Is DAʿWAH AN American thing? The answer is, yes. Absolutely. We must insist on inviting others to Islam, because we cannot be fully Muslims without it.
But can we still be fully American? Isn’t proselytizing frowned upon in a society that celebrates pluralism and diversity?
The American Way and Da ‘wah
I say: If America stands for freedom of choice, conscience and information, then nothing is more American than Islamic daʿwah.
For daʿwah in Islam is by definition an open invitation, a call to conscience, a plea to reason and to reflect, in order to come to God. Islamic daʿwah also has a sense of informing, educating and teaching as one invites another to a good thing.
Buying Thought vs. Straightforward Da‘wah
America – the New World – prides itself in being a democracy and a free market of ideas. But there is something very seriously malignant that is cutting at the very roots of democracy and freedom of opinion here: thought control of the majority of the people by a powerful few through propaganda, lobbying, the entertainment industry and other media.
Those who buy their influence on society and on policymaking through expensive lobbying, espionage and scare tactics are the worst enemies of all that is good in the American ideal: freedom of choice and opinion, as well as a fair and open society. Daʿwah, a sincere, personal invitation to people, is the most effective way to counter that thought control.
A Reasoned Presentation
Islam is in no need of these tactics. As Muslims, we value freedom of speech and religion, free exchange of ideas, debates and dialogs. We wish nothing more than that people truly understand the message of Islam and then make a free choice to accept it or reject it.
We are confident that anyone with a good, pure heart will be guided by Allah to His truth, if only the barriers of hatred, misunderstanding, stereotyping and arrogance could be removed.
The Islamic Way and Da ‘wah
The Islamic way of daʿwah is to reach out to people’s minds and souls, not to delude them through subtle media messages.
Islamic daʿwah encourages people to think for themselves, and come to Allah through conscious choice, through reason and reflection, not through blind faith, personal charisma or subliminal messages.
The Prophet’s Example Applied to America
The history of Islam is witness to the fact that a state of peace and open exchange of ideas has always favored open embrace of Islam by the people.
Knowing this natural affinity of most people to the truth, the Prophet ﷺ accepted the unfavorable terms of the famous Treaty of Al-Ḥudaybiya and got in return a state of peace – later the Quran celebrated this treaty as a “Clear Victory.”
American society is, theoretically speaking, a free society, and, by definition, naturally favorable to Islam. Muslims must work to preserve all that is favorable to Islam: freedom of choice, opinion and consciousness.
Because it is a collective obligation of the Muslims to do daʿwah, it is their duty to preserve its preconditions, and a free, peaceful and open-minded society is one of them.
Da ‘wah Fits the American Religious Way
In addition, religious Americans revere no one more than Jesus Christ – and Muslims feel connected to Jesus, peace be upon him, not only because Jesus was a muslim, functionally speaking, but also because he was a dâʿî (one who does daʿwah).
The best citizen is one who wishes well for his or her society. A Muslim who engages in daʿwah is showing the ultimate act of benevolence and mercy by presenting the message of Allah in a peaceful manner even against all forces of harassment, suspicion and intimidation. As such, being an American Muslim and engaging in daʿwah are in complete harmony.
Thus, for Muslim Americans, daʿwah is the most authentic way of being Muslim—and at the same time the best way of being American.
The Nature of Da ‘wah
The goal of daʿwah is to bring people to Allah; and as one scholar puts it, its goal is to make Allah beloved to His creatures, and make them beloved to Allah.
Daʿwah is the job of the entire Muslim Ummah, as the well-known verses of the Quran tell us:
You are the best of communities brought out for the humankind: you command good, forbid evil, and believe in Allah … [Sûrat Âl ʿImrân, 3:110]
And thus we made you a Middle (meaning: central, focal) Community so you may be witnesses unto the human … [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:143]
Daʿwah is not an option for us as an Ummah and a Community, but rather it is our justification for existence, without which we will lose Allah’s special favors upon us.
Muslims Desiring Excellence
Daʿwah is the acme of human activities. By doing sincere daʿwah, one is making a statement that one is absolutely certain of Allah’s Dîn, and is willing to put up with any hardships and losses to please Allah.
Daʿwah requires two loves:
- to love Allah so much that you are willing to sacrifice tangible things for the Unseen rewards, and
- to love people so much that you are willing to face their displeasure or hostility for the sake of their own ultimate benefit, of which they themselves may be heedless.
The best American Muslims are those who care about and reach out to their fellow Americans to educate them about Islam, and inspire them through their character to become Muslims.
The worst are those who call 9-1-1 if they see a neighbor’s house on fire, but do nothing to save their American fellows from the fire of lust, promiscuity, greed and the worship of baseless desires…
Who Is Obligated to do Da ‘wah?
Daʿwah is an obligation. But because it is not a limited and a one-time act—but rather an essential part of Muslim identity—the nature of this obligation is misunderstood by many.
Daʿwah is a mission of the entire Muslim Ummah and defines our identity as Muslims. At the same time, it is an attitude, a concern, an outlook, that must influence our individual actions as well as institutions.
How Does This Obligation Work?
From a fiqhi viewpoint, daʿwah is typically considered a collective obligation (farḍ kifâ’î)–-an obligation that is satisfied if it is being sufficiently done by someone of the Community. But this technical statement may be misunderstood, because at the same time, it is every Muslim’s individual obligation as a concern.
We often find ourselves in situations when no one but we ourselves are capable of doing it. For instance, your colleague may be intrigued by “this Ramadan and fasting thing” that you do, and it is likely that he or she will not have another chance to talk about it with a Muslim.
Is it your obligation to seize this opportunity to answer not only your colleague’s question, but to explain the essence of Islamic worship – the Oneness of Allah? Absolutely!
If, at this point, you shy away from doing your best in answering your colleague’s question and fueling his or her curiosity, you have concealed from them the blessing of Islam, an act which Allah censures thus:
Who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah? And Allah is not at all heedless of what you do. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:140]
Those who conceal the clear (Signs) and the Guidance We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, on them shall be Allah’s curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:159]
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ also warned:
Whoever hides a beneficial knowledge will be branded by Allah by a branding iron from Hell-fire. (Al-JâmiʿAl-Ṣaghîr)
The Prophet’s words emphasize that this obligation is individual:
Convey on my behalf, even if it is [no more than] a verse. (Bukhâri)
This also means that one need not be a scholar or specialist to do daʿwah. One must, however, be honest, humble and sincere: We should convey only what we know for sure, and not pretend to know what we really don’t.
Practically speaking, when three conditions are fulfilled, daʿwah becomes an obligation:
(i) daʿwah is feasible or practical without incurring excessive harm,
(ii) it is expected that the people will respond to our words, that is, they have open hearts, and
(iii) there is no one else who is doing daʿwah in that particular situation.
In American society, these conditions are often fulfilled today. We pray to Allah that Muslims wake up and realize their mission before the day when freedom of speech and an openness of hearts and minds to Islam cease to exist.