The Work of Propagation of Islam
Dr. Ahmad Shafaat
Broadly speaking, all Islamic work falls
under one or the other of the following two categories:
a) Organizing ourselves, building
social, political and economic systems & institutions and, through
them, taking care of various affairs of Muslim communities or
societies. The Holy Qur'an uses the comprehensive term of al-amr
to describe this aspect of Islamic work. There are five pillars
through which Islam expects us to take care of al-amr.
b) The second aspect of Islamic work,
which is the subject of the present article, may broadly be
described as promulgation of Islamic teachings. It consists of four
closely linked parts:
or tabligh: This means making the basic message of Islam
known to mankind.
This means inviting people to Islam and to all that is good (khayr).
This consists of more detailed instruction in the way of Islam
after a person has accepted the invitation to Islam.
This consists of instruction about Islam given to individuals with
personal attention to the specific problems they face in
following Islam and benefiting from it.
All the four parts of the work of
promulgation of Islam mentioned above are mentioned in the Qur'an as
functions of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and his work
evermore). Thus the Qur'an says:
"O Messenger! Make known (balagh) all
that has been sent down to thee by thy Lord and Sustainer."
"Invite (da'wah) to the way
of thy Lord and Sustainer with wisdom and goodly exhortation..."
"He it is who has sent to the
unlettered people a Messenger from among themselves to convey
unto them His messages, and to lead them to purity and spiritual
growth (tazkiyah) and to teach them the Book and the
Wisdom (ta'lim)..." (62:2)
da'wah and ta'lim are also mentioned in the Qur'an and
Hadith as duties of Muslims generally:
"Convey from me (balagh) even
if it be only a single ayah (that you know)." (Bukhari)
"Let there among you be a group that
invites to all that is good (da'wah)." (3:104)
"Say! This is my way. I call to
God (da'wah) - on the basis of sure knowledge -I
and those who (truly) follow me. Glory to God and I am not
among those who commit shirk." (12:108)
"Acquire knowledge and teach it to
mankind (ta'lim), learn your religious duties and teach them to
mankind, learn the Qur'an and teach it to mankind, for I am a
man who will be taken away..." (Darimi)
To the best of my knowledge tazkiyah
is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur'an and Hadith as a
responsibility which has passed from the Prophet to his followers
but we can easily assume this to be the case, since tazkiyah
is simply personalized ta'lim without which the function of
ta'lim itself cannot be complete. Our greatest scholars have
held that the prophetic function of tazkiyah continued after
the Prophet through Islamic tasawwuf.
The work of promulgation of Islam has to
follow somewhat different approaches according to whether it is done
among non-Muslims or Muslims.
BALAGH AND DA'WAH AMONG
Since ta'lim and tazkiyah
follow after a person has accepted Islam, promulgation of
Islam among non-Muslims can only consist of balagh and
and da'wah among non-Muslims is a collective duty of the
Muslim Ummah. This is because the Prophet Muhammad was sent as a
"mercy to all the worlds" and a "messenger of God to all mankind"
(21:107 ; 7:158) and consequently his message is meant to reach
every living human soul on earth, which is possible only through the
agency of the Muslim Ummah. In recent centuries Muslims have ignored
this collective obligation on their part and for doing so they often
give the argument that these days Muslims themselves are not good
Muslims and so before preaching Islam to non-Muslims we should first
make at least the majority of Muslims "good Muslims". The fallacy of
this type of argument can be seen by making the following two
First, rarely if ever history affords
any nation or Ummah the luxury of doing one thing first and another
later. It almost always demands that important tasks be done side by
side. the work of da'wah and tabligh therefore needs
to be done among non-Muslims at the same time that it is done among
Muslims (though not necessarily by the same people).
Second, changing the state of Muslims
themselves is something that will be greatly helped by balagh
and da'wah among non-Muslims. For, the work of preaching
Islam among non-Muslims will present Muslims with challenges which,
if met with a sense of obligation, will infuse new life and faith
into the Ummah and rid it of many of its evils.
The work of preaching Islam among
non-Muslims will follow two general directions:
1) Mass promulgation: By using
means of mass communication (leaflets, announcements on TV, radio,
etc.) Muslims need to make known to every soul on earth the most
fundamental principles of Islam. In particular, every man, woman and
child with sufficient ability to comprehend should hear the
* Fourteen hundred years
ago a man named Muhammad was sent as a messenger of mercy from God
to all mankind for all times. It is under the leadership of this man
that the human race will march to its final destiny.
* The history of mankind
is moving to a final day of decision when all individuals will be
judged for their deeds and either punished or rewarded. In this way
GOOD will win its final victory over EVIL.
Prior to that final day of decision
there can also take place lesser and temporary judgments,
punishments and rewards, both for nations and individuals.
* There is but one true
God and man must serve only Him and make only Him his Lord and
Master. He must reject all other false Gods such as the mythical
Jesus called son of God, ancient deified heroes such as Rama,
Krishna, etc. or modern false Gods such as the system or state in
the communist world, people or Man in modern democracies.
If a man makes not the one true God his
only Lord and turns to the worship of any false Gods, whether in
exclusion of or in association with the true God, then he will be
thrown into hell-fire to stay there forever.
* God has commanded man
to do good deeds such as charity, prayer and struggle for just
causes (jihad) and prohibited him from evil deeds, especially
the more serious ones such as injustice, violation of someone's
honor, property and life, sexual perversions, addiction to alcohol,
The above summary of the message to be
made known to all the people of the world through means of mass
communication is patterned on the approach to da'wah followed
by all the prophets. The Holy Qur'an mentions the stories of many
prophets and in each case the da'wah of the prophet follows
more or less the same pattern. The prophet invites the people to
believe in him as the prophet of his age and place, asks them to
abandon the worship of false Gods of his day and to accept the
Creator of the Universe as their only Lord; he invites them to the
doing of good and to shun evils prevalent in his day (e.g. cruelty
in the case of Hud's people, homosexuality in the case of Lut's
people and dishonest business practices in the case of Shuayb's
people); and he also warns the people of future punishment if they
do not heed him and promises them reward if they do.
2) Specialized Promulgation: The
second type of work to be done for da'wah and tabligh
among non-Muslims is giving more detailed expositions of the
teachings of Islam and demonstrations of their relevance for the
well-being of man. These are to be directed to specific audiences
through lectures, books, booklets, etc. They will range from
relatively brief expositions in terms meaningful for the particular
audience for which they are meant, to in-depth scholarly studies
demonstrating how Islam provides better alternatives to existing
systems for solving problems facing the world. To carry on this type
of work we need to build big institutes where not only Islam is
studied in all its aspects but also studies of cultural, religious
and philosophical traditions of non-Muslim societies are carried out
AND DA'WAH AMONG MUSLIMS
Over the centuries the Islamic message
has become divided into two parts. One part is fairly widely alive
among Muslims in the sense that it is quite well-known to, and even
avoided widely by, Muslims; while the other part is "dead" in that
it is either not known to most Muslims or is ignored by them.
For example, every Muslim knows that
Islam enjoins prayer, fasting, etc. and prohibits alcohol, pork,
adultery, etc. and many Muslims even try to live by these teachings.
This part of Islam is thus alive in the Ummah. On the other hand,
most Muslims either do not know or do not take seriously such
Islamic teachings as that we should fulfill our promises and should
be fair and just in our dealings, that Muslims should run their
affairs by shura and not najwah, that mosques of Allah
should be managed by those who fear none but God (and who therefore
are able to raise their voices against corrupt and powerful people.
This represents the "dead" part of Islam. Balagh among
Muslims consists of reviving this dead part, making it widely known
and heeded among various Muslim communities and societies.
among Muslims consists of invitation, through nasilah,
exhortation, etc. to practice Islam. In other words, balagh
is spreading the knowledge of Islamic teachings in all its aspects
and da'wah is inviting one another to follow those teachings.
The work of ta'lim goes on among
Muslims in various ways: through khutbahs on Fridays, regular
dars al-Qur'an in some mosques, tafseer gatherings in
private homes and through more systematic instruction in
madrasahs and jami'ahs (religious schools and colleges).
This whole process, however, suffers from many serious defects
originating in the highest institutions of learning, i.e. the
jami'ahs. Firstly, the religious instruction in the
jami'ahs is not sufficiently critical of tradition in the sense
that opinions and conclusions of classical scholars are not
subjected to sufficient questioning, as a result of which the
students and the teachers both suffer from intellectual timidity.
Secondly, jami'ahs are not sufficiently independent of
control by the established powers, as a result of which they are
unable to play their role in transforming Muslim societies in
accordance with the dynamic principles of Islam. Finally, the
instruction in the jami'ahs is not sufficiently diversified
in the sense that students are instructed according to a
particular understanding of Islam without being sufficiently exposed
to alternative interpretations. As a result, these jami'ahs,
instead of being instruments of realization of the Islamic vision of
uniting mankind into a single brotherhood under God, become sources
of division and sectarianism in the Ummah. For the work of ta'lim
to proceed satisfactorily it is essential that religious instruction
at the level of jami'ahs at least should be freed from the
above mentioned three defects.
In conclusion, a few words are in order
about tazkiyah. As we said earlier, tazkiyah is
personalized ta'lim. Its two basic tools are dhikr
(remembrance of God) and fikr (thinking and reflection). How
these tools are used will depend largely on the guide (murshad) and
the peculiar needs of the seeker (salik). The part of Islamic
tradition which concentrates on tazkiyah is known as
tasawwuf. This is a rich tradition containing profound
understanding of the human spirit and the human condition. But
unfortunately, it is also mixed with un-Islamic superstition and
needs to be reformed by constant use of the Qur'an as the Criterion.