Giving Dawah Without Knowledge
By Sheikh Yusuf Estes
Many of us today suffer from the same problem - we do not possess enough of the proper knowledge of the subject. How can we know the proper procedure and methodology (Manhaj) of answering questions about Islam to non-Muslims?
Before we begin, I would first like to have you to consider some important issues about presenting Islam. It is a fact, we find ourselves in a strange position today with people who are not qualified to be teachers or leaders - are assuming the roles of teachers, preachers and teachers without the proper knowledge or experience.
Islam teaches us about practicing Amr Bil Ma’ruf Wan-Nahyi Anil-Munkar (calling to good and forbidding the evil). This is clear and generally applies to all Muslims. At the same time the actual job of teaching and preaching Islam is not for the unqualified and uneducated in these important fields.
We find today, many Muslims who just decide one day to tell the world about Islam. However, they are not even educated properly in Islam, nor do they have the training or experience nor many of the qualifications needed to do the job. Often times these people will do more damage than good and even cause serious consequences for themselves and others. Frequently these types deal with non-Muslims in very harsh tones and without the proper manners required by Islam. Some are misinformed about the meanings of verses in Quran and teachings of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) and due to this, they make Islam appear very difficult and sometimes even turn against other Muslims and in the end turn people away from the Deen of Allah through their rough and insensitive treatment.
One very important point is the principle of the Shari’ah of Islam - it is designed to bring us all closer to Allah in the easiest way possible. Now think about this for a moment. How many times do we find Muslims trying to give advise to each other, telling them things they are doing wrong and pushing others to do more and more acts of worship in areas that are not really mandatory. They might tell someone to do extra prayers, memorization of certain chants and Dthikr and fasting every other day or even more. While some of these things are excellent areas to strive for those who are capable, this is not the way the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) brought the Deen to his people and it is not what he told us to do in giving the Dawah.
Actually, Allah has made it clear in the Quran, He wants our Deen to be easy, and not difficult. The word for ease in Arabic is Yusra and the word in Arabic for difficulty is 'Usra. The second word, 'Usra is more difficult to pronounce than the word Yusra, because it starts with the letter “Ayn” and is pronounced from the back of the throat. This gives us a very clear indication of just how much Allah is really making our Deen easy for us.
The Shaytan (devil) actually encourages a new Muslim to really get involved in heavy worship. Believe it or not, the Shaytan wants these new people to do more worship than Islam really calls for. This way the person becomes tired and fed up, and eventually he or she leaves off the worship and tries to get by without following even the minimums. We find many Muslims in this condition these days.
They might say, "I love Allah and Allah loves me. So, leave me alone to my way." They are not concerned about it and might say, "Allah is Ar-Rahman (The Merciful), Ar-Rahim (The Especially Merciful), Al-Ghafur (The All Forgiving), Al-Wadud (The All Loving)."
But they have left the fold of Islam and now are really on the outside looking in. Their condition is going to become even more constricted and they will no longer have the Barakah (Blessings of Allah).
Allah answers these people in the Quran, "Say, 'If you truly love Allah, follow me (prophet Muhammad). Then Allah will love you and will forgive your sins, Allah is the Forgiver, the Merciful.'"
The strongest emphasis should be, "Don't make the Deen difficult, keep it easy and steady - and above all - stay in the Deen (the way of Islam)."
We could assume, and correct me if you think I am wrong, most Muslims today are not properly trained in Dawah by qualified presenters of Islam or actual scholars. True?
Many Muslims seem to just take it upon themselves to answer questions about Islam as they see fit. This is something even the Sahabi (companions) of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) were very careful not to do. They would be afraid to throw out any opinions or answer questions during their whole lives. They knew the ramifications of saying something about Islam or answering questions without proper knowledge.
Consider the following:
The reference sources for Islam are:
1) the Quran
2) the Hadiths
- True? And every Muslim knows this without doubt.
What language are these two sources recorded in? What is the language of the Quran?
What was the language of our Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him)?
What was the language of every single teacher, preacher, imam, Khatib and Amir since the time of the Sahabi?
When Islam spread throughout the known world to so many places, what language was instituted right away?
The foundation of Islam finds itself in the company of the Arabic language. The Quran is to be memorized and recited in Arabic.
Translations of Quran to other languages are not considered to be the Quran and are not worthy of consideration in any matter of serious consideration.
My point is: The language to understand and interpret Islam is only Arabic.
Next, is to memorize the Quran from the beginning to the end (in Arabic, of course) and to be able to know exactly where ayahs and Surahs are located; when these verses were revealed and what they referred to; and what each verse was related to and what verses might abrogate (enhance or replace) others. This is known as Ulum ul-Quran (sciences of The Quran).
Ahadith (plural of Hadith)
Ahadith (traditions and narratives from Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him) were preserved from the time of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) until today still in the Arabic language as well. It is essential, in addition to knowing the language of Arabic, to know the history of the narrators of Hadith and their standing in regard to the pedigree or chain of narrators. This is called Riwayah (authority of those related to the transmission) of a Hadith.
These are all sciences requiring years of study and memorization to confirm the authenticity and evidences for each Hadith. This is in addition to the comparative studies necessary to draw conclusions and practical applications of teachings found within these Ahadith.
As if this were not enough, there still remain certain other very critical areas of exploration into the sciences of:
Submission, obedience, sincerity and peace with God.
One who does "Islam" (submits in peace to God's Will).
Arabic Recitation of Speech of Allah to Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him).
Conviction of faith and belief with action.
Righteous actions based on Shari’ah.
Islamic Law based on Quran & Hadith.
Understanding for application of Islamic Law.
Biography of the Life of Muhammad.
Explanation of Quran according to language, internal textual comparison and Hadith.
Narrations from eyewitnesses to the life and teachings of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him).
The way of prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) as described in Hadith.
Each of these disciplines require:
Knowledge of classical Arabic language, study and memorization, along with comparative studies between each of the other sciences in order to be able to properly present answers to questions in Islam.
All of this necessary for a teacher who is presenting the Deen of Allah to those born into Islam as well as those who have not yet, accepted Islam.
Undoubtedly by now, the reader has come to the understanding, Islam is not something lightweight or insignificant and there must be a strong dedication to learning, understanding and proper application. Scholars of Islam do not go about seeking to answer trick questions or show off by putting themselves and the Deen in harm's way just to demonstrate what they might know about Islam. The opposite is true.
Our scholars, teachers, judges and preachers are all the first to say, "I don't know" even when they are almost certain they might be right. This is not out of false modesty. Rather, it is from a sincere dedication to the high principles and quality associated with this beautiful Deen (way of life) and the impeccable accuracy with which it has been preserved for over fourteen centuries.