We have the assumption that when we want to participate in da`wah, we imagine a long brown table of splayed Qur’ans, brochures, books, and articles introducing Islam. A booth parked on a university campus or at an event: this is the standard or common way of doing da`wah.
What we fail to realize is that da`wah does not always have to be this elaborate and time consuming. Da`wah comes in various forms and ways, and having a booth is only one way of calling people to the religion.
A da`wah table is an admirable and honorable venture to commit oneself to, but there are more and subtler ways of inviting others to the deen (religion); those people who believe they do not have the time or the knowledge to be a missionary in the name of Islam need not to fret because we do da`wah everyday.
Da`wah is an obligation on every Muslim and we participate in da`wah whether we are aware of it or not. The way we act, speak, and communicate within society shows what type of Muslim we are.
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is the most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” (Qur’an, 16:125)
We also have the notion that da`wah is just specifically for non-Muslims or Muslims who have clearly steered far from the deen but that is not true.
Da`wah is for both the believer and non-believer. Whereas with the non-believer we are trying to make him understand our belief and, with the guidance of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), bring him into the folds of Islam, in the Muslim’s case it may be that he does not understand or needs to be reminded of particular aspects of the deen. Another form of da`wah could be to encourage or enlighten other Muslims to do better actions that bring them closer to Allah (swt).
The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) has said: “Whoever guides (another) to a good deed will get a reward similar to the one who performs it.” (Sahih Muslim)
Also, “By Allah, if Allah were to guide one man through you it would be better for you than the best type of camel.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
In many cases, da`wah to fellow Muslims is seen in greater esteem than that of the non-Muslims. We should view it in this way: other Muslims are our family, hence the terms we use amongst ourselves of brothers and sisters. Muslims should come first in giving each other da`wah and encouraging each other to develop stronger iman (faith) and aqeedah (belief). This is known to be true because Surah `Abasa talks about how the Prophet ﷺ turned away from a blind Muslim man in order to get leaders to become Muslim. Allah (swt) talks about the Messenger’s mistake:
“The Prophet frowned and turned away, Because there came to him a blind man, [interrupting]. But what would make you perceive, [O Muhammad], that perhaps he might be purified Or be reminded and the remembrance might benefit him? As for he who thinks himself without need, To him you give attention.” (Qur’an, 80:1-6)
These verses demonstrate that our Ummah (community) comes first when it comes to da`wah and teaching our religion. Of course we do not exclude or denounce our duties towards the non-believers but doing da`wah to the Muslims is just as important if not greater than teaching it to the ones who believe themselves self-sufficient. Allah (swt) explicitly tells us so through this incident with the Prophet ﷺ. And its importance is so valued that there is a dedicated surah (chapter) for it.
Another misconception is the idea that once we are Muslim or once people convert to the deen then da`wah ceases to exist as intensely as it did before. If anything should happen, it should increase and da`wah is to be encouraged in the Islamic community.
The Beloved ﷺ has demonstrated da`wah in plenty of ways and so have many of the prophets before him. We, too, have many ways of reaching out to others through our actions:
It could be people spreading the salaams (greeting of peace) both with people they know and do not know.
We can have a group of Muslims go bowling and stop to pray Maghrib while non-Muslims watch from their bowling lanes and scratch their heads in wonder.
It is the way we use our tone with our parents when sometimes they become redundant in the things they do or say but we continue to be steadfast in our patience and explain for the fifth time that texting can be unlimited while our younger brother watches from the couch and sees how we behave with our parents.
Having a random child at the park play with our Muslim children, learning sharing and teamwork when it comes to taking turns on the slides or swings.
Inviting a non-practising sister or brother to go out with other sisters or brothers for coffee or dinner to encourage them to be courageous enough to start learning more proactively about the deen.
A kind and compassionate brother gently giving nasiha (advise) to another brother about how it would benefit him if he started coming to Salat-al-Jumaah (Friday prayer) more often.
Fulfilling the promise to take the trash out every night is da’wah because it is something Allah (swt) loves: He loves cleanliness and He loves that we want to make our spouse happy. This allows the other party to appreciate and reflect on promises and consistency in completing a task.
The thing we need to understand about the spreading of Islam is that Allah (swt) has made our responsibilities come in different forms and ways that it is possible for every Muslim, man and woman, child and adult, to participate in da`wah as much as they are capable of doing. We have unlimited possibilities and infinite paths when it comes to da`wah and the ways it will prosper.
Whether we stand and hand out Islam 101 pamphlets to non-Muslims all day or smile at a sister or brother who passes by us, da`wah is sure to circulate throughout our Muslim Ummah, no matter how big or small the act may be.