them.
"This is my way" The word Sabeel is synonymous with the words Tareeq, Minhaaj, and Sunnah. The Companion Ibn Abbaas explained "the Shar`ee (laws) and Minhaaj (methodology) as the Sabeel (way) and Sunnah (example)" - Bukhaaree p. 16.
The instruction that follows is the Sunnah of Da`wah, and it is very important that it be adhered to. It is as follows:
"I invite... This phrase is in the first person, singular of the present tense of the verb da`aa. It means: I am calling, I do summon, I bid/beckon/invite. to Allaah. This does not mean we call people to where Allaah is - above His Throne which is above the seven heavens over the heavenly waters. What it means is we summon people to the meaning of Laa ilaaha illaallaah which is "none is worthy of worship except Allaah, and it also to call people to His Deen, to His Uniqueness, and knowledge of Him by way of His Perfect Attributes.
There is a science of the Arabic language in which a part of a phrase can be used when it is actually referring to the whole phrase. This science is being applied when the aayah states to Allaah because it is referring to the Kalimah (Laa ilaaha illaallaah). The reverse of this is also a science in which an entire phrase is used when it is actually referring to part of a phrase, e.g. <<They thrust their fingers into their ears... >>(2:19) The word fingers is used but it is actually referring to the fingertips (of possibly only two fingers yet the Jam` case of three or more is used).
So it is here that Allaah tells us to invite the people to Tawheed. Clearly notice that we are not commanded to summon the people to any individual (regardless of how knowledgeable), any organization or masjid, any way of thinking, any project, nationalism, interfaith dialogue, ism or schism, etc. We are only commanded to call the people to the meaning of Laa ilaaha illaallaah.Alaa Baseerah
"with clear knowledge" This part the aayah tells us HOW to invite the people to the statement of Tawheed: Laa ilaaha illaallaah. The word Baseerah is not simple one to translate into English, however, for right now we'll use the word knowledge.
Baseerah means Daleel and Burhaan (clear proofs and evidences). The word Daleel literally means guide. Often people ask the question "What is your Daleel (evidence/proof from the Quraan and authentic Sunnah)?" So what they are literally asking for is "guidance" because this is what revelation does - it guides us. Thus, this is HOW we invite the people toTawheed: with proofs/evidences from the Ouraan and authentic Sunnah!
Evidence can be produce by two basic ways:
- Naqlee - transmitted evidence: the Quraan and authentic Sunnah, and the statements, understanding, and practical application of the Sahaabah, and
- `Aqlee - rational evidence: views based on scholarly understanding of the Quraan and authentic Sunnah related to the issue at hand (we begin with Sahaabah/ Companions, then the Taabi`oon/Successors, then the Atbaa` at-Taabi`een/Followers of the Successors, and any of the scholars who follow their Minhaaj (which is abiding by the Quraan and authentic Sunnah and discarding personal, unfounded opinions) e.g. al-Bukhaaree, Ibn Taymeeyah, ash-Shawkaanee, M. ibn Abdul-Wahhaab, al-Albaanee and several others; and the linguistics of the Arabic language which must always be dependent on and consistent with revelation. We must note that we always seek an answer from the transmitted texts, and only go to rational points that are made based on Quraan and authentic Sunnah when we - via the scholars - are unable to find an answer within the transmitted texts.
One of our eminent scholars, Ibn al Qayyim al-Jawzeeyah stated, "Knowledge is what Allaah says, what the Prophet says, and what the Companions say."
Therefore, in light of the above, one must, be knowledgable in whatever he is inviting the people to. This is a very important condition of Baseerah because if one does not know what he's talking about he could be inviting people to Kufr and Shirk and Bid`ah and Kabaa'ir and other Muharaamaat. The Prophet said, The seeking of knowledge (of religious matters) is mandatory upon every Muslim(al-Bayhaqee); and Allaah says, <<Everyone must know that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah>>(47:19) and <<invite to Allaah with clear knowledge>>(12:108).
A second condition of Baseerah is that the daa`ee (inviter) should be familiar with whom he is giving da`wah to. This is important because having this knowledge may be benefcial in convincing the invitee(s) to accept Islaam because the daa`ee would know how (or how not) to approach his audience. When the Prophet commissioned Mu`aadh to be the governor of Yamaan, he abreasted him that he was assigning him to an area that was predominately of Jews and Christians (see Bukhaaree vol.9 #469 and Muslim vol. 1 #27). With this information it would be useful for Mu`aadh to know that he would be around people who had some knowledge of the previously-revealed divine scriptures because the approach we use with a Confucianist would not necessarily be the same approach we use for a Sabean or for a Christian, etc. Likewise, it may be better to send our Muslim brother Mustafaa O'Connell to Ireland than it would be to send someone of British origin (because generally people are more comfortable with others who are similar to themselves - and notwithstanding the ongoing conflict between the two nations).
This hadeeth concerning Mu`aadh is also a proof for the first condition of Baseerah because the rest of the hadeeth informs us that the Prophet told Mu`aadh to instruct the people in the basics of Islaam. In order for Mu`aadh to do this he himself would first have to have knowledge of Tawheed, Ittibaa` ar-Rasool, Tahaarah, Salaah, etc. And let us take special note that the first tbing that the Prophet ordered him to do was: invite the people to Laa ilaaha illaallaah.
A third condition of Baseerah is to be respectful, polite, humble, and the like, yet not compromising any Islaamic principles (like shaking hands with the opposite sex or sipping non-virgin cocktails) -while conveying the Da`wah. Allaah instructed Moosaa and Haaroon <<Both of you go to Fir`awn for without a doubt he has transgressed, and speak to him with kind and gentle words>>(20:43,44), and <<If you had been severe and harsh-hearted they would have ran away from you>>(3: 159). Furthermore, we should not insult those things that the disbelievers worship besides Allaah, e.g. in the 70's when I was a member of the Nation of Kufr (the "so called" Nation of Islam) I used to say to my parents "How can we you worship that white, blue-eyed, hippie devil [Jesus]?' Although, both of us was in a state of disbelief when I accosted them in this manner it naturally brought about a defensive response (which will make it harder to convice someone of your point). To ridicule and blaspheme the gods that people worship besides Allaah is in opposition to Allaah's command <<Do not revile those whom they pray to besides Allaah because they will wrongfully revile Allaah>> (6:108).
Also, we don't use rap songs to give Da`wah. Yes, music and instruments existed in the time of the Companions, yet with their knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and practice of Islaam (that will not be superceded by any other generation before their time and after it) did not use music to give Da`wah. In fact they did not listen to music at all.
This third condition of Baseerah means that we do not tell the people the consequences Allaah has planned for anyone who does not live according to His prescriptions and proscriptions. From several aayaat and ahaadeeth we can see that it is the Sunnah of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger to tell the people about dreadful and tormenting punishments for the disobedient.
Anaa wa Manittaba`anee
"I and whomever follows me (does this)" The Prophet and whomever follows him obeys the orders that just was given by Allaah: to invite the people to Tawheed with proofs and evidences/certified and bonafide knowledge. For the second time in this aayah this command of Allaah is attached to the Sunnah of the Prophet. We should pay very strict attention to this because in Allaah's infinite wisdom He knows why this is being repeated in the same aayah. So if we adhere to the orders given to us then we can consider ourselves as believing and following the Messenger of Allaah as this part of the aayah states.
The Arabic word man is a particle that is general. It is not restricted to any place or time. Whether one is a companion of the Prophet, or is born of Slavic descent, or lives in 17th century Salem, or emerges from the pre-historic Flintstone age, or plays golf on the moon, the whomever, wherever, and whenever does not make any difference - as long as he is following the Prophet he is abiding by the dictates of Allaah. <<Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allaah>>(4:80).
The Da`wah of Islaam has three aspectsto it: Tawheed(monotheism),Ittibaa` ar-Rasool (following the Messenger: Sunnah), and Tazkeeyah (sanctification of the heart: the result of believing in Tawheed and following the Sunnah).
"and glorified is Allaah" This Dhikr is usually translated into English as such but the denotative meaning of this phrase is "Allaah is far above and removed from any indignities, deficiencies, limitations, and lies that are attributed to Him", which connotes that He is hallowed/glorified. Included in this He's far above having any partners, peers, equals, companions, mate, or offspring.
Wa Maa Anaa Minal-Mushrikeen
"and I am not of the polytheists." This means that the Prophet and all those who follow him are not of the deen of the disbelievers.
The foundation or rudiments of inviting people to Allaah (there is none worthy of worship except Allaah) is given to us in this aayah and other aayaat. What we must do is learn them, understand them, and apply them. This is the methodology of Da`wah of all the prophets: Muhammad, Yoosuf (AS), Aadam (AS), et al. What these righteous individuals did was call the people to Tawheed with proofs