Lecture for 4th year medical students on 4th November 2000 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.


Dawa is conveying the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims. Dawa is a communication process involving the caller, the called, the message, and behavioural change as a result of the message. The change could be accepting or practicing Islam better. Dawa is a very important mission for the ummat and was mentioned in many verses of the Qur’an (p. 425-426 2:221 … 71:5-20). Tauhid is the basis for all dawa efforts, al tauhid asaas al da’awa (p. 426-427 7:59, 7:65, 7:73, 7:85, 11:50, 11:61, 11:84, 23:23, 23:32).


Dawa is an indication of dynamism. Islam is a missionary religion. Whenever Muslims are serious about their religion, they automatically find themselves engaged in dawa. Dawa involves reminding. Human beings are not perfect. They forget and transgress and must be brought back to the straight path. Muslims are obliged to undertake dawa, wujuub al dawa (p. 428 3:103, 16:125, 22:67, 28:87, 42:15, 79:17). The obligation collective, fardh kifayat and is discharged if some people undertake it on behalf of the community (3:84). This however does not make dawa the vocation of professionals. Everybody is required to use any opportunity they get to undertake dawa however small the effort may be. Dawa must be undertaken at all places and times. No occasion should be missed without making dawa. All avenues must be used. You must knock on every door.


Dawa can be at three levels. The first level is calling people to accept the creed and this is accomplished by the pronouncement of the kalima. The second level is calling upon individuals and families to practice and live Islam. The third level is calling upon the whole society to be organized according to the teachings of Islam.


Dawa has impact on the caller, the called, and the society at large. The caller has to live up to certain expectations. You cannot give of what you do not have. The called may be guided to the truth now or later. The society at large will learn more about Islam and appreciate its beauty. This will consequently lead to decrease of hostility.


Included in dawa are efforts at establishment of freedom of choice, of conscience and of religious practice. Any effort to stop oppression and violation of human rights is dawa. Whatever prevents people from free access to the message must be opposed. Once freedom of access and freedom of choice have been established, there is no compulsion to accept Islam. People must be free to choose.



Every adult Muslim is obliged to do dawa to the extent of ability. This is an ummatic duty. The caller gets the reward for calling people to guidance equal to what they themselves get (KS 544 Darimi Intr B43; Muwatta K15 H41).


The prophet Muhammad is the best model of a caller as described in the Qur’an. He conveyed the message in the best of ways (p. 1073-1074 5:67 … 88:21-22). The message is universal, aalamiyat al risaalat (p. 1077 4:79, 4:170, 7:158, 10:2, 10:108, 21:107, 22:49, 25:1, 34:27) and clear, wudhuuhu al risalat (p. 1077 12:108, 22:67, 27:79, 42:52-53, 43:43, 45:18). He undertook several duties (p. 1088 2:129, 2:151, 3:164, 13:30, 16:44, 26:2, 6:11, 98:2). He was well behaved (p. 1071-1072 3:159, 5:15, 26:215, 33:6, 52:29, 68:2-4). He was a human who carried the message, bashariyat Muhammad (p 1073 13:38, 18:110, 66:1). He was always concerned about the believers, hariis ala al muuminuun (p. 1078 9:128).  He was humble (p. 1075 15:88). He had mercy, rahmat (p. 1076 9:128, 21:107, p 1079 9:128) and was sympathetic, rauuf (p. 1083 9:128).. He was patient (p. 1078 11:12, 11:49, 11:120, 15:97-98, 16:127, 52:48).  He balanced giving glad tidings, tabshiir (p 1078 5:19, 7:188, 11:2, 34:28, 35:24; p. p 1083 17:105, 25:56, 33:45, 48:8) and warning, mundhir (p. 1083 28:65, p 1084 5:19, 7:188, 11:2, 11:12, 15:89, 17:105, 25:1, 25:56, 33:45, 34:28, 35:23-24, 38:70, 46:9, 48:8, 51:50-51, 67:26).


We can learn a lot from the dawa experiences of Muhammad (PBUH). He made dawa among the tribes of Yathrib (KS 473: Ibn Sa’ad Jux 1 Q1 p 145; Ibn Hisham p 285) when they came for pilgrimage to Makka. He made dawa to various Arab tribes during the hajj season in Makka (KS 477: Ibn Hisham p 281). He travelled to Taif for dawa (KS 478: Ibn Sa’ad J1 Q1 p 141; Ibn Hisham p. 279). He met a lot of problems in his work. ‘Uqbat bin Mu’idh attacjed him (KS 478: Bukhari K65 S40; Ahmad 1:393, 2:204). Waste was thrown on his back while praying at the Ka’aba (KS 478: Bukhari K4 B69, Bukhari K8 B109, Bukhari K56 B98, Bukhari K58 B21, Bukhari K63 B28, Muslim K32 H107, 108, Nisai K1 H191, Ahmad 1:417, Tayalisi H325). He was mistreated when he went to Ibn Abd al… (KS 478: Bukhari K59 B7, Muslim K32 H111).


We can also learn a lot from the dawa of previous communities, da’awat al umaam al saabiqat (p. 352 18:32-43). The Prophet Yusuf even in prison did not forget the dawa vocation (p. 351-352 12:36-42). Qaruun was called to return to the truth but he refused (p. 352 79:42-46).


The caller must have the following personality characteristics: patience, wisdom, insight, iman, ‘Ilm, kindness, consideration, firmness, commitment, good personal relations, generosity, practicality, flexibility, humility, zuhd, qana'a, and taqwa. The most important attribute is commitment, ikhlaas (p 426 6:90, 10:72, 11:29, 11:51, 12:104, 25:57, 26:109, 26:127, 26:145, 26:164, 26:180, 34:47, 36:21, 38:86, 38:86, 42:23).


The following characteristics make a caller more persuasive: Being perceived as honest, personal power, attractiveness, likableness, similarity to the called, being of the same gender as the called, expertise, and Credibility. 

Accepting Islam is a favor for the called not the caller. As a caller you have a duty to convey the message. You get rewards for fulfilling the duty. Guidance in the end is from Allah. He gives that gift to whomever he wants.


You do not have to be perfect to start dawa. Dawa will help you get better. Dawa helps you improve yourself. The challenge is that you have to live up to certain standards if you to call others. You are therefore more on your guard than others to avoid making any mistakes. You have to check yourself continuously: self-criticism, self-evaluation, looking for mistakes in ideas, methods, and personal life.



The called is the target of dawa. Everybody is targeted, Muslims and non-Muslims, all races and nationalities, all social classes, and all parts of the world. Dawa can be targeted at non-Muslim believers, non-Muslim non-believers (atheists and agnostics), or the general society. Dawa to Muslims involves calling them to practice Islam. Dawa to non-Muslims exposes the truth and positives of Islam while correcting the disinformation by the enemies. It aims at returning them to the natural state of human beings, which is Islam. Dawa to the general society involves propagating to the general public with the aim of making them aware or conscious of the presence of Islam. Dawa programs could target special populations such as women, youths, patients in hospitals, prisoners, students, laborers, and workers. They could also target special social classes such as artists and stars, aristocrats, middle class, professionals, and ordinary people. The marginalised and rejected members or classes of society are a special target group for dawa because they are so susceptible. These include: criminals in prisons, drug addicts, the socially deprived, etc. They are looking for an alternative that will take them out of their sad situation.




Dawa may be by direct or indirect approach. It may be by personal or remote contact. In our experience the most effective methods are those that involve personal contact.


Personal contact methods may be one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one, and many-to-many. Direct contact and oral discussion are effective because of the personal rapport and immediate feedback. Occasions for direct contact for purposes of dawa include: the street, the work place, the mosque, the market, the theater, and public celebrations. Storytellers and griots in rural areas are a resource that has not been used. Public adhan over the loudspeaker has an impact by daily reminding listeners, Muslim and non-Muslim about Allah. The methods of dawa used in direct contact include: good personal relations to influence by example, teaching and tarbiyyat, preaching (wa'dh, khutbat), lectures, seminars, conferences, debates, discussions,  providing social services, material assistance to the muallafat qulubuhum, treating people with justice, telling people to do good and forbidding the bad, telling stories and proverbs, and poetry. It is better to start dawa with people you already know or with whom you have some sort of relationship. This is easier than complete strangers. Preaching, maw’idhat (p 427-428 7:164-165, 11:84-86, 31:16, 34:46-50, 71:8-10), is an effective method of dawa but should not be misused. Do not preach too much to people. Avoid being a nuisance. Do not impose yourself on people. Make sure that when talking to them they are indeed interested. It is better to talk to people briefly but repeat the process than bore them with a long presentation.


Indirect/remote contacts include: letters (personal and circulars), books, newsletters, newspapers, flyers, the public library, artistic works, cartoons, films and videos, radio and TV, audio cassettes. Try to talk to people in the language they understand. By language is meant not only English, French, or German. You must use idioms, examples, expressions, and concepts that they understand. You must gear your communication to the cultural and educational background of the called. The biggest mistake is to talk to everybody alike. There are differences that must be respected.



Dawa approaches could be defensive and reactive or aggressive and pro-active. It is better to take the initiative to take the message to the people rather than wait to defend it from attacks and distortions. When attacked, you should not take a defensive stance. Do not waste time in warding off ill-meant attacks and you fail to present the positives and strength of your message.


A phased approach must be used. The prophet started dawa in secret. He called relatives first before addressing the public. He called Arabs before calling the rest of the world. The strategy is to gradually expand the circle of truth by defections from the circle of falsehood and ignorance.


Gradualism is needed in dawa, al tadarruj fi al da’awat (p. 427 17:106, 2:32-33, 71:9). Start by calling people to tauhid and to worship of the creator. Emphasize aqida because it is the basis of the Ummah. People enter and leave the Ummah on the basis of aqidah. Present only the basics that are agreed on by everybody. Avoid any matters of differences or unclear issues.


Foot in the door approach is to present a weak point that will be accepted easily then present the stronger one later. The door in the foot strategy is to present a strong argument at the start and after it is rejected you present a weak one that is accepted as a concession


Iman is not only intellectual conviction or acquisition of knowledge. It also includes emotional attachment and practical application. Dawa will have a permanent impact only when it is followed by tarbiyyah.


Wisdom in dawa, al hikmat fi al da’awah (p 427 6:108, 10:41, 16:125, 20:43-44, 21:109, 22:68-69, 26:215-216, 28:55, 29:46, 41:33-34, 79:17-19) is always effective. You must be wise in your approach. Do not antagonize or provoke people. Your arguments should be polite. They should aim at convincing and not defeating people and making them feel bad about themselves. There is a human tendency to be argumentative. Some people will argue for the sake of argument. Watch out for such people. They will waste your time and you will get nowhere with them. Do not attack or criticize. Provide the alternative. Always concentrate on presenting the truth. Truth automatically displaces falsehood. You need not attack the falsehood in all cases. Attack provokes counter attacks and may become a psychological barrier to the conveyance of the message.


Remember that influence by example is the most powerful tool; your character and behavior must be impeccable even in the face of hostile attacks. You must mix and socialize with the people called.


You should never seek to convince people with your message by offering them material incentives. They will return to wherever they came from as soon as the material benefits stop. It however helps to offer some help to people in need as a way of establishing relationships and closeness which as was said above is a positive preliminary step to dawa. Material help strengthens the new Muslim against temptations of being diverted from the new faith. Living with the called and getting to understand them as well as sharing their happiness and sorrows helps a lot. Acts of kindness however shall open up people’s hearts.



Conversion can be intellectual, emotional or both. Every body comes to Islam through a different sequence. Some people start by reading and getting intellectually convinced. Then they make contact with Muslims and get emotionally and cultural involved. Some people live with Muslims, see their behavior and get attracted to their religion and way of life. They accept Islam and study to get the intellectual dimension. Calibrate the content and method of the message to the appropriate stage of conversion. Philosophical understanding of the faith is not a condition for conversion and is not an obligation. It will come with time. Moral transformation is individual. The aim should be to raise the level of the individual. The message should therefore be individualized and customized as much as possible to the intellectual and emotional state of the target. The message conveyed is simple and direct; keep it so. Do not complicate it at all. Ideas are powerful and are infectious. True ideas are the most powerful. We have to continue propagating even if there are no tangible results. People are always infected but the manifestation of changed attitudes, convictions, and beliefs may be delayed.



Dawa has its own dynamics. It is very difficult at the beginning. Once you start getting some success with some people accepting the call, things get easier. Success leads to more success. People tend to get convinced if they see others like themselves being convinced.


Planning dawa is very important in the complicated society of today. Planning basically helps use available resources in the most efficient way. The main elements that a dawa plan covers are: the caller, the called, the time dimension, resources (money, material), and program control.


Dawa requires funding. It however can never succeed if it is fully professionalized. Volunteers will always be needed to do the legwork. Blessings are in the motivation and enthusiasm of the volunteers.


Dawa must be coordinated to avoid unnecessary duplication and competition. Individual initiative should never be curtailed or suppressed in the name of unity and coordination. What you should aim at is unity of purpose and not necessarily one dawa organization. Dawa programs must be evaluated for effectiveness; the results of evaluation being used to improve the program.


Lack of immediate success should not be a reason for giving up. Continue and persevere. All dawa workers whether full-time of part-time must be trained. The training program must answer the following questions: Why train? Who trains? What is the content of training?. The training program should be tailored to the local situation.


Most evaluation is that of the process. Outcome evaluation very difficult and unreliable in dawa. Results of dawa are long-term and are difficult to quantify. Never forget to pray to Allah to guide the called. You may do all what is humanly possible and not succeed. It is Allah who guides. opposition should never tempt you to consider a violent approach. Dawa is a peaceful process that targets the hearts of men and not their bodies.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. November 2000