Reflections on Dawah. By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

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There are numerous injunctions in Islam that pertain to Muslims—for instance, prayer, fasting, giving charity, and going on Haj. But there is one that pertains to others—and that is dawah, or inviting people to God. It means conveying the message of Islam to others. This teaching pertains to the whole of humanity.
Present-day Muslims are community-oriented. They think in terms of fellow Muslims and what they regard as Muslim community interests. They may engage in some social activities, but all of these are actually community work, work for the Muslim community or sections thereof. There is a Muslim religious movement, one of whose basic principles is ‘respect for Muslims’ (ikram-e muslim). They are not ready to talk in terms of ‘respect for humankind’ (ikram-e insan).
All this reflects the Muslim-oriented thinking of present-day Muslims.
For dawah, you need to think in terms of respect and concern for all of humankind, not just for Muslims. Little wonder, then, that present-day Muslims have almost completely ignored their duty of dawah. This Muslim-oriented thinking or community-oriented thinking of present-day Muslims has made them develop hatred for all other communities—Christians, Jews, Americans and so on. Almost all present-day Muslims have this sort of hatred for people of other faiths. I hardly know of any exceptions in this regard.
Why is this so?
This is because Muslims don’t know dawah work.
Dawah work is the only teaching of Islam which tells you that you need to reach out to and build contacts with non-Muslims. It means interaction with people of other faiths. It means dialogue with others. But Muslims have lost the dawah spirit. This has made them Muslim-oriented, rather than humanity-oriented. It has led them to develop hatred for others.
Our mission is to revive the dawah spirit among Muslims.
I do not know of any organisation that is today engaged in dawah in the true sense of the term. There are some Muslim groups that claim to be engaged in dawah, but they are actually engaged in islah, in trying to reform Muslims’ beliefs and practices. This is not dawah. Dawah means reaching out to non-Muslims with the message of Islam.
Making people aware of the Creation Plan of God is essential to this task of dawah. In today’s age, we need to use contemporary idiom in order to address the minds of contemporary people and tell them about the Creation Plan of God in a manner intelligible to them.
Today, every person is living in tension, in stress. People are suffering from tremendous identity crisis. Many people are seeking answers to questions such as: Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? These questions can be answered once you understand what God’s Creation Plan is.
People need to know that God has divided our life into two parts: the pre-death period, and the post-death period. In the latter period, we will be rewarded or punished, as the case might be, according to our deeds in the former period. God has given us the opportunity to do good in this world and thereby qualify ourselves for being settled in Paradise in the post-death period.
This is the Creation Plan of God.
Here, in this world, people have many desires, but almost everyone dies with many of his or her desires remaining unfulfilled.
What are these desires?
They are a kind of introduction to Paradise. All our desires can only be fulfilled in Paradise. So, if you want to fulfill your desires, if you want to live a complete life in a complete world, which is Paradise, you have to follow God’s commandments. In this way, what you fail to achieve in your pre-death life you may achieve in your post-death life.
According to my experience, when I speak using this sort of idiom and stress the positive motivation for Paradise, people are able to understand and relate to it. This idiom addresses their minds.
This is a scientific age, and in engaging in dawah we need to use the appropriate logic to address scientifically-minded people. Let me cite an example to clarify what I mean. It was perhaps some time in the mid-1960s, when I was in Lucknow, and I happened to meet a philosopher who was an atheist. During our conversation, he asked me what basis I had to prove the existence of God. I said to him, “I have the same criterion that you have to prove anything else.”
This was a short dialogue—consisting of just two sentences. But because he was very educated, he was able to understand what I wanted to say. What I meant was that in the pre-scientific era, some people believed in ‘direct argument’. That is, they insisted that anything that has an existence must be visible to us. Now, since God is not visible, it was not possible to prove God’s existence using this argument.
The atheist philosopher still thought in these terms. His thinking was still in the traditional framework based on ‘direct argument’. He wanted to know how one could prove God’s existence, since God is not visible. To him, only a ‘direct argument’ was a valid one.
I indicated to him that seeking to prove the existence of something through this sort of ‘direct argument’ was out of date. This logic prevailed in the pre-scientific age. But in the scientific era, especially after Einstein, the reality of everything has been shown to be invisible. Now, after the split of the atom, science believes that everything consists of invisible waves—electrons and waves of electrons—and that, therefore, nothing is ultimately material.
So, now the whole logic has changed. Take the example of the X-ray. You visit a doctor and stand before an X-ray machine. The doctor switches the machine on, and you get an X-ray picture on a film. Although there’s no visible contact between the machine and the film, you believe that the picture on the film is an effect of the machine. You see the picture, but not the X-rays that produced it. The X-rays are invisible, but still you believe that they exist, because you can see their effect on the film—in the form of the picture that the rays produce.
This is called ‘inferential argument’. Through this argument, you can infer the existence of an invisible cause through reference to, and on the basis of, its visible effects.
Based on the inferential argument that modern science also admits, you can infer the existence of a Creator, of God, from the existence of this amazing creation that is called the universe. The argument for the existence of God from design—from the amazing design that is evident throughout the universe—is a compelling one. The existence of the intricate design in the universe tells us that there is definitely a Divine Designer, or God.
So, in engaging in dawah in modern times, we can have the support of the findings of modern science. We can use the inferential argument to indicate the existence of God, a mode of argument that modern scientists consider to be valid.
The inferential argument has been accepted as a valid argument in every scientific discipline today. It can be used in religious discourse as well. If you believe that an X-ray exists even though you cannot see it, because you are able to see its effect on a film, you can be led to infer the existence of the invisible God from the amazing creation that you witness all around you, and of which you are also a part.

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