An important requirement of religion is that its followers should also continue to urge others to adopt and adhere to it. It is this requirement of religion for which the terms da'wah (preaching) and tabligh (propagation) are used. We Muslims have always been aware that the radiance of faith and good deeds that we have been blessed with entails that we must also enlighten others about it. It is because of this importance of preaching and propagation that the Almighty has revealed a detailed shari'ah about it just as He has done so in spheres such as politics, economics and worship besides some others. A study of this shari'ah shows that the responsibility of preaching has been imposed in distinct categories on the believers according to their various capacities.
For convenience of understanding, the shari'ah of preaching can be categorized as follows:
i. Preaching Obligation of Muhammad (sws)
ii.Preaching Obligation of Abraham's Progeny
iii.Preaching Obligation of the Scholars
iv.Preaching Obligation of the Rulers
v.Preaching Obligation of an Individual
vi.Strategy for Preaching
In the following pages, the shari'ah of preaching described in the Qur'an is detailed out below:
Preaching Obligation of Muhammad (sws)
ياَ أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ شَاهِدًا وَمُبَشِّرًا وَنَذِيرًا وَدَاعِيًا إِلَى اللَّهِ بِإِذْنِهِ وَسِرَاجًا مُّنِيرًا (٣٣:
O Prophet! We have sent you forth as a witness, a bearer of good tidings, and a warner and as one who shall call men to God by His leave and as a shining lamp for the guidance of mankind. (33:45-46)
The above verses refer to the preaching responsibility of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). It is evident from the Qur'an that all prophets of God were sent to call people to God and to warn and to give glad tidings to them. The Qur'anic words
(كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَبَعَثَ اللّهُ النَّبِيِّينَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ
(٢١٣:٢ also mention this very fact. From among these anbiya (prophets), those who were given the status of rusul (messengers), their indhar (warning) culminated in shahadah. In the terminology of the Qur'an, shahadah means that the truth is communicated to people in such a manner that no one is left with an excuse to deny it. The Qur'anic words used are:
(٤:١٦٥) لِأَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى اللَّهِ حُجَّةٌ بَعْدَ الرُّسُلِ (so that mankind after the coming of these messengers are left with no excuse against the Almighty, (4:165)). The way this shahadah is established is that the Almighty selects these rusul and then, before the actual Day of reward and punishment, rewards and punishes in this very world people to whom the rusul are sent. People are told that if they honour their covenant with God they will be rewarded in this world and if they dishonour it, they will be punished here. The result of this is that these rusul become signs of God, and it is as if people see God walking along with the rusul who deliver His verdicts. Moreover, these rusul are directed to propagate the truth and deliver to people the exact guidance of God they have received. This is shahadah, and when it is established on this earth, it becomes a basis for God to deliver His Judgement both in this world and in that to come. Consequently, the Almighty grants dominance to these rusul and punishes those who reject them. The word شَاهِدًا used in the above quoted verses of Surah Ahzab delineates this very status of Prophet Muhammad (sws).
Delivering of warnings and glad tidings by anbiya (prophets) does not require any explanation. However, when rusul (messengers) deliver these warnings and glad tidings then this requires some elaboration because these rusul must also fulfill the responsibility of shahadah. As a result of this responsibility, there are certain phases of their preaching endeavour. And there are certain consequences of these phases which are peculiar to the rusul only. This preaching is not related to any other person except the rusul.
In the following paragraphs, these phases are elaborated upon.
This is the first phase of preaching of the rusul. Indhar means to warn someone of the evil consequences of something. It is evident from the Qur'an that the rusul of God always warn their people of two punishments: the punishment which those who reject these rusul will face in the Hereafter, and the punishment which they will face in this very world for this very reason. These rusul inform their people that they have been sent in this world to create a miniature Day of Judgement. Once they have communicated the truth to their addressees in a manner that they are left with no excuse to deny it, they will have to face punishment in this very world. Surah Qamar, which belongs to the sixth group of Qur'anic surahs, is the best example of this indhar. Here, after indicating His practice about rusul of Allah and their people, the Almighty has warned:
َكُفَّارُكُمْ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أُوْلَئِكُمْ أَمْ لَكُم بَرَاءةٌ فِي الزُّبُر (٥٤ :
٤٣) (Are your disbelievers better men than these? Or are you given immunity in the Scriptures? (54:43)). It is evident from the coherence and arrangement of the Qur'an that in the last group of the Qur'an, the six surahs from Surah Mulk (67) to Surah Jinn (72) belong to this phase of preaching. A study of these surahs reveals the tone, style and arguments Messengers of God adopt in this phase. In Surah Qalam, after mentioning the parable of the people of the orchard, while summing up this indhar, the Qur'an says:
كَذَلِكَ الْعَذَابُ وَلَعَذَابُ الْآخِرَةِ أَكْبَرُ لَوْ كَانُوْا يَعْلَمُوْنَ (٦٨:٣٣)
[O people of Makkah! you are denying this rasul. So take
heed] in such a way shall the punishment come, and the punishment of the
Hereafter shall be much greater than this if they only knew. (68:33)
Since the consequences of this indhar have to materialize in this world, hence its addressees are primarily people who wield influence in some form or another. These are the people whose character and conduct the masses follow; their illness or health is instrumental in keeping others ill or healthy; if their intellect is convinced of a certain ideology, it becomes a source for convincing others of this ideology; their material means and resources increases the power wielded by the truth; their mental ability can inspire the intellect of the masses and stir their souls in favour of the message they preach. Such is the influence they exercise that unless the masses are able to see that these people have been intellectually defeated, and their philosophies have been uprooted from their base through sound reasoning and the edifice of their systems of morality and politics is publicly brought down, the masses would not be fully devoted and convinced of the cause of the right message; they would not be able to get out of the whirlpool of their previous views and relieve themselves of indecision; they would also not be able to feel elevated while following the message of truth - the elevation which is necessary to induce in them the courage and strength to break the shackles and hold of the dominant elements of the society that have spun a strong web of influence.
The way this characteristic of indhar becomes evident from the Qur'an is explained thus by Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi:
Abraham at the very outset called to the truth his family and clan who held the reins of religious leadership. He then called to the truth the king who had the reins of political authority and who thought that he had power over the life and death of his people ... The Almighty had directed Moses (sws) to first of all address the Pharaoh ... Jesus (sws) first called upon the scholars of the Jews. Similarly, the preaching endeavours of the prophets Noah (sws), Hud (sws) and Salih (sws) are all mentioned in the Qur'an. All these prophets began their preaching by calling upon the people who were in authority in their times. They tried to wake up the arrogant people of their times from their deep slumber and vehemently criticized their views. Finally, Muhammad (sws) was sent and asked to warn his immediate relatives. These relatives were religious and political leaders of the patriarchal polity of Arabia and with this reference morally and politically guided all the people of Arabia.
The Almighty says:
وَكَذَلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِّتُنذِرَ أُمَّ الْقُرَى وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا وَتُنذِرَ يَوْمَ الْجَمْعِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ فَرِيقٌ فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَفَرِيقٌ فِي السَّعِيرِ (٧:٤٢)
And in a similar manner have We revealed to you an Arabic Qur'an that you may warn the mother-city and those who dwell around it and warn them of the day which is sure to come: when one group will go to Paradise and another to Hell. (42:7)
Indhar 'Am (Open Warning)
This is the second phase of the preaching of a rasul. There is no difference between this phase and the previous one except that in the first preaching is done individually and on a person-to-person basis or in certain select gatherings. However, in this second phase, the Almighty directs his rusul to deliver open warning through whatever means they can use, and whatever extent they can go to, they should in order to openly preach among people. In the preaching endeavours of the rusul, this phase is very tough. The Qur'an has informed us that when this phase came during the preaching of Muhammad (sws), he was told to stand in prayer at night in order to prepare for the hardships of this phase. It was in this phase that Surah Muzzammil was revealed. In this surah, he was directed by the Almighty to recite the Qur'an in a measured tone in the night prayer of tahajjud. He was asked to remember the Almighty in his heart while being fully aware of His attributes and to glorify and praise Him with his tongue as much as he could, and in the loneliness of night fully devote himself to God. The Almighty informed Him the reason for all these directives by saying: إِنَّا سَنُلْقِي عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا (Because soon We shall lay on you the burden of a heavy word, (73:6)). Consequently, in the next surah, this burden was laid on him:
يَاأَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ قُمْ فَأَنذِرْ وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ وَالرُّجْزَ فَاهْجُرْ وَلَا تَمْنُنْ تَسْتَكْثِر وَلِرَبِّكَ فَاصْبِرْ(٤٧ :١-٧)
O ye enfolded in your shawl! Arise and give open warning and proclaim the greatness of your Lord only, and cleanse the apparel of your soul and keep away from [this] dirt [of polytheism] and [listen!] Do not discontinue your endeavour regarding it to be enough, and with perseverance wait for the decision of your Lord. (74:1-7)
In this phase too, the rusul address the leaders and rulers of the society; however, since this is done at an intense pace, it also elicits a great reaction - something which is not evident in the first phase. Since those who took lead in professing faith in Muhammad (sws) were generally the youth, the reaction experienced was from their relatives and associates. The leaders of the society reacted once they saw that Muhammad (sws) was becoming influential in the society. Then what they did, and what Muhammad (sws) was directed to do in response is mentioned in the surahs which were revealed in this phase. The following two passages from Surah Yunus give us some idea of this:
وَإِذَا تُتْلَى عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءنَا ائْتِ بِقُرْآنٍ غَيْرِ هَـذَا أَوْ بَدِّلْهُ قُلْ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أُبَدِّلَهُ مِن تِلْقَاء نَفْسِي إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلاَّ مَا يُوحَى إِلَيَّ إِنِّي أَخَافُ إِنْ عَصَيْتُ رَبِّي عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ
And when Our clear revelations are recited to them, those who have no hope of meeting Us say [to you]: "Give us a different Qur'an, or change it a little." Tell them: "It is not for me to change it of my own accord. I follow only what is revealed to me, for I fear the punishment of a fateful day if I disobey my Lord." (10:15)
قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِن كُنتُمْ فِي شَكٍّ مِّن دِينِي فَلاَ أَعْبُدُ الَّذِينَ تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ وَلَـكِنْ أَعْبُدُ اللّهَ الَّذِي يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَأَنْ أَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا وَلاَ تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (١٠:
Tell them: "You people! If you have any doubts about my religion, then listen that I do not worship those whom you worship beside God. In fact, I worship the God who gives you death and I have been commanded to be among the believers and I have been directed: "Devote yourself fully to the faith in all uprightness and do not be among these idolaters whatsoever." (10:104-105)
It is at this stage that the rusul are stopped from going after the arrogant among their people, and are directed to primarily concentrate on their followers.
The Qur'anic words are:
فَتَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَمَا أَنتَ بِمَلُومٍ وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ الذِّكْرَى تَنفَعُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
For this reason, ignore them; now you shall incur no blame. Keep reminding them, for reminding is beneficial to the believers. (51:54-55)
عَبَسَ وَتَوَلَّى أَنْ جَاءَهُ الْأَعْمَى وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّهُ يَزَّكَّى أَوْ يَذَّكَّرُ فَتَنْفَعَهُ الذِّكْرَى أَمَّا مَنْ اسْتَغْنَى فَأَنْتَ لَهُ تَصَدَّى وَمَا عَلَيْكَ أَلَّا يَزَّكَّى وَأَمَّا مَنْ جَاءَكَ يَسْعَى وَهُوَ يَخْشَى فَأَنْتَ عَنْهُ تَلَهَّى كَلَّا إِنَّهَا تَذْكِرَةٌ فَمَنْ شَاءَ ذَكَرَهُ فِي صُحُفٍ مُكَرَّمَةٍ مَرْفُوعَةٍ مُطَهَّرَةٍ بِأَيْدِي سَفَرَةٍ كِرَامٍ بَرَرَةٍ (٨٠:
He frowned and turned away - [this rasul of Ours] - because there came to him that blind man [interrupting his meeting with the leadership of the Quraysh]. And what do you know [O Muhammad!] that he might have sought to reform [himself] or might have heard the admonition [when you delivered it] and might have gained from this admonition. And these who show indifference, you go after them even though you are not responsible if they are not reformed; and he who comes to you with zeal and also fears [Allah], you neglect him. Certainly not! [there is no need to go after them]. This is but a reminder so whoever wishes, can be reminded through it [and whoever wishes can turn a deaf ear towards it] - [It is set down] on honoured pages, exalted and untouched, in the custody of scribes, honourable and faithful. (80:1-16)
This is the third phase. By this phase, the truth has become so evident to the addressees that they do not have any excuse except stubbornness to deny it. In religious parlance, this is called itmam al-hujjah. Obviously, in it besides the style adopted and the arguments presented, the very person of the rasul plays a role in achieving this end. The stage is reached that the matter becomes as evident as the sun shining in the open sky. Consequently, at this instance, a rasul to a great extent communicates the fate of the addressees to them, and his preaching takes the form of a final warning. Both these aspects are evident in Surah Fil and Surah Quraysh, the two surahs which were revealed in this phase of itmam al-hujjah of the Prophet Muhammad's (sws) preaching endeavour:
أَلَمْ تَرَى كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصْحَابِ الْفِيلِ أَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ كَيْدَهُمْ فِي تَضْلِيلٍ وَأَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْرًا أَبَابِيلَ تَرْمِيهِمْ بِحِجَارَةٍ مِنْ سِجِّيلٍ فَجَعَلَهُمْ كَعَصْفٍ مَأْكُولٍ (١٠٥:
Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the people of the elephant? Did He not foil their scheme? And sent down against them swarms of birds? [Such that] you pelted them with stones of baked clay, and He rendered them as straw eaten away. (105:1-4)
لِإِيلَافِ قُرَيْشٍ إِيلَافِهِمْ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتَاءِ وَالصَّيْفِ فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَذَا الْبَيْتِ الَّذِي أَطْعَمَهُمْ مِنْ جُوعٍ وَآمَنَهُمْ مِنْ خَوْفٍ (١٠٦:
On account of the association the Quraysh - the association [in the peaceful atmosphere of the Baytullah] they have with the winter and summer travels, they should worship the Lord of this House who [in these barren mountains] fed them in hunger and rendered them secure from fear. (106:1-4)
A little deliberation shows that the first surah warns the Quraysh to remain aware of the wrath of the Almighty who, not very long ago, had destroyed the enemies of the Baytullah in front of their very eyes. If the Quraysh become His enemies, they too will have to face the same fate. The second surah urges the Quraysh that it is the Lord of the Baytullah who has blessed them with the favours of peace and sustenance since they are its custodians. This magnanimity entails that they should now adopt a submissive attitude towards Him.
This then is the style adopted by the rusul in this phase.
Hijrah and Bara'ah (Migration and Acquittal)
This is the fourth phase. When the rusul of God have done all what they can in preaching people and when they have communicated the truth to them to the extent that no one is left with an excuse to deny it, then their preaching enters this phase. In this phase, a charge sheet is handed out to the leaders of their nation with full clarity and they are intimated that their time is up. Hence, they will now be exterminated from the land. Along with this, the rasul is given glad tidings of help and support of the Almighty. He and his followers will be saved, and in the very land in which they were helpless and weak, they will be dominant. So they should get ready to declare those who have denied as disbelievers and announce their acquittal from their views and ideologies.
The way all this ensued in the preaching of Prophet Muhammad (sws) is evident from the following surahs of the Qur'an:
أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ فَذَلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ فَوَيْلٌ لِلْمُصَلِّينَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاءُونَ وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ
Have you seen the one who denies reward and punishment [O Prophet!]. He it is who shoves the orphan and urges not the feeding of the poor. So woe be to these [priests of the Baytullah] who pray being unmindful of the essence] of their prayers; who put up a pretentious display [of worship], and are not even prepared to lend ordinary items of common use to others. (107:1-7)
إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ (١٠٨:
Upon you [O Prophet!] have We bestowed this abundance of good [this House of Ours]. So pray only for your Almighty and offer sacrifice only for Him. Indeed, it is this enemy of yours who is rootless: none of his followers will remain. (108:1-3)
قُلْ يَاأَيُّهَا الْكَافِرُونَ لَا أَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ وَلَا أَنْتُمْ عَابِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ وَلَا أَنَا عَابِدٌ مَا عَبَدتُّمْ وَلَا أَنْتُمْ عَابِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ (١٠٩:
Declare [O Prophet!]: "O Disbelievers! I shall worship not that which you worship. Nor will you ever worship [alone] that which I worship. Nor ever before this was I prepared to worship that which you worshipped. Nor were you ever prepared to worship that which I have been worshipping. [So now] for you your religion and for me, mine." (109:1-6)
إِذَا جَاءَ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ وَالْفَتْحُ وَرَأَيْتَ النَّاسَ يَدْخُلُونَ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ أَفْوَاجًا فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَاسْتَغْفِرْهُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ تَوَّابًا
When comes the help of God and that victory [which We have promised you O Prophet!] and you see men embrace the religion of God in multitudes, extol His glory while being thankful to Him and seek His forgiveness. For, indeed, He is ever disposed to mercy. (110:1-3)
After this, a rasul is directed to migrate. It is evident from the Qur'an that it is on the bidding of the Almighty that this migration takes place. No Messenger is allowed to exercise his own judgement in this regard. The reason is that it is not possible for a person to have knowledge of the fact that the truth has been completely communicated to their people and that now there is no possibility of any positive response from them. Only God can have this knowledge. Consequently, when angels came to the celebrated Prophet Abraham (sws) to communicate this decision of the Almighty to him, he contended that they had come before time and argued with the Almighty as depicted in the Qur'an (11:74-76), and when Jonah (sws) decided on his own to migrate from his people, the Almighty reprimanded him (37:139-148). It became evident from his nation's professing faith once he returned to them that only the Almighty knows when someone can profess faith. The Qur'an refers to his example and cautions the Prophet Muhammad (sws) to exercise patience and forbearance while waiting for God's decision in this regard. He cannot of his own form the opinion that he has fully discharged his duty and he can leave his people. It is essential that he must continue to discharge this duty until the Almighty communicates His decision to him that the truth has been unveiled to the people and that he can migrate from them.
Reward and Punishment
This is the final phase. It is in this phase that the divine court of justice is set up on this earth. Punishment is meted out to the rejecters of the truth and those who have accepted it are rewarded, and in this way a miniature Day of Judgement is witnessed on the face of the earth. The history of the preaching endeavours of the rusul related in the Qur'an shows that at this stage generally either of the two situations arise.
Firstly, a rasul has a few companions only and there is no place available to him for migration.
Secondly, his companions are in substantial numbers and the Almighty also furnishes a place to them where they can migrate and be bestowed with political authority.
In both these situations, the established practice of the Almighty manifests itself - the practice which the Qur'an refers to in the following words:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ فِي الأَذَلِّينَ كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِي إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ (٥٨:
Indeed those who are opposing Allah and His Messenger are bound to be humiliated. The Almighty has ordained: "I and My Messengers shall always prevail." Indeed Allah is Mighty and Powerful. (58:20-21)
In the first situation, divine punishment descends upon those who have rejected the rusul in the form of raging storms, cyclones and other calamities, which completely destroy them. It is evident from the Qur'an that the people of Noah (sws), Lot (sws), Salih (sws) and Shu'ayb (sws) besides others met with this dreadful fate. The only exception in this case were the Israelites. Since they primarily adhered to monotheism, instead of annihilation, the punishment of subjugation was meted out to them once the Prophet Jesus (sws) left them. In the second case, a rasul and his companions subdue their nation by force.
In this situation, obviously the people are given some more time. During this time, the rasul proceeds with the task of communicating the truth to people of the land he has migrated to. This unveiling of the truth continues till these people are not left with any excuse to deny it. Simultaneously, he prepares and instructs his followers and cleanses them and isolates them so that they are ready to participate in the battle between good and evil. He consolidates his political authority in this land to the extent that with its help he can exterminate the rejecters and achieve dominance for the believers. The net result of this process is that the followers and opponents of a rasul are totally distinguished from one another to the extent that as per the established practice of God each group can be observed with its complete characteristics. It is evident from the Qur'an that in each group there are three categories of people. Among the opponents are:
i. The Mu'anidin
ii. The Mutarabbisin
iii. The Mughafillin
Among the followers, the following three categories can be classified:
i. The Sabiqun al-Awwalun
ii. The Muttabi'un al-Ihsan
iii. The Du'afa and the Munafiqun
The Mu'anidin (the antagonists) are people who openly and vehemently counter the preaching of a rasul
once they see that it is becoming influential. The motive of their animosity is
their prejudice for their traditional views as well as jealousies and vested
interests. All these three motives are equal as far as their animosity is
concerned; however, they are distinct from one another as far as their reality
The first motive is found in people who are very sincere with traditional views and are the true servers of the system they have lived in. They consider the preaching of a rasul to be an open challenge to their system and the traditions of their forefathers which are present in the background of this system. Since their opposition is based on nationalistic emotions, it is without malice and meanness. Consequently, their opposition like that of Abu Jahal has much to do with their nationalistic pride, and if they profess faith, then like 'Umar (rta) and Hamzah (rta) they profess faith with all their heart and all their might.
The second motive entices those people to animosity who are and have remained leaders in the current system whether in religious or political capacity. They have become so used to leadership and control that it becomes impossible for them to accept the leadership and guidance of a rasul and they also want the truth to remain subservient to them in all circumstances. It is such people who in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) declared that if God had to reveal His guidance to someone why did He not reveal it to some leader of Makkah and Ta'if. It was precisely for this reason that the Jews had opposed Muhammad (sws). In the times of the Prophet Jesus (sws), the religious chiefs of the Israelites, their scholars and the Pharisees were deprived of faith for this very reason, and the following words of Jesus (sws) were verified: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Such people initially ignore the preaching of the rusul considering it to be worthless; however, once they see that this preaching is influencing the society the fire of jealousy ignites in them, and then they do everything jealous normally people do against their opponents.
The third motive stirs people who are not able to see beyond their personal interests. They have become used to watching their own interests and demanding privileges and deciding what is good and what is evil with reference to themselves only. It is because of this moral degradation and meanness that they can only take hold of things which are of benefit to them; it becomes impossible for them to accept the calls of the rusul and pass through tests which the followers of the rusul have to bear. In the times of the Prophet Muhammad (sws), the attitude of Abu Lahab is a prominent example of a person who opposed a rasul because of such a motive.
The Mutarabbisin or those among the opponents who have adopted the policy of "wait and see" are the ones who acknowledge the veracity of a rasul's teaching; however, instead of accepting the truth simply because it is the truth they prefer to wait and see what the future has in store for this preaching. Consequently, they are not very active in opposing their rasul but always put their weight with his enemies. Day and night they are busy in trying to strike some sort of a compromise between truth and evil and so that they are not burdened in making a decision for themselves. In times of trials and tribulations, they may utter a good wish for the rasul, in their hearts be desirous of the rasul's success, may muster the courage to help him financially or morally; however, accepting him in these times and bearing hardships for him is in no way possible for them.
The Mughafillin (the ignorant among the masses) are those who are mentally and financially subservient to the prevailing system and in every matter obedient to the religious and political pundits of the time. They thus follow the dictates of these pundits with regard to the preaching of a rasul and are at their obedient service at all times. This is their typical attitude in the first phase. However, once their pundits start to openly challenge the preaching endeavour of the rasul, the difference between them and these pundits in their character as well as the nature of arguments presented becomes prominent. At that time, they become distrustful of their pundits and leave them and direct their attentions to the rasul. Consequently, this change in them sometimes induces some bold and lofty character individuals among them to take the initiative and join the ranks of the rasul one after the other.
Among the followers, the al-Sabiqun al-Awwalun are the ones who take lead in supporting the cause of their rasul. They profess faith in him as soon as they hear his calls and irrespective of the consequences are ready to sacrifice whatever they have for this cause. These are people who have a noble nature, possess an insightful intellect and a vibrant heart. Their eyes really see and their ears really hear. They are the ones who analyze things in the light of sense and reason and when they are convinced of something they openly acknowledge it irrespective of any bias or prejudice as well as any danger which its acceptance may entail. They are the cream of a nation as far as character and morals are concerned, and their towering figures stand out among the masses. The call of the truth is not alien to them. It is in fact the call of their hearts, the voice of their conscience and the chant of their souls. They only await someone to call them to the truth after which they present themselves to serve him with all their mind and heart. Consequently, when the calls of a rasul reach them, they neither present any excuse nor look at his lineage; they neither indulge in the analysis of the past and present nor ridicule and censure him; they neither ask for miracles nor get involved in hairsplitting and needless conversation. In fact, they come forward with full vigour and respond to the call as if it was coming from within them. With great will and determination they stand by the side of the rasul, and possess the determination and will to never turn back even if their limbs are cut to pieces.
The Muttabi'un bi al-Ihsan (the righteous) are people who are inspired by the al-Sabiqun al-Awwalun into accepting the truth. Although they are not as intellectually and morally superior, however they are the most outstanding in the second category of people. If they do not take the initiative in accepting the truth like the al-Sabiqun al-Awwalun, it is also not possible for them to stay behind once they witness the determination and outstanding behaviour of their forerunners, their initiative in accepting the truth and bearing with perseverance the difficulties in this cause. Although the sound arguments of the truth preached to them may fail to influence them much, the commitment and devotion of the al-Sabiqun al-Awwalun and their great deeds - soon or late - often win them over. However, a rasul has to make some effort in their regard. Consequently, if the doubts which arise about the truth in their minds and those which are implanted from others are all cleared up and some examples of grit and determination are set before them then the rust which has clung to their nature is washed away. After this, if the grace of God is there to guide and propel them to the truth, they become the companions of the rasul and try to remain by his side with full strength and sincerity in all trials and tribulations that they encounter.
The Du'afa and the Munafiqun (The Weak and the Hypocrites) only have an apparent resemblance. As far as their inner intentions are concerned, they are very distinct from one another. Thus their characteristics should be understood separately.
The Du'afa are people who accept the call of a rasul at some point of time; in fact, at times in the very first phase. It is their intention that they fulfill its requirement as long as they live; however, since they have weak will-powers, they stumble and then recover again and again. They have, however, the ability that every time that they fall they atone for their sins through repentance and continue their journey on the right path come what may.
The Munafiqun, on the other hand, are people who sometimes because of a transient influence and sometimes because of a well-planned prank become associates of a rasul. In the first case, they become an embodiment of مُّذَبْذَبِينَ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ لاَ إِلَى هَـؤُلاء وَلاَ إِلَى هَـؤُلاء (Wavering between this and that and belonging neither to these nor those, (4:143)), and in the second case they are like enemy agents in the ranks of the Muslims. Consequently, their character is no different from that of a typical agent.
When among the addressees of a rasul, his followers and his opponents are fully distinguished from one another and they stand out separately, and the rasul and his companions are fully in a position for an armed offensive, the court of divine justice gives its ruling. Following is the way this verdict was declared in the matter of the Prophet Muhammad (sws):
1. All the antagonists and adversaries from among the leadership of the Quraysh were killed in the battle of Badr. It was only Abu Lahab who did not take part in the battle in an effort to save himself from torment. The Qur'an (111:1-3) had already declared that he would die together with his supporters and comrades. Consequently, this prediction was fulfilled word for word and this leader of the Banu Hashim was killed by plague. And such was the condition of his dead body that no one came near it till three days after his death. Ultimately, his body got decomposed and a stinking smell started to come out from it. Eventually, a hole was dug and his corpse was shoved into it through sticks.
2. After the battles of Badr and Uhud, once the Muslims had been separated from the ranks of the disbelievers and took the shape of a distinct group, an ultimatum was given to the common masses of the Idolaters of Arabia as well as the ones among them who had adopted a policy of "wait and see". They were given four months to mend their ways after which they would be humiliated and disgraced and would not be able to find a way out in this world.
3. At the hajj-i akbar offered in the 9th hijrah, it was declared that once the sacred months passed, Muslims would kill these Idolaters wherever they find them except if they accept faith, adhere to the prayer and pay the zakah. Only those people would be an exception to this declaration who had treaties with the Prophet Muhammad (sws). Muslims were told that they should honour these treaties till they expire. It was obvious from this that once these expire, these people too would have to meet the same fate as had been destined and declared for the Idolaters.
4. It was directed that all the groups of the People of the Book would pay jizyah and live in subjugation to the Muslims. They were further told that if this decision of God and His Prophet Muhammad (sws) was not acceptable for them, they would be massacred by Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta).
5. The Hypocrites were warned that it would be better for them if they repented, otherwise they too would have to encounter the fate which was destined for the rejecters.
6. Those among the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) who were sincere but were guilty of some blemishes were forgiven after some punishment, and the weak among these followers were given the glad tidings that they if they repent and reform themselves and remain on this commitment, then hopefully the Almighty would forgive them too.
7. The reins of political leadership of Arabia and the custodianship of the Baytullah were given in the hands of the Muslims who had taken lead in accepting Islam. In this way, the following promise of the Almighty was fulfilled:
وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُم فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَى لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُم مِّن بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا وَمَن كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
God has promised those of you who professed belief and did good deeds that He would grant them political authority in the land the way He granted political authority to those who were before them and He would strongly establish their religion He chose for them, and replace their fear by peace. They will worship Me and serve none besides Me, and he who again rejects after this will indeed be among the disobedient. (24:55)
Preaching Obligation of Abraham's Progeny
وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ (٧٨:٢٢)
And struggle for the cause of God in a befitting manner. He has chosen you [for this responsibility], and laid on you no burdens in the observance of your faith. He has chosen for you the way of Abraham your father. He has named you Muslims earlier and in this [period of the last Prophet] as well. [He had chosen you] so that the Prophet may bear witness against you, and that you yourselves may bear witness [to this religion] against other people of this world. (22:78)
In this verse of Surah Hajj, the Qur'an specifies that just as the Almighty chooses certain great personalities from among the progeny of Adam for shahadah (bearing witness to the truth), on similar lines, He also chose the progeny of Abraham (sws) for the responsibility of shahadah, and directed it to make an effort to fulfill all the requirements of this position. The Qur'an says:
إِنَّ اللّهَ اصْطَفَى آدَمَ وَنُوحًا وَآلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَآلَ عِمْرَانَ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ (٣٣:٣)
God chose Adam and Noah, Abraham's progeny and the progeny of 'Imran above the people of the world. (3:33)
It needs to be kept in consideration that this shahadah is not mere preaching and propagation: it results in a miniature Day of Judgement on this earth. The history of this shahadah mentioned in the Qur'an and in other divine scriptures is that the first manifestation of this Judgement took place in the time of Noah (sws). After that, the Almighty, at various intervals, sent His rusul and their shahadah also resulted in a worldly Judgement of their peoples. This process continued till Abraham (sws) was sent. The Almighty then decided that this position of shahadah would also be bestowed upon his progeny in their collective capacity, and through them religion would become an established and irrefutable fact before all the peoples of the world to the extent that they are left with no excuse to reject it. The account of this worldly Judgement is mentioned in detail in the Qur'an and in the Bible. The Qur'an has stated that the mount of Olive, the village of Fig, the mount of Sinai and the city of Makkah all bear witness to this Judgement. The mount of Olive is the place where, after Jesus (sws) was lifted, the punishment of those who had rejected him which was to continue till the Day of Judgement was declared. It was also at this place that the nasara, a new ummah from among the Israelites who professed belief in him was constituted. Fig is a village situated on this mountain. In the Bible, it is referred to as Beth Phage. Here the word "Phage" is actually the word "Fig". It is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke (19:29) that when Jesus (sws) came to Jerusalem, he stayed at this place before entering the city. It is known that it was on the mount of Sinai that the Israelites were constituted as an ummah. Makkah was the place where the Ishmaelites began their life as a collectivity and it was here that they were given the custodianship of the Baytullah, the first centre of worshipping God made on this earth. It is evident from these details that all these areas were centres of the worldly Judgment of God mentioned above. The Qur'an has presented them as witnesses to this Judgement with the declaration that what is it that can negate the Day of Judgement after witnessing this wordly Judgement:
وَالتِّينِ وَالزَّيْتُونِ وَطُورِ سِينِينَ وَهَذَا الْبَلَدِ الْأَمِينِ لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ فَمَا يُكَذِّبُكَ بَعْدُ بِالدِّينِ أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَحْكَمِ الْحَاكِمِينَ
(٩٥ :١ -
The fig and olive bear witness and [so does] the mount of Sinai and this secure city of [yours] that We have created man [at these places] in the best of moulds. Then We reverted him to the lowest [position] when he himself wanted to become low. Save those who accepted faith and did righteous deeds. For them shall be a reward unending. Now [O Prophet!] what is it that denies you about the Day of Judgement? [Ask them] is not Allah the best of Judges? (95:1-7)
For this very reason, the Almighty has regarded the Ishmaelites as the أُمَّةً وَسَطًا (the intermediate community) on one side of which is God and His prophet and on the other side of which are النَّاس (all the people of the world), and just as Muhammad (sws) has borne witness to the truth before the Ishmaelites, the Ishmaelites have to bear witness to the truth before the rest of the world:
وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا
And similarly, We have made you an intermediate community so that you be witnesses [to the truth] before the people, and the rasul be such a witness before you. (2:143)
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ (١١٠:٣)
You are the noblest community raised up for mankind [to bear witness to the truth] before it [because] you urge [each other to] good and forbid evil, and you truly believe in God. (3:110)
It is because of this status of the progeny of Abraham (sws) that if it adheres to the truth in its collective capacity, and keeps presenting it to other peoples of this world with full certainty and while maintaining full integrity of its contents, the Almighty will grant them dominance over their addressees who reject them. If the progeny of Abraham (sws) does not adhere to the truth in its collective capacity, then the Almighty through these very addressees will mete out the punishment of humiliation and subjugation to the progeny of Abraham (sws). Currently, both the Israelites and the Ishmaelites are facing this punishment.
It is mentioned in the Qur'an that on the Day of Judgement the shuhada (witnesses) would be called upon. These shuhada are actually the progeny of Abraham (sws). Because of the status of shahadah which the Almighty has granted them in this world, they will be called to give shahadah (witness) on the Day of Judgement in the very manner the rusul would be called for this purpose. It will be they who would be first of all asked the question of their people's attitude towards the truth and whether they had really fulfilled the responsibility of delivering the truth to others:
وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَصَعِقَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَن شَاء اللَّهُ ثُمَّ نُفِخَ فِيهِ أُخْرَى فَإِذَا هُم قِيَامٌ يَنظُرُونَ وَأَشْرَقَتِ الْأَرْضُ بِنُورِ رَبِّهَا وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ وَجِيءَ بِالنَّبِيِّينَ وَالشُّهَدَاء وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ
And on that Day, the trumpet shall be sounded, and all who are in the heavens and on earth shall fall down fainting, except those who shall be spared by God. Then the trumpet will be sounded again and they shall suddenly rise and gaze around them. And the earth will shine with the light of her Lord, and the book [in which deeds have been recorded] will be laid open and all the prophets and all those who were bestowed with the position of shahadah shall be called in, and all shall be judged with fairness: none shall be wronged. (39:68-69)
Preaching Obligation of the Scholars
وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُواْ كَآفَّةً فَلَوْلاَ نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَآئِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُواْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُواْ قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُواْ إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ (١٢٢:٩)
And it was not possible for all the believers to undertake [this job]. So why did not a few from every group among them come forward to gain sound knowledge in religion and [after attaining this knowledge], warned the people of their [respective] nations, when they returned to them that they may also take heed. (9:122)
This directive of preaching relates to the scholars of the Muslim ummah. The Almighty has said that it was not possible for all the Muslims to become scholars; however, some people from each group should come forward to gain sound knowledge of religion and try to save their people from the punishment of the Hereafter through warning and admonition.
The first thing which is evident from this verse of Surah Tawbah is that the directive of preaching stated in it does not relate to every Muslim. The verse begins with the very words that it was not possible for every Muslim to undertake this task. This, of course, is an obvious reality. Neither is each person blessed with the same ability nor does every person have the same opportunities in life. Not every Muslim can be expected to become a scholar of Islam. Thus the Almighty has clarified in this verse that not every person among the Muslims is required to become a scholar; however, some from among each of their groups should aspire to do so.
The second thing which is evident from this verse is that those who want to take up the responsibility of warning their people must first gain sound knowledge of religion. The words used for this are: لِّيَتَفَقَّهُواْ فِي الدِّين . This means that they must have a deep insight and understanding of religion. They should not be quacks; they should have a deep comprehension of what they are required to preach. They must have a thorough understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah so that they can explain Islam to people with full confidence.
The third thing which is evident from this verse is that once they have attained a masterful understanding of religion, the responsibility that scholars have to discharge is that of indhar and only indhar which means that people should be warned that one day they would have to give account of their deeds. A little deliberation shows that this is the same responsibility which prophets and messengers of God discharge. It is thus evident that after Muhammad (sws), this responsibility of indhar was transferred to the scholars of the ummah, and after the termination of the institution of prophethood, it is the scholars who must continue to discharge this responsibility till the Day of Judgement.
The fourth thing which is evident from this verse is that the real addressee of a scholar is the nation to which he belongs. The words used are: وَلِيُنذِرُواْ قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُواْ إِلَيْهِمْ (and warn the people of their [respective] nations when they returned to them). These words specify the sphere of a scholar's preaching endeavour. They restrict him from leaving their real addressees and going after those who do not belong to them.
The fifth thing which is evident from this verse is that the objective of the preaching endeavour of the scholars should be to warn people about the displeasure of God. The words of the verse are لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ (that they may also take heed). The implication is that people must take heed that if they show indifference, laziness or arrogance regarding the obligations of their religion in the individual and collective spheres of life, they could be punished in this world and in the next too. It may be the wish of a scholar that the reins of power be transferred to pious people, Islam should reign supreme in the world and the word of God become dominant in every sphere of life; however, in spite of being a desirable wish, the basic objective of their preaching as per this verse is to warn people of the punishment and humiliation of the Hereafter.
It is evident from the above discussion that this verse of Surah Tawbah requires scholars of Islam to keep alive their preaching endeavour according to their ability in every nation and every place with the spirit of وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ. With deep concern and empathy, they should keep warning the people of their nation as well as those in authority of their obligations and duties. They should try to explain Islam to them at various levels. They should call them to the truth from various angles. They should warn them of the consequences of showing indifference to the truth. They should keep doing this till their last breath so much so, the oppression of evil rulers should also not stop them from this. This is the greatest jihad which scholars of religion can always wage in this world:
إِنَّ مِنْ أَعْظَمِ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةُ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ (ابن ماجة رقم
Upholding truth and justice is indeed a great jihad, especially before an oppressive ruler.
It is this verse of Surah Tawbah which is the source of various efforts of preaching and propagation which have been undertaken in this ummah. It is a great favour of the Almighty that no period of history has remained devoid of people who have lit up the torch of truth in the desolate darkness of irreligious views and innovations, and have guided people to the truth while remaining indifferent to everything in this world. They do not care what people like and what they want. All their interest resides with the truth and they spend all their energy and skill to communicate the requirements of this truth to people. They demand nothing from the people; whatever they receive from their Lord, they generously give to others. Consequently, in every period of time they are regarded as salt of the earth, the voice of the collective human conscience and the best representatives of mankind, and in this manner become alien to the society in the very manner referred to the in narrative: بدأ الإسلام غريبا ثم يعود غريبا كما بدأ فطوبى للغرباء قيل يا رسول الله ومن الغرباء قال الذين يصلحون إذا فسد الناس.
It is this nature of the preaching of the scholars in consideration of which some aspects must always remain in mind:
Firstly, scholars should have so much faith in the truth they go about preaching that it should be the voice of their hearts and the call of their souls. Only after totally submitting themselves to the Almighty should they enter this field, and should declare that with all their heart and soul that they have professed faith in what they are calling people to:
قُلْ إِنَّ صَلاَتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَبِذَلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَاْ أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ (
Say: "My prayer and my sacrifice, my life and my death, are all for God, Lord of the Universe. He has no peer. Thus am I commanded, and I am the first Muslim." (6:162-163)
Secondly, there should be no contradiction between what they believe and what they actually do. Whatever ideology or truth they want to preach others should first be practiced by them. The Qur'an is absolutely clear that this is not the work of preachers who do not practice what they preach; it is the work of people whose preaching foremost addresses themselves, and who force themselves to accept the truth which, they understood from their Lord, in its complete form and in an ultimate manner. Consequently, the Qur'an reprimands the scholars of the Jews that they in spite of being well-versed with shari'ah and knowing full well that as per the dictates of shari'ah and those of sense and reason they are much more liable to practicing religion, yet it is a matter of great pity that they vehemently urge the common man to fulfill their obligations and forget their own selves in this regard:
أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (٢:
Would you enjoin piety on others and forget it yourselves even though you read the Book. Have you no sense? (2:44)
Thirdly, they should never show a compromising attitude to the truth. The smallest of truths that becomes evident to them should be wholeheartedly accepted by them; their tongue should bear witness to it and they should present it to the world disregarding the reproaches of a reproacher. Never should they try to change or distort the truth. All the directives of the Qur'an and Sunnah and the complete guidance they provide should be presented by them to people and whatever they find against these two sources of Islam should be rejected by them without any hesitation whatsoever. They should not conceal any directive of religion if they are asked about it; in fact, they should present it the way it is and the way they believe in it. However, this does not mean that they should not wait for opportune moments to present religion. No doubt, the truth should be presented by them in the right manner at the right instances to the right audience; however, they must never conceal the truth or refrain from bearing witness to it for personal interests, fears, prejudices or benefits.
Consequently, the Almighty has ordained for His prophets who have been sent for indhar that phases and trials they will be put through are not meant to put them into any discomfort. Thus it is only befitting for them to discharge their duty disregarding any reproaches in this regard and fearing Allah only:
مَّا كَانَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ مِنْ حَرَجٍ فِيمَا فَرَضَ اللَّهُ لَهُ سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ فِي الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِن قَبْلُ وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ قَدَرًا مَّقْدُورًا الَّذِينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسَالَاتِ اللَّهِ وَيَخْشَوْنَهُ وَلَا يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ حَسِيبًا (٣٣:
There is no discomfort for the Prophet for what Allah has made mandatory on him. Such has remained the practice of God about all previous prophets - and a time was appointed for the judgement of God -; who delivered the messages of God and feared Him only and none besides Him and God alone is sufficient to take account. (33:38-39)
وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَـكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَآ آتَاكُم فَاسْتَبِقُوا الخَيْرَاتِ إِلَى الله مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ وَأَنِ احْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ اللّهُ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءهُمْ وَاحْذَرْهُمْ أَن يَفْتِنُوكَ عَن بَعْضِ مَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ إِلَيْكَ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللّهُ أَن يُصِيبَهُم بِبَعْضِ ذُنُوبِهِمْ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ النَّاسِ لَفَاسِقُونَ
And [O Prophet!] We have revealed to you the Book with the truth confirming the Book before it, and standing as a guardian over it. Therefore give judgement among men according to the guidance revealed by God and do not yield to their whims by swerving from the truth revealed to you. For each of you, we have ordained a law and assigned a path, and had God pleased, He could have made of you one community: but it is His wish to try you by that which He has bestowed upon you. So, outdo each other in good deeds. To God shall you all return. Then He shall disclose upon you all your differences. And [We have revealed to you this Book] that you can judge between them according to what God has revealed and follow not their desires and be on guard from them lest they turn you away from some directive which God has revealed to you. Then if they evade you, know that it is God's wish to punish them for some of their sins. And there is no doubt that a majority of these people are those who disobey. (5:48-49)
Similarly, the Qur'an says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ وَاللّهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
O Prophet! Communicate diligently whatever has been revealed to you from your Lord; And [you should know that] if you do not, you will surely fail to convey His message, and [rest assured that] God will protect you from men. Indeed, God does not guide these disbelievers. (5:67)
وَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَدَعْ أَذَاهُمْ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا (٤٨:٣٣)
And pay no attention to what these disbelievers and hypocrites say and ignore the harm [they cause] and put your trust in God and God is your all-sufficient guardian. (33:48)
فَلِذَلِكَ فَادْعُ وَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءهُمْ وَقُلْ آمَنتُ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ مِن كِتَابٍ وَأُمِرْتُ لِأَعْدِلَ بَيْنَكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّنَا وَرَبُّكُمْ لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ لَا حُجَّةَ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمُ اللَّهُ يَجْمَعُ بَيْنَنَا وَإِلَيْهِ الْمَصِيرُ
Therefore call men to [this faith], and adhere to it the way you have been directed to and do not be led by their desires, and declare: "I have professed faith in this book revealed by God and I have been directed to exercise justice among you. God is our Lord and your Lord. To us belong our deeds, and to you yours; [Now] there is no time left for any discussion between us. God will bring us all together [on the Day of Judgement and to Him we shall return." (42:15)
Fourthly, the Qur'an should be the means of indhar they should adopt. Verses such as فَذَكِّرْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مَن يَخَافُ وَعِيدِ
(٤٥:٥٠) (Remind through the Qur'an whoever fears My warning, (50:45)), and وَجَاهِدْهُم بِهِ جِهَادًا كَبِيرًا (٥٢:٢٥) (And through this [Qur'an] fight with them with full force, (25:52)) point to this. For this very reason, the Prophet (sws) is a nadhir (warner) for the whole world, and the scholars of religion actually communicate his indhar to people: تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَى عَبْدِهِ لِيَكُونَ لِلْعَالَمِينَ نَذِيرًا (١:٢٥) (Blessed be He who has revealed al-Furqan to His servant, that it may warn the whole world, (25:1)).
Consequently, the Qur'an says:
وَأُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنُ لأُنذِرَكُم بِهِ وَمَن بَلَغَ (١٩:٦)
And this Qur'an has been revealed to me that I may warn you through it and all whom it may reach. (6:19)
Preaching Obligation of the Rulers
وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
And there should be a community among you deputed to call towards righteousness, enjoining good, and forbidding evil and only [people who make this arrangement] shall achieve salvation. (103:1-3)
It is evident from the words of this verse that a Muslim is not addressed in it in his individual capacity; on the contrary, Muslims are addressed here in their collective capacity. Thus, this directive relates to the rulers of a state. The Almighty says that if in a certain piece of land Muslims are politically dominant, then they should depute some people from among themselves who should call people towards righteousness, enjoin good and forbid evil.
It is obvious that in some cases the obligation of forbidding people from evil shall be discharged by exhorting and urging the Muslims and in others through the force of law. For the first mode, those in authority have the Friday sermon available to them, which is specifically their prerogative. For the second mode, those in authority have the service of the police and the armed forces departments which in an Islamic state are established for this very purpose and work within the jurisdiction specified for them to achieve this objective.
It is thus evident that according to the Qur'an, it is the duty of the Muslim rulers to call people towards righteousness, enjoin good and forbid evil. It is incumbent upon them to discharge the following responsibilities also, besides the other naturally imposed ones:
الَّذِينَ إِن مَّكَّنَّاهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَمَرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَنَهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَلِلَّهِ عَاقِبَةُ الْأُمُورِ
[These believers are those who], if We grant them authority in this land, will be diligent in the prayer and pay zakah and enjoin what is virtuous and forbid what is evil. (22:41)
Preaching Obligation of an Individual
وَالْعَصْرِ إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ
Time bears witness that these people shall definitely be in a state of loss. Yes! except those who accepted faith and did righteous deeds and exhorted one another to the truth and exhorted one another to remain steadfast on it. (103:1-3)
The very expressions of تَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ and تَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ in this verse as well as their context clearly show that whether we belong to the common masses or to the intellectual class, whether we live in a jungle or in a city, we are liable to carry out this responsibility. Every person is liable to it and it is among the requirements of faith. If a believer does righteous deeds and also fulfills this requirement of faith, the Qur'an has ensured him protection from the punishment of this world and of the Hereafter and he shall be granted the eternal kingdom of Heaven.
It is evident from the nature and scope of this preaching as mentioned in these verses that the preacher and the preached are not distinct from another. Every person at all times acts as a preacher as well as an addressee to this preaching. The word used by the Qur'an in this regard is تَوَاصَوْا which means "to urge one another". This responsibility should be discharged by a father towards his son and a son towards his father, a husband towards his wife and a wife towards her husband, a brother towards his sister and a sister towards her brother, a friend towards his friend and a neighbour towards his neighbour - in short, a person should discharge it towards every person who has an immediate relation with him. When he sees that someone among them has adopted an attitude which is contrary to the truth, he should try to urge him according to his knowledge, capacity and ability to mend his ways. It is quite possible that while at one time of the day we deliver some truth to a person, and at another time, he does this very service to us. Today, we may urge a person to the right way and tomorrow that person might urge us to the same. In short, a Muslim should keep discharging this duty in his immediate circle whenever he gets the opportunity.
Urging one another to the truth and urging one another to remain steadfast on it has also been referred to as أَمَر بِالْمَعْرُوفِ and نهَِي عَنِ المُنْكَر ie urging people to whatever sense and human nature call as good and forbidding them from what sense and human nature call as evil. These two expressions are only a positive and negative statement of what is referred to in Surah 'Asr's last verse quoted above. The Qur'an says:
وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ (٧١:٩)
And true believers, both men and women, are friends to one another. They urge one another to what is good and forbid what is evil. (9:71)
The sphere of this preaching as is evident from the words "urging one another to the truth" is one's immediate surroundings. A person is required to do this duty among his family, relatives and friends. It is his obligation towards people with whom he lives and spends time and works with and who come into his contact because of his various involvements that they be the addressees of this preaching. This obligation will only stand fulfilled if it is discharged in this sphere. It should not be the case that these rightful beneficiaries of his preaching be deprived of it, while people belonging to other areas and countries become its recipients. The Almighty and His Prophet (sws) have not required of him to leave his immediate surroundings and start this activity outside it.
Moreover, it is also essential that his preaching be directed from the nearest to the next, and a person should foremost address his family members and try to save them from the Fire of Hell. He must be aware of the fact that if he went after others while leaving aside these immediate people who might be deep in evil, then in spite of all his efforts, he may end up at the losing end in the Hereafter:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلَائِكَةٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَا يَعْصُونَ اللَّهَ مَا أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ (٦:٦٦)
Believers! protect yourselves and your kindred from a Fire fuelled with these men and these stones [they worshipped]. In charge of it will be stern and mighty angels who never disobey God's directive and promptly do what they are told. (66:6)
Here, this should also remain clear that within one's immediate sphere there exists a sphere in which a person possesses authority. In a family system, a person often has two capacities: he is a father and he is a husband. As per the dictates of common sense and human nature, a person has authority in these two spheres. It is because of this authority that a person in his capacities of a husband and a father is responsible for the affairs of his wife and children respectively. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
ألا كلكم راع وكلكم مسؤول عن رعيته (مسلم رقم
Beware that each of you is a shepherd, and each person will be held accountable for his herd. (Muslim, No: 1829)
Thus under the directive of تَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ (urging one another to the truth), the Prophet (sws) directed Muslims to try to curb any evil they see in their circle of authority. He is reported to have said:
من رأى منكم منكرا فليغيره بيده فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه وذلك أضعف الإيمان (مسلم رقم
When any person among you sees an evil [in his circle of authority], he should try to curb it by [the force of] his hands. If he does not have the faith to do it, he should try to curb it by his tongue and if [even] this is not possible, he should consider it bad in his heart and this is the lowest level of faith. (Muslim, No: 49)
The words فإن لم يستطع (if he does not have the strength ...) do not refer to physical strength or the strength of resources which make a person liable to follow some directive; they refer to one's courage whose source is one's faith. Thus the foremost responsibility of a person in his circle of authority is to curb evil by force unless some religious expediency is attached to it. To curb evil by the tongue is the second level of faith and the last level is that a person should at least consider it to be evil in his heart. If he does not even have this feeling, then it means that he has become totally devoid of faith.
In the opinion of this writer, the above interpretation of the narrative is the correct one. It is in accordance with explicit Qur'anic directives, established facts of religion and biographies of the messengers. A husband, a father and a Muslim ruler are, no doubt, responsible to curb evil by force within their circle of authority. Less than this, whatever action they take shall indeed be a show of their weak faith; however, if they venture to use force outside their circle of authority, then this is the worst kind of disorder and anarchy that they can create. Such measures have no place in religion. The Qur'an is absolutely clear in this regard: as a preacher, no Messenger of God was ever given the authority beyond reminding and lucidly presenting religion. It says:
إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُذَكِّرٌ لَسْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ بِمُصَيْطِرٍ
Your duty is only to remind them; you are not to force them. (88:21-22)
Strategy of Preaching
ادْعُ إِلِى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ وَإِنْ عَاقَبْتُمْ فَعَاقِبُواْ بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبْتُم بِهِ وَلَئِن صَبَرْتُمْ لَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لِّلصَّابِرينَ (١٦:
Call men to the path of your Lord with wisdom and kindly exhortation and debate with them in the most befitting manner. Indeed, your Lord best knows those who stray from His path and those who are rightly guided. And if you avenge, let this be commensurate with the wrong that has been inflicted upon you. And if you exercise patience, then this is the best way for the patient. (16:125-126)
Although these verses address the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta), and as such primarily relate to the indhar of the Messengers, it is obvious that the directive stated in them is general and cannot be confined to them alone. Consequently, in all categories and types of preaching, these verses provide guidance regarding the strategy that needs to be adopted. If one deliberates on these verses, one can derive the following points regarding the guidance they provide us:
Firstly, wisdom, kindly exhortation and sound discussion should permeate the tone of this preaching. By wisdom (hikmah) is meant the arguments present in the verses and kindly exhortation and sound discussion means urging the adressees through sincere reminders. The implication is that whatever is presented should be supported by arguments and presented in the light of knowledge and intellect and one should not be aggressive and forceful in one's presentation. One's tone should reflect sincerity and affection. If the stage reaches that of debate and argument, then this should be done in a most befitting manner. If the opponent becomes hostile and antagonistic, then instead of responding in an even more belligerent manner, a true preacher should always remain polite and civilized.
Secondly, the responsibility of a preacher is that of preaching only: he should communicate the truth and elucidate it, and in no way show any slackness in urging and exhorting people towards it. If he discharges this responsibility in a befitting manner, he fulfills an obligation. It is the Almighty Who decides to give guidance to a person or to lead him astray. He knows full well those who have erred and also those who are rightly guided. He shall thus deal with a person in a manner he is worthy of. A preacher should not try to force the truth on others nor should he give verdicts about the fate a person shall meet in the Hereafter. This is the sole prerogative of the Almighty, and the only responsibility of a preacher is to communicate the truth, and he must not exceed this.
In the preaching of Muhammad (sws), this aspect is explained by the Qur'an in the following manner:
إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاء وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
You cannot guide whomever you please: it is God who guides [according to His Law] whom He pleases and He best knows those who are guided. (28:56)
إِن تَحْرِصْ عَلَى هُدَاهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يَهْدِي مَن يُضِلُّ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن نَّاصِرِينَ
If you are anxious about their guidance [it should remain clear to you], God does not guide those whom He [according to His law] leads astray, and God does not help such people. (16:37)
اتَّبِعْ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ مَا أَشْرَكُواْ وَمَا جَعَلْنَاكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَفِيظًا وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْهِم بِوَكِيلٍ (٦:
Therefore follow what has been revealed to you from your Lord. There is no god but Him, and ignore these polytheists, and [remember that] had God pleased, they would not have indulged in polytheism and [remember also that] We have not made you their keeper, nor are you their guardian. (6:106-107)
فَذَكِّرْ إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُذَكِّرٌ لَسْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ بِمُسَيْطِرٍ
[O Prophet!] keep reminding; you are only one who reminds; you are not one to force [your message] upon others. (88:21-22)
فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلاَغُ وَعَلَيْنَا الْحِسَابُ (٤٠:١٣)
So your responsibility is only to communicate and it is Us who will take [their] account. (13:40)
Thirdly, if the addressees of preaching resort to oppression and inflict harm on the preacher, he is allowed to avenge it in a proportion commensurate with the harm inflicted while remaining within moral limits; however, in the eyes of God, it is better that a person bears this oppression without avenging it; he should not take any measure of revenge; neither should he change his stance after being overwhelmed with hardships. Those who show patience at these instances are promised great rewards. Not only will they face its good consequence in this world, they will also encounter good consequences in the Hereafter. At another instance, the Qur'an has urged the believers to refrain from avenging the harm inflicted on them, and, on the contrary, to display a befitting attitude:
وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ وَمَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا وَمَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا ذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ وَإِمَّا يَنزَغَنَّكَ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ نَزْغٌ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
And good and evil are not the same. Requite evil with good, and you will see that he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend. [And remember] none receives this wisdom except those who patiently endure and none receive it except those who are truly fortunate. If [in this matter] Satan tempts you, seek refuge in God. Indeed, He hears all and knows all. (41:34-36)
This endurance can only sustain in a person when at the very outset, preachers of Islam are fully aware of the fact that in this endeavour, there can be trials and tests in which a person is robbed of his wealth, orchards are destroyed, hardships are inflicted, limbs are severed and even life is lost. At times, evil tries to allure a preacher and at times intimidate him. Avarice and fear are used to divert him from the right path. At other times, he is put behind bars and subjected to cruel punishments which dislocates his joints; he is suspended in a muddy well; he is stoned to death right between the altar and the holy of holies, and his head is cut and presented to dancing girls.
Preachers should have faith that the Almighty Who has blessed them with guidance and imposed the responsibility of preaching upon them, will definitely help them in hardships and difficulties:
وَمَا لَنَا أَلاَّ نَتَوَكَّلَ عَلَى اللّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانَا سُبُلَنَا وَلَنَصْبِرَنَّ عَلَى مَا آذَيْتُمُونَا وَعَلَى اللّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ
And why should we not trust in God, when He has already guided us to our paths? We will endure your persecution patiently and [we know that] in God should all the trusting put their trust. (14:12)
It is these three points which form the basis of the strategy in preaching religion. The last of these two do not require much explanation; however, while presenting one's message with wisdom and with kindly exhortation certain aspects - the source of which is the example set by the prophets - should be kept in consideration. In the following pages, these shall be discussed in detail.
Consideration of Intellectual Ability
The first thing is that every preacher should present his message according to the intellectual ability of his addressees. People who are unaware of the fundamentals of Islam must not be preached principle directives which are based on these fundamentals. Similarly, people who are in the process of understanding the principle directives must not be presented their fine details and corollaries. If the topics of philosophy of religion cannot be presented before the masses, then without dealing with them, the details of the shari'ah will also not become attractive to the intellectual class. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
People who do not understand this system of religion and the benefits of this way of preaching of the prophets end up urging their addressees to not only adopt the obligatory prayers but also optional prayers like those of tahajjud and ishraq before they make an effort to create the true cognizance of God in a person. Instead of first making people aware of the need of a prophet and need to follow and obey him they start asking them to keep beards, trim moustaches and keep their legware above the ankles. They want to see a person overwhelmed with humility and fear of God before he has any lasting and strong faith in the Hereafter. Because of their efforts, the size of the beards may increase, legware may be restrained above the ankles, artificial humility and modesty may pervade the countenance and mannerisms of people, strict observance of the Sunnah in eating, drinking, coughing and sneezing may become a punctual habit, yet since all this has been engendered in an irrational and unnatural manner, all the piety such people boast is tantamount to "straining out gnats but swallowing camels".
This aspect must also be kept in consideration for the instruction and training of those who profess faith in the message preached. A study of the biography of the Prophet (sws) shows that the way he dealt with senior Companions like Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, 'Ali, Mu'adh Ibn Jabal, Sa'd Ibn Mu'adh, Zayd Ibn Thabit, Jabir Ibn 'Abdullah, 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud would be very different from the way he dealt with the common Companions. He would require them to be at a certain level and would hold them accountable to a greater degree. The way he would teach Islam to a common Bedouin would be very different from the way he would teach the Companions of high stature. By merely studying the difference in his dealings with Mu'adh Ibn Jabal and Abu Dharr Ghaffari, the things which he kept in consideration in this regard become evident.
One aspect of this is that whatever he taught to people, he taught it gradually and piecemeal so that it could become deeply rooted in their hearts and minds and become part of their deeds. It is only after they had fully digested one directive that the next was given. The next directive was given in a manner that it would neither become a burden on the weak nor would it discourage and demotivate those who could digest more. While explaining this aspect, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
The preaching of a true preacher can be compared to that of a farmer. Just as a farmer cannot achieve his objective by merely sowing seeds in a land similarly, a true preacher cannot accomplish his objective by merely counseling people; it is essential that he should have the same concern for his endeavour as a dutiful farmer has for the seeds he has sown. Just as a farmer is watchful that the seeds are firmly planted in the ground, they receive water at the right time, they are protected from inclement weather, weeds do not obstruct their development, they are protected from birds and animals - and it is after a long period of hard work and care in which he forgoes rest and sleep that he is able to reap the fruit of his labour - in a similar way, a true preacher is only able to reap the harvest of his labour when he has the strength and capacity not only to present his message to people but also to bear the burden of training and instructing them. Otherwise, just as the seeds sown by an unconcerned farmer become a target of foul climatic conditions and become fodder for animal and birds, in a similar manner, the preaching of a true preacher ends up in vain.
The Almighty has affirmed that the reason for gradually revealing the Qur'an is to instruct and train people:
وَقُرْآناً فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَى مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنزِيلاً (١٠٦:١٧)
And We have revealed the Qur'an piecemeal so that you may gradually recite it to people and We have diligently revealed it. (17:106)
Similarly, it is stated:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الْقُرْآنُ جُمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً كَذَلِكَ لِنُثَبِّتَ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ وَرَتَّلْنَاهُ تَرْتِيلًا
And the disbelievers asked: "Why was the Qur'an not revealed to him in a single revelation? We have revealed it thus so that We may strengthen your heart and We have imparted it to you in a gradual manner." (25:32)
'A'ishah (rta), mother of the believers, explains:
إنما نزل أول ما نزل منه سورة من المفصل فيها ذكر الجنة والنار حتى إذا ثاب الناس إلى الإسلام نزل الحلال والحرام ولو نزل أول شيء لا تشربوا الخمر لقالوا لا ندع الخمر أبدا ولو نزل لا تزنوا لقالوا لا ندع الزنا أبدا (بخاري رقم
The first thing to be revealed in the Qur'an was a surah from among the mufassal which mentions Paradise and Hell until when people entered the folds of Islam, then directives regarding prohibition and allowance were revealed and [in reality] if the directive: "Refrain from drinking alcohol" had been revealed earlier on, people would have said: "We will never refrain from alcohol", and if the directive: "Do not commit fornication" had been revealed, people would have said: "We will never refrain from fornication." (Bukhari, No: 4707)
Secondly, the psyche of the addressees must also be kept in consideration. Just as rain at the wrong time has no effect on the land and may at times be detrimental to it, in a similar manner, preaching done without giving due consideration to the mental state and psyche of the addressees will find little response. Thus sole reliance should not be made on the fact that since truth has its own strength it will be accepted whenever delivered; it is essential that a preacher must assess if his addressees are in the right psychological state to listen and to understand his message.
In this regard, the situations which a preacher may have to face may not be comprehensively stated here, however, the principle guidance provided by the Qur'an and Hadith is explained below:
1. Whatever aspect of religion be presented before people should be presented in a manner that instead of feeling an abhorrence and loathing for it, people have a feeling of ease and fondness for it. The same thing can pose difficulty when presented from one angle and it can provide ease when presented from another. If, at the beginning of preaching, only those aspects of the message are presented which have an attraction for people who are at a distance from religion, then it can be expected that later on they will even gradually accept things which are averse to their nature. The Prophet is reported to have said: بشروا ولا تنفروا (Give glad tidings to people and do not spread hatred among them). Consequently, while stating a principle, he has also said:
فإنما بعثتم ميسرين ولم تبعثوا معسرين (بخاري رقم
You have been sent to create ease and you have not been sent to create difficulty. (Bukhari, No: 217.)
2. A preacher should not criticize the beliefs and cherished personalities of his addressees in a style which induces in them the feelings of adhering to their views even if these views have no moral basis. He should specially refrain from regarding his own cherished personalities to be superior to those of his addressees, and should focus all his efforts in explaining his point of view and in achieving his objective. While becoming overwhelmed for the cause of truth and the urge to subdue evil, he should not say something which annoys the addressees and makes them so desperate that they retaliate recklessly. The Qur'an says:
وَلاَ تَسُبُّواْ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ فَيَسُبُّواْ اللّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ
And do not revile those which they invoke besides God, lest in their ignorance they revile God with rancour. (6:108)
3. A preacher should specially take into consideration the fact that since the leaders and chiefs among the addressees of a preacher always want themselves to be respected, he should not adopt a style that hurts their ego in this regard lest this may become a hindrance for them in accepting the truth. The Almighty directed two of His great prophets: Moses (sws) and Aaron (sws) to keep this aspect in consideration:
اذْهَبَا إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا لَّعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَى
Go both of you to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed all bounds. Speak to him with gentle words that he may yet take heed or fear [his Lord]. (20:43-44)
Thus if a stage arises that criticizing the base characters of their elders becomes a requirement of preaching, indirect styles of address should be adopted. The best example of this style is the Almighty's comment on the leadership of the Quraysh in Surah Qalam:
وَلَا تُطِعْ كُلَّ حَلَّافٍ مَهِينٍ هَمَّازٍ مَشَّاءٍ بِنَمِيمٍ مَنَّاعٍ لِلْخَيْرِ مُعْتَدٍ أَثِيمٍ عُتُلٍّ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ زَنِيمٍ أَنْ كَانَ ذَا مَالٍ وَبَنِينَ إِذَا تُتْلَى عَلَيْهِ آيَاتُنَا قَالَ أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ
And heed not [among them every person who is a] swearer of false oaths, despicable, maker of evil gestures, who goes about sowing seeds of dissension, forbidder of good, transgressor, usurper of rights, cruel and moreover is rootless. This is so because he has wealth and children. When Our revelations are recited to him he cries out: "These are but tales of the ancients." (68:10-15)
4. If at times, the addressees are in a mood of raising objections or have taken to jeering and ridiculing, then in this state not only should a preacher refrain from presenting his message before them but also if at times a similar situation arises after he has presented his message he should discontinue his effort and wait for some other opportune moment. The Almighty says:
وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّى يَخُوضُواْ فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ وَإِمَّا يُنسِيَنَّكَ الشَّيْطَانُ فَلاَ تَقْعُدْ بَعْدَ الذِّكْرَى مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
And when you see those that scoff at Our revelations, withdraw from them till they engage in other talk and should Satan cause you to forget this, do not sit with the wrongdoers as soon as you remember. (6:68)
5. It is essential for a preacher to abstain from presenting his message in an unconcerned and mechanical manner as well as from elaborating it too much and from being anxious to impart it at inappropriate times. He should also avoid repetition and monotony in this regard. Moreover, he should not present his message when his addressees are busy and it would be hard for them to listen to him at that time:
عن أبي وائل قال كان عبد الله يذكر الناس في كل خميس فقال له رجل يا أبا عبد الرحمن لوددت أنك ذكرتنا كل يوم قال أما إنه يمنعني من ذلك أني أكره أن أملكم وإني أتخولكم بالموعظة كما كان النبي e يتخولنا بها مخافة السآمة علينا) بخاري رقم
It is narrated by Abu Wa'il that Ibn Mas'ud would instruct and remind people [about religion] every Thursday. A person from among them said: "O Abu 'Abd al-Rahman, I want you to remind us every day." He replied: "I don't do this lest it may be burdensome on you. I remind you at intervals the way the Prophet (sws) used to remind us at intervals lest we may become fed-up." (Bukhari, No: 40)
إن طول صلاة الرجل وقصر خطبته مئنة من فقهه فأطيلوا الصلاة واقصروا الخطبة وإن من البيان سحرا (مسلم رقم
Prolonging the prayer and shortening the sermon is the sign of wisdom of a person, so prolong the prayer and shorten the sermon and be informed that some sermons caste a magical spell [on the addressees]. (Muslim, No: 869)
Ibn 'Abbas (rta), one of the Prophet's most celebrated Companions is reported to have said:
حدث الناس كل جمعة مرة فإن أبيت فمرتين فإن أكثرت فثلاث مرار ولا تمل الناس هذا القرآن ولا ألفينك تأتي القوم وهم في حديث من حديثهم فتقص عليهم فتقطع عليهم حديثهم فتملهم ولكن أنصت فإذا أمروك فحدثهم وهم يشتهونه (بخاري رقم
Counsel and remind people every Friday. If it is to be more than this, then do it twice and if you want to do this even more frequently, then do it thrice. Do not make people fed-up with this Qur'an and I should not see you going to a group of people while they are busy conversing among themselves and you start counselling and reminding them and in this manner you make them repulsive to it. This is not right; do not speak. When people wish to, then speak to them such that they are desirous of listening. (Bukhari, No: 5978)
6. Just as a true preacher should refrain from presenting his message at inopportune moments, in a similar manner, he should also be very eager to cash upon opportune moments. He should be very anxious to present his message at the right time in much the same manner as the Prophet Joseph (sws) did, even when he got a chance while being imprisoned:
وَدَخَلَ مَعَهُ السِّجْنَ فَتَيَانَ قَالَ أَحَدُهُمَآ إِنِّي أَرَانِي أَعْصِرُ خَمْرًا وَقَالَ الآخَرُ إِنِّي أَرَانِي أَحْمِلُ فَوْقَ رَأْسِي خُبْزًا تَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِنْهُ نَبِّئْنَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ إِنَّا نَرَاكَ مِنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ قَالَ لاَ يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلاَّ نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَأْتِيكُمَا ذَلِكُمَا مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِي رَبِّي إِنِّي تَرَكْتُ مِلَّةَ قَوْمٍ لاَّ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ وَهُم بِالآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ وَاتَّبَعْتُ مِلَّةَ آبَآئِـي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ مَا كَانَ لَنَا أَن نُّشْرِكَ بِاللّهِ مِن شَيْءٍ ذَلِكَ مِن فَضْلِ اللّهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَشْكُرُونَ يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَأَرْبَابٌ مُّتَفَرِّقُونَ خَيْرٌ أَمِ اللّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِهِ إِلاَّ أَسْمَاء سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَآؤُكُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ بِهَا مِن سُلْطَانٍ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلاَّ لِلّهِ أَمَرَ أَلاَّ تَعْبُدُواْ إِلاَّ إِيَّاهُ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَمَّا أَحَدُكُمَا فَيَسْقِي رَبَّهُ خَمْرًا وَأَمَّا الآخَرُ فَيُصْلَبُ فَتَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِن رَّأْسِهِ قُضِيَ الأَمْرُ الَّذِي فِيهِ تَسْتَفْتِيَانِ
And with him two young men also entered the prison. One said: "I dreamt that I was squeezing grapes." And the other: "I dreamt that I was carrying a loaf upon my head from which birds are eating." Interpret these [dreams] for us; we see that you are a pious man. Joseph replied: "I will interpret them for you before you are provided with food that you are fed with here. This is part of the knowledge my Lord has taught me. Indeed, I have left the faith of those who do not believe in God and they are the ones who deny the Hereafter, and I have adopted the way of my forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have no right to associate others with God. This is the grace which God has bestowed on us and on all mankind, yet most men are not grateful. Fellow prisoners! Are many gods better than God, the One who prevails on all? Those you worship besides Him are nothing but names which you and your fathers have devised. God has revealed no sanction for them. Sovereignty rests only with God. He has directed you to worship none but Him. This is the true faith: yet most men do not know it. Fellow prisoners, one of you will serve his Lord with wine. As for the other, he will be crucified, and the birds will tear apart his head and eat it. This is the judgement about which you two were asking." (12:36-41)
While commenting on the Prophet Joseph's preaching initiative, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:
Let us caste a glance at the whole incident: Two people are inducted into jail together with Joseph (sws). Both have dreams and are eager to have them interpreted. Among the inmates of prison, they think that Joseph (sws) could help them in this matter. They thus describe their dreams to him with great respect and reverence. In response, Joseph (sws) does not merely interpret their dreams for them or earn some personal benefit by taking advantage of the respect they have for him; on the contrary, taking this to be an opportune moment, he presents before them the basic message of Islam and the style he adopts is such that it seems that what he has to say naturally springs forth and not something intentionally and artificially raised. This conversation points to an important principle: Just as a farmer vigilantly waits for rain so that he is able to sow seeds in his land, similarly, a true preacher should be vigilant about his surroundings; he should be ready to grasp the opportunity of presenting his message whenever he sees that someone is willing to listen to him and the situation becomes conducive for sowing seeds of his message in the heart of his addressee. The second principle which becomes evident from this incident is that when with the grace of God such an opportunity arises it is not right to waste it or to use it to one's personal advantage. When selfish people get such opportunities they try to use them for their own personal interests instead of making the best out of them for the cause of preaching. In current times, most of our scholars and saints are generally involved in this despicable practice. When they find someone directing his attention towards them they become very happy, but their happiness is not the happiness of the Prophet Joseph (sws) upon seeing the attention of his companions; it is rather like the happiness of a spider who spins a web around itself to catch flies and when it sees a fly approaching its web, it swells with glee on the prospects of catching a precious prey.
7. Preaching should begin with what is agreed upon and acknowledged. Differences should only gradually be discussed. A preacher should start by presenting facts his addressee does not dispute, which are not alien to him and are in fact the call of his heart. Only once this is done should he proceed to present the corollaries of unanimously acknowledged facts in a gradual manner that the addressees are unconsciously attracted towards things they are not used to and which a preacher wants them to admit. The Prophet (sws) has been directed by the Almighty to follow this principle in the following words:
قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْاْ إِلَى كَلَمَةٍ سَوَاء بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلاَّ نَعْبُدَ إِلاَّ اللّهَ وَلاَ نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلاَ يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضاً أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَقُولُواْ اشْهَدُواْ بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لِمَ تُحَآجُّونَ فِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمَا أُنزِلَتِ التَّورَاةُ وَالإنجِيلُ إِلاَّ مِن بَعْدِهِ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ هَاأَنتُمْ هَؤُلاء حَاجَجْتُمْ فِيمَا لَكُم بِهِ عِلمٌ فَلِمَ تُحَآجُّونَ فِيمَا لَيْسَ لَكُم بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَاللّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ مَا كَانَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ يَهُودِيًّا وَلاَ نَصْرَانِيًّا وَلَكِن كَانَ حَنِيفًا مُّسْلِمًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (٣:
Tell them: "People of the Book, come to what is agreed upon among us: that we will worship none but God, that we will associate none with Him, and that none of us shall regard any one other than God as our Lord." If they turn away, tell them: "Bear witness, then, that we are Muslims." O People of the Book! why do you argue about Abraham when both the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have you no sense? It is you who have argued about things of which you have some knowledge. Why do you now argue about that of which you have no knowledge at all? [In reality] God knows, and you know not. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He was an upright man, one who submitted to God and he was not a polytheist. (3:64-67)
8. If one's addressee instead of responding to the arguments of a preacher through arguments resorts to foul play, then instead of pressing his arguments, a preacher should present his message from another angle so that if his addressee does not accept it then at least he has no way to counter it. The best example of this form of exchange is the encounter of Abraham (sws) with the Pharaoh in which the following dialogue took place:
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِي حَآجَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي رِبِّهِ أَنْ آتَاهُ اللّهُ الْمُلْكَ إِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّيَ الَّذِي يُحْيِـي وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا أُحْيِـي وَأُمِيتُ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ يَأْتِي بِالشَّمْسِ مِنَ الْمَشْرِقِ فَأْتِ بِهَا مِنَ الْمَغْرِبِ فَبُهِتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ وَاللّهُ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ (
Have you not seen the person who argued with Abraham about his Lord merely because God had bestowed sovereignty upon him when Abraham said [to him]: "My Lord is the One who gives life and death." He replied: "I too have this power." Abraham at once remarked: "God brings out the sun from the east; you bring it out from the west." The unbeliever was confounded [at this remark]. And [in reality] God does not guide such evil-doers. (2:258)
Style of Preaching
Thirdly, since the objective of true preaching is not merely to explain the truth, but to explain it in a manner and style that the common man as well as the learned among men have no difficulty in understanding it, a true preacher should always try to present his message in such an effective and natural way that people who have the slightest of potential to understand it, are able to grasp it and it also becomes evident about those who evade it that they cannot be expected to benefit from it. For this very reason, when Moses (sws) was assigned prophethood, he prayed thus:
رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِّن لِّسَانِي يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي وَاجْعَل لِّي وَزِيرًا مِّنْ أَهْلِي هَارُونَ أَخِي اشْدُدْ بِهِ أَزْرِي وَأَشْرِكْهُ فِي أَمْرِي كَيْ نُسَبِّحَكَ كَثِيرًا وَنَذْكُرَكَ كَثِيرًا إِنَّكَ كُنتَ بِنَا بَصِيرًا (٢٠:
"Lord", [said Moses], "open my heart for me, and make my task easy and liberate my tongue from its impediment that men may understand my speech and appoint for me a helper from among my kinsmen, Aaron my brother. Grant me strength through him and make him share my task so that we may give glory to You always and remember You always. You are surely watching over us." (20:25-35)
Thus the preaching of a true preacher should have the following characteristics:
1. His preaching should be free from any ambiguity. About the Qur'an, which is the greatest manual of preaching, the Almighty says:
وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ عَلَى قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍ (٢٦:
And surely this is revealed by the Lord of the Universe with diligence and meticulousness. The faithful spirit has brought it down into your heart that you may give warning in an eloquent Arabic tongue. (26:192-195)
While explaining the style of preaching of the prophets and other righteous people, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, writes:
The style adopted by them is so clear and lucid that their preaching penetrates every section of the society. It is neither too brief and ambiguous nor too lengthy. Similes and metaphors also do not abound in it. It also does not contain very many vague references. The words used are also not uncommon and difficult. The style adopted has nothing ungainly and despicable about it. The language is pure and articulate, the metaphors used are very apt and the similes very effective. Moreover, instead of anger, the style resounds with sincerity and instead of harshness it has softness; the words used are simple and clear; they are not pompous and ostentatious. Dignity and efficacy are the hallmark of their style which is well suited to the objective they intend to accomplish. Furthermore, the nobility of their soul, the earnestness and vigour of their preaching, the faith and confidence their knowledge produces in their addressees and most of all the intense desire to make others understand their message - all this enhances the style of preaching, so much so that it develops into a new style which itself becomes an example and standard for others. The real feature of this style is its attractiveness and its ability to be easily understood. However, besides this, its simplicity and fluency bestows on it such a literary splendor that the works of the literati appear lifeless before it. Every word of their preaching is pleasing for the ears and every sentence nurtures the soul. So profound is its influence that it changes the destinies of nations what to speak of a few individuals. Such is the power it wields for a preacher that armies equipped with weapons are helpless before it.
2. A preacher should not think that he has discharged his duty after merely presenting his message in just one style and manner; he should in fact try to present his message in various styles and ways to the extent that his enemies as well as his followers vouch for the fact that he has done the utmost in this regard:
وَكَذَلِكَ نُصَرِّفُ الآيَاتِ وَلِيَقُولُواْ دَرَسْتَ وَلِنُبَيِّنَهُ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ (١٠٥:٦)
And in this way, We present Our arguments in various ways so that they are left with no excuse to deny them and that they may say: "You have thoroughly recited it out to us" and that We may explain this for those who want to know. (6:105)
3. The discourse of a true preacher should not merely be exemplary in the arguments and reasoning it furnishes, it should also be vibrant with fervor and enthusiasm. Such should be this enthusiasm that his addressees should feel as if he is speaking his heart out to them. The Makkan surahs of the last two groups of the Qur'an are a very good example of this aspect. If one reads them, one can feel the fire and fury which pervades them. It is as if one can hear roars of thunder and the resounding of waves as they strike the shore. This feature emanates in a true preacher out of the strength of his ideology, his conviction and his sympathy and compassion for his addressees. It makes him a person possessed with the mission of communicating as far as he can the fact that people must make themselves ready for the Day of Judgement. It is narrated about the Prophet (sws):
كان رسول الله إذا خطب احمرت عيناه وعلا صوته واشتد غضبه حتى كأنه منذر جيش يقول صبحكم ومساكم (مسلم رقم:
When the Messenger of God would deliver a speech, his eyes would become red, his voice would increase in pitch, his emotions would be stirred so much so that it would seem as if he is trying to inform [people] of the [danger of] an army onslaught. He would say: "It might come upon you in the morning or in the evening." (Muslim, No: 867)
4. Besides this enthusiasm and vivacity and this vigour in presenting arguments, a preacher should never resort to polemical debate which aims to belittle the views of his addressees. If his addressees adopt this attitude, he should ignore them and not worry about the fact that this evasion on his part would be counted as his defeat. He should know that there is so great a difference and contradiction between true preaching and such disparaging debates that they cannot co-exist:
فَلَا يُنَازِعُنَّكَ فِي الْأَمْرِ وَادْعُ إِلَى رَبِّكَ إِنَّكَ لَعَلَى هُدًى مُّسْتَقِيمٍ وَإِن جَادَلُوكَ فَقُلِ اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ اللَّهُ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ (٢٢:
So let them not dispute with you concerning this and you should keep calling them in this way to your Lord. Indeed, you are on the straight path, and if they argue with you, say: "God knows best all that you do. God will decide the matter in which you are differing from one another on the Day of Judgement." (22:67-69)
5. The discourse of a preacher should always strictly adhere to his objective and should be in line with the purpose he wants to achieve. His words should be in harmony with each other and his discourse should be so cohesive and uniform that wherever he is heard it seems that the message that emanates from him is the same everywhere and the objective he eagerly wants to achieve is also the same everywhere. The Qur'an is the best example of such a discourse right from its beginning to its end. Preachers should keep consulting it from this particular angle.
Style of Reasoning
The fourth thing is that besides their style of conversation, true preachers should also try as best as they can to create in their style of reasoning the same characteristics as those of the prophets of Allah. The Almighty has revealed the Qur'an as a masterpiece of literature imbuing it with these characteristics. A simple reading of the Qur'an shows that these characteristics are very apparent throughout its corpus. Following are these characteristics:
Firstly, the prophets never adopt those artificial styles of reasoning which result from the formation of a formal discipline from simple facts of knowledge, and which interest only a few intellectuals who want to play and juggle with words. On the contrary, these prophets base their reasoning on data which is simple, natural and pure, and present them with reference to established facts of common sense in such a vibrant and living manner that it awakens the intellect and mind and rejuvenates dead hearts. It is because of this very natural style of reasoning that every upright person sees that it is the call of his own heart.
Secondly, embedded in the message of the prophets is not mere reasoning but also cues and prompts which are able to create within their addressees the power of reasoning. Thus unlike the syllogism of the logicians they try to focus the attention of their addressees on the sources of their arguments. They would state certain corollaries of these arguments and just give a small hint of the others. In other cases, they would fully explain all the corollaries and leave their obvious consequences to the intellect of their addressees. Such would be the effect of this approach that their addressees would reach these consequences themselves through deliberation and observe the very facts in broad day light which the preacher wanted to take them to. In this manner, they teach and instruct their addressees to discover details themselves from compact expressions, grasp the corollaries and off-shoots of foundational statements, understand part from whole and the implicit from the explicit and the hidden from the apparent. Such is the extent of this training that the addressees find the objective these preachers want to achieve to be already etched in their hearts. They find such radiance from the wisdom and insight imbued by this style of reasoning that every thing within the soul and in the external world becomes absolutely clear to them.
Thirdly, they neither base their arguments on some wrong views of their addressees nor on their irrational notions. On the contrary, the basis of their message rests on such sound arguments that changes in situations and circumstances and in views and ideologies do not effect these arguments. Their arguments are founded on premises about whose veracity they can fully vouch for, and because of this feature this premise is able to validate another truth. It is thus because of this characteristic that their discourse in every period of time and in spite of the changed circumstances is able to influence hearts and successfully conquer minds with the same potency.
Fourthly, they never retaliate with similar objections on the ideology of their addressees which these addressees had raised on them. Since this style of reasoning is totally incorrect and instead of validating the truth is instrumental in making it dubious, it is never adopted by the prophets of Allah. They try to convince their addressees of their message on the merit of its own arguments, and adhere to this approach even if their addressees raise a thousand objections against them.
Fifthly, their reasoning initiates from commonly accepted realities and slowly progresses to what is different between the two. They first try to convince their addressees of what is accepted in this world as established facts in the world around man and that within him, historical realities, certain facts of knowledge and established norms of human nature and common sense about which no upright person has any grounds to reject. Thus, they begin their arguments on these foundations and bring out their own message as corollaries to these foundational and fundamental statements, and in this way gradually familiarize their addressees to the most unknown of things that they imperceptibly accept them and then after accepting them are induced to accept their corollaries also.
Methods of Preaching
The fifth thing is that a preacher should not insist on using just one method of preaching; on the contrary, he should adopt all methods of his times which are useful and effective for presenting views before people with wisdom and sympathy. A history of the prophets shows that they always took into consideration the circumstances in this regard. When people were not conversant with reading and writing, the prophets of Allah adopted the method of verbally presenting their message, and this message was transferred as oral traditions to their people generation after generation. In those times, preaching was confined to personal contacts, oral presentation and adopting various means so that the message is etched in the minds of the addressees. However, once writing became a formal discipline, the prophets of God used the written word also for this purpose. The Torah, the Psalms, the Bible and the Qur'an were revealed in those times.
Similarly, the prophets of God fully used to their advantage all means of interaction and discussion as well those which were needed to solve collective issues if these means were morally and religiously correct. Muhammad (sws) called his family members to a dinner and presented his message before them. He also presented his message from the hillock of Safa, as per the tradition of his people. He went himself to meet the chiefs of Makkah and Ta'if. In the time of hajj, he presented his message to the chiefs of various tribes. He also sent his envoys to certain important people and created opportunities to present his message in the various markets and souks of the Arabs. He also wrote letters to various people for this purpose. In short, he adopted all the ways that were available to him in those times in Arabia to present his message.
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
In certain religious circles, God knows from where this notion has emerged that the prophetic and standard way of preaching is that a preacher should get hold of a staff and some nuts and embark upon preaching; neither should he cover his head nor wear shoes; he should roam about in various villages and wherever he finds someone he should start preaching to him whether or not he is interested to hear him; if he sees a couple of people standing in some place he should stop and commence his speech; if he sees people in a group whether in a train or in a market place or on roadsides his sermon should begin; he should barge into every gathering and forum; his addressees may get tired of hearing him but he would not get tired of talking to them; people might get weary of his zeal in pursuing them but he, on the other hand, would continue to be at their heals like a divinely appointed sentinel. People might start hiding from him for fear of his discussion, and at times because of distress may become insolent and rude but he continues with his ways with the same devotion and commitment. When he is requested for a sermon, he delivers it, when he is asked to read the milad, he readily obliges and when he is faced with people of adverse views, he plunges into debate with them. This then is the true picture of a preacher and his preaching as imagined by most religious people. It is possible that these people would not outright reject the fact that the developed and scientific means of education and preaching currently available have some advantages, however the real way of preaching which would earn the blessings of God is the one we have referred to above and which according to them was adopted by the prophets of God.
In my opinion, regarding this way of preaching to be that of the prophets is partly owing to a scarce understanding of the way they actually preached and partly because of the desire of the religious people that the way they have adopted themselves - apart from which they have no ability to adopt any other - should be regarded as sacred. As far as I have studied the methodology of preaching of the prophets, I have come to the conclusion that the ways which they have adopted in their preaching were the most developed ones of their times, and with the change of circumstances and evolution in civilization and society these ways also changed which is a proof of the fact that insisting on a particular way of preaching is not correct; true preachers should in fact make full use of the ways that their circumstances and times afford them and adopting which they can better make use of their abilities and skills.
In this regard, certain things should be kept in consideration:
Firstly, immoral and unethical methods should not be adopted whatsoever in preaching. If this immorality exists in some method or means, then these methods should only be resorted to once the immorality is cleansed from it. Consequently, when the Prophet (sws) called upon his people from the top of the Safa hillock, he did adopt the very method of nadhir 'uryan (naked warner) that was in currency yet he never took off his clothes the way warners in those times did.
Secondly, methods which damage the honour of preaching or that of the preacher should also not be adopted. When at one instance such a situation arose in the preaching endeavour of the Prophet (sws), the Almighty said:
أَمَّا مَنْ اسْتَغْنَى فَأَنْتَ لَهُ تَصَدَّى وَمَا عَلَيْكَ أَلَّا يَزَّكَّى وَأَمَّا مَنْ جَاءَكَ يَسْعَى وَهُوَ يَخْشَى فَأَنْتَ عَنْهُ تَلَهَّى كَلَّا إِنَّهَا تَذْكِرَةٌ فَمَنْ شَاءَ ذَكَرَهُ فِي صُحُفٍ مُكَرَّمَةٍ مَرْفُوعَةٍ مُطَهَّرَة ٍبِأَيْدِي سَفَرَةٍ كِرَامٍ بَرَرَةٍ (٨٠ :
He who shows indifference, you go after him even though you are not responsible if he is not reformed; and he who comes to you with zeal and also fears [Allah], you neglect him. Certainly not! this is but a reminder so whoever wishes, can be reminded through it [set down] in honoured pages, exalted and untouched, in the custody of scribes, honourable and faithful. (80:5-16)
Thirdly, those methods of preaching should not be adopted which damage the objective of preaching and instead of being conducive for people make them even more averse to it. One prominent example of this are the polemical speeches and debates which are arranged by our religious circles in the same way as duels are arranged between wrestlers even though the Qur'an has directed us in the following words about this issue:
وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَأُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَإِلَهُنَا وَإِلَهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ (٤٦:٢٩)
And do not argue with the People of the Book but in a befitting manner except with those among them who do evil, and say: "We profess belief in that which has been revealed to us and which was revealed to you and Our God and your God is one and to Him we submit." (29:46)