The various approaches that can be taken
to call people to Allah are indispensable for Islamic work. As any rational person is aware, a goal cannot be reached without
there first being a way to reach it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used the various means that were available to him in
his day. He declared the truth from the summit of Mount Safâ. He presented his message in the markets and the meeting places
of the tribes and the places where the rites of pilgrimage were carried out. In this way, his message got maximum possible
exposure to the various Arab tribes.
An Islamic worker needs to know precisely what he is calling towards. Equally,
he needs to know precisely the means he is going to use to carry out this task. A message cannot be conveyed without a means
of conveyance. Therefore, anyone person who wishes to call someone else to an idea needs the following:
1. A purpose.
2. A means to achieve that purpose.
The purpose of Islamic work is to call people to Allah, either
to believe in Him or to obey Him. The Islamic worker is required to adhere to the dictates of Islamic Law in undertaking this
task. He needs, therefore, to be cognizant of the fact that matters of Islamic Law can be broken down into two broad categories:
(1) Acts of worship. These are the means by which our welfare in the Hereafter is achieved. These ways are dictated
to us by the sacred texts in their essentials and in all their details. Allah says: “Or do they have partners who established for them in their religion what
Allah has not permitted?” [Sûrah al-Shûrâ: 21]
(2) Transactions and customs. These are the means by which
human welfare is achieved in this world. They include all interpersonal relationships, contracts, commercial activities, and
the like. The basic ruling that should be assumed for such matters is that of permissibility unless there is specific evidence
to the contrary. The proof for this is that Allah says: “Say (O Muhammad): Have you considered the
provision that Allah has sent down to you and that you have declared of it what is unlawful and lawful? Say (O Muhammad):
Has Allah permitted you to do so or are you fabricating a lie against Allah?” [Sûrah Yûnus: 59]
basis of these principles, anyone who wishes to assert that something is an act of worship is required to produce evidence
from the Qur’ân and Sunnah to show that it is. It is not necessary, however, for him to produce evidence demonstrating
that a certain worldly transaction or activity is sanctioned. By contrast, he must produce evidence only if he claims that
an activity is unlawful.
Ibn Taymiyah illustrates this principle with the following examples:
If someone were to enquire with an Islamic scholar as to
whether it is permissible for a person to traverse the distance between two mountains, the scholar would have to answer that
it is. However, if the questioner were to specify that this activity is to be performed as an act of worship, just like when
one performs the circuits between Safâ and Marwah, the scholar would have to answer: “If it is undertaken for this reason,
then it is unlawful and sinful and its perpetrator must be called upon to repent…”
Likewise, if the scholar
were asked about a man going about bareheaded, and about wearing a waistcloth and an unsown cloak, he would have to say that
it is permissible for a person to do so. However, if the questioner were to specify that this mode of dressing was being assumed
as part of a sacred state, like that assumed during the Hajj, then the scholar would have to answer: “If it is undertaken
for this reason, then it is unlawful and sinful…” [Majmû` al-Fatâwâ (11/632)]
The purpose of Islamic work is to call people to guidance
and to what is best for them. Therefore, based on the principle outlined above, every practical means to bring about this
goal falls into the realm of what is permissible as long as it does not violate an express prohibition of Islamic Law.
and means within the sphere of Islamic work are what an Islamic worker takes recourse to in order to facilitate calling other
people to Allah. These means are of utmost importance…. The enemies of Islam – those who are bent on corrupting
the Muslims and on keeping non-Muslims from embracing Islam – work to either bring people into the fold of what they
themselves are calling towards or to keep them in the un-Islamic state that they are already on. If we observe their efforts,
we find that they employ numerous and varied means to achieve their purposes.
Let us look at one example. Christian
missionaries operating in the Muslim world have an interesting way of familiarizing people’s minds to their message.
They do so through giving names to people and places. Often, European names are encouraged for Muslim boys and girls. Place
names and street names found in the Muslim world are often the same as those found in non-Muslim countries. Foreign names
have become especially common now for Muslim girls. This makes such names familiar and pleasant to the Muslims, blurring the
distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims and making the Muslim mind more conducive to accepting their ideas. Naming is
something that falls within in the realm of norms and customs and we have already said that these matters are “public
domain” so to speak. However, we must understand that for them the ends justify the means; and in Islamic Law, ways
and means take the same ruling as the goals and objectives for which they are undertaken.
[The distinction between
these two concepts is as follows: The idea that the ends justify the means amounts to permitting recourse to actions that
are immoral and wrong if doing so brings about the desired results. This idea is rejected by Islamic teachings. By contrast,
the idea that ‘ways and means take the same ruling as the goals and objectives for which they are undertaken’
implies that the means must be lawful and morally acceptable in and of themselves. Then, if the goals for which they are employed
are also noble and good, the lawful means to achieve those goals remain noble and good as well. However, if the goals themselves
are unlawful, then the means employed to achieve them become equally sinful.]
Choosing the right approach is one of
the secrets of success. Many ideas have become widespread simply on account of the means used to promote them, though those
ideas may have been very bad and foolish. By contrast, there are places where Islamic workers meet with very little success
– though the message of Islam is true, harmonious with human nature, and suitable for every time and circumstance. The
reason for this failure is often at least partially attributable to a poor choice of approach.
We have already mentioned
the Islamic legal principle that “ways and means take the same ruling as the goals and objectives for which they are
undertaken”. Taking this principle as a point of departure, we must understand the general guidelines that must be observed
so that we do not fall into error in developing and employing various ways and means.
The two most important ground
rules for determining the approaches that we may employ are as follows:
1. The approach must be permitted by Islamic
Law. This permission may be explicitly given by the sacred texts or it may fall under the general juristic principle that
the underlying assumption for all things is that they take the ruling of being permissible (mubâh). Indeed, permissibility
is one of the five legal rulings that Islamic Law can confer on an activity.
2. It must be acted upon in consideration
of the good that can come of it. This means that it must be appropriate to the circumstances at hand. The good that will come
of taking recourse to it must far outweigh any bad consequences that might possibly result from doing so. These considerations
require a lot of forethought as well as a sincere heart.
We must keep these two principles at the forefront of our
minds when developing and employing various ways and means for Islamic work. We can now begin to discuss some of these ways
and means, which can be broken down into three broad categories:
1. Innate means: These are means
that lie within the person who wishes to call others to Allah. They include qualities such as patience and fortitude and the
ability to assess one’s own motives and to hold oneself to personal account. Included in this also is a person’s
love for others and for their best interests. The Prophet (peace be upon him) exemplified this in his prayers when he beseeched
Allah with the following supplication: “O Allah! Forgive my people, for truly they do not know.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî
and Sahîh Muslim]
2. Ways and means that
fall under particular jurisdiction. There are
some ways and means that are not to be undertaken by the general public. They are the exclusive jurisdiction of the Islamic
state and can only be initiated and carried out by the proper authorities. It is the responsibility of the Muslim political
authorities to uphold, defend, and disseminate the faith. For instance, the defense of the faith includes jihad, which is
no doubt the exclusive jurisdiction of the state.
Likewise, Islam is both upheld and disseminated through the promotion
of virtue and the prevention of vice. This activity is an aspect of Islamic work and was indeed one of the primary duties
of the Prophets. Calling to monotheism is a promotion of virtue and prohibiting idolatry is a prevention of vice.
says: “Those who follow the Messenger – the unlettered Prophet – whom they find written about in the Torah
and the Gospel; he calls them to what is right and forbids them from what is wrong.” [Sûrah al-A`râf: 157]
duty of promoting virtue and preventing vice must be carried out on different levels according to the steps outlined by the
Prophet (peace be upon him) when he said: “Whoever sees a wrong act being committed should prevent it with his hand.
If he is unable to do so, then he should do so with his tongue. If he is unable to do so, then he should prevent it in his
own heart, and that is the weakest of faith.” [Sahîh Muslim]
From this, we know that some aspects of enjoining
virtue and preventing vice do not fall under the jurisdiction of the general public, especially when it comes to prevention
of vice by force. If the general public were to pursue such a course of action, it would lead to violence and general anarchy.
An official officer will carry out this duty in a way a volunteer will not be able to. The political authorities have jurisdiction
over those they govern that cannot to be presumed upon by others.
3. Ways and means that are public domain. These are the means that all people can take recourse to. This is what we shall be concerned with. There are countless
means that we can take. Every era has approaches that are particularly suited to it that may not have been appropriate before
and which may cease to be suitable in days to come.
Sheikh `Abd al-Rahmân al-Sa`dî had some very insightful things
to say about this point. In his day, he was asked about the lawfulness of using telegrams and cannons to announce the arrival
of Ramadân. His reply was as follows:
In brief, notifying the public by way of cannon or telegram
or other means of long-distance communication, it is an expression of what is agreed upon by the governing authorities. They
are among the means of conveying the message so that people will have no reason to question and that instill confidence in
the veracity of the report. Whoever has proper understanding about Islamic legal matters will not doubt the certainty of this.
The only problem that someone might have is that such means did not exist in earlier times. However, this is no reason for
hesitation on the matter. How many things have taken place that did not exist in earlier times but have become more necessary
and more deserving of consideration than those things that had already been around? And Allah knows best. [al-Fatâwâ al-Sa`diyyah
These general ways and means are what we may freely take
recourse to. In order to do so, each of us must properly assess his individual capabilities. A person cannot have it always
dictated to him what is best for him in his particular circumstances. Everyone has his own experiences and expertise to draw
upon and everyone has a way that is best for him.
It is important for a person to understand his abilities and know
what good he is capable of realizing for himself and for others. None of us should be like a hasty horseman who drives his
steed to death before ever traversing any ground. It is therefore necessary for us, while discussing the ways and means of
Islamic work, to point out that each person must use various means according to his knowledge and abilities. We are not talking
here about formal academic qualifications, but the knowledge and abilities that a person actually possesses. A person cannot
offer what he does not himself possess. Therefore, being properly qualified for the task at hand is a must. Every approach
that we might opt to take has its own requirements. These may be with respect to knowledge, innate mental ability, or even
physical abilities, depending on the situation.
In the next installment, Allah willing, we shall be discussing some
of the various ways and means that we might employ in this day and age.