Definition of Da’wah
The term da’wah has a variety of different meanings in the Qur’an. Linguistically, it means: To call, request, encourage, incline (towards), supplicate, command, seek aid, ask, and command.
In an Islamic context it means, to call or to invite people to Allah.
It is referred to in Qur’an as enjoining what is good and forbidding
what is evil.
Importance of Da’wah
Calling to Allah was the essential duty of all the Prophets (peace be upon them). In the Qur’an, Allah gives the Prophet (sa) the following command:
“Say: This is my way; I call to Allah upon clear knowledge, I and those who follow me. Glory be to Allah! And I am not of those who engage in polytheism.” [Sūrah Yūsuf: 108]
The Prophet (sa) carried out this duty throughout his life. It was then taken up by his Companions and those who followed after them. The Muslims have been carrying this duty out ever since.
Calling people to Allah is an activity that is open to all Muslims. It is not restricted to any group of people. It is not some exclusive discipline that can only be practiced within a narrow conceptual framework. It is a general volunteer enterprise that can be carried out by all Muslims in all walks of life. They can call people to Allah in in the context of all their lawful pursuits.
When a person has knowledge and insight into that which he is calling to, then there is no difference between the one who has a great amount of knowledge, or a student of knowledge who has recently started in pursuit of knowledge or a lay person – as long as he has certain knowledge of the issue at hand. The Prophet (sa) said:
“Convey from me, even if it is one verse.” [Al-Bukhārī]“Convey from me, even if it is one verse.” [Al-Bukhārī]
So it is not a condition upon the caller to attain a great amount of knowledge, but the condition is that one must have knowledge of what one is calling to. If this calling is established upon ignorance and built upon emotion and passion, then it is not permissible.
Calling to Allah is generally considered by scholars as an obligation on every Muslim according to their abilities.
It has been instructed by Allah in the Qur’an and by Prophet Muhammad (sa) in his Sunnah.
With regard to its obligation, Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows, best who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.”
[Sūrah An-Naḥl; 16:125]
“The Believers men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise.” [Sūrah At-Tawbah; 9:71]
The Prophet () said: “The religion is sincere advice.” [Al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
He () also said: “Convey (my teachings) to the people even if it were a single verse.” [Al-Bukhārī]
Da‘wah is an obligation on everyone who has the ability, from scholars to Muslim rulers and preachers, until the message of Islam reaches every corner of the earth in the various languages of the people. This is the type of propagation that Allah has commanded. He, Most High, instructed His Prophet to disseminate the message of Islam as follows:
“O Messenger, convey what was revealed from your Lord.”
[Sūrah Al-Mā’idah, 5: 67]
Thus, it was obligatory on the Prophet (sa) to deliver the message in the same way that it was obligatory on all the messengers of God.
However, scholars have made a distinction between the individual obligation of da‘wah and the community obligation.
Two Levels of Da’wah
There are two levels of Da‘wah to Allah: The first is an individual obligatory duty and the second is a collective obligatory duty.
It is an individual obligatory duty on you when no one in [your] country, region or tribe takes up the responsibility of da’wah, if you have knowledge. It becomes obligatory on you specifically to give da‘wah, to enlighten people to the rights of Allah, to command what is good and prohibit evil. However, if there are present those who give da‘wah teach people and guide them, then it would be sunnah and not obligatory.
In order to stress the gravity of da‘wah as a duty on Muslims, Allah warned those who did not fulfill their responsibility in this regard of His curse and the curse of all His creatures.
“Indeed those who hide the clear messages and guidance that I have revealed after I have made it clear to people in the scripture;
those are cursed by Allah and cursed by all who curse.”
[Sūrah al-Baqarah; 2:159]