MUHAMMAD IQBAL MULLA, former Zonal President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Karnataka, is now Assistant Secretary-General of the organisation. In an interview withZILLUR RAHMAN HAIDER, he sheds light on the various aspects of Dawah, particularly in the Indian context. Excerpts:
You are working for Dawah for so many years in India. Please tell us about your target group?
The population of India, which is more than hundred crores, is our target group to whom we have to reach with the message of Islam. Dawah is for all humanity and in India it is for all population without discrimination of caste, class, creed, religion, region, etc. In the past the people of India had been introduced with the message of Islam regularly and from time to time and the history of India is full of Dawah work; we only want to rejuvenate the Dawah process. Dawah is for everyone, particularly for the weaker section of society and for women, who are facing a lot of problems in the present scenario.
What is the meaning of Dawah?
The actual meaning of Dawah is inviting people to something. In Islamic terminology it is calling people to worship only one God and introducing Islam as the religion for all humanity. Dawah also includes belief in the oneness of God and calling people for goodness and prohibiting them from wrong doings.
What is the importance of Dawah?
The importance of Dawah can be observed in the Prophetic tradition. Both the Qur’ān and the Prophet’s sayings are full of emphasis on Dawah. You can imagine the importance of Dawah with the fact that during the last 23 years of his life since his appointment as Prophet, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) never ignored the work of Dawah even for a single moment.
Once a caravan came to Madina and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) came to know that there was a caravan staying outside the city of Madina while he was suffering from fever and was very tired. His revered wife Khadijah advised him to meet the caravan the next day. But the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said, ‘The caravan may go very early in the morning or I may die before preaching Islam to them.’
So, when Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) gave so much importance to Dawah throughout his life, we should understand the importance of Dawah.
Likewise, many companions of the Prophet travelled to different continents such as Africa, Europe and Asia for Dawah cause in spite of being the citizens of Makkah and Madina, where the reward is greater for offering Salat in Masjid Al-Haram and Masjid Al-Nabavi.
Do you think Indian situation is similar to Makki time of the Prophet as far as inviting people to Islam is concerned?
When we talk about Dawah, we cannot fully compare the Indian situation today with the early time of Makkah, but there are some common conditions of India which are similar to that trying time of Islam in Makkah. We consider that today in India, it is the primary stage for Dawah, although, earlier, before independence and after independence, some efforts have been made for Dawah.
There are also some other similarities; shirk (polytheism, idolatry) was the main feature of the Makkah society and it is also the main feature of the Indian society. Exploitation in the name of then prevailing slavery system, and discrimination on the basis of Arab, non-Arab, black and white was there in Makkah and it also exists in today’s India as we see caste system is very much severe and exploitation and discrimination is there in our society.
What do you mean by Itmam-e-Hujjat?
Itmam-e-Hujjat is very important from Dawah point of view. If the members of your target group are not accepting Islam even after it is made very clear to them that Islam is the only way of salvation, it is termed as Itmam-e-Hujjat that you have completely conveyed the message of Islam to your target audience, and it has been proved that Islam is the only religion in the eyes of God. Other revealed religions have been strayed from the right path and all non-revealed religions are self-made by human beings. It should also be cleared that Islam came for all humanity and real success in this world and here after is possible only in following Islam.
Other angle of Itmam-e-Hujjat is that no one could say before God on the Day of Judgement that no one has conveyed God’s message to him or that he could not get any opportunity to understand Islam.
What were the approaches of Prophet Muhammad to invite people to Islam?
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) used all possible ways to disseminate the message of Islam into the society and he conveyed the revelation of God to the people, refraining himself from all irrelevant things. He conveyed the message by making public announcement from the top of the mountain.
He used the group as well as inter-personal communication to generalise the message of Islam into the public. He met individually with so many leaders of the community in this regard. He also used the method of letter writing which was latest method at that time. He wrote hundreds of letters to different leaders and rulers of the time. Many letters are preserved till today.
We can change letter writing of that time to internet mailing system of today as a means of Dawah. All these methods had been used by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) to convey the message of Islam.
When the Prophet called people to Islam, the society was very simple and homogenous in nature. But today the societies are very complex and very heterogeneous. Then how would you tackle such situation?
In Makkah we can say that the people were very simple because they were living in tribes but in Madina you will see that they were living in tribes as well as civilised life. Actually Madina was a plural society as it was a multi-religious multi-lingual multi-racial and multi-cultural society. In Madina you will see the presence of Jews and Christians with the dominating population of idol worshippers. So, we say that Madina was also a plural society, complexity and heterogeneity was the feature of Madina. The fact is that Islam and the Qur’ān interact with the whole universe, particularly with all human beings. But we can say that Madina was a plural society as India is today. The audience of Islam is human beings whether they live in tribes or in civilised metropolitan cities. Our target is to disseminate the knowledge of Islam to them without any discrimination.
What questions are asked when you invite people to Islam?
Today our non-Muslim brethren have been misled about Islam and Muslims. There are many factors behind it but I have seen that whenever the right information about Islam is been given to them, they show respect for Islam and try to understand it. And they accept the argument about Islam and never insist on wrong facts.
There are some questions which are common and are generally raised by our non-Muslim brethren. These are regarding divorce particularly on the cruelty of triple divorce in one stretch which separates spouses for the life time. They ask about the existence of aggression and terror within the Muslim community due to the concept of Jihad. They question why Islam allows only male to keep four wives at a single time. They also ask why Muslims are educationally backward, why there is too much disorder in the Muslim community, etc.
What are the problems the new Muslims have to face?
Really the situation becomes difficult for new Muslims when they accept Islam. The first problem is how to get them acquainted with basic Islamic knowledge. There are some other problems also such as legal problem, problem in continuing education, and problem of employment, and some are social and family problems. But they bear all these for the sake of Allah’s pleasure.
What are the consequences when Muslims do not call people to Islam?
If Islamic Dawah is not undertaken in the world and particularly in this country then the existing problems of the world and this country will increase and not only Muslims but every community will face dire consequences of hiding the truth.
If you do not invite people to the right cause then you will be invited by some other individuals and groups. Calling people to God is a great job, and the Qur’ān has termed it as helping God. The Qur’ān says ya ayyuhal lazina a’amanu in tansurullaha yansurukum wa yusabbit aqdamakum.
Is Dawah obligatory for every Muslim?
In present circumstances it can be said with determination that Dawah is obligatory for every Muslim. Every Muslim should follow Islam practically and propagate it. It should be clear to every Muslim that Dawah is not alms for or gratitude to non-Muslims. It is the responsibility of Muslims to stop their fellows from being punished by God.
The purpose of Dawah should be the fear of God and to bring people onto the right path, not to increase the number of Muslims in a country or to get some political and socio-economic benefits.
What are the characteristics of a Daee in the light of the Qur’ān?
There are many characteristics of a Daee which have been addressed in the Qur’ān, and the whole life of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) is the practical precedence to every preacher of Islam. Some most important features of a preacher are that he should be very much sincere in purpose and be morally very high. He should not be eying on personal gains. The Daee should be very active and hard working. He should be very enduring and patient. He should not compromise at the cost of Dawah.
You have interaction with non-Muslims. What they think about Islam and Muslims?
Our fellow citizens don’t know much about Islam. Therefore they have much misconception about Islam and Muslims. They become happy when Islam is introduced to them. When right information is provided to them, they thank the organisers. And they say if these are the features of Islam then why and how they will oppose it. It indicates that they are not the enemy of Islam. But sometimes they become disappointed with their fellow Muslim citizens due to the latter’s immoral activities and bad deeds.
How do you differentiate between Dawah and conversion?
Dawah is the process of calling people to God, disseminating the true knowledge of Islam into the society so that the people may know the real purpose of their creation. Here the effort is made to remove the misconceptions of non-Muslims about Islam. Sometimes it may occur in this process that the Daee may ask his addressee to think about Islam and accept it if he considers it according to nature. Here the duty of a Daee is fulfilled, as conversion is not the purpose and aim of a Daee.
Another point is that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said that God creates every child with Islam as his or her natural religion but it is the social environment and parents that make his or her follow another religion. Thus the individual strays away from the right path. By finding the truth if one comes back to his or her natural religion then it should not be considered conversion.
Do you think caste system in India is an obstacle for Islamic Dawah?
Caste system is hundreds and thousands years old in India. Some Hindu religious texts also confirm caste system. It is indoctrinated in the psyche of all Indians. It has influenced even Muslims although Islam does not allow such discriminatory hierarchy based on religious principles. Islam confirms class division but only for the sake of identity and for the purpose of differentiation among people. All human beings are equal in the eyes of God; the concept of high and low is on the basis of their deeds.
India is trying to contain the harshness of such discrimination on the basis of caste by some constructive policies and programmes to bring those, who are historically discriminated and are at the bottom-line of their social status, into the mainstream. But a lot of work still has to be done by Ulema and social reformers to remove this evil from the society. Caste discrimination among human beings is not right. It should come to an end now.
Yes it is an obstacle in the way of Dawah. We say to our fellow citizens not to see the existence of such caste system among Muslims also, but to go through the fundamental principles of Islam. Then think about Islam. And don’t reach any conclusion by mere observance of Muslims’ life but go through the original sources of Islam where you can find what actually Islam is.