Islamic Studies

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Callers

Things are distinguished by their characteristics. The caller to Allah should have the best attributes and qualities as the message he/she brings is from his/her Lord. Inshallah, this article will touch on seven conditions for successful dawa. But first, a few words on the importance of dawa.

Dawa is so important that Allah (swt) described His Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] as a “caller to Allah.”

Allah [the Most Exalted] says:

“And a caller to Allah and a torch spreading light.”
Surah al-Ahzab 46

In fact, Sheikh Muhammad al-Hassan Walid Dado al-Shanqiti said, “The importance of dawa can be seen the even Allah [the Exalted] describes Himself as a caller!”

Allah [the Exalted] says:

“Allah calls you to Paradise and forgiveness by His leave.”
Surah al-Baqara 221

The role of the caller is no less great when met with a number of challenges and difficulties. Although there are a large number or external obstacles, the greatest challenges are those from within the Muslim community. Thus, the caller must juggle many different objects and, at the same time, maintain his/her own balance.

This article is one of grave importance and it is hoped that it will be used by MAS, YM and other organizations, studied, built upon and developed so it can serve as an important piece in the total tarbiyah process. I’ve left things out on purpose hoping that you will fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle with your own ideas and thoughts.

The Seven Conditions Related to Successful Dawa

These conditions for success are found in the following verses:

“Say: This is my Way: I call on Allah with sure knowledge. I and whosoever follows me – Glory be to Allah! – and I am not of the idolaters.”
Surah Yusuf 108

And:

“Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.”

    The First Verse [Four conditions]

“Say: This is my Way: I call on Allah with sure knowledge. I and whosoever follows me – Glory be to Allah! – and I am not of the idolaters.” Surah Yusuf 108

1. The statement of Allah, “With sure knowledge”
This entails knowing what one is calling to, who one is calling to and the environment which one lives in and taking time to understand its norms, customs and cultural nuances.

2. The statement of Allah, “I and whoever follows me”
One cannot go it alone. One of the greatest challenges of dawa work is to listen to others ideas, share and put up with peoples stuff. However, there is a blessing in group work and this makes it one of the conditions for successful dawa

3. The statement of Allah, “Glory be to Allah”
This is an interesting clause that seemingly comes out of nowhere to rattle the reader. However, the scholars have stated that a few points can be taken from this:

– The caller does not rely upon anyone other than Allah
– The caller does not expect rewards from any other than Allah
– The caller is a Rabbani (person connected to Allah). Meaning after the knowledge and the group work there is still a strong spiritual presence about this person. They mind their prayers, stand in the night while others are sleeping and weep for Humanity’s guidance. It could also imply that they don’t get caught up in the means forgetting the ultimate objective. Many movements lost their course when they were intoxicated with attracting the large crowds. However, the truth is the truth and it must stay the ultimate goal. Let us not forget that some Prophet’s had 0 followers. Thus, this principle insures quality over quantity. Allah says, “Who created life and death as a test for you to see which of you is best in actions.” Commenting on this a scholar said, “Allah said, “Best in actions” not most in actions.”

4. The Statement of Allah, “And I am not of the idolaters”
Thus the caller is does not engage in acts which are immoral or seen as repulsive. No, he/she is different in his/her moral standing. He/she is not ostentatious, but the caller’s righteousness is like a merciful spring that makes others around better. Recently rookie Daniel Gibson said, after the Cavs closed out the Pistons, that Lebron James told him, “Just keep shooting” the result was a 31 point game and a 19 point 4th quarter. The caller is not a indicter but an inviter. He/she give others strength and motivation; building others.

The Second verse [three conditions]

“Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.”

1. The statement of Allah, “With wisdom”
Wisdom, according to the Arabic language, means to put something in its proper place. Thus, when it is time to be soft, one is soft, when it is time to be firm one is firm, when it is time to play, then it is time to play, and when it is time to work, it is time to be serious. The Prophet [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] said, “There is a time for this and a time for that.”

2. The statement of Allah, “With fair exhortation”
It is important to communicate in a way that others can understand and appreciate. In addition, methods style and body language all play and essential role in delivering a good message.

3. The statement of Allah, “And reason with them in a better way.”
Here reasoning in a way that is better is not related to style alone as that was addressed by the previous condition. Here reasoning in a better way is related to the content of one’s argument. Insuring that one has sound knowledge and proofs related to the discussion at hand.

    Thus, the conditions for successful dawa are:

1. Knowledge
2. Team effort
3. Rabaniyah (Connected with Allah)
4. Sincerity in doing what one says and distinguished character
5. Wisdom
6. Fair preaching (style and method)
7. Reason in the best way (content and knowledge)

Suhaib Webb

*Adapted from a lecture given by Sh. Muhammad Walid al-Dado al-Shanqiti

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • Jazakallah khair for the advice. I would like to add a few more things that I think are very important but oft neglected. Shaikh Suhaib alluded to them in his points on understanding the customs of the people and the importance of style and body language but I would like to get more specific. One of the most effective types of dawa is the silent dawa of our actions and appearance. Effective dawa requires a proper marriage between style and substance.

    I would like to quote a few verses from the Quran regarding this:
    – “a messenger from themselves” (3:164)
    – “with the language of his people” (14:4)
    – “and to Ad, their brother Hud” (7:65)
    – “and to Thamud, their brother Saleh” (7:73)

    And from The Sealed Nectar:
    “The Prophet [pbuh] was noted for superb eloquence and fluency in Arabic. He was remarkable in position and rank. He was an accurate, unpretending straightforward speaker. He was well-versed in Arabic and quite familiar with the dialects and accents of every tribe. He spoke with his entertainers using their own accents and dialects. He mastered and was quite eloquent at both bedouin and town speech. So he had the strength and eloquence of bedouin language as well as the clarity and the decorated splendid speech of town.”

    From these verses and accounts of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of God upon him) life, we learn the importance of being from within the community and mastering the language and customs of the people. This is not to say that an immigrant should not give dawa in the inner city but it does mean that his dawa would not be as effective as a Muslim from within their community. This is not a matter of racism, nationalism, or tribalism but rather an issue of trust, empathy, and identification. Hence the divine rule of always sending “a messenger from within themselves” “with the language of his people.”

    So being able to genuinely articulate yourself to your crowd becomes of utmost importance. Dress, speech, and body language play a bigger role than most would like to admit especially in a society in which these things are the criteria for acceptance. Once again, I would like to reiterate the fact that this is not a matter of superficiality but rather a matter of identity. One might argue, “what about the person who became Muslim when they saw the brother wearing the big turban?” Although there are cases of this happening, the people in which a turban might spark curiosity are far outnumbered by those who are put off by such foreign customs. People look to Muslims as being very religious and thus hold them to the highest of standards. If you are doing dawa, then people will subconsciously consider you devoted to your religion and thus hold both your words and actions as the bar of piety in Islam. Subconsciously they are associating you with piety and debating in their mind whether or not they can reach those standards. They are debating whether or not Islam is a viable option in their life or if it would be too drastic of a change to entertain it as an option. So John Doe, who works at an office, likes what you have to say but after picturing himself wearing a turban he rejects it. You might say, “guidance is from God.” This is absolutely true but at the same time we have the responsibility of delivering the message properly. This requires convincing people that the only difference between us and them is one of faith in God and not a cultural one.

    Some might disregard my observations as merely speculation but I am basing this on personal dawa experiences. “Why do Muslims stink? Why do Muslims dress like that? Why do Muslim men wear dresses?” If you are unaware of these questions, then I suggest you do more dawa.

    In conclusion, following the cultural norms of society is recommended while dressing like an Arab is not. People have to distinguish between the meaning of the word sunnah as it relates to fiqh (recommended) and as it relates to hadeeth (biography). The biggest challenge for Islam in America is how it will integrate into society. Will it continue to be the foreign religion it is now or will it adopt an American identity? In my humble opinion, I think that this challenge can only be overcome by our scholars because just as non-Muslims hold any Muslim to be the standard for piety, we Muslims hold our scholars to be the standard of piety for us. I have been most impressed with Shaikh Suhaib as he is at the forefront of this transition despite his occasional lapses into Arab garb. May God strengthen him and make him firm on the truth. I dream of a day when our scholars start delivering Friday sermons in three-piece suits. We know Islam itself is compatible with America but perhaps when that happens will people finally consider Muslims to have successfully integrated into America.

    May God forgive me for any mistakes and guide us all. Amen.

  • I have to disagree with Nas — dressing in three piece suits isn’t going to get us anywhere. There’s a difference between integration and assimilation, and our challenge is to be accepted while wearing our Arab garbs (hence, integration) rather than accepted because we start wearing Western clothing (hence, assimilated), and I mean all that in the proverbial sense in addition to its surface statement.

    Also, it’s great that you brought textual proof to support your point, and I realize that I am not doing that, but recognize that the same imams and leaders who are wearing Islamic clothing or the imams who have “occasional lapses into Arab garb” have studied and understood the same texts that you are using to prove your point, yet they do not wear suits while giving khutbahs. what is the reason for this? perhaps their understanding supercedes our superficial understanding of things like what you have quoted.

    i say all this with respect, but I think your point is unfitting.

  • AZ, you said:

    There’s a difference between integration and assimilation, and our challenge is to be accepted while wearing our Arab garbs (hence, integration) rather than accepted because we start wearing Western clothing (hence, assimilated), and I mean all that in the proverbial sense in addition to its surface statement.

    A lot of us aren’t even “Arab” so it makes no sense at all to wear “Arab garbs”. What about those people who converted to Islam, the “westerners”, should they also wear “Arab garbs”? Show me any major fiqh book which gives a picture of an “Islamic dress”. There is no such picture, the texts simply give guidelines and restrictions on what kind of clothes we can wear (lose clothing, no silk, etc). If someone wants to wear “Arab garbs”, I have no problem with that, but don’t burden the masses with something Allah hasn’t burdened them with.

    A lot of us have either been born or raised up in the West, and I find it ridiculous when people tell us that we have to dress in “Islamic clothing” when, in reality, we are following the guidelines set by Islam with regards to our dresses. Again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with you or anyone else wearing Eastern clothing, but don’t condemn people or enforce your cultural preferences when you have no Islamic basis to do so.

    Please forgive me if I came off as rude in this comment, but I have experienced this “back-home” cultural mentality affect the converts. A white brother in my community converted a couple of years ago and he was delusioned into believing that he has to wear Shalwar khameez/thobes to be a good Muslim, and that caused major problems with his family. That’s not the sort of dawah we’re here to do.

    Sincerely,
    Zubair

  • (I don’t mean to cause any sort of offense by this).

    In the end, i think it’s important to differentiate between a Da`iy (Caller) and an `Alim (Scholar); between eloquence and knowledge.

    Both are not the same.

  • JazakAllah Br. Nas!

    You have brought up a very valid and critical point that all people serious about making dawah in this country need to consider.

    How many times at work have I seen my own co-workers get so disgusted by my fellow Muslim workers behavior, dress, appearance, etc.

    My coworkers including myself splatter water all over the bathroom floor when making wudu causing most Non Muslims to leave in disgust.

    We wear beards that are huge but unkempt and also wear wrinkled pants and shirts to work.

    Terrible dawah on our part and I think if any of us are to succeed we need to take what Br. Nas has suggested seriously. That means combing our beards, wearing perfume, combing our hair, brushing our teeth, etc.

    JazakAllah again Br. Nas.

    And AZ: I highly suggest you speak to Shaykh Suhaib Webb about this issue so he can clarify. Zubair pointed out a very important point. I know regarding myself, I’m a Pakistani born in the west…I wear jeans and dress shirts, grow out my beard, and like to sometimes wear a kufi. I’ve also done eh opposite and have worn (and still do sometimes) a long thobe, turban, etc. People see me as a foreigner and it really hurts the dawah. When I look like them (like at work) I can relate to them much better and I’ve done much better dawah I believe. While we are in our 3-piece suits, we should pray in public such as at malls, etc. thus materializing a true American Islamic identity.
    And Allah and His Messenger know best.

  • This is a reminder to brother Nas that the Jews and Christians will not
    accept you as assimilated or integrated until you follow what they believe
    so let us be ourselves and just deliver the message of Islaam & Allah(swt)
    will guide those He chooses.Zaadanllaahu ilman wal hiqmah.
    Fee amaanillah.

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