All the praises and glorification are due and belong to Allah and may His choicest salutations be upon the final Prophet and leader of the Messengers; the prophet Muhammad, his family and all companions. Islam recognizes the existence of different creeds and doctrines and builds up principles and rules to ensure a peaceful co-existence among adherents of these doctrines. Allah says:
قُلْ هَٰذِهِۦ سَبِيلِىٓ أَدْعُوٓا۟ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ ۚ عَلَىٰ بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا۠ وَمَنِ ٱتَّبَعَنِى ۖ وَسُبْحَٰنَ ٱللَّهِ وَمَآ أَنَا۠ مِنَ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ
“ Say, “This is my way; I invite to God, based on clear knowledge-I and whoever follows me. Glory be to God, and I am not of the polytheists.” (Surah Yusuf: 108)
Regardless of the soundness of these religions, Islam gives specific rights for the followers of these religions that protect their identity and dignity. Among these rights is the non-Muslim right to be invited to Islam. Allah says:
ٱدْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِٱلْحِكْمَةِ وَٱلْمَوْعِظَةِ ٱلْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَٰدِلْهُم بِٱلَّتِى هِىَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِۦ ۖ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِٱلْمُهْتَدِينَ
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and debate with them in the most dignified manner. Your Lord is aware of those who stray from His path, and He is aware of those who are guided.”(Surah An-Nahl: 125)
The purpose of sending Prophets to every nation has always been the same right from the beginning. They had only responsibility to teach their people about the commands of Allah SWT, and take them out of the darkness towards enlightenment. Allah says:
وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِهِ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرًا
“And He will provide for him from where not he thinks. And whoever puts his trust upon Allah, then He (is) sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah (will) accomplish His purpose. Indeed, Allah has set for everything a measure.” (Surah At-Talaq 65:3)
Just like a successful teacher instructs its pupils with great care, like engaging students in dialogue, answering their questions with logic and showing patience, etc. same way all the Messengers of the Almighty especially Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) invited the Arabs to Islamic teachings being a role model Himself. Allah says:
قَوْلٌ مَّعْرُوفٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِّن صَدَقَةٍ يَتْبَعُهَا أَذًى وَاللَّهُ غَنِيٌّ حَلِيمٌ
“A word kind and (seeking) forgiveness (are) better than a charity followed [it] (by) hurt. And Allah (is) All-Sufficient, All-Forbearing.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:263)
Islam is the only true religion that lends a hand to the success in this life and the hereafter. So, it is a kind of injustice to withhold this goodness from those who do not know about it. But it is not confined to them alone, rather it is the moral duty of each of us to communicate the message of righteousness to those who are unaware. Allah says:
وَقُل لِّعِبَادِي يَقُولُوا الَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَنزَغُ بَيْنَهُمْ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلْإِنسَانِ عَدُوًّا مُّبِينًا
“And say to My slaves (to) say that which (is) best. Indeed, the Shaitaan sows discord between them. Indeed, the Shaitaan is to the man an enemy clear.” (Surah Al-Isra` 17:53)
The act of preaching is known as Da`wah, and the one executing it is called Da`ee. The Muslim is obligated to show the true teachings of Islam, in word and action and with wisdom and kindness, to those who do not believe in it. Allah says:
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ
“Except those who believe and do righteous deeds and enjoin (each other) to the truth and enjoin (each other) to [the] patience.” (Surah Al-`Asr 103:3)
Whenever we invite a person to Islam, to the right path, we are presenting them with the attractions and allurements of Islam. Our job is to deliver the message in the best way possible according to our knowledge and abilities. Acceptance or rejection of the message is up to the person concerned; there is no compulsion in religion and it is Allah who bestows guidance. Allah says:
سَيَقُولُ السُّفَهَاءُ مِنَ النَّاسِ مَا وَلَّاهُمْ عَن قِبْلَتِهِمُ الَّتِي كَانُوا عَلَيْهَا قُل لِّلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ
“Will say the foolish ones from the people, “What (has) turned them from their direction of prayer which they were used to [on it].” Say, “For Allah (is) the east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a path straight.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:142)
We are not converting or reverting them because it is Allah, and Allah only that truly does that. Our role is only to assist others on their journey or to plant a seed that will one day, InshaAllah, grow into a tree of Islam. Allah says:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“(There is) no compulsion in the religion. Surely has become distinct the right (path) from the wrong. Then whoever disbelieves in false deities and believes in Allah, surely he grasped the handhold – [the] firm, (which) not (will) break [for it]. And Allah (is) All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:256)
It is important to remember however that conveying the message and calling people to Islam or giving dawah, as many like to call it, is an obligation upon all Muslims. Of course, we are not all expected to work in the field of dawah but we are expected to be aware at all times that our behaviour, words, and actions, are dawah.
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
“Month (of) Ramadhaan (is) that was revealed therein the Quran, a Guidance for mankind and clear proofs of [the] Guidance and the Criterion. So whoever witnesses among you the month, then he should fast in it, and whoever is sick or on a journey then prescribed number (should from days other. Intends Allah for you [the] ease and not intends for you [the] hardship, so that you complete the prescribed period and that you magnify Allah for [what] He guided you so that you may (be) grateful.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:185)
Approaches: A successful company strategizes its operations through careful action plans and achieves its objectives by realizing and fulfilling the needs of its customers. Similarly, a Da`ee has to consider its target population as its customers and needs to attract them with a huge effort, because these lessons are new for them, and might not even listen to them. So, the procedure has to be carefully mapped out and should follow some of the following useful considerations:
One To One Interaction: The above stated Ayah was revealed when Muslims had believed in rumours that some Jews of Madina were going to kill the Holy Prophet (PBUH). So, the Almighty ordered them not to kill somebody unjustifiably by mentioning the tale of sons of Israel. It clearly shows that our religion forbids the assassination of anyone for no reason. Hence, after knowing the delusions of non-believers, one can clarify them through the wisdom of the Quran.
Understanding the Culture of Target Audience: Believing in a particular religion and belonging to a specific civilization are two different things. We Muslims too have our versions of interpretation of things in diverse regions of the world. And when it comes to non-Muslims, they not only have great differences in traditions but also have a high sense of freedom of speech, especially in the West.
Having Small Sessions: Depending upon the anticipated addressees, a Da`ee has to maintain a steady flow of information to them. One has to avoid overburdening Islamic lessons on them, as they are new to these instructions, and definitely, need time to absorb them. So, sittings have to for a short duration of time, so that the audience may not lose interest and not come back again.
Focusing On Main Ideas Of Islam: A Da`ee needs to stick to the central Islamic concepts, from which other teachings originate. There is no need to talk about specific topics because a listener has to comprehend the basics of a new religion first. One should also avoid going into a deep discussion about less important issues (Ikhtilaf) and try to finish it in precise and to the point answers.
The universality of Islam: It should be noted that one has to present sacred views as being consistent throughout the world. One can take help from Quranic verses which give examples of the past civilizations, and their Prophetic directions which also emphasized similar directions as Islam. The presentation of this religion should only be as a means of perfecting lessons of preceding people. There should also not be shown any kind of offensiveness to other religions, as the basis of every religion has always been about worshipping single God.
Telling the Truth: A Da`ee should always be on top of all the knowledge about main Islamic themes, but whenever it comes across situations where it has got no answers, then, there is no need to talk from oneself. One should tell eloquently about its lack of insight about a particular topic and should refer to the Quran, Sunnah of Prophet (PBUH), and other known personalities who could prove useful.
Entertaining All Sorts Of Criticism: Being a person of Islam, one should not feel distasteful on receiving strict disapproval from non-believers. All one can do is to convey the message and rest should be left to Allah SWT.
قَالَ لَا تَخَافَا إِنَّنِي مَعَكُمَا أَسْمَعُ وَأَرَىٰ
“He said, “(Do) not fear. Indeed, I Am with you both; I hear and I see.” (Surah Ta-Ha 20:46)
The process of Da`wah is a compulsory act which calls for a concrete understanding of Islamic commandments to be able to respond to all kinds of queries of non-Muslims correctly. They should also be treated with gentleness, and there must not be any sort of compulsion or showing the superiority of given instructions over other religions. Last but not the least; the target audience should be carefully assessed before for sake of effective preaching. May Allah Almighty give us all the will and desire to first understand our religion, spread the word of righteousness to others, and bring as many ignorant people to Islam as possible. Aameen!