“Who is better in speech than he who invites people to Allah and does righteous deeds, and says ‘I am of those who have submitted [to Allah]’” (Qur’an 41:33).
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious…” (Qur’an 16:125).
The baseline of effective dawah is good conduct and the best moral behavior
Many of us are familiar with the above divine exhortations, but how many of us act upon them? If we are honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge that the answer is very few. Beside the fact that Allah swt exhorts us to disseminate the religion and we are not sufficiently living up to that obligation, is the dreadful reality that those extremists who engage in appalling, inhumane, and un-Islamic behaviors present themselves as true followers of the deen, and the non-Muslim world is confused, not knowing what to think about Muslims and Islam. Misconceptions about Islam and Muslims abound in today’s world and the need for dawah – conveying the true message of Islam to the non-Muslims – is more pressing than ever before. And so, during the FIFA World Cup 2014 soccer tournament, hosted by Brazil, WhyIslam, the largest dawah network in America, found the perfect opportunity for propagating Islam. More than five million people from all over the world attended the event, and of course the locals were out en masse and WhyIslam was able to offer dawah to the Brazilian residents of the host cities as well. The outcome was a grand success, for it set an important milestone for dawah work among Brazilians as well as creating a template for dawah campaigns at similar large events in the future.
Sr. Wendy, one of the volunteers, says that the WhyIslam volunteers “prepared well before they launched this campaign. They began their massive undertaking months in advance, networking with organizations and individuals in the development of a strategic plan. It was decided that the propagation efforts in Brazil would culminate with a global day of outreach, termed ‘Global Dawah Day’ to be held on July 5. In order to promote and fund the project, WhyIslam elaborated a successful marketing campaign, using advertising in photos, videos, email blasts, and posting to social media outlets like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.”
The resonating theme for WhyIslam’s endeavor was “What is Your Goal? (in Spanish “¿Cuál es tu meta?” and in Portuguese “Qual é o seu objetivo?”) The slogan aimed at raising questions in people’s minds and initiating conversations about the meaning of life, how to find one’s purpose, what happens when you die, and similar concerns about existence. A website (www.whatisyourgoal.org) was set up for individuals, groups, and organizations to register their dawah event and to follow the endeavors and accomplishments of the crew in Brazil. The official flyer for Global Dawah Day was printed on cards, banners, posters, and purple T-shirts that were provided to eager volunteers on six continents who were inspired to participate in the World Cup street dawah and/or Global Dawah Day. Many organizations came forward. WhyIslam printed and distributed thousands of brochures in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, as well as translations of the meaning of the Qur’an to World Cup spectators and locals in Brazil.
During the World Cup, Sr. Wendy says that “volunteer groups distributed flyers and engaged passersby, vendors, taxi drivers, and anyone with whom they came in contact in conversations about Muslims and Islam. The regular driver for the American team, a man named Carlos, accepted Islam during their stay, stating that the team’s generosity and respect toward the people of Brazil profoundly moved him. He witnessed the WhyIslam volunteers distributing food and toiletries to poor families in the slums of Sao Paulo and he was intrigued by the regular visits to the musalla, or Islamic prayer space.” There were several other incidents of “Shahadah pronouncements” that moved the dawah volunteers deeply.
What lessons can be drawn from this trip? The first and foremost lesson is that similar efforts should take place with increasing frequency. Second, the baseline of effective dawah is good conduct and the best moral behavior. The third lesson we can learn from the WhyIslam dawah campaign is that when engaging in dawah one needs some solid basic knowledge about Islam and good communication skills. One effective approach when doing street dawah is to ask what the person knows about Islam as this opens a conversation during which any misconceptions can be addressed and information beyond whatever they already know can be offered. The fourth lesson we can learn is that inviting people to Islam, especially when doing street dawah, is a very challenging task. One must be ready and able to hear negative comments, even insults. In all situations, patience is a must. Allah swt has commanded, “And bear patiently the vain things they utter, and part from them graciously” (Qur’an 73:10).
The best lesson, however, is that dawah is an endeavor that brings great fulfillment, greater than the satisfaction from worldly success of any sort -“If Allah would guide one person, through you, to Islam, it is better than the whole world and whatever is in it” (Al-Bukhari).