City of Brass

City of Brass

to dawah or not to dawah?

The term Dawah (more correctly spelled Da’wah in transliteration from Arabic) means to prosletyze Islam. The term literally means “invitation”. There are different forms of da’wah, the main types being passive and active. Passive da’wah is the belief that living a life as a pious muslim will act as its own invitation to the faith (the philosophy that I personally follow). Active da’wah takes the forms of missionary activities by individuals or groups, such as the bus ads i scorned earlier.

I think it is interesting to consider how da’wah is practiced by muslims in the west, because i perceive a bit if denial at work. Consider this from the About page of the local branch of ISNA in the Bay Area (which is sponsoring the bus ads), about the WhyIslam project:



Post-911 has seen a drastic rise in Islamophobia and stereotyping of
Muslims as terrorists and war-mongers. Most of the general public think
and believe that Islam promotes violence and inequality of gender
without knowing about it. The WhyIslam project was initiated to remove
these misconceptions and promote a true and fair understanding of
Islam, and to educate the general public about Islam to bring about a
social and communal harmony. We believe that the reason for discord is
the ignorance people have about Islam and its teachings.
WhyIslam neither seeks to proselytize nor is associated with a religious or missionary institue.


I have emphasized the last sentence, because it seems quite at odds with the actual title of the WhyIslam campagn itself, let alone the aggressive nature of the bus ads that essentially declare “all your prophets are belong to us”.

Thumbnail image for whyislam.jpgOK, so according to ICNA’s own site, the Why Islam campaign is not intended to prosletyze. But then elsewhere on the very same website, there’s a page dedicated to “Why the Bus Ad Campaign?” – and therein we find this:


Circle of North America with full trust in the goodness of general
American citizens has decided to presents its case to the general
American public by making sure that they are educated about Islam, that
they know the truth, and that they have the opportunity to speak to
Muslims directly if they wish to do so.  (That’s one of purpose of
WhyIslam Hotline, 1-800-WhyIslam)

It is with this spirit coupled with our religious duty to do dawa
(inviting people to Islam or giving the message of Islam to people)
which has motivated us to start the WhyIslam project which contains
outdoor advertisings including Bus, and Billboard Advertising.

It should be noted that while it is the religious duty of every Muslim
to preach, teach, and invite people to Islam
, it should be also noted
that Islam has specific rules and regulations that Muslims must
followed when doing dawa (or inviting others to Islam).

The duty of Muslims in this regard is clarified in the Qur’an itself,
“And our duty is only to tell (others) the clear message” (Qur’an,
36:17) and also very clearly spelled out, that “Let there be no force
(or compulsion) in religion:  Surely Truth stands out clear from
error:  Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has held the most
trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks.  And Allah is All Hearing
(Sami’), and All Knowing (Aleem). ” (Qur’an, 2:256)

This is the reason why we are publicizing Islam through various venues and creative techniques.


There are two things here – one, a perfectly legitimate, timely, and necessary outreach campaign to help educate people about muslims, and two, a coordinated campaign to do explicit da’wah to non-believers, justified by Qur’anic verse. No wonder the ad campaign comes off as disjointed, unlike the Dial a Muslim project in florida which was simply focused on outreach. In a nutshell, the Dial a Muslim campaign was passive da’wah whereas the Why Islam project is active da’wah.

Now, I take no position regarding whether active da’wah is better or worse than passive da’wah. By all means, if ICNA wishes to engage in active da’wah, good for them. But why do they themselves feel the need to deny that they are engaged in it? Clearly, there is a feeling that admitting to engaging in active da’wah is bad PR of some sort (an interesting admission in its own right). But for active da’wah to succeed, it must be honest about its aims. The conflicting messages from ICNA itself are confusing the campaign and hampering its effectiveness on both objectives. 


I think ICNA should either revise its About page to admit that active da’wah is one of their organizational goals, or should revise the bus ad campaign to focus on outreach or da’wah, but not both. I am willing to contribute my own idea for a bus ad to the cause, at no charge (though I’d appreciate a link back to this blog from ICNA’s main website :)


Related: debate on the theological arguments for da’wah at Talk Islam.

Comments read comments(3)
post a comment
Your Name

posted March 14, 2009 at 1:25 pm

I agree with some of your views yet I also believe that right now Islam is greatly misunderstood and we as Muslims & muslimahs must dawah whenever necessary. As a Muslimah I have gotten into heated discussions often defending Islam & my beliefs & through dawah I have even convinced a few women to accept Islam & had it not been for dawah they may not have accepted Islam. We all know that only Allah makes Muslims but isn’t it through our spreading that this is possible?

report abuse


posted March 15, 2009 at 6:39 am

Terry Pratchett touched on something crucial to liberal Euro-American culture when he said the best kind of education is to build a library and open the doors. The problem with this is that much prejudice and ignorance surround Islam, before anyone steps into our metaphorical library. Challenging such misconceptions is no less dawah, then, than standing outside a tube station with a tressel table and leaflets.
“And our duty is only to tell (others) the clear message”

report abuse

Pingback: Gitmo guard converts to Islam - City of Brass

Previous Posts

Deen and Mohabbat: There is no faith without love
This is a guest post by Yusuf Zakir. My religion--Islam--is discussed and portrayed in the media quite a lot these days, much to my chagrin. The American public is, generally, fearful of Muslims. Anti-Islamic sentiment is at an all-time ...

posted 10:10:30pm Oct. 07, 2015 | read full post »

nationwide hate rallies planned at mosques Oct 9-10, Homeland Security conf call
This weekend, there is a planned, armed protest "in every country, at every mosque" by a group called the "Global Rally for Humanity". So far, the protests are falling short of global, but they do have 21 mosques, community centers and ...

posted 1:40:08pm Oct. 06, 2015 | read full post »

why don't they condemn?
Ever since 9-11, and well before it, this is the litany of accusation that ordinary Muslim Americans have had to endure: Muslims do not condemn - there is no million Muslim march against terrorism. Islam is an inherently violent ...

posted 1:47:45pm Oct. 02, 2015 | read full post »

a Republican, Muslim Mayor of St Louis?
Umar Lee is many things - a native ...

posted 1:09:57am Sep. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Abrahamic Convergence - inspiration, forgiveness, and tragedy
This week is a truly portentous one for Muslims, Jews, and Catholics. In one week, we have Yom Kippur, the Day of Arafat and Eid ul Adha, and Pope Francis' first visit to the United States. I like the term "Abrahamic Convergence" for this sort ...

posted 3:08:38pm Sep. 24, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.