Dawah (Outreach) Qur'an

Every Muslim is a Caller


Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad

Surat Luqman, Qur’an 31Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Just a little background about Luqman before we begin. Most of the ’ulema (scholars) said that he was from the area of Sudan. Others said that he was from Nubia. They said that he lived in the time of Dawud `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him), and Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (Glorified is He) knows best. There’s a lot of discussion about who Luqman was. Was he a slave? Was he not a slave? All of these are mere conjecture. You’re not going to find any definite proof on his background. Was he a prophet or not? Most of the ‘ulema said he was not a prophet because the way he speaks to his son indicates that he is not receiving wahy (divine revelation). The word used يعظه (ya`idhtuhu, advising him) indicates that he was advising his son, not speaking to him from what was revealed by Allah(swt).

From these verses we’re going to take a number of points:

  1. تكوين الداعي – The composition of the caller to Allah(swt), the Muslim
  2. The foundations of Islam
  3. The importance of our children and our families
  4. The wisdom of speaking to people and addressing people when doing da`wah (the call to Islam)

The first point is about the components of the daa`ee (the caller) to Allah (swt). I don’t want to only say caller to Allah (swt) because someone might think, “Well I’m not a caller to Allah (swt), so alhamdullilah (thank God), this doesn’t apply to me.” No, every Muslim is a caller to Allah (swt). How many people have I met who became Muslim through bad Muslims? I met a brother, let’s call him Abdullah, who was around someone who used drugs. That person happened to be a Muslim. So one day Abdullah was sitting with that Muslim and that Muslim started to tell him about Allah (swt), even though that Muslim was completely inebriated. And Abdullah became Muslim in the park. Because you see they were homeless, hanging out using drugs and then, as Abdullah told me, “This guy started giving me mad da`wah. So I asked him what kind of Muslim he was, doing drugs? And he asked me, ‘And what kind of creation are you that you associate partners with Allah?’” Allah (swt) used this Muslim and Abdullah became Muslim. After he became Muslim Abdullah memorized the Qur’an in two months. Two months! And he wrote me a letter in complete Arabic, from beginning to end. Maybe Allah (swt) made Abdullah a means for his Muslim friend’s forgiveness. Maybe his friend is still a drug addict, but when he meets Allah (swt), Allah (swt) will bring Abdullah. Abdullah is now a Sheikh and a scholar. Maybe Allah (swt) will say, “This man became Muslim through you, so We will forgive you for all your drunkenness.” And maybe the Muslim man even forgot that Abdullah existed! But every letter Abdullah memorized might be counted in his Muslim friend’s favor.

So don’t say that you are not a caller to Allah (swt). Whether you like it or not you are a caller to Allah (swt). How many times in the grocery store would a woman come to my wife, here in America, and say, “Why do you wear that? That’s regal. Why do you look like that? Why do you have this honorable clothing? Are you a nun?” My wife will reply, “No, I’m a Muslim, that’s why I wear this.” And the response will be, “Wow, I respect you people. Right on. Fight the power.” My wife didn’t initiate the conversation, but every Muslim is a caller and Allah (swt) puts good in the Muslims.

I remember one brother who was in high school in Oklahoma. He told me, “I went one day with some WhyIslam pamphlets to give to the youth in the public high school. I didn’t give out many, compared to most days.” I said, “Really? How many did you give out?” He said, “About eighty.” Eighty people! Subhan’Allah (Glory to God), all of us are callers to Islam.

The one who thinks he/she is a caller to Allah (swt) is apt to fall into a lot of traps. That’s why Sheikh Sayyid Nuh Al-Azhari, who recently passed away, may Allah have mercy on him, wrote a very good book in Arabic called, آفات الداعي (The Mistakes of the Daa`ee). It’s about seven small volumes. It explores the mistakes that people make when they call to Allah (swt).

One of those mistakes is that they think they know, but they don’t know. We have to be humble and have humility. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said:

“العلم ثلاثة كتاب ناطق وسنة قائمة ولا أدري.”

(Knowledge is three things: the Qur’an, the Sunnah and saying “I don’t know.”)

The biggest sign that someone doesn’t know (but thinks he knows) is that he’s weak in his worship to Allah (swt). He doesn’t feel that he needs to come to Fajr (dawn prayer). He’ll justify in his heart saying, “I’m ok.” You’re not ok.  Allah (swt) says, “You are impoverished to Allah,” (Qur’an 31:15). We need Allah (swt).

The second sign is to fall into the haraam (forbidden acts). We ask Allah (swt) to protect us. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an, “Isn’t Allah sufficient for His servant?” (Qur’an 39:36). Imam Ibn Qayyim said that the answer comes from actions, not with words. So if someone feels that Allah (swt) has enriched him then he will not fall into the forbidden, because he will feel that there’s no benefit, there’s no good in the forbidden for him.

The third point we will discuss is the importance of family. How many of us use da`wah as an excuse to not spend time with our wives? And how many wives will use da`wah as an excuse to not spend time with their husbands? This is not da`wah. No da`wah should take you away from your family, because the most important responsibility that you have is to your wife and your kids, or to your husband and your children first and foremost. How can anyone change society if he can’t change his house? If he cannot have an impact in his family how can he have an impact on the people outside?

Allah (swt) states, “And We had certainly given Luqman wisdom,” (Qur’an 31:12).

We see the words و لقد in the beginning of the verse. The و (letter waw) is عطف (‘atf, a conjunction). Before this verse Allah (swt) gives the example of someone who leads people astray. After that example Allah (swt) uses the conjunction to give the example of Luqman, someone who is righteous and leads to the truth instead of falsehood.

The ل (letter laam) means “I swear by Allah”.

The word for “We gave” here is آتينا (aatayna). If we take the opinion of the majority that Luqman was not a Prophet, but a righteous person, then آتينا (aatayna) here means إلهام (ilham, inspiration). It means “We inspired him,” but not with revelation.

The word حكمة (hikmah, wisdom) comes from the word حَكَمَ (hakama). Hakama means to prevent something, to stop something. That’s why Al-Jarir says in the jaahiliy (period before Islam) poetry:

قال جرير: أَبَني حنيفةَ، أَحْكِمُوا سُفَهاءَكم، إني أَخافُ عليكمُ أَن أَغْضَبا

“O People of Banu Hanifah! Stop the foolish people amongst you!”

In the poem أَحْكِمُوا  (ahkimu) means “stop”.

That’s why when people go to the qaadi (judge) and he gives a ruling it’s called a حكم hukum, because it stops people from arguing and fighting. And wisdom is called الحكمة (al-hikmah) because it stops people from acting stupid (تمنع صاحبه عن الجهل – it prevents the one who has it from ignorance). Allah (swt) says, “Allah gives wisdom to whoever He wants,” (Qur’an 2:269). Here, wisdom means righteous guidance which causes someone to choose truth over falsehood. That’s why before this verse in Surah Baqarah, Allah (swt) tells us, “Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing” (Qur’an 2:268). Then He says he gives wisdom to whoever He wants. The scholars said that it is as though the one who has hikmah is the one who thought about the call of Shaytan and the call of Allah (swt) and then he chose the call of Allah (swt) over the call of Shaytan, so they said this is hikmah.

Thus, the first meaning of hikmah is الدين (ad-deen, the religion of Islam): someone who acts on the religion of Islam. Allah (swt) said about the Prophet ﷺ,  “He teaches them the book and hikmah (wisdom)…” (Qur’an 3:164). Here hikmah means the Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet ﷺ .

Secondly, hikmah means to choose good over evil. Hikmah is not to choose the bad over the good, even if the mind doesn’t agree with what Allah (swt) sent, and this is not an easy task.

Thirdly, hikmah means to choose the better of a lot of good things. This could be based on the environment that one lives in. As related by Imam Muslim, in the hadith (narration) of Aisha bint Abi Bakr (ra), “The Prophet ﷺ said, “If it wasn’t that your people (i.e. the Quraysh) had just become Muslim I would order that the Ka`bah be destroyed and rebuilt on the foundations of Ibrahim (as).” Why didn’t the Prophet ﷺ  want to rebuild the Ka`bah? Because the people had just become Muslim, and if he destroys the Ka`bah those people would go crazy because they love the Ka`bah. This is hikmah. In his explanation of Sahih Muslim, Imam An-Nawawi said that this is an example of choosing a lesser good over a greater good where it is acceptable to do so to ultimately achieve a greater good. This is an example of hikmah.

Another meaning of hikmah is cleverness. I was reading a story of one of the great scholars of India during the time of the British occupation of India. I cannot remember the scholar’s name. During the British occupation this scholar was a wanted man. Of course in those days there were no “wanted” posters, so they didn’t know what he looked like. One day the scholar was walking through the streets and suddenly the British soldiers came running. The scholar got very scared, thinking this was the end. The soldiers asked him, “Was Sheikh So-and-so here?” The scholar took one step back and said, “Yes, he was just here.” So the scholar didn’t lie, but he achieved his objective. This is hikmah. He used wisdom.

In da`wah in America you have to be cognizant of where we live and use hikmah. Either Shaytan will inspire us to be hyper liberal to try to please people, in which case people will not have any respect for us, or Shaytan (as Imam Ibn Qayyim mentioned) will try to push us to be hyper conservative as a reaction to living in the West. Both of these are problematic issues. But the one who has hikmah is the one whose basis in the religion is solid and he/she doesn’t change those things, which he/she is not allowed to change. The Maaliki mathhab (school of thought) says that العرف كالنص – The custom of a people can be like a revealed text (at times). It has that much weight. Imam Al Qaraafi said that if someone comes to you from another country, don’t answer his question until you ask him about his country and what the people of his country are like.

I’ll give you an example. A few years ago I was invited to Malaysia. I went there and spoke at an event. There were a lot of Chinese converts to Islam in attendance. I saw that that first thing people told these converts was that they had to change their names. In my talk I said, “Why is it that the first thing we focus on is changing their names? Then they’ll go home to their mothers and fathers with new names and their parents will become angry. We should focus on other things.” Then the Sheikh there from Malaysia told me something. He said, “Suhaib, it’s different than in America. Here if you don’t change your name from a Chinese name you will not be buried as a Muslim.” See how my ignorance of one small cultural phenomenon changes the whole answer.

So in this country if we’re going to be involved in da`wah we should know the people. That’s why I recommended before (and many people got angry) that the Imams in America should watch TV for one year. We have to understand and know the people. That’s the advantage of young professionals, college students, high school students. Parents cannot expect their children to be a different nationality in America. They are Americans, and they know the people here. They’ll be very successful in da`wah insha’Allah (God willingly). I’ve seen a lot of brothers and sisters who have knowledge of the religion and knowledge of the place using that for da`wah. This is hikmah, as long as one does not go outside of the religion.

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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