Characteristics of a Da'i
All praise is to Allah and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Allah says in the Quran, "And who is better in speech than he who invites to Allah 's deen and does righteous deeds, and says: 'I am one of the Muslims'"(41-33).
The person who calls people to Allah, to Islam, is a da'i and is doing an act that is indeed very honorable in the sight of Allah. However, there is a certain methodology that a person has to abide by before engaging in true dawah (calling to Islam). Some people blindly throw themselves into dawah, in the process sometimes sanctioning things that fall into what the Prophet warned, "I have left you upon clear proof, its night is just like its day, no one deviates from it after me except the one who is destroyed, ...so stick to what you know from my Sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs cling to that with your molar teeth..." (Ahmed, Ibn Majah, al-Haakim).
The rewards for dawah with the correct intention and with the correct methodology are innumerable. The Prophet once advised Ali that if Allah guided one person through him that would be better than the best of wealths (Agreed u pon). In another narration, the Prophet said that whoever guides another to a good deed will be rewarded equally for the other person's performance of it and that even the ant blesses the person who teaches knowledge (Muslim).
Ibn Umar said that the Prophet said: "For every action there is a period of enthusiasm/activity and for every period of enthusiasm/activity there is a period of rest/inactivity. So he whose period of rest/inactivity is in accordance with my Sunnah then he is rightly g uided, but he whose period of rest accords with other than this, then he is destroyed (Ahmed).
All beginnings are hard the difficulty varying from person to person. When a Muslim truly turns his face to Allah calling to Allah then he will begin strongly since he wishes to see Islam spread to every house. However, after the initial activity the person will tend to slow down. If he still keeps to the Sunnah, then insha-Allah he has been guided aright. However, if he does not, then he has fallen onto the misguided path as it is likely that his initial enthusiasm was due to wrong intentions.
Also, one has to keep in mind the essence of dawah. The main reason for dawah should be to order good and forbid evil (al-amr bil maruf wa nahyinil al-munkar). As the Prophet said, " There was not a prophet sent to a people before me except that he had helpers and companions who took hold of the sunnah and followed his orders, then after them came those who said that which they did not do, and did what they were not ordered to do. So whoever strives against them with his hand is a believer, whoever strives against them with his tongue is a believer, and whoever strives against them with his heart is a believer, and there is not beyond that a mustard seed of faith" (Muslim).
Ordering good and forbidding evil is according to one's ability and power. In doing so he should not abandon the characteristics that a da'i should possess, insha-Allah:
1) Gentleness and kindness
Allah mentions in the Quran with respect to the Prophet, "And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them kindly. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have certainly broken away from you..." (3-159).
Thus, even the Prophet the best of mankind, the best of da'is would have failed, as Allah has told us, without being kind and gentle. Allah commands the believers in another place in the Quran to invite people with wisdom and fair exhortation (16-125).
The Prop het once said to Aisha, "O Aisha! Indeed Allah is kind and loves kindness and gives due to kindness what he does not give due to harshness and what he does not give due to other than it" (Muslim).
This has two parts. First is honesty with respect to one's deeds. People judge Muslims by looking at their actions and not by Islam itself. Hence, a Muslim has to practice his own deen to be an honest example of his preaching. Here one should remember the Prophet's wo rds as narrated by Anas ibn Malik, "When I was taken on the Night Journey I saw some men whose lips were being cut with scissors of fire, so I asked, 'Who are they O Jibreel?' He replied, 'the preachers from the Ummah who order the people to do good, but leave it themselves, whilst they recite the Book will they not understand?" (Ibn Hibban).
Second is honest with respect to speech. A Muslim has to present Islam is the best of manners as the ayat quoted above (16-125) tells us. However, he should not lie upon Islam as how can he lie and yet think that he is doing good dawah. As Allah says in the Quran, " Who does more wrong than such a forge a lie against Allah, or deny His signs? But never will they prosper those who sin..."(10-313).
Many ignorant people, in the name of dawah, are incessantly falling into this trap of shaytan. Like those amongst the Muslims, who try to spread 'Islamic goodwill' by saying that the 'good' Jews and Christians will go to heave n. What could be farther from the truth? As Allah refutes such people in the Quran, "And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him and in the Hereafter, he will be one of the losers" (3-85).
3) Possessing knowledge
Allah commands the Prophet to say, "This is my way; I invite unto Allah with sure knowledge..." (12-108).
The two main signposts for the way of the da'i are the Quran and Sunnah as the Prophet said, " O people I have left among you that which if you cling onto, you will never go astray: The Quran and my Sunnah" (Al-Haakim, Baihaqee).
The Prophet also said, "It is sufficient falsehood for a person that he narrates everything that he hears" (Muslim). The da'i has to be careful and knowledgeable of everything he says, hears and reads. It is an obligation upon him to check the sources and references of what he hears, since lying upon Allah (as alluded to before) and/or the Prophet is from among the great sins.
Also, one has to be careful about presenting too many rationale arguments as each rationale argument might bring about an equally rationale reply. However, if arguments are rooted firmly in La-illah illa Allah, then no one can defeat them as they will be based upon the ultimate truth.
A da'i may have undergo many hardships and trials. Allah comforted the Prophet in the Quran that he (the Prophet) "would kill [himself]... in grief over their footsteps [for their turning away from him], because they believe no in this narration [the Quran]" (18-6).
The Prophet described in a long hadith the trials faced by a believer who was buried in a hole, and then his head sawn into half, his body torn with iron combs, yet he would not give up his religion (Bukhari).
Hence, a da'i has to always keep in mind that guidance ultimately comes from Allah, and that his duty is to merely pass on the message of truth.
5) Desire to see people embrace Allah's guidance
Every kaffir out there is a potential Muslim. This is the crux of dawah an absolutely necessary ingredient of the thought process of a da'i. Only with such enthusiasm and love for the deen of Allah, can a da'i achieve any reasonable success. The ayat quoted above shows the extreme love that the Prophet possessed for seeing people become Muslims so much so that without Allah's guidance and support, he would even kill himself in the grief of the kuffars not turning to Islam.
What better lesson than this can we take? The example of the best of humankind in the best of books and guidance.
Keeping all the above rules in mind, one should not forget the ultimate goal of a Muslim's life, "Indeed he succeeds who purifies his ownself" (91-9).
Also, one should not be overbearing in dawah that he causes more harm than benefit. As the Prophet said, " Give glad tidings and do not cause [people] to flee; make things easy and do not make things difficult" (Muslim).
Finally, the goal of a da'i should not be to concentrate on gaining quantity but rather to gain quality. As the Prophet said in a hadith, "[the believers] will be numerous! But [they] will be like the froth/scum like the froth/scum carried by the torrent..." (Abu Dawood). This is a clear indication of the uselessness of large numbers without strength and true belief. In retrospect, large numbers can cause harm if they do not possess knowledge and understanding of the deen.
May Allah forgive me if I made any mistakes and may Allah make all of us better Muslims first and better da'is next. Ameen
Compiled and edited from "The Call to Islam and the Caller" by Shaikh Ali Hasan and a lecture by Shaikh Jamal-uddin Zarabozo.