كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ
“You are the best of the nation raised up for mankind because you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah” [TMQ Ale-Imran: 110]
There many evidences in the Qur'an and Sunnah that obligates ALL Muslims, men and women to do da'wah, and enjoin good and forbid evil.
The Qur’an and Sunnah have expressed the idea of da’wa with the terms; tableegh (delivering the call), enjoining the good (ma’ruf) & forbidding the evil (munkar), recommending one another on the truth (tawaasi), being sent to give good tidings and to warn, clarifying the truth, advising (naseeha) and reminding the people, and debate and discuss with the people in the manner which is best and the struggling to make the Deen prevail.
ادْعُ إِلَى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ
Allah (swt) says, “Invite to the way of your Lord (i.e. Islaam) with Hikmah (divine evidences), and argue with them in a way that is better.” [TMQ 16: 125]
What we can notice when we look at the evidences is that they have come in a general form, addressing Muslims as a whole – not being specific to men or women.
The fuqaha have explained that Da’wah to non-Muslims is in origin Fard Kifayah (obligation of sufficiency), meaning if some people are fulfilling it – the rest of the Ummah are not sinful and are encouraged to also perform it. However, it can become Fard Ayn (individual obligation) in the case where we know a non-Muslim who does not know about Islam and is unlikely to hear about it except through you – in this case it is our obligation to convey the message of Islam to them.
Da’wah to non-Muslims differs from da’wah to Muslims which includes enjoining the Ma’ruf and forbidding the Munkar which is an individual duty.
Ahmad narrated on the authority of Abu Bakrah that the messenger said: "If the people see the Munkar (evil, wrong doing) and they do not change it, Allah will take them with a punishment".
The Muslims, as individuals, are required to enjoin that which they are commanded with and forbid that which they are ordered to abstain from - if anything happens in front of them that necessitates that – according to the knowledge each individual has.
Furthermore, the Messenger (saw), when addressing the people used to say, “Let the one who is present convey what he has heard to the one who is absent” (Al-Bukhari).
Consequently, enjoining the ma’roof and forbidding the munkar becomes an individual obligation (fard ayn) for which the Muslim will be sinful if he or she did not undertake it, and he is not excused for abandoning it. Thus the Muslimah, in her daily life with her husband, children, relatives, neighbours, customers, acquaintances or anyone else who they happen to meet; each one of such people needs be given the naseeha (advice), if they failed to perform a duty or was disobedient. How can this not be the case when there are sins that only she may be aware of. Such as a sin committed in front of her at a sitting where no one else is present. If she did not advise them then she will be sinful. No one else can take her place, and in his sphere, nobody other than her can fulfil it. For every munkar that appears in his sphere, no one other than the individual who witnesses it is responsible.
If one of our friends is not wearing the khimar, taking riba, has haram relations with men before marriage or engages in any other definitive haram – then you are obliged to forbid this munkar.
The Prophet (saw) said in a hadith narrated from Imam Muslim from Abu Sa’id al Khudri: “Whosoever sees a Munkar (an evil or wrong) let him change it by his hand, if he could not let it be by his tongue. If he could not let it be by his heart, and this is the weakest of Iman”
We are also obliged to work to establish the mechanism which will establish the Ma’ruf and ensure the removal of Munkar, the Islamic state – which has been emphasised by the hadith in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (saw) said:
“Whosoever dies without a bay'ah on their neck dies the death of Jahiliyyah.'' [Sahih Muslim]
Women have been expressly addressed with the duty of the da'wah because Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, says:
يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَعْرُوفًا
"O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah) then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire, but say that which is Ma'roof (good)." [33:32]
Ibn Abbas understood Allah's injunction to the Prophet's wives, to "say good," to mean that they have to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil. This can be taken as a general address to all Muslim women. Allah also says:
وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ
"The believers, men and women are Auliya (helpers, protectors) of one another, they enjoin the good and forbid the evil, they perform salah and give away zakah and obey Allah." [9:71]
It is clear in this verse that women are addressed with this task, just as men, whenever they are capable of undertaking it.
* Removing ignorance, increasing awareness of Islam, and the creation of qualified women da'wah carriers. These results have a lasting and beneficial influence, not only on women and the Muslim community, but also on the whole society at large
* Women's place and status in Islam would be highlighted and Muslim women would attain a better awareness of their rights and duties.
* Making dawah should be part of our children’s upbringing by making them aware that they are the future carriers of Islam; and Islam is their identity; without it they are lost.
Examples from Muslim women in the past
The Prophet's companions who left their homes to go places that were thousands of miles away to take the new religion to people also had the support and the backing of their wives. Let’s look at some examples:
- Khadija's (ra) comfort, help, and support of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, offer the greatest proof of the vital importance of this role. Khadijah was very rich, and she spent her money to support the da'wah
- If we look at the hadeeth narrated by Abu Saeed that the women said to the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, "The men are keeping you busy and we do not get enough attention from you. Would you specify a day for us, women? He promised them a day to meet them and educate and admonish them." (Bukhari) The fruits of this understanding and concern by the women companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, and the attention he gave them, are shining examples and a source of pride for Muslim women
- Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, is also a perfect example of what the Muslim women should strive to be like. After the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, died, Aisha (ra) was the main source of knowledge about the Prophets teachings. She was active in telling people about Islam and giving knowledge to those who sought it. Abu Musa Ash'ari narrated, "We never had a problem to tackle but always found a relief from Aisha (ra). Her knowledge was stupendous." Imam Zuhri, a Tabe'ie of great renown said, "Aisha was the greatest among the living scholars."
- Umm Sulaim (ra) teaching her son Anas Ibn Malik (ra) about Islam, even though her husband rejected Islam. When Abu Talha proposed to her (before accepting Islam) she told him that her dowry was Islam, he in-turn embraced Islam and she married him. She gave her son Anas to the Prophet (saw) as a servant.
- Umm Hakeem (ra) was the reason behind her husband embracing Islam, the aunt of Adi ibn Hatem (ra) also led him to Islam. Amra, the wife of Habib Al-Ajami would wake up her husband to make salah at night. Asmaa (ra), the daughter of Abu Bakr, encouraged her son, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair (ra), to stand up for the truth and not fear death in the face of a tyrant.
- Sumayyah (ra) gave up her life when Abu Jahl killed her for becoming a Muslim. She was the first martyr in Islam.
- Umm Salamah (ra) left her husband and saw her children persecuted when she migrated. (She is the one who narrated the famous speech of Ja’far to Najashi). Umm Ammarah (ra) fought in defence of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, in the Uhud battle. Tending the wounded in battles was the role Muslim Women played throughout history.
- It is reported that Dawud ibn Husayn (ra), a companion of the Prophet, used to take Qur'anic lessons from Umm Sa'd Jamilah bint As'ad Ansariyyah (ra), daughter of As'ad ibn Rabi who fought in the Battle of Badr and achieved martyrdom in the Battle of Uhud. According to Ibn Athir, Umm Sa'd had memorized the Qur'an and used to give regular lessons.
Even in later generations Muslim women continued to play a large part in Da’wah and the propagation of Islam.
- Nafisa bint al-Hasan (d. 208/824) taught hadith to Imam ash-Shafi'i.
- Ibn Hajar mentioned 12 women who were musnida (transmitters of collection of hadith). He studied with 53 women.
- Ibn Asakir al-Dimashqi (499-571) took hadith from 1,300 male shaykh and 80-odd female shaykha.
What contribution can women make?
Many obstacles and restraints have been the causes behind the weakness and neglect of da'wah work amongst women.
One major reason, is that many men are not convinced about the importance of women's role and responsibilities in the field of da'wah. This is due to the influence of eastern Mushrik culture where women are seen as slaves to men. Unfortunately some attempt to justify this by misinterpreting Islamic evidences, for example:
The Qur'anic verse: وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ "...remain at your homes..." [33:33] has been misinterpreted by many, and so has the right of guardianship or Qawama. In many instances we see men objecting to women's participation in da'wah and thus preventing them from fulfilling their role toward their fellow Muslims and to the larger society in general. Spreading Islam has been made incumbent on all Muslims, men and women.
It is vital that husbands encourage their wives to participate in da'wah work. Unfortunately, not a lot of Muslim women feel that they know enough about Islam to share it with others. They need to realize that it is their responsibility to obtain that knowledge and then share it with others. Many women also feel uncomfortable presenting to groups of people due to various reasons.
Although many women are busy due to their responsibility as a wife, mother, cook, and teacher, inside their homes, etc – as with any fard, we must make time and organise our lives such that it becomes a centre point of our lives. Women have the ability to make a real difference:
- They generally have a great effect on their husbands. If they have strong Iman and character, they have a very good chance at helping their husbands become strong as well.
- Women are more free than men in communicating with other women, either individually for da'wah activities, or in women's learning and other forums and places of meeting.
- Women stay at home with their sons and daughters, and thus can bring them up as they please.
Practical Steps for women
* Where to do dawah: ideally where people gather regularly, such as the mosques, girls schools – trying to influence the teacher and the curriculum, associations, da'wah groups, friends, families etc.
* We need to start by seeking knowledge and developing our Islamic personalities.
Proper Islamic rules of mixing between men and women must be observed at all times
* Building of the da'wah personality: Da'wah requires sacrifices and therefore women must be prepared to bear the burdens of calling to Islam
* Da'iyat delivering lectures, seminars, sermons, should be able to persuade the listeners by addressing their minds through proofs and evidences.
* Utilising the latest communication technology is important for fruitful dawah. Radio, TV, and the internet are very efficient means for local and international mass-dawah.
* Writing and publishing such as books, newspaper, articles etc are means by which you can easily reach people. Writings should both be eloquent and convincing, through sincere, sound and documented arguments.
So, let us strive to aid in the revival of the Ummah, by being da’wa carriers – possessing thought and articulation to uphold the truth.
Each of us has a gift from Allah we should not ignore our obligation in fear of rejection or failure but, join together to contribute our talents and reasons to share the gift of Islam, truly a mercy from Allah (swt).
وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِمَّنْ دَعَا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
"Who is better in speech than the one who calls (people) to Allah, works righteousness, and says I am one the Muslims?" (41:33)
Shifaa bint Mukhlis Miah