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  Dawah in the Modern Age  

God has assigned a whole series of duties to Muslims, ranging from turning themselves into true worshippers of their Creator to working towards the reformation of backsliders. All of these responsibilities are entirely binding upon them. But their primary religious obligation is to convey the message of God’s true religion to all non-Muslim nations. This should not be seen in the context of a purely national struggle, but as a global obligation handed down by the Prophet to Muslims everywhere, to be fulfilled after the termination of his prophethood. God has associated with the task of Da’wah work all kinds of goods in this world and in the Hereafter for the Muslim Ummah. According to the Qur’an, the way to protect themselves from wrongdoers is to call them to tread the path of God. (5:67) It is for the successful fulfillment of this duty that believers will be distinguished in the Hereafter by being given the position of God’s witnesses. The Qur’an describes them as those who will stand in the most elevated places. (7:46). This is the greatest honour, which may be conferred on the callers of truth in the life of the Hereafter.

However, calling people to surrender to God is no easy task. It amounts to a re-enactment of the history of the Prophet and his companions, who were unremitting in their efforts to bring to ordinary men and women a clear perception of the great hidden realities of the Almighty. It is to achieve on the human level what had formerly been achieved on the prophetic level.

But first the da’wah worker must himself understand the true nature of the message he brings to mankind, otherwise his activities will be irrelevant to God’s cause and may even prove counter-productive. Then, in bringing others within the fold of Islam, he must also appreciate in what sense and in how many ways there has been a change in conditions as far as the propagation of religious ideas is concerned. For our predecessors, the invitation to the truth meant putting an end to idolatry - replacing polytheism with monotheism. Nowadays, the invitation to God means putting an end to atheism.

With the end of idolatry, a new phase was launched in world history and, for a thousand years, human thinking went on developing along rational lines to the point where, in the sixteenth century, the emergence of the western sciences came to mark the beginning of yet another new era. In the present century, science, having made such rapid and tremendous strides, may be said to have reached its zenith. It is ironic that when science can now provide the means to reaffirm religious truths, atheism should have come to dominate human thinking and actions. Academically speaking, religion has become an adjunct of atheism. It has no independent status of its own.

The German statesman, E.F. Schumacher, sums up contemporary attitudes to religion in the following anecdote: “On a visit to Leningrad some years ago (August 1968) I consulted a map to find out where I was, but I could not make it out. I could see several enormous churches, yet there was no trace of them on my map. When finally an interpreter came to help me, he said: ‘We don’t show churches on our maps.’” (E.F.Shumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed, London, 1981, p.9)

This instance is a telling reflection of modern conditions. In today’s world when all sciences, including history, physics, botany, zoology and astronomy have been quite elaborately developed, God has been ousted from the academic and intellectual domain. Nowhere does the name of God occur. A man of insight perceives the signs of God everywhere - in every nook and cranny of the earth, and right throughout the furthest reaches of the universe. But in the empirical sciences, God is a nonentity. Students of these sciences find no trace of Him anywhere.

Given these conditions, the task of propagating the message of the oneness of God is to re-inscribe the name of God on the map of human thought. But it would require a worldwide intellectual revolution to spur man into coming to terms once again with the truth about his Maker. Only then will man understand and be convinced of the unity of God and the reality of the Hereafter. Our predecessors succeeded in breaking the dominance of idolatrous thinking, replacing it with the monotheistic system of thought. Now we must likewise break the hold of atheism in order to re-¬establish monotheism as the dominant intellectual imperative. To underestimate either the concept or the task of propagation, which it entails, would be displeasing in the eyes of God and His believers.

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