The word "dawa" in Arabic literally means invitation, and that is what this is about. Inviting people to Allah, and specifically inviting those who are not Muslim to embrace the religion of Islam and become part of the body of the Muslim ummah.
All Muslim have a duty then to invite others to Allah according to their individual capacity and circumstance, and there is another duty that follows on from that that is often neglected and that is duty of care to those new Muslims to ensure that not only are their religious needs but also in fact their worldly needs are looked after.
It is painfully obvious that this is obligation that has been often neglected and even forgotten altogether, and when it is done it is often done in a haphazard and random manner. Many have been deceived into thinking that giving dawa is not their job and that it is beyond their ability and it is something that should be left to the imams and the experts. The fact is that looking at the time of the Prophet saws and at his noble companions all of them, even the most simple of them looked at inviting others to Islam as a duty and an essential part of their religion.
The Prophet saws described him self as being like the one who invites others to participate in a feast. So those who accepted ate from the feast and those who refused did not. It is very clear though that the Prophet did invite, and encouraged people to enter into Islam and warned them of the dire consequence of failing to accept that call. He did not merely present information about Islam. So this calling and inviting is in fact one of the greatest tasks of all the messengers, and those who follow that example are following in the footsteps of the best of all the human beings.
"Who is better in speech than one who calls to Allah, works righteousness and says: "I am of those who bow in Islam"? 41:33
Hasan al Basree recited this verse and said: "This person is the beloved to Allah, the walee of Allah and is the most beloved to Him from amongst the people of the earth. He answered the call of Allah and invites the people to the very same call he responded to. He works righteous deeds within his response and declares, 'Indeed I am from the Muslims."
So remember oh Muslim that this life is short and the next eternal, and that is your deeds that Allah will weigh up for you in scales. So whoever's deeds are heavy with good, they will have a happy end. So think about what will maximise you scale of good deeds, and make it heavy!
So bear in mind that when you read what the Prophet said "That whoever encourages someone to do a righteous deed then they will get the reward for that person doing that righteous deed without that persons reward being reduced in the least." So if you are the means for someone entering Islam, then no wonder it is better than all the best of the wealth of this world, since every time that person prays, fasts, reads Quran, gives charity, remembers Allah, then you get a share of the reward for that. So not fail dear reader to part of this call, and do not fail to contribute as much as you can to this blessed invitation, for according to the degree of you contribution so is the extent of your reward!
Dawa or Destruction
How many calamities have befallen this nation, one after the other in rapid succession, and all of these disasters have causes that are based in being far from our religion and from being immersed in disobedience, sin and neglect of our duties.
Among the matters which our Lord warned us of abandoning is the obligation of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil and calling to Allah. Indeed when we abandon this duty calamities will strike us and although we will beg and plead to Allah, He will not respond to our cries due to our leaving this duty as the Prophet saws said:
"You must enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong or else Allah will send up you a calamity and you will make dua and your dua will not be accepted."
So this is duty on every individual according to their own circumstance and ability, as Abu Sa'id Khudri relates that he heard from the Prophet as saying:
"If anyone notices something evil, should change it with his hands and if he cannot he should change it with his tongue and if he cannot he should at least hate it in his heart and that is the weakest form of faith." Muslim
And what greater evil is there in the sight of Allah that people should make shirk with Him and disbelieve in Him and reject the message that He sent for their benefit and guidance?
This is not only a matter for scholars and imams, but for everyone and the blessed Prophet saws said: "Convey from me even if it one ayah." So whatever you know and understand from the deen you should convey that, and indeed Allah mention in His book:
"By Time, Certainly the human beings are in a state of loss, except those who believe and do righteous deeds and join together in the teaching of truth and join together in patience."
So, if we leave calling to and teaching the truth we will certainly be of the losers, and may Allah protect us from that! Furthermore the Prophet saws gave the example of people in a boat which has an upper and lower deck. The people on the upper deck have water and the people on the lower deck have none. So those people on the lower deck thirsty but they are shy to disturb those on the upper deck so they start to make a hole in the boat to get water. So if those people on the upper deck do not prevent those people on the lower deck then they will all perish!"
So this is what the Prophet saws warned about, that when the evil is more than the good then even the good will suffer, and we can see that around us today as crime and immorality and the surrender to al hawa, the desires, is everywhere, so evil and hatred and mischief has become wide spread in a manner that envelopes us all! Certainly all the good is obeying Allah and following His deen, and all evil lies in opposing it. What greater evil can fall humanity than their being far from their Lord and His perfect knowledge and guidance that He revealed for their benefit in the Quran and through the example of His noble messenger Mohammed saws?
The need to work together
This task, on order to be carried out properly and effectively needs to be done not only on an individual and community level, but infact there must be a group dedicated to this task, who give this matter their full attention until this message reaches the ends of the earth. So as for such an organisation then this is alluded to in the Quran where Allah says:
"Let there arise from amongst you a band that invites to all that is good, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, they are the ones to achieve success." Al Imran 3:104
So if there is no such group them we are all sinful and in disobedience to Allah. And as for this matter reaching the corners of the earth, then that certainly will take place as the Prophet said it would:
"Surely, this religion will reach the boundaries of the day and night and Allah will not spare a rural or an urban dwelling except that he would cause Islam to enter it by elevating some and degrading others. A glory with which Allah elevates Islam and a humiliation with which Allah degrade Kufr (disbelief)."
(Ahmad and Ibn Hibban, saheeh)
And in another narration:
"This matter (Islam) will keep spreading as far as the night and day reach, until Allah will not leave a house made of mud or hair, but will make this religion enter it, while bringing might to a mighty person (a Muslim) and humiliation to a disgraced person (who rejects Islam); might with which Allah elevates Islam (and its people), and disgrace with which Allah humiliates disbelief (and its people)." (Musnad al-Imaam Ahmad)
So this matter will come to pass as the Prophet saws said it would, and perhaps in this day and age with mass communications and ease of travel, so that the world has become a global village, there is an unprecedented opportunity to fulfil this vision, so why not make the intention and take the steps that we can that are within our ability to bring this about so that we can gain the rewards and benefits of that. Indeed all success in any endeavour is in the hands of Allah.
How should we invite to Islam
From the sad matters that afflicted the Muslims is their being divided into nations and groups and sects and tribes and their being fanatical on that, to extent that they even fight against one another, even though Allah warned us about this in His book and linked such behaviour to rejecting and disbelieving in Him:
"Verily, those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you (O Muhammad) have no concern in them in the least. Their affair is only with Allah, Who then will tell them what they used to do. "
( سورة الأنعام , Al-Anaam, Chapter #6, Verse 159)
Tragically many people invite others to join their sect, their group, their Imam, or Sheikh or their own cultural interpretation of Islam, or perhaps they call to one aspect of islam, or some current crisis and think that this is dawa! This is not the invitation that Allah ordered us with at all, in fact it opposes it, because Allah makes it clear that the call is to Allah, to testify that Allah alone is worth of worship and that Mohammed is Messenger of Allah:
"Say: This is my way; I call to Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me. I declare Allaah free and far removed from all that they associate as partners with Him, and I am free of those who worship anything else along with Him." Surah Yusuf 12:108
So those who are true followers of the Messenger call to Allah, and they call to Allah with knowledge and understanding, with wisdom and good exhortation and reasoned arguments:
"Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching and argue with them in a way that is best" 16:125
So we must call to Allah, and call to His way, and this is what the Prophet advised Mu'adh ibn Jabal when he sent him to Yemen "Oh Mu'adh, you are going to the people of the book so let the first thing that you call the to be the oneness of Allah."
So this is the Prophetic method of calling, to remind the people of Allah and His oneness and the realities of judgement and the fire and the rewards of paradise. It was the way of Mohammed and of all the Prophets to call to the worship of Allah alone and to abandoning of the worship of anything besides Allah:
"And verily, We have sent among every Ummah a Messenger (proclaiming): "Worship Allah, and reject all false deities." Surah an-Nahl(16):36]
The best of nations
When the Muslims take up this duty and raise this call, and extend this invitation then and only then will we be the best of all nations, since doing that is a condition of our success as Allah says:
"Ye are the best of peoples raised up for mankind enjoining what is right forbidding what is wrong and believing in Allah." Al Imran 3:110
We have embarked on a project to help try and make this a reality. It is called iERA, for a new era in dawa. The launch tour is starting tomorrow. You can find details here www.iera.org.uk.
Calling to good and prohibiting evil is the distinguishing mark of this nation, and instrumental to our success, so when we abandon that the the description of being the best of peoples can no longer apply to us, rather we might become like those whom Allah cursed due to their hiding the truth that they had:
"Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences and the guidance, which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the book, they are the ones cursed by Allah and cursed by the cursers." [al-Qur'aan, al-Baqara(2):159]
I pray and hope that Allah guides us to be from those who are callers to this noble deen of Islam. Ameen.