Allow me to refresh the old analogy as well, wherein the da'ee is compared to a salesperson, and the person receiving da'wah (mad'oo) is compared to a customer. The da'wah to Islam is therefore the product being sold and bought in the transaction analogy. And there are many ways to describe Islam to somebody, but if we as callers to Islam want to know how to effectively present it to someone else, then it's useful to understand it in the ways I'm presenting it here.
First let's look at the meaning of Islam--it is total submission or surrender to God, to Allah, and it existed before the Prophet Muhammad (saaws). This is a general definition, describing Islam as being followed by Noah (and his followers) and Abraham (and his followers), and Moses (and his followers) and Jesus (and his followers.) All these groups could be considered to be Muslims under this broad definition. But more specifically when we talk about Islam we are referring to the deen of Muhammad. By deen I mean "religion" or "way of life." Muhammad (saaws) surrendered and called his people to Islam, and to Islam is what we are calling the people as well.
So now we look at Islam as having three main parts, namely 'aqeedah, shari'ah, and akhlaaq. We cannot present Islam as existing as only one of these parts, but must understand all three.
'Aqeedah of course means (roughly) beliefs. The pillars of imaan (belief in Allah, angels, prophets/messengers, scriptures, day of judgment, and the qadr of Allah) and other parts of iman fall under the category of 'aqeedah. This is also the theological aspects of Islam.
Shari'ah means the laws of Islam, and the differentiation between what is halal (lawful, permissible) and haraam (not permissible, unlawful).
Akhlaaq refers to good manners and morals.
So when we present Islam we should note that there are these three parts or dimensions to Islam, and by excluding any of the above the Islam is incomplete. After realizing that there are these three parts to Islam as a product, we move on to the characteristics of Islam which make it distinctive and why Islam is better than other religions. Specifically, these are the reasons why a person (mad'oo) would want to "buy" Islam from the da'ee, and why someone would choose to be a Muslim instead of following another religion or way of life. The da'ee should be familiar with these characteristics just like a salesperson should understand the features of the product he is trying to sell, in order to explain its advantages to the customer.
So these are the characteristics of Islam which should be conveyed when giving da'wah.
(1) From Allah - The first characteristic of Islam is that it came from Allah, and not from humans. This means that the beliefs have been prescribed by Allah ('aqeedah), as have the laws (shari'ah), and the moral behavior (akhlaaq) is also the result of Divine Guidance--from Allah.
(2) Complete - The second characteristic of Islam is that it is a complete way of life, meaning it is not devoid of any aspect, nor does it need mankind to finish, improvise, or add anything to it.
(3) Clear - The third characteristic of Islam is that it is clear so that people can understand it. Islam has answers for all of a person's questions, and in a way that mankind can understand and implement.
(4) Comprehensive - In addition to being a complete way of life (#2), Islam is also comprehensive, meaning that it covers all aspects of human existence. It provides guidelines and instructions for both children and parents, for rulers and those who are ruled, for example. It applies to individuals, to families, and to entire societies.
(5) Balanced - The fifth characteristic of Islam is that it is balanced between physical and spiritual aspects, and it is also moderate (not extreme.) This means that everything is to be given its right, and physical needs are balanced with spiritual needs without a person going to an extreme in either approach.
(6) Practical - Islam is also a practical religion (way of life), so that even if it becomes difficult, it is made easier. For example, if it becomes difficult for a person to stand for 5 daily prayers, he may sit. In this way Islam does not become a burden on its adherents.
So these six characteristics are that Islam came from Allah, is a complete way of life that is clear and comprehensive, while also being balanced and practical. There are an additional 5 characteristics (for lack of a better word) of Islam. These are things a da'ee should be aware of when helping someone to accept Islam.
(1) Allah (SWT) made the deen easy and removed the hardship from it. Human nature is weak, but since Islam has been made easy it is not a problem to adhere to it.
(2) Islam was implemented gradually during the lifetime of Muhammad (saaws) so that the hearts of the people could change. This should be applied towards dealing with other Muslims who might be attached (addicted) to certain bad behaviors in this life.
(3) In any act of worship (of Allah), mankind cannot initiate anything without proof. And the proof must come from Allah. So in Islam we have a way of worshiping our Lord that He Himself has taught us.
(4) Islam combines between firmness and flexibility as appropriate. For example, in transactions there is flexibility, that things are assumed to be permissible unless they have been forbidden, with proof.
The last point I have is the 3 kinds of rights in Islam--the rights that a Muslim needs to make sure are fulfilled.
- Rights of Allah - The first right is the Right of Allah, that we worship Him alone and do not associate anything with Him in worship.
- Rights of Self - The body has both spiritual needs and physical needs like food, education, and security, and has the right that these needs are fulfilled.
- Rights of Others - The last kind of rights in Islam are those of other humans, and non-humans. A person's relatives have a right on him, and his neighbors have a right on him, as do all the Muslims, and in fact all of mankind. For non-human rights, these are the rights of the environment and animals, for example.
So when a da'ee is calling someone to Islam, these are the things to keep in mind. Especially important is the answer to the following questions: Why should someone accept Islam? Why should that person be a Muslim, instead of being a Jew, a Christian, an atheist, or something else? What is special about Islam?
Without addressing the points mentioned in the post, it's likely that a person might get a distorted view of Islam from the da'wah, and see Islam as either only laws (shari'ah) or only belief ('aqeedah) or only good manners (akhlaaq). And unfortunately many people get this impression about Islam, that they just need to be a "good person" or that if they follow all the rules they are following Islam. This I think especially applies to da'wah towards Muslims. When giving da'wah to non-Muslims, it's important to point out that Islam is as mentioned, from Allah, our Creator, and that it is complete, clear, comprehensive, balanced and practical.
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." (12:108)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