Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful
Approximately 10 years ago, around when I started to practice more, I became a lot more involved with the Muslim community. During that time I have witnessed some attempts at dawah that have made me cringe. Some I have witnessed as an observer, while other times I have been a recipient of dawah that has just made me want to run the other direction. So I wanted to share some some tips that I have picked up over the years, some through my own experience and observations, and others through reading articles and advice on the topic.
1) Make sure you are sincere: This is VERY important, not just in dawah, but in everything we do. We need to begin by making sure that our intentions are sincere. Are we making dawah for the sake of Allah swt, or because we want others to see how ‘pious’ and knowledgable we are? Are we hoping to bring the recipient/s closer to islam, or are we hoping to show them that we are better than they are?
If you are unsure of your intentions please do not turn your back on dawah. This is a trick of the shaytan, he causes us to doubt our intentions and then uses this as a way to make us turn away from performing good deeds. Instead, purify your intentions and then proceed insha’allah.
2) Be humble. Come from a position of equality, do not talk down to the person like they are ignorant or you are better than them. Strive to make the recipient feel that the dawah is a reminder for you as much as them. Mention things like you have only had this knowledge for a short time, or that you were also surprised when you were told. It is important to go out of your way to make it clear that you do not feel superior. Otherwise it is likely that they will get defensive and this will effect their ability to benefit from your dawah.
3) Respect the recipient’s feelings and position. Its important to try convey the information in a way that will not be likely to arouse feelings of embarrassment. Sometimes this means waiting for the right moment, and although its important to correct somebody if they have a misunderstanding, to do so inappropriately or in a way that will embarrass them will only push them further away. Try to inform them without making it obvious and in a casual manner (you just found out, you were surprised to learn etc) or think of other new and creative ways to convey information without causing any embarrassment of discomfort.
The most inspiring example of this was seen in Hasan and Husein (ra). They had witnessed an old man making wudu incorrectly, but realising that approaching him and telling him directly would likely result in his embarassment they tried a different approach. Instead they decided to tell the old man that they were having a contest of who could do wudu in the best way and asked the man him to be the judge. When both of them proceeded to make wudu the same way the old man realised that he was making wudu incorrectly, and thus they were able to correct him without causing him any embarrassment or discomfort.
Bottom line is that we must be as tactful as possible and try to think how we would feel if we were in the position of the recipient. Would you want somebody to come to you directly with a shocked voice saying “didnt you know that???” or would you prefer they waited till it came up in conversation, or they said “i found out the other day that…”?
4) Under no circumstances compromise Islam and its rulings. I really can’t stress this point enough. Many people wanting to make Islam appeal to others think that they have to sugar coat it, giving a false impression of Islam. They forget that Islam is perfect, we don’t need to change Allah’s rules in any way, shape or form. The reason why people come to Islam is for Islam itself, not for some watered down version. If they wanted a watered down version or a ‘do as you please’ type of religion there are plenty out there, but Islam is not one of them. That is not to say you begin making dawah by saying “men can have four wives”, but if, for example, somebody asks if women have to cover their hair, yes! We do! We’re not saying that you have to do it on day #1 or dont bother, but just to make them aware that is Allah’s law and to support and encourage them to work towards that goals. Just as we are all working towards our own goals.
5) Take a genuine interest in the person you are giving dawah to. This is particularly important when dealing with non-muslims. You need to establish a rapport with the person first. If you approach somebody and say “let me tell you about islam” chances are that they will run a mile. People can sense if you have no interest in them and are merely interest ‘converting them’. I have actually witnessed people saying “The reason I’m telling you about Islam because in Islam we get a lot of reward if we convey our religion”. People want to feel that you genuinely care about them, not that they’re a mere tool for you to get some brownie points. It does not mean that they will accept everything you say, but they will at least be more receptive.
6) Lead by example. You can give all the dawah in the world but if you show bad character and adaab people will not respect you enough to take you seriously. It is important not only to practice what you preach, but for others (both muslims and non-muslims alike) to see a fine example of a muslim in you, to see somebody they want to be. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect before you give dawah, if you give dawah based on knowledge and sincerity despite your short comings insha’allah it will be accepted. However, through experience I have seen the best results from those with the best character, people respect them more, take more notice of what they have to say, and as a result their dawah becomes more effective. Once again make sure that in your striving to be a good example for others you are doing so for the sake of Allah.
7) Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”. Its much better to say “I don’t know” than to give the wrong information, so if you are in any doubt of an answer to a question just say you are unsure and that you’ll get back to them when you double check your information. If you are concerned about how this admission may make you look then you need to take another look at your intentions, it should be solely for the sake of Allah swt, not how others may interpret your perceived lack of knowledge. I have noticed that it is often those with least knowledge who jump at the opportunity to answer questions in ignorance, while those with a little more knowledge will hesitate and double check their knowledge before making such a serious error.
8) Do not get defensive or become angry. A person may be asking all the difficult questions because they are the questions that plague them, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are just doing it for the sake of being argumentative. Answer the questions as best you can using logic and reason. Point out that Islam is a religion for all places and all times, and help them to try to view things objectively. I remember hearing a story of a sister who would go to a masjid and ask all these questions on controversial topics and debate with the people there. Then suddenly out of the blue she went one day and said she wanted to become a Muslim. Those who had dealt with her were shocked, and asked “but you have been questioning everything we have told you?”, to which she responded “I had questions about things I did not understand, and you answered them for me”.
9) Know who you are talking to. Make sure you have some kind of understanding of those you are giving dawah to. Often when somebody has little in common with others they can end up doing more damage than good. There are often many assumptions, misunderstandings and misjudgements. If you find that your attempts at dawah often results in hurt feelings and tension then perhaps you need to re-evaluate your dawah. Perhaps you should stick to people you have more in common with, or other forms of dawah. There is no point repeating dawah that is unsuccessful because the odds are if you come away feeling hurt and upset, then so do they, and nobody has benefited from anything.
10) Make dua for the recipients of your dawah. Never underestimate the power of dua, it is a gift from Allah that we do not make proper use of. Find out about dua and how to increase the likelihood of it being accepted. Then utilise it, not only to make dua for those you make dawah to, but in all aspects of your life.
The problem with lists like this is that people often read them and can’t recognise anything they are doing wrong. The people who give the type of dawah that make others want to run the opposite direction seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that they are doing any damage. It makes me wonder – could I in fact be one of these people? I’ve come up with some questions that I will insha’allah review regularly in order to try to ensure that any dawah I do is not a possible source of negativity:
1) At the completion of dawah do you get hurt and upset and wonder why you ever bothered? Or do you sometimes seem to make others hurt and upset?
2) Is it likely that others think that you are giving dawah to them solely for the purpose of getting reward, and you have little genuine interest in them?
3) Do people seem to get defensive you you try to give them dawah?
4) Do you think you are better than those you give dawah to?
5) Do you secretly hope people will think you are knowledgable and pious when you give dawah to them?
6) Do you sometimes give information that is not completely correct or misleading in an attempt to make people more open to islam?
7) Do you sometimes answer questions with information you are unsure of?
Insha’allah these questions can help us all in our attempts to give dawah. I don’t think it has to be black and white, I’d like to think not many people give dawah soley for the purpose of having others think we’re knowledgeable and pious, but perhaps one may feel that way as an after effect, or maybe one will happen to do dawah infront of somebody they want to think good of them. It is important for all of us to ask ourselves these questions every now and then to make sure our dawah is pure and effective. Sometimes what may start as as effective dawah with good sincerity and good intentions behind them can, for whatever reason, get off track over time.
May Allah (swt) make our dawah effective and successful, and may we be among those who Allah refers to in the quran when He says:
Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to God, works righteousness, and says, “I am of those who bow in Islam”? [41:43]