Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Dawah work has been termed in the Quran ‘the call to God.’ In other words, dawah work aims at bringing people closer to their Creator and Sustainer. Calling people to God is telling them that the only right way of life for them on this earth is to become true believers in God.

Man has only two ways of leading his life in this world: the self-oriented and the God- oriented. The self-oriented life is one in which all activities centre on oneself. Such a life is lead according to man’s own thinking. He follows his own whims and desires. To him the fulfillment of personal interests and ambitions is the standard by which to measure human success.

On the other hand, the God-oriented life is one in which man considers himself subservient to God. He moulds his feelings and emotions according to God’s commands. To such a person a successful life is one in which one lives and dies in accordance with God’s pleasure.

On the contrary, the self-oriented way of life engenders such feelings as pride, jealousy, malice and egoism. Man comes to think that truth is what he believes and falsehood is what he rejects.

However, the case of the God-oriented life is completely the opposite, in that it promotes an awakening of such feelings as the willingness to serve, devotion, humility, gratitude and accountability. If in the first case, man becomes a self-worshipper, in the other, he becomes a God-worshipper.

Calling people to God means warning man of the evil consequences of the self-oriented life, and therefore, inviting him to adopt the God-oriented life. The most authentic and reliable source of knowledge of the divine teachings on both types of life has been preserved for us in the form of the Quran. Calling people to God is purely other- worldly in nature. That is, it is in no way directly associated with national, social or economic issues. It is a campaign to call people to God. It starts in the spiritual and religious idiom and goes on in the same idiom and style till the end.

The mission of calling people to God is, in essence, a divine task, which is performed by human beings. It is important that it should be performed in a spiritual way. Any work done in a non-spiritual way will not be a genuine call to God, even if it is done in His name.

Calling people to God aims at directing their attention neither to politics nor to national issues. It is unequivocally the task of making people focus on God and must, therefore, be performed in the correct spirit.

What does ‘calling people to God’ mean? Primarily, its purpose is to acquaint man with the creation plan of God. He should be told what his relationship with God is, and how God is going to deal with him in future. In other words, this is like introducing man to God. Its objective is to awaken man from his slumber, cause him to realize his servitude and incline him to turn towards God.

The target of this work is man’s realization of God. He should discover his powerlessness in comparison with God’s immense power. He should ‘see’ God before the veil of the unseen is removed. Before being directly confronted with Him, he should have the experience of realizing God indirectly.

The purpose of dawah work or ‘calling people to God’ is to awaken souls from their slumber. It is to put a lost person on to the right path leading towards God. It is to awaken man’s insight so that he begins to see glimpses of God in the signs of the vast universe. It is to unveil the Creator in the mirror of His creation.

Dawah or ‘calling people to God’ is to make man capable of bonding directly with  his Lord, so that he starts receiving God’s blessings on a spiritual level. It is thus that his heart and mind will become illuminated by God’s light. His entire being will be bathed in the shower of God’s blessings.

The aim of calling man to God is that, while still living in the world, he may become an inhabitant of the hereafter. He will thus discover God’s greatness in the greatness of the world. He will start experiencing heavenly blessings in worldly comforts, while worldly hardships will remind him of the torment of hell fire.

He will be able to see glimpses of the realities of the hereafter in the beautiful scenes of the world of nature. This is the true aim of dawah, and the preparation of such individuals is the true measure of the da’i’s  success. It is said in the Quran   that God created man in ‘the best mould’ and then ‘cast him down to the lowest of the low.’1 The process of dawah is to bring the individual back to his original state, to help him to gain entry into Paradise once again and to bring him under the protection of the Lord’s blessings.

The example of a man who is away from God is like a fish which has been taken out of water and thrown in the desert. Such a fish, completely out of its element, will soon face extinction. The best way to help it is to return it to water again.

In the same way, man is also an inhabitant of Paradise. He has a tremendous urge to find an unknown ideal. Every man is running after this unknown ideal. Over and over again, he leaps towards some worldly success or the other. He hopes that this    is probably that unknown ideal for which he has been striving all along, but without any success. Finally he leaves the world without having found his ideal.

This is the place where a da‘i (the one who calls people to God) has to perform his task of dawah, that is, to tell man that the ideal for which he has been searching for is none other than Almighty God and His Paradise. It is God alone who can enable him to find his ideal and it is only by his finding God that this can happen. It is only after reaching Paradise that man will be filled with bliss, as he will find there the world for which he has been striving all along.

In this way, every man is the target of a da‘i (the one who calls people to God). A da‘i has to reach out to every individual. He has to remove the veil from every eye. In other words, if the world has a population of about 7 billion, the da‘i has the same number of tasks to perform. He has to strive to make all the people reach their heavenly abode. The name of this guide of humanity is da‘i —the one who calls people to God.

A da‘i is like a beacon standing by the roadside as a divine guide for the wandering caravan of humanity.

The Quran says: ‘O people! Worship God and save yourself from Satan’2. In a later chapter, it records the words of the Prophet: ‘O people! Run towards God. I am on His behalf an open warner for you’3. This is the real point of calling people to God. All the prophets warned their people about the necessity to seek out God and to shun Satan. In later generations, it will be the task of the da‘is to make people aware of this reality.

In this world man stands in between two calls: one is God’s call and the other is Satan’s. God is the source of all goodness, and He calls people towards all that is good. On the contrary, Satan is the source of all evil, and he calls people towards all that is evil. The test of man is that he should not fall a prey to Satan’s illusion: he should rather leave Satan and run towards God.

God is the source of all virtues. He loves justice, mercy, truthfulness, honesty and sincerity. God wants man to adhere to all such virtues, casting himself in their mould.

On the contrary, Satan is the antithesis of all that is good. He is the very incarnation of all that is evil and he wants to draw man towards evil things. Satan kindles in man evil feelings and sentiments. He rouses   in him dormant feelings such as jealousy, egoism, anger, vengefulness, pride, selfishness and ungratefulness. In this way Satan suppresses the human qualities in an individual and inflames and aggravates the animal nature in him, so that man becomes like a devil.

In the present world man stands in between these two demands. Every man is standing on the edge of an inner battle. On the one side lies the conscience which pulls him towards God. On the other side there is his ego, which pushes him towards Satan. His conscience represents God, while his ego represents Satan.

The role of a da‘i is to warn man of this reality. He should bring about an intellectual awakening in  man  so  that he  may,  in recognizing these two demands, be able to control his ego and strengthen the subtle voice of his conscience. Avoiding Satan’s temptations, he becomes the traveller on God’s path, which will take him to Paradise. This task of dawah is the most important mission out of all the works going on on the face of this earth. This was the mission of the prophets. Those who will take up this mission will be given a very special reward.

Chapter 7 of the Quran mentions ‘the people of the Heights.’ These people will be made to stand on raised platforms on the Day of Judgement. They will announce God’s judgement to the people of Paradise and to the people of Hell. This reads as follows:

A barrier will divide the two groups, and on the Heights there will be men who will recognize each group by their marks, and they will call out to the people of the Garden, ‘Peace be with you!’—they will not have entered, but they will be hoping (to do so). When they turn their eyes towards the People of the Fire, they will say: ‘Our Lord, do not include us with the wrongdoers!’ And the people of the Heights will call out to men they recognize by their marks: ‘What use have been your great numbers and your false pride? And are these the people you swore would never earn God’s mercy?’ (And again turning to the blessed, they will say:) ‘Enter the Garden! You have nothing to fear, nor shall you grieve.’4

According to al-Qurtubi, ‘the people of the Heights’ in this verse refers to   shuhada’.5

That is, those special servants of God who, in the service of the religion of God, were witness to the deeds of the nations of the world. Some accepted their call, while others rejected it. These preachers of the divine message have been mentioned in the Quran in many different terms such as ‘warner’, ‘bearer of glad tidings’, ‘the caller’, etc. This group, originally formed of the prophets, was later made up of those special servants of God who followed the example of the prophets and performed dawah for the people of their times.

The Final Judgement on human beings, which is going to take place in the hereafter, will be based on the task performed by the witnesses (shahadah) for the people of the world. This task of witness divides the people of the world into two groups: one which accepts this message and the other which rejects it On the Day of Judgement these two opposing groups will be separated from each other. Then according to their deeds, they will be judged and will be destined to two different sets of consequences.

Though this judgement will be entirely God’s judgement, the announcement of it will be made by those special servants of God who had undertaken the task of dawah (call) and shahadah (witness). This will be a matter of a great honour to them. On the Day of Judgement, high platforms will be raised for ‘the people of the Heights’ to stand on. From there they will be able to see everyone, and will pronounce God’s judgement to the people  The shuhada’ (those who bore witness to people) and the du‘at (those who called people to the truth), strove very hard in the world to convey the message of God to people. They dedicated their entire lives to this mission, as if it were their own personal work. For this reason, they will be honoured on the Day of Judgement by being asked to announce the final result of the call of truth to the people. They ranked high in the world according to their mission, and they will be referred to as such on the Day of Judgement, according to the result of their actions.

According to the Quran, after believing in God, a man is required in practical life to carry out a two-fold task. One is ita‘at-e- khuda and the other is nusrat-e-khuda. Ita‘at-e-khuda means man’s obedience to all the commandments given by God  through His revelations to the Prophet, and his refraining from all such acts as have been forbidden by God in His Book or through His Prophet.

Nusrat-e-khuda means ‘helping God’. This is an exceptional honour which is granted only to a true believer. It is the same precept which is mentioned in the Quran as dawat ilallah, or calling people to God. Since it is a task which is seen as desirable by God Himself and is performed by servants of God, it is therefore called ‘helping God’.

The believer must of his own accord follow the commands of God relating to worship, morality and dealing justly with people. With this the believer proves his servitude and becomes eligible for God’s rewards. But the case of dawah is different. According to the Quran, it is performed so that mankind may have no excuse or argument against God6. Due to the exigency of putting man to the test, God wants this work to be given special priority. This is a divine mission which is carried out by men, on behalf of God, and they are, therefore, rewarded for it by God in the hereafter. Here are some verses from the Quran to underline this point:

Believers, be God’s helpers. When Jesus, son of Mary, said to the disciples: ‘Who will come with me to the help of God?’ The disciples replied: ‘We shall be God’s helpers.’ Some of the Children of Israel believed in him while others did not. We supported the believers against their enemies and they triumphed over them.7

What is the meaning of helping God or being the helpers of God in this verse? It means giving oneself wholeheartedly to the divine dawah mission. It means joining oneself with the divine plan whole-heartedly in both word and deed so that mankind might have no argument against God on the Day of Judgement.

The noted commentator of the Quran, Ibn Kathir, explained it in thus: ‘Who will help me in the tak of calling people to God?’ The followers of Jesus replied: “We are your helpers in the mission with which you have been sent forth, and we will be your helpers in this mission.” For this reason Jesus sent them to Syria to the Israelites and the Romans. In the same way the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, used to go to people during the Hajj season and he would ask: “Who among you will help me so that I may convey the message of God to people, because the Quraysh are stopping me from conveying to people the message of God?”’8

The Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, was undoubtedly the messenger of God to the whole of humanity. But he lived in this world for a limited period of time and now the question arises as to how, after the Prophet’s death, the prophetic responsibility had to be discharged. In his lifetime the Prophet performed this duty directly. After he had gone, this mission had to be carried forward indirectly by his followers, the Muslim ummah. It is incumbent upon the Prophet’s followers to carry out this mission from one generation to the next and, in presenting the message of Islam to people of every age and time, bring people closer to God. This message of truth will remain preserved till the Last Day.

This issue can be further explained by a hadith, or saying of the Prophet, which Ibn Hisham has quoted in his biography of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him. In this saying, the Prophet mentions Jesus as well as himself. Ibn Hisham puts it thus on record: ‘It has been narrated to me that the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, came to his Companions after the Peace Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and said: ‘O people, I have been sent as a blessing for the whole of humanity. So do not differ with me in the way the disciples of Jesus differed with him.’ The Companions asked: ‘O Prophet of God, how did the disciples of Jesus differ with him?’ The Prophet replied: ‘Jesus called his disciples to the     mission for which I am calling you. Those disciples whom Jesus had asked to go to a nearby place made preparations for it. But those whom Jesus asked to go to a distant place became unhappy and refused to go. Afterwards, Jesus complained of this to God, so those who were not ready to go because of not knowing the language of that area, miraculously started speaking the language of the people to whom Jesus had asked them to go. Subsequently, the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, sent his Companions to different kings and rulers with his message.’

Ibn Ishaq (the Prophet’s earliest biographer) said that when the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) came to the Companions and reminded them of the dawah work, he said: ‘God has sent me to the entire world as a blessing, so  you should carry out    this responsibility on my behalf. God will show His mercy to you.’9

There could be no greater honour under the sun than to be engaged in a mission which is directly God’s own mission. It is like working on behalf of God Almighty. It is indeed such a great honour that a greater honour than this one seems impossible.

God is Almighty and All-Powerful. He has the immense power to carry out all work, whether seen or unseen. If He had wanted, He could have given speech even to rocks and stones in order to spread His divine message. He could have given a tongue to every leaf of every tree so that it could proclaim the message of God. But this is not the way of God. From among all His creatures, God wants only human beings to spread His message, and He wants them to do so without removing the veil of doubt, in order that human wisdom should effectively be put to the test.

Dawah, which in the Quran is called ‘warning and giving glad tidings’, is directly the mission of God. So that men might have no argument with God, this task was passed on to the people themselves. Moreover, the testing of humankind, if it is to be deemed both effective and valid, should not be done by means of some miracle, but should rather be performed by human agency. That is why God wants this divine work to be performed only by human beings.

This exigency has opened up the opportunity for man to perform this great divine task. Those who come forward to carry out this divine mission of dawah will receive special succour in this life and will be held deserving of great honour in the life hereafter.

When a believer says his prayers, he understands that he is declaring his humility before God. On the other hand, when he performs dawah, he feels as if he is actually performing a task of none other than God Himself. There could not be a more thrilling experience for a believer than to feel that he is engaged in God’s own work, that he is implementing his Lord’s plan.

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QURANIC VERSES95:4-516:3651:507:46-494:16561:14
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