Calling to Allah – The Virtues and Forms of Dawah
by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan
This is the ninth part of a series of articles that are based on al-Fawa’id al-Mukhtarah, one of the seminal works of the great scholar al-Habib Zayn bin Sumayt. The book focuses on a range of topics relevant to daily life and modern challenges for Muslims living in the West. This article is a summary of the ninth episode of the podcast The Masters and Millennials by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan.
In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
What should a believer know about calling to Allah, or dawah, in Islam? Many of us will recognize that talking about Islam with those outside the faith is dawah, and we might recognize that giving Islamic lectures, reminding many Muslims about Islam, is also a form of dawah. We will also know that giving dawah is clearly a good deed, but in this article, we would like to remind ourselves of the great virtues dawah has and of the many forms dawah actually takes so that we would be encouraged and empowered to give dawah in our daily lives and get closer to Allah.
Virtues of Dawah
There are various prophetic traditions and statements from the scholars that speak to the virtues of calling others to Allah and that single out dawah as a weighty deed that a believer should strive to engage in.
The greatest charity
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said the greatest form of charity is when a believer who has studied and received sacred knowledge conveys this knowledge to his Muslim brother.
Better than much wealth that people collect
When the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) sent Mu‘adh ibn Jabal to Yemen, he told him that Allah guiding one disbeliever to Islam through him is better than receiving a large number of red camels (the equivalent to a fleet of red ferraris today).
Dawah brings happiness to the heart of the Prophet
Habib ‘Ali al-Habshi said there is nothing that brings more happiness to the heart of the Prophet than spreading knowledge and acting on it. He also said, “indeed, calling to Allah is the strongest foundation that connects one to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace).”
The Prophet is proud of those calling to Allah
Habib Ahmad al-‘Attas spoke about a scholar from Madinah, Shaykh ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abd al-Baqi, who often met the Prophet. Whenever the scholar met people from Hadramawt he would ask whether they knew Habib Ahmad bin ‘Umar bin Sumayt. They asked him why he was so interested in this man. He said that whenever he met the Prophet he heard him praising this man, and he wanted to know what he does that makes the Prophet so proud of him. They said he calls people to Allah every day.
Forms of Dawah
Dawah takes many shapes and forms. Teaching is one form, but perhaps the most effective means of giving dawah is our state – our interactions, our smile, our giving support. The scholar Habib Umar would often say, “the dawah of one’s state (ḥāl) is more effective than the dawah that comes out of one’s mouth (lisān).” For this reason, we should not imagine dawah to be something we cannot engage in in daily life. We are always having interactions with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others. These are opportunities for us to present how Islam is lived and the good example Islam teaches.
Dawah is also in our homes
Dawah is also not an outside-the-home-only activity. It is also very important to call our families to Allah, and to do so with wisdom without looking down on anyone. One way of giving dawah to one’s family is to pray in congregation with them. Another is to teach our family. Sayyid al-Habib ‘Umar spends two hours every day teaching his own children. He also teaches his grandchildren.
We should also try to do good deeds together in the home. For instance, we can recite the Qur’an together; we can recite the Wird al-Latif together; we can recite the Ratib al-Haddad together. Doing things of this nature strengthens family ties so that when things return to normal after this pandemic we will have brought our families closer together, and we will have established practices like reading the Qur’an together.
Dawah during the COVID-19 lockdown
The question for us during this time of lockdown is how to call people to Allah most effectively. There are many online classes. We can benefit from these classes and encourage others to follow them. For those who have some knowledge, we should not see this as an opportunity to start teaching online classes ourselves; rather, it would be better for us to encourage others to join our teachers’ classes.
Another question is how, as Muslims, we can be of benefit and give dawah to others? It is narrated that the practice of the ‘Asharis, an Arab tribe, was that when their provisions ran short with some having very little and others having nothing at all, they would collect all the provisions and distribute them amongst themselves so that everyone’s needs could be fulfilled. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said that “the ‘Asharis are from me and I am from them.” He used the same language about his grandson Sayyidina Hussain, saying “Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain”. The Prophet’s use of the same language indicates how moved he was by the ‘Asharis showing care for the less fortunate. In a similar way, Muslims can be a means of support to those around us who are struggling in this time of lockdown, and this will be a means of giving dawah.
Al-Habib Zayn bin Sumayt is a member of the Prophet’s family. His lineage goes through many pious forebears, such as al-Faqīh al-Muqqadam and al-Imām Aḥmad bin ʻIsa al-Muhājir, through Sayyidina Ḥusayn to the Prophet Muḥammad. He is an authority on Shāfi’i fiqh and taṣawwuf. From a young age, he sat in the company of the pious and studied with various scholars and institutes. His most senior teacher was Ḥabīb ‘Alawi bin ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Aydarūs bin Shihāb. He was also taught by Ḥabīb Ja‘far bin Aḥmad al-‘Aydarūs and Ḥabīb Muḥammad bin Sālim bin Ḥafīẓ. Ḥabīb Zayn taught the Islamic sciences in Bayḍa’ for thirty years. Thereafter he moved to Madīnah and opened a ribāṭ that attracted many students before it was forced to close. He was very attached to his wife, as our beloved Prophet was to Sayyidah Khadījah (Allah be pleased with her), and was saddened when she passed away a few years ago.