Allah (swt) says, ادْعُ إِلِى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” [Surah An-Nahl: 125]. And He (swt) says, وَلاَ تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلاَّ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ “And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them,” [Surah Al-Ankabut: 46]. Allah (swt) Addresses Musa and Harun (as), اذْهَبَا إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى * فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا لَّعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَى “Go, both of you, to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed. And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah].” [Surah Taha: 43, 44].
These verses elucidate how to invite to Allah (swt), which is first and foremost the Dawah to Allah (swt). So, it is not the invitation to any person or people or any group or any party. Thus the Dawah Carrier performs the obligation which Allah (swt) ordained upon him. It is not for the sake of Dawah, nor is it for the sake of those who are guided through him, for his reward (ajr) is only from Allah (swt). Thus the Dawah Carrier is neither disheartened by the people who do not respond to him, nor is his heart broken with their plots against him and his call. Certainly Guidance (Hudaa) and Misguidance (Dhalaal) are from Allah (swt) Alone. Allah (swt) says, لَّيْسَ عَلَيْكَ هُدَاهُمْ وَلَـكِنَّ اللّهَ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاء “Not upon you, [O Muhammad], is [responsibility for] their guidance, but Allah guides whom He wills” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 272]. And He (swt) says, وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا تَكُ فِىْ ضَيْقٍ مِّمَّا يَمْكُرُوْنَ“And do not grieve over them and do not be in distress over what they conspire.” [Surah An-Nahl: 127]. And the good end is for those who are pious, اِنَّ اللّٰهَ مَعَ الَّذِيْنَ اتَّقَوْا وَّالَّذِيْنَ هُمْ مُّحْسِنُوْنَ “Indeed, Allah is with those who are pious and those who are doers of good.” [Surah An-Nahl: 128].
Dawah is of Two Categories: The first category is inviting non-Muslims to adopt Islam, which is undertaken by individuals in all circumstances, and by the state by the practical method, which is to rule non-Muslims with the laws of Islam in order for them to see the light of Islam and its grace, thereby entering Islam in droves. The second category is calling Muslims to implement Islam and work for its implementation. In the case of the absence of authority to implement the Islamic laws, working for Islam must be aimed to combine the authority with Noble Quran, i.e. the authority has to be for the noble Quran, implementing its laws over the people, i.e. the authority must have a single reference, which is Islam. This necessitates the work to be collective i.e. through a structure (kutlah).
Both of these two Dawah categories are amongst the laws of Method (Tareeqah) that must be carried out to achieve tangible results (nataa’ij mahsoosah). It is neither carried out only to discharge the obligation nor is it for to be absolved by the Lord (swt). Instead, the Muslims must aim to achieve the tangible results, such as achieving the actual adoption of Islam by a person or others, or changing the specific concepts of a person or persons, or, in the case of Jihad in the Path of Allah (swt), opening the fortress or killing the enemy or controlling the area of enemy’s land. This intention is amongst the actions of the Method (Tareeqah), which must always remain in mind when performing any action.
Methods to Carry the Dawah are of Three Categories:
First: Calling with Wisdom (Hikmah): i.e. with rational evidences, irrefutable, conclusive arguments and convincing words by confronting the wrong thought with correct thought. Accordingly, this method is productive with the thinking people, and this is why the disbelievers and atheists fear it, just as those who have gone astray and misguide others, fear it. This is because it exposes the falsity of falsehood and illuminates the truth, as the truth is a burning fire for corruption and a guiding light for righteousness. The Noble Quran has come with conclusive evidences and irrefutable arguments, addressing the minds, in order to reflect upon the dominion of the heavens and the earth, in order to reach from this reflection that this universe has a Creator. Allah (swt) says, أَفَلَا يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى الْإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ * وَإِلَى السَّمَاء كَيْفَ رُفِعَتْ * وَإِلَى الْجِبَالِ كَيْفَ نُصِبَتْ * وَإِلَى الْأَرْضِ كَيْفَ سُطِحَتْ “Then do they not look at the camels – how they are created? And at the sky – how it is raised? And at the mountains – how they are erected? And at the earth – how it is spread out?” [Surah Al-Ghashiya: 17-20]. He (swt) says,وَهُوَ الَّذِي يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ بُشْرًا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ رَحْمَتِهِ حَتَّى إِذَا أَقَلَّتْ سَحَابًا ثِقَالاً سُقْنَاهُ لِبَلَدٍ مَّيِّتٍ فَأَنزَلْنَا بِهِ الْمَاء فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ كَذَلِكَ نُخْرِجُ الْموْتَى لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ “And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy until, when they have carried heavy rainclouds, We drive them to a dead land and We send down rain therein and bring forth thereby [some] of all the fruits. Thus will We bring forth the dead; perhaps you may be reminded.” [Surah Al A’raf: 57].
Leniency, flattery, compromise and flexibility are neither wisdom, prudence and caution nor moderation and diplomacy. None of these constitute the meaning of wisdom. Wisdom is either putting things in their right place, or arguments and evidences. In the verse, there is no place for its interpretation as it puts things in its place, such that it is incumbent for its meaning to be conclusive argument and clear evidence.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ neither conceded to the people of Makkah in his Dawah to Islam, nor did he ﷺ flatter them or compromise with them. Rather, he ﷺ only recited upon them the sayings of Allah (swt), إِنَّكُمْ وَمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ حَصَبُ جَهَنَّمَ أَنتُمْ لَهَا وَارِدُونَ “Indeed, you [disbelievers] and what you worship other than Allah are the firewood of Hell. You will be coming to [enter] it.” [Surah Al-Anbiya: 98], and His (swt) saying, تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِي لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ “May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he.” [Surah Al-Masad:1], and His (swt) saying, وَلَا تُطِعْ كُلَّ حَلَّافٍ مَّهِينٍ * هَمَّازٍ مَّشَّاء بِنَمِيمٍ * مَنَّاعٍ لِّلْخَيْرِ مُعْتَدٍ أَثِيمٍ * عُتُلٍّ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ زَنِيمٍ “And do not obey every worthless habitual swearer. [And] scorner, going about with malicious gossip. A preventer of good, transgressing and sinful, Cruel, moreover, and an illegitimate pretender.” [Surah Al-Qalam: 10-13].
Second: Good Instruction (Advice): It is a beautiful reminder i.e. inciting the emotion, while addressing the minds, and inciting the thinking while addressing the emotion. In this way, the call enters into the heart gently and the emotion gets deepened, gently. Indeed, gentleness in the instruction often guides the rebelling hearts and puts affection in the rigid hearts. Allah (swt) addresses his Noble Messenger ﷺ by saying, فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لاَنفَضُّواْ مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الأَمْرِ “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter.” [Surah Al-e Imran: 159]. He (swt) addresses Musa and Harun (as) by saying, اذْهَبَا إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى * فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا لَّعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَى “Go, both of you, to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed. And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah].” [Surah Taha: 43, 44].
Many of the verses of the wise reminder, the Quran, address the emotions, shocking the souls, in order compel the review of previous stances and to sharpen the determination to work upon what convinces the mind. Allah (swt) says, وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالإِنسِ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لاَّ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لاَّ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا أُوْلَـئِكَ كَالأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ “And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.” [Surah Al-A’raf: 179].
Third: “Argue with them in a way that is best” وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ: i.e. in a method which is best for argumentation (mujaadalah). It is the discussion whose position is confined to thought alone, without going beyond other than that, in terms of personal or tangential issues. The discussion takes the role of opposition and contradiction, by giving truthful arguments, refuting false arguments, while investigating to reach the truth. Allah (swt) says, لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلَّا اللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَرْشِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ “Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah, they both would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah, Lord of the Throne, above what they describe.” [Surah Al-Anbiya: 22]. And He (swt) exalts his wisdom by saying, وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللّهِ لَوَجَدُواْ فِيهِ اخْتِلاَفًا كَثِيرًا “If it (the Quran) had been from [any] other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction.” [Surah An-Nisa: 82].
The intention must always be defined to carry the call to a certain person to the extent to which you can interact with him and bring change within him. If he responds to the call, that must also be defined. Therefore, firstly, you can aim to discuss with the person vigorously to take the side of the thought. Secondly, you can aim to change his concept, so that he adopts what is right and truthful. Thirdly, you can aim for him to carry certain thoughts and convey to his surroundings and circles. Fourthly, you can aim that he supports you and helps you. Failing to define the extent that is expected from the one who is addressed may lead the Dawah Carrier to become frustrated and despairing. Both frustration and despair are not correct.
Showing superiority in the discussion is not the intention of Dawah Carrier, nor is it to win the argument for the sake of winning. Instead, the intention is to persuade and grant access to the truth. The human being has his own characteristics and ways. It is not easy for him to admit defeat or to give up the opinion which he defends. Thus, the one who is addressed must feel himself inviolable and his values must be honored. Therefore, he should neither be provoked nor taken advantage of. He should neither be dismissed nor disgraced and vilified. This is because the purpose of discussion is to gain him and not to ensure his enmity. Care must be taken in the styles of discussion, such that he does neither feel distant from you, nor he thinks that you are someone alien to him. It is also necessary to take account of his dispositional state, when inviting him to the call, so that appropriate times and appropriate words are chosen, like the saying, لكل مقام مقال “There is (appropriate) word for every situation.” If the one who is addressed does not open his heart, his mind will not open. The path to the minds is through the hearts. Thus affection of the heart is necessary before addressing the mind. When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ met a group from Banu Abdillah, he addressed them by saying, «إن الله قد أحسن اسم أبيكم» “Indeed, Allah has given the best name for your father” since their father name was not Abdul Lat (servant of Al-Lat) or Abdul Uzza (Servant of Al-Uzza). Thus it created affection in their hearts, inclining them to hear what he ﷺ says and respond to him.
In all the circumstances, it is necessary to speak the truth and be patient upon the harm in a way the believing advocates to truth remain patient, but not like those who are subservient and submissive. It is reported from Bukhari that Ubada bin Samit (ra) said, «بَايَعْنَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَلَى السَّمْعِ وَالطَّاعَةِ فِي الْمَنْشَطِ وَالْمَكْرَهِ وَأَنْ لَا نُنَازِعَ الْأَمْرَ أَهْلَهُ وَأَنْ نَقُومَ أَوْ نَقُولَ بِالْحَقِّ حَيْثُمَا كُنَّا لَا نَخَافُ فِي اللَّهِ لَوْمَةَ لَائِمٍ» “We pledged allegiance to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to hear and obey in ease and hardship, enthusiasm and reluctance, and not to dispute with people in authority and to speak or establish the truth wherever we were without worrying about criticism.”
Ruling on Insulting (sub) False Religions:
Allah (swt) says, وَلاَ تَسُبُّواْ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ فَيَسُبُّواْ اللّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ كَذَلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ “And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return, and He will inform them about what they used to do.” [Surah Al-Anam: 108].
Islam forbids its followers to insult the worshipped things of disbelievers as it may lead to the insulting of Allah (swt). Insulting the disbelief, polytheism and false deities who are worshipped other than Allah (swt) is in origin a permissible (mubah) matter. However, if this insulting is provocative, likely leading to the reaction of insulting Allah (swt) or any sanctity of Muslims, then it is forbidden (haraam) to insult the worshipped things of disbelievers.
From this verse, Usuli scholars derive the Shariah principle (qaa’idah), الْوَسِيلَة إِلَى الْحَرَام حَرَام “That which leads to Haram is also Haram.” That is if the permissible action is most likely to lead Haraam, then it becomes Haraam as long as this speculation persists. Also the saying of Prophet ﷺ as was narrated in Bukhari and Muslim: «مِنْ اَلْكَبَائِرِ شَتْمُ اَلرَّجُلِ وَالِدَيْهِ» “For a man to insult his parents, is one of the major sins.” It was asked, ‘Does a man insult his parents?’ He ﷺ replied, «نَعَمْ. يَسُبُّ أَبَا اَلرَّجُلِ، فَيَسُبُّ أَبَاهُ، وَيَسُبُّ أُمَّهُ، فَيَسُبُّ أُمَّهُ» “Yes, he insults the father of a man who in return insults his father, and he insults a man’s mother who in return insults his mother.” It is close in meaning to the saying of Allah (swt), وَلاَ تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلاَّ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِالَّذِي أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَأُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَإِلَهُنَا وَإِلَهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ “And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, ‘We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.’” [Surah Al-Ankabut: 46].
Ibn Jareer, Ibn abi Hatim and others reported from Ibn Abbas (ra) that: In His (swt) saying, وَلاَ تَسُبُّواْ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ “And do not revile those they invoke other than Allah”, the disbelievers asked, يا محمد لتنتهِيَنَّ عن سبّكَ آلهتنا أو لنهجوَنَّ ربك “Oh, Muhammed! Will you desist from your insulting of our gods or we will mock your lord.” So Allah (swt) prohibited the believers to insult their idols, lest in return insult Allah (swt) out of enmity, without having any knowledge. The verse has clarified that every people was adorned by their action and religion, such that they did not want anyone to insult their religion. Allah (swt) made accountability (muHaasabah) of the people exclusive to Himself (swt) and He (swt) did not give this accountability to the Messengers. Thus, Messengers are sent to people only to convey clearly, inviting them with wisdom and good instruction.
This does not mean compromise, hypocrisy and abandoning the conflict with falsehood. Instead, it means the absence of insulting and provocation by belittling and humiliating. When Allah (swt) sent Musa (as) and Harun (as) to Firaun (Pharaoh), He (swt) told them: اذْهَبَا إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى * فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا لَّعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَى “Go, both of you, to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed. And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah].” [Surah Taha: 43,44]. Amongst the gentle speech was the explicit warning to Firaun by saying, إِنَّا قَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْنَا أَنَّ الْعَذَابَ عَلَى مَن كَذَّبَ وَتَوَلَّى “Indeed, it has been revealed to us that the punishment will be upon whoever denies and turns away.” [Surah Taha: 48].
Thus, Islam commands us not to provoke the people of contradictory beliefs through derision and insulting, even though their false beliefs deserve it. It is because such provocation extinguishes the light of the intellect and incites the instinct of self-defense, firmly closing the door to positive responding to the Da’wah. Furthermore, Islam commands us to elucidate clearly the delusion and falsity of contradictory beliefs, as well as the bad consequences of those who adopt them with strong arguments.