Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Recipients of Da'wah

Click for Photo CreditI mentioned in my previous post, 12 Characteristics of the Da'ee, that there are essentially three pillars of da'wah. Da'wah is of course defined as three stages which are conveying the message of Islam, teaching Islam to the people, and helping them to implement it in their lives. The three pillars are first the da'ee, or person calling and inviting to Islam, second the mad'oo, or people being called to Islam, and thirdly the actual object of the da'wah which is of course Islam.

When discussing the recipients of da'wah (the mad'oo) as I have titled this post, it's useful to understand both the categories of people, and their rights. While there is a specific breakdown into difference groups of people we must first understand that this pillar of da'wah, the recipients of the da'wah, comprises all human beings. Every person fits in somewhere. I don't say that to pronounce judgment on anyone, but to drive home the point that everybody can and should receive da'wah, and that there is no class of people who should be exempt.

The two main categories of people are obviously Muslims and non-Muslims, which are both then further categorized. It is useful to understand these classifications because it is a requirement of a successful salesperson to "know the customer." And we can use here the analogy of da'wah to sales, whereby there is a salesperson, a customer, and a product. The salesperson is the da'ee who is conveying or teaching Islam, while the customer is the one being called to Islam, and Islam itself is the product of that transaction. So the salesperson, in order to be a good salesperson, must understand who his customer is, and what they are looking for, and also the most appropriate way to approach them.

When the Prophet Muhammad (saaws) sent Mu'adh to Yemen, he instructed him to first call the people to laa ilaaha illAllah, Muhammad ar-Rasoolullah, and if they accepted that then to call them to establish the salaat, and if they accepted that then to call them to pay the zakaat. The people in Yemen of course were Christians, and this was the approach suggested by the Prophet Muhammad (saws) in dealing with them.

So let me start with the categories of non-Muslims, who make up 4 primary groups.

  1. Atheists: The first group of non-Muslims is atheists, who are those with no belief in God at all.
  2. Idol Worshippers: In Arabic, mushrikeen, this group is referring to people who worship any kind of idol, or associate any partner in their worship of God.
  3. People of the Book: This category is significant, referring to people who received the message (of Islam) before, and then changed it so they are now misguided. An extra note on this group is that the people will be in the hellfire if they reject Muhammad (saaws) who was the Messenger for all of mankind. And on the other hand, the people of the book of course have a special status in fiqh.
  4. Hypocrites: The last category of people are the munafiqoon in Arabic, who are those people pretending to be Muslims while they in fact do not believe. They first appeared in Medina, and will be in the lowest level (most tortured) in hellfire for their actions.
The Da'ee must know and understand the non-Muslims like a physician must know his patients in order to treat them.

Muslims are also categorized, which I stress again to point out that Muslims also are in need of da'wah and should be included among the recipients of da'wah. So we classify them into three levels. And even though it might seem like common sense, all three are listed because da'wah should be given to all three groups, to either improve (2 & 3) or to maintain (1) their adherence and righteousness.
  1. The first describes those who are always at the highest level of righteousness. At this level the da'wah should be primarily to encourage the person to maintain his level of righteousness, and to guide him towards extra (nawafil) acts by which he can draw even nearer to Allah.
  2. The second is the lowest level, describing those who are Muslims but are not adherent. If we recall again the instructions of the Prophet Muhammad (saaws) to Muadh, we understand that guidance occurs slowly, one pillar at a time. First the da'ee guides to laa ilaaha illAllah, but for the Muslims who accept that, the da'ee will guide to salaat first, then zakaat, then siyaam, then hajj, and not try to overwhelm a person by having them implement all these things at once. It is also important for the da'ee to remind the people to repent, and ask forgiveness.
  3. And the third is those who are between the first and second. For this person who is between the two levels, the da'wah should focus on fulfilling the obligations on Muslims, and avoiding the major sins. For a person who does that, he should be guided towards the voluntary acts to draw nearer to Allah.
I gave the previous analogy of the da'ee being like a physician who must know his patients, and it is crucial that a da'ee is able to understand the people to whom he is giving da'wah, before he calls them. Here is another example: suppose there is a person who is dealing in haraam activities, perhaps his income his haraam, so he won't go on hajj. The Shaytaan comes and tells him that his hajj wouldn't be accepted so he might as well not go. And tells him that his prayer won't be accepted so he might as well not pray. The da'wah should focus on guiding this person towards ibaadah (worship). The imam gave another analogy here, describing good deeds and bad deeds like deposits and withdrawals into a bank. If the account is empty, you need to make deposits before you can make withdrawals. In that way, just encourage people to follow bad deeds with good ones, and just go step by step.

The first portion of the class I saved for the last in this post, since I considered it the most profound and significant message, and this is the rights of the recipients of da'wah. While they do have a responsibility, according to the author, to actually accept the truth in the message and open their heart, it seems to me to be better to focus on what the responsibilities are of the da'ee to ensure that the rights of the mad'oo are respected.

Now there are basically two rights, the first of which is simply the right that the person actually receives the da'wah. This is like a right of a customer to actually receive a salesperson to explain the product to him. If a customer walks into a store and no salesperson comes to help him out, then this demonstrates poor salesmanship. And in our case, it would be poor da'wah, but since all human beings are the recipients of da'wah, there shouldn't be any waiting for the people to come to us to start our da'wah. Regardless of whether they come or not, they still have the right to hear from a da'ee.

The second right is a responsibility of the da'ee, and it is that the da'ee makes the time and effort to actually give the person the da'wah. The imam gave us the example here of the blind man who came to Muhammad (saaws) to hear some verses of the Qur'an, while Muhammad (saaws) was busy trying to give da'wah to a member (or a group) of the elite in Meccan society. Muhammad chose then to ignore the blind man, and because of that some verses (Abasa 80:1-10) were revealed admonishing him for his mistake. The message here is that every single person has an equal right to receive da'wah.

To give da'wah is to be on the sabeel or way of the Prophet Muhammad (saaws), as Allah SWT says in the Qur'an

Say, "This is my way; I invite to Allah with insight, I and those who follow me. And exalted is Allah ; and I am not of those who associate others with Him."

So May Allah make us among those who follow this Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (saaws) and increase in those attributes where we are weak.This post is based on my notes from a class with the imam on da'wah, but the commentary is pretty much my own words--so please forgive me for any mistakes as they are my own, while anything good is from Allah SWT and all praise is for Him.

part 1 / part 2 / part 3

No comments: