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We believe that a true and comprehensive understanding of Islam would not be possible without careful recognition of the Prophetic Tradition and the Prophet's Household. And Allah is the Source of Strength.

Revival of Islamic Missionaries

This paper is a submission by Ghulam Abbas.
You can contact her through her email address []

Preaching is associated with big self righteous men with long beards, prayer beads in their hands, usually wearing turbans on their heads, using words like MashaAllah SubhanAllah excessively. Yes these are the members of the well known (and infamous in eyes of a big chunk of our society) tablighi jama’at.

I am not against the (purpose of the) tablighi jama’at, neither am I in anyway trying to criticize their contribution to present Islam, I think they are to be appreciated for at least making an effort to preach Islam in this age, when most of the people wouldn’t care. My intention is to clarify certain dilemmas associated with Tableegh such as who is to be the preacher and what is he supposed to preach and to whom!

Before I go in any details, I would like to ask you a simple question. Do you think that any man, no matter how learned or even totally illiterate in religion, is capable of preaching Islam, representing it to other Muslims and non Muslims? Doesn’t Islam have any standard criteria for selecting people who are qualified preacher? If yes, then why could just anyone decide to join tableegh and preach, or pretend to preach Islam, and if your answer is no, then why do all well known organizations look for fresh graduates of decent universities to represent their own brands, while Quran, one of the two heavy things responsible for preservation of Islam, stays silent in this regard? Does not Islam need qualified graduates to represent its brand?

However, there are yet again certain questions which require an impartial explanation. The Quran says:

You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.
Quran [109:6]

Yet again;

And if Allah please He would certainly make you a single nation, but He causes to err whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases; and most certainly you will be questioned as to what you did.
Quran [16:93]

Quran clearly tells us that:
1) I have my religion while the unbelievers are free to have theirs
2) I am not responsible for what anyone else does

Then why am I suppose to preach to other people, specially when it may also cause social separation amongst us? Further more, How should I convey the message with social ethics, to who, when and how much?

Dictionary defines preaching as an address of a religious nature (usually delivered as a sermon) or a moralistic rebuke.

That means that even an atheist can preach anyone around him on moral grounds. As they believe, it is not necessarily to believe in God in order to be good.

In Islam, the concept of Tableegh is not to convince anyone to do good, it is conveying of the message, the message of Rasool (SAW), and this conveyance does come with some prerequisites and qualifications in order to be eligible (will be discussed later).

We are the Ummah of Muhammad (SAW), the last messenger to come from Allah, who bears the seal of prophet hood. Although we are not the caretakers of deen e Islam, we do have the task of representing Islam to others. Deen is entrusted to us which we’re supposed to take care, and report back to Allah on qayamah, when Muhammad (SAW) would be our witness.

Currently, we are in the physical absence of the authorized of Allah, the Prophets and the Imams from the Ahlulbayt (AS), but we still have the deen of Allah amongst ourselves along with the other heavy thing, Quran.

You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah; and if the followers of the Book had believed it would have been better for them; of them (some) are believers and most of them are transgressors.
Quran [3:110]

Preaching is derived from the amr e bil maruf wa nahi an ul munkir, or to promote good and stop evil in layman terms.

The word ‘amar’ means to order someone, to make some one do some work. We know that in order to ordain something, one has to have some authority over them. So the preaching rule in Islam for all of us is not preaching to everyone and anyone available, but only those on whom we have authority over. This makes it mandatory for parents and their children, spouses, siblings, and close friends to preach each other about Islam, and so make sure that all the people they have authority on, rights on, are as well informed as themselves about deen.

I see how this is a measure taken by God to keep the crime rate zero in Islamic states, for if all people, rather than criticizing other people’s distance and deviation from religion, sharpened their own children’s sense of right and wrong, the society would be different in a positive manner. Similarly friends, neighbors and relatives will have a hand in improving each other’s deeds, so the bonding will increase.

If I see you doing something wrong according to my standards, why shall I interrupt you when to you is your religion and to me is mine? Also given that I am not answerable for what you do?

When some of them said: "Why do ye preach to a people whom Allah will destroy or visit with a terrible punishment?"- said the preachers:" To discharge our duty to your Lord, and perchance they may fear Him." When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression.
Quran [7:164-165]

This shows that the people in that town were of three categories. One, those who flagrantly violated God's commands. Two, those who were silent spectators to such violations and discouraged those who admonished the criminals, pleading that their efforts were fruitless. Three, those who, moved by their religious commitment, actively enjoined good and forbade evil so that the evil-doers might make amends. In so doing, they were prompted by, a sense of duty, to bring back the evil-doers to the right path, and if the latter did not respond to their call, they would at least be able to establish before their Lord that for their part they had fulfilled their duty to admonish the evil-doers. So, when the town was struck by God's punishment, only the people belonging to the last category were spared for they had displayed God-consciousness and performed the duties incumbent upon them. As for the people of the other two categories, they were reckoned as transgressors and were punished in proportion to their crimes.
Tafheem ul Quran, by Abul Aala Maududi, Tafseer of Surah 7, Verse 165

Allah only saved the people who forbade the evil. Although they were not committing any disobedience to Allah, and neither would they be held accountable for what the oath-breakers did, if they realized the good, their responsibility was to warn the people.
Every one of us has our responsibilities over everyone around us, depending on our relationship, our authority and our position in the society.

One way is to spread general rules by conveying the message to one’s close contacts. Next is the specific group, who has to be a group of dedicated preachers, for general Muslims and enmasse, as we shall see.

For those who consider word of Allah superior to everything, I shall quote:

And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin what
is right and forbid the wrong,
and these it is that shall be successful.
Quran [3:104]

The objective of this Ayah is that there should be a segment of this Muslim Ummah fulfilling this task, even though it is also an obligation on every member of this Ummah, each according to his ability.

Muslim recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, (Whoever among you witnesses an evil, let him change it with his hand. If he is unable, then let him change it with his tongue. If he is unable, then let him change it with his heart, and this is the weakest faith.) In another narration, The Prophet said(There is no faith beyond that, not even the weight of a mustard seed.)

Imam Ahmad recorded that Hudhayfah bin Al-Yaman said that the Prophet said, (By He in Whose Hand is my soul! You will enjoin righteousness and forbid evil, or Allah shall send down a punishment from Him to you. Then, you will supplicate to Him, but He will not accept your supplication.)
Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tafseer of Surah 3, Verse 104

We see that word of Allah is not away from logic. Although preaching is a general Farz, preaching enmasse is the responsibility of a dedicated group. Allah says that there should be a separate group of people who deal with preaching, and these will be the successful ones!

Why isn’t everyone being told to preach everyone else? Because everyone lacks certain qualities and prerequisites to represent Islam.

They are not all alike; of the followers of the Book there is an upright party; they
recite Allah's communications in the nighttime and they adore (Him). They believe in Allah and the last day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and they strive with one another in hastening to good deeds, and those are among the good.
And whatever good they do, they shall not be denied it, and Allah knows those who guard (against evil). Quran Quran [3:113-115]

Muhammad bin Ishaq and others, including Al-`Awfi who reported it from Ibn `Abbas, said; "These Ayat were revealed about the clergy of the People of the Scriptures who embraced the faith.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Quran – 3:113

The preachers must not be a regular worshipper, but someone who establishes his worship. He must not accept Islam, he must believe in Islam. He must be of an exalted character, a role model for people around him and must have authority over others. It is suffice to say that the Ahlebayt (AS) of Rasool (SAW) justified the verse of Quran which told a party of believers to stay back and preach.

Unfortunately, like all other systems, our tablighi system (in shias as well as sunnis, mostly) has been commercialized. The purpose of the lead preacher is to strengthen his position in the society socially. Those who do not belong to this class try to fit in and eat the honey by belonging to such jamaat. The most honored people are those who have learnt the Quran (hafiz e Quran).

Somebody please tell me, what good will the Quran be to you if you don’t even understand what is being said? Instead of trying to memorize the book, they should save their energies for understanding and following as little as a verse each day, that will be much more beneficial than to memorize the Arabic without understanding the meanings.

In a nutshell, every one of us can be a preacher in the truest sense if we qualify for some prerequisites;

  1. One must practice before he preaches, what he preaches. Be a role model.

What! do you enjoin men to be good and neglect your own souls while you read the Book; have you then no sense?
Quran [2:44]

We see that God dislikes people who instruct other people to do good, ignoring their own deeds. Thus a preacher has to make sure his personality is as flawless as possible. At least he should not preach what he doesn’t practice. I personally know many ‘tablighies’ who’re the best debaters outside, very gentle and kind towards others, but when it comes to real application of their knowledge, they ignore! The people, who’re the kindest to others, treat their own families in worse manners.

We are afraid to accept our own mistakes. However, even those who preach what they themselves practice, their preaching lacks depth. Maybe that is why, it is very easy for us to tell a poor farmer in a rural village to pray five times a day (because we might do it ourselves), but very hard to stop a rich man from embezzlement because we might be involved in it ourselves.

  1. One must understand that Preaching is to Convey, not convince. One must understand and accept diversity

And if Allah had pleased He would surely have made them (mankind) a single
but He makes whom He pleases enter into His mercy, and the unjust it is that
shall have no guardian or helper.
Quran [42:8]

But if they dispute with you, say: I have submitted myself entirely to Allah and
(so) every one who follows me; and say to those who have been given the Book and the
unlearned people: Do you submit yourselves? So if they submit then indeed they follow
the right way; and if they turn back, then upon you is only the delivery of the message
and Allah sees the servants.

Quran [3:20]

Rasool (SAW) was sent to deliver the message, not to guide the people, as guidance comes from Allah alone.

  1. One must ignore the arguers. It is they regarding whom it is said, to you is your religion to me is mine.

Take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant.
Quran [7:199]

This one again emphasizes on compassion and forgiveness. The ignorant is not to be argued with but ignored. Today, some one who doesn’t agree with you is labeled an infidel, very conveniently. And then a whole new battle of blames starts. We are not mature enough to ignore. And I don’t think we will, ever be mature, because we want to win the debate and be in the highlight and we have to give our own judgment about everyone too. If we don’t do that how will we prove ourselves right, or prove that we know a lot about religion?

We must preach or convey the message to those who want to know or are supportive to your efforts and take it constructively even if they disagree.

  1. One must be polite and kind

Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah; surely Allah loves those who trust.
Quran [3:159]

Quran is telling Rasool (SAW) that if he was harsh and not gentle, the people around him, the Sahabas would have departed from him (SAW). It is very important to win hearts before you can win minds. We know that people understand one’s point more effectively if the preacher is gentle and kind in his words and actions.

You and I both know that the main doyens of our tabligh system are madressah people, especially in Asia, and the huffaz of Quran. Being a part of medical system of Pakistan, in the ENT clinics, we come across 1 child approximately every 2 weeks with a perforated ear drum, because of the slap of ‘qaari sahab’ who loses control because the kid fails to pronounce a zair or zabar or paish properly! And quite sadly, the reason sometimes is even personal, like the child not being able to bring molvi sahab’s groceries. Do you think such people will be sincere towards Islam?

How can you expect these kids to grow up as responsible humans, when they were taught Islam like animals?

  1. One must be aware of moral ethics.

You should not offend people. Usually Tableegh in our system revolves more around Salaat rather than personal Jihad. Do you think your fellow Muslims in universities and colleges, well aware of their neglected duty to pray five times a day will appreciate you constantly telling them how important it is to offer salaat? It is important that your personality conveys them the message latently.

Similarly, do you think a man who is hungry and has no means to feed his family, be bothered about Islam at all? It is unethical to feed a man Islamic thoughts, when he requires food.

  1. One must preach within authority and strength

Muslim recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, (Whoever among you witnesses an evil, let him change it with his hand. If he is unable, then let him change it with his tongue. If he is unable, then let him change it with his heart, and this is the weakest faith.) In another narration, The Prophet said(There is no faith beyond that, not even the weight of a mustard seed.)
Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tafseer of Surah 3, Verse 104

As Rasool (SAW) said, to consider the bad, as the bad is a sign of faith and we must stop it in a way we are able to. I cannot create my own gang and go onto streets with sticks to close brothel houses when it is the authority of the government to do so. What I can do is create awareness amongst the people so they refrain from going to such places and they demand the government and put pressure on them to act.

  1. One must be modest

Army and civil services is a good example to correlate with. The police are not the masters of the people, they are to serve the people, but in our world, the police is the boss and the bully.

The preacher should be grateful to Allah that he has been given the knowledge, the time and the opportunity to convey the message and be of help to others. He is serving the community, not leading them, for leading still remains with Banu Hashim, the true reflection of preachers.

Today’s preacher should not be the gatekeeper of Islam who decides who to let in and who not to. As we say, “Thekay daars”. The preacher should know that he has a responsibility towards others and towards ones own self, to represent Islam through actions and words.

As Luqman (AS) preached his son about the basics of preaching:

O my son! Keep up prayer and enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and bear patiently that which befalls you; surely these acts require courage; And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting overmuch; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster; And pursue the right course in your going about and lower your voice; surely the most hateful of voices is braying of the asses.
Quran [31:17-19]

  1. One must be careful with what they preach, a structured approach must be taken. Awareness is the key.

Today, Islam is divided into sects, each one believing to be the true Islam. Preaching thus is also divided into two branches, interfaith and intersect.

The tragedy is that preaching often turns aggressive and takes the form of holy war rather than conveyance of the message. One must realize that he cannot go to a Hindu and tell him how Muhammad (SAW) is the last prophet of Allah when the Hindu does not believe in Allah to begin with, and One must realize that he cannot go to a Wahabi and start talking negative about certain personalities they respect when that Wahabi is not aware of undistorted historical fact.

We must be kind, polite, wise, modest, practice what we preach and have a structured approach towards Tableegh before jumping into one Jamaat. Man is the best judge for himself. If you think you qualify to represent the Deen of Almight, only then venture into the Sunnat of Preaching. If you lack knowledge and piety, do not sell the words of Allah and Rasool (SAW) and buy hell fire with your earnings.

The above stated were some prerequisites for some one to preach. Astonishingly, there are some prerequisites for being preached also, specially in today’s time.

One of the reason for our stunted religious know-how, is that we’re too reluctant to hold on to the Quran directly. We always search for some medium like mullahs to give us the orders of God simplified. This is what complicates the matter because these mullahs are unqualified to represent the Deen of Allah but we put our blind faith in them.

It is interesting to read that the Quran does talk about such men already:

And there are among them illiterates who know not the Book but only lies, and they do but conjecture. Woe, then, to those who write the book with their hands and then say: This is from Allah, so that they may take for it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.
Quran [2:78-79]

We are supposed to be careful of such people. Because on the judgment day, God may remind us that He warned us of such scholars already, it was our own procrastination that we followed them…

Most surely there is a party amongst those who distort the Book with their tongue that you may consider it to be (a part) of the Book, and they say, It is from Allah, while it is not from Allah, and they tell a lie against Allah whilst they know.
Quran [3:78]

Maybe Allah is suggesting we take it to ourselves to explore the Quran and then take guidance from those who know, and stay away from those who may forge lies against Allah.

A prerequisite for being Preached would be to be sincere with yourself, to have a basic know how of Islam and to be extremely logical. Do not let a preacher make you believe how killing innocent women and children will take you to paradise.

Most surely man is in loss, Except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.
Quran [103:2-3]

Every man is in loss, except those who preach in the truest terms.

Whoever joins himself (to another) in a good cause shall have a share of it, and whoever joins himself (to another) in an evil cause shall have the responsibility of it, and Allah controls all things.
Quran [4:85]

So where ever you see a cause worth joining yourself to, fight your own temptations, be worthy to spread the message of Prophet (SAW) and feel free to spread the word.

When you tell your sibling or child to be respectful to elders, by being kind to youngsters and respectful to elders yourself, When you have told your friends to be modest without telling them, by wearing your hijab and lowering your gaze, know that you have played your part in preaching.

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