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  Three Stages of Dawah Work  

Dawah work has been called the task of giving people good tidings and a warning. In chapter 4, the Quran says: Messengers gave good news as well as the warning that mankind after (the coming) of the messengers should have no plea against God: For God is Exalted in Power and Wise. (4:165)

The task of dawah performed by the prophets, essentially concerned informing people of every age of the creation plan of God, and explaining to them that this present temporary world had been given to them not as a reward but as a test, for which a record was being maintained of their every thought, action and word. And in accordance with this record, people would be judged to be eligible to be sent either to heaven or to hell in the next eternal world.

There is a long history of dawah. For the convenience of study this can be divided into three stages.

1.  The period of the prophets

2.  The period of the Companions

3.  The period of the brothers of the Prophet (Ikhwan-e-Rasool)

The Period of the Prophets

The period of the prophets began with Adam, who was the first man as well as the first prophet. And this period ended with the last prophet, Muhammad. According to the Quran, these messengers of God propagated the divine truth everywhere and from generation — to generation (35:24). This message was actually the message of the Oneness of God and the life hereafter. The fate of this prophetic dawah work has been expressed thus in the Quran:

‘Alas for My servants! No messenger comes to them but they mock him!” (36:30)

This process of dawah work continued to be performed by God’s messengers up to the time of the Prophet Abraham. The Prophet Abraham was born in Ur, a city of Iraq, in 2600 B.C. He lived for 175 years. For a long period he called people to God, but they did not pay any heed to him. Ultimately he left Iraq to travel to different places. Only two people accompanied him when he left Iraq — his nephew Lot, and his wife Sarah.

Why were people so intractable in the period of the previous prophets? There is an observation on this in the prayer of the Prophet Abraham in the last stage of his life:

“O my Lord! They have indeed led astray many among mankind.”(14:36). The explanation of this verse can be found in the Hadith in which the Prophet of Islam observed:

“Every child is born with his own nature. It is the parents who turn him into a Christian, a Jews on a Zoorastrian.”

This means that every child comes first of all under the influence of his immediate environment where he spends his childhood days and his youth, and this which continues to condition him. Because of this conditioning, when a prophet comes and gives him the message of divine truth, he is not able to understand it. Thus conditioning has been the greatest obstacle to dawah work. It had become impossible for people to free themselves from this conditioning and understand this new message objectively and accept it.

It was in keeping with God’s planning that the Prophet Abraham settled his wife Hajra and his child Ismael in the uninhabited desert of Makkah, where no civilization on human culture existed to condition people’s minds.

The Period of the Companions of the Prophet

This nation nurtured in the desert of Arabia is known as the Ishmaelites. Over a period of 2500 years in they went from strength to strength. They were a unique people. Professor Philip Hitti (d. 1978) has called them ‘a nursery of heroes’. This course of ‘desert training’ was adopted so that a de-conditioned people could be produced.

Because of this continuous deconditioning, the superior nature of the Ishmaelities was kept intact. They possessed human qualities par excellence. It was these human qualities the Arabs summed up as “manliness”. (Al-Muruwwah)

The nation which developed after this desert training of 2500 years was unique in the whole inhabited world. At that time, the whole world was dominated by ‘shirk’ or polytheism. All the men and women who lived in cities had fallen prey to this idolatrous conditioning. The concept of polytheism had so become a part of the hearts and minds of people that it had become impossible for them to think otherwise.

Due to the influence of the adjoining states, idol worshipping had crept in to a certain extent among the Ishmaelites. This, however, was simply a part of their culture, and not based on any ideology. It had not become deeply rooted as in other nations — as is illustrated by the following incident.

Imra-ul-Qays was a celebrated Arab poet. He died thirty years before the birth of the Prophet of Islam in 540 A.D. He was, apparently, born into an idolatrous tribe, but his faith in idols was not so deep-rooted as with other Arabs. His father had been killed and he wanted to avenge his father. He approached Zulkhalasa, the idol of his tribe, and, according to the Arab custom, he drew lots by arrows to seek the idols opinion about seeking vengeance for his father’s murder. The answer was no. This enraged Imra-ul-Qays and he hit the idol with his arrow and said:

“O Zulkhalasa! If this had been done with your father, then you would never have said such a wrong thing — that such heinous crimes should not be avenged!”

Ancient Seekers of Truth

The generation of Ishmaelites which reached motivation after the desert training of 2500 years, was unique in human history. The majority of this generation — both men and women were unflawed in their nature. Owing to this, their distinguishing — feature was their ability to accept the truth. A sizeable number of them possessed this quality to a high degree. These people had almost found the truth — to the extent of about fifty percent — by virtue of their nature. In ancient Arabia they were called Hunafa.

Hunafa is the plural form of Hanif, which denotes a person who is a truth seeker. There were many such people in ancient Arabia, one of them being Qus bin Saada (d:600). He was a gifted speaker. Another such Hunafa was Zaid ibn Amr ibn Nufail (d:606), who did not worship idols and who used to say:

“O God, if I knew how you wished to be worshipped, I would so worship you; but I do not know.” (Seerat ibn Hisham, vol. I, p. 154).

Warqah ibn Naufal (d: 611) was another of these truth seekers. When the Prophet Muhammad received prophethood in 610, he had already become very old and blind but, when he heard about the revelation received by the Prophet Muhammad, he immediately testified to it and accepted his prophethood. But he died very soon — just a few months later. Abu Bakr ibn Abi Qahafa was also one of these truth seekers who accepted the call of the Prophet Muhammad without hesitation. Before receiving prophethood, even Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Mutallib was also a truth seeker in the best sense. This fact has been pointed in the Quran in chapter no. 93:

“Did He not find you wandering, and guide you?” (Az-Zuha: 7)

Historians have generally acknowledged that the Prophet of Islam achieved extraordinary success in Arabia. What was the secret of this success? The most telling factor was that he managed to find a large number of companions with great determination and superior character. These were known as the companions of the Prophet, and were the select members of the Ishmaelites. Such a team had never been assembled by any Prophet. Each and every member of this team was a hero. The noble character of these people was not produced simply by the influence of the Prophet, but was rather the result of 2500 years of divine planning. It was the culmination of the extraordinary sacrifice of Abraham, Hajra and Ismail. This is thus referred to in the Quran:

“You are the best community that has been brought forth for (the good of) mankind.” (3:110)

The Age of the Brothers of the Prophet

According to a Hadith, the Prophet of Islam, addressed his companions thus
“I wish to see my Brothers.” The companions said: “O messenger of God! Are we not your brothers?” He replied, “You are my companions and my brothers will come later.”

As mentioned above, the companions of the Prophet — of the first phase — had been produced by a long historical process. Similarly, the brothers of the Prophet — of this second phase — are those who were produced by a particular historical process. When we look at this carefully, we find an exact similarity between the two groups — despite their apparent differences. The companions of the Prophet of the first phase had been produced by the generation of Ismail, who, by keeping away from the seats of culture and civilization, had gone through the process of desert de-conditioning they had thus been brought up in natural surroundings, and were free from all prejudices. Hence it became possible for them to listen to the call of the religion of nature and accept it without any psychological complexes.

The present scientific age is also similar to that age. During this age, once again modern generations have gone through scientific de-conditioning on a universal scale. This has produced such people as are free of the traditional thinking of ancient times, who could understand things purely at the level of nature. It was destined that these people discover Islam at the level of realization and accept it with their revolutionary thinking. The same thing has happened in the modern times: In a way that when the experimental method of science became prevalent in the world, people began to revise their ancient concepts. Earlier opinions have been formed on the basis of suppositions and superstitions. Now, opinions have begun to be formed on the basis of observation and experimentation. This, in modern terms, is called the scientific method. The prevalence of the scientific method changed the ancient way of thinking to rational thinking, and people began to examine things anew in a scientific manner. I call this scientific de-conditioning.

This scientific de-conditioning is a very important feature of modern times. As a result, a whole new generation has come into existence. Just as a generation was produced in ancient Arabia in the desert which was deconditioned, educated people of modern times have freed themselves from the traditional shackles. As a result, their minds are prepared for understanding the truth. This was not the case in ancient times.

2500 years ago, the Arabs, as a result of their desert de-conditioning, had developed the ability to think by going beyond the religious traditions of their ancestors. Similarly, in modern times, a large number of people have been produced — after scientific de-conditioning — who have the ability to think beyond the cell constraints of their traditional religion. Such people are found all over the world. Two prominent people belonging to the western world are mentioned here to illustrate this point.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the celebrated scientist, was one of them. He was born into a traditional Christian family, but the study of science made him leave this traditional cell of Christianity. A book by his biographer, Peter Ackroyed was published in 2006 on this subject under the title of Isaac Newton – A Secret Faith.

The writer has this to say about Newton: ‘Newton also believed that the true religion was derived from the sons of Noah, and had been transmitted by Abraham, Isaac, and Moses. Pythagoras was a convert to this religion, and passed it on to his own disciples. Christ was a witness to that primitive faith in his simple commandments to love God and to love one’s neighbour. In a later document, Newton declared that we must worship ‘the only invisible God’ and venerate the ‘one mediator between God and man — the man Christ Jesus’. At the peril of our souls, ‘we must not pray to two Gods’. We must not worship Christ. Christ had been filled with the divine spirit, but he was not God. (p. 54).

Another example is that of Francis Herbert Bradley (d. 1924), a well-known British philosopher. Although he was born in an atmosphere of religious tradition, scientific education and scientific thinking compelled him to come out of the ancient traditional cell, think with an open mind and seek truth objectively.

In 1893, F.H. Bradley published a book titled ‘Appearance and Reality’, in which he wrote that today’s man required a scientific religion. The ancient traditional type of religion was no longer not acceptable as it did not appeal to the modern mind. Bradley did not mean that today’s man needed a religion with a Prophet like Newton and a revealed book like Principia, or a Prophet like Einstein and an ideology like Einstein’s General Theory of relativity. Rather, what Bradley meant was that only such a religion was acceptable to the modern mind as could pass the test of scientific enquiry.

Of these individuals, there were some who managed to reach the ultimate aim of their search. Nishi Kant Chattopadhyaya is one such example. He was a great Hindu scholar and knew several languages. He was born into a traditional family of Bengal. Later his education turned him into a non-conformist in the complete sense. He studied various religions with an open mind.

He studied the life of a number of religious personalities. Finally, owing to his open mind, he was compelled to admit that no religious personality was a historical figure, except the Prophet of Islam.

He expressed his views on this subject in a lecture he delivered in Hyderabad (India) in 1904. He clearly said that all the religious personalities were mythological figures. The only exception to this was the Prophet of Islam. These are his words:

“Oh, what a relief to find, after all, a truly historical Prophet to believe in.”

Modern Truth Seekers

Just as a number of truth seekers were born in ancient Arabia, in modern times also many truth seekers have been born. These modern truth seekers are free of all biases and are potentially ready to accept the truth of Islam. There has been an abundance of such cases in modern times. We give here some examples. Thomas Carlyle (d. 1881) a well-known Scottish writer and historian, wrote a book titled, ‘Heroes and Hero-worship’ (1841), which is devoted to the life and mission of the Prophet of Islam. Carlyle called the ‘hero of all the Prophets’.

The celebrated Lebanese Professor Philip K. Hitti (d. 1978) writes in his book, ‘History of the Arabs’ that ‘Muhammad was born within the full light of history’.
(p. 111)

Dr. Maurice Bucaille of France (b. 1920) learnt the Arabic language and studied the Quran. In his book, ‘The Bible, the Quran and Science’, he writes that of all the revealed books, the Quran alone comes up to the standard of modern Science.

In 1991, Dr. Michael Hart, an American writer (b. 1932) wrote a 572 page book — the biographers 100 men, from the entire gamut of human history, who achieved extraordinary success. At the top of this list of successful men is the name of the Prophet Muhammad. The book is titled:

“The 100: A Ranking of the Most influential Persons in History”

In 1939, Mr. M.N. Roy (d. 1954), an Indian historian, published a book on Islam titled: ‘The Historical Role of Islam.’ The writer has thus described the revolution brought about by the Prophet: “The most miraculous of all Miracles” (p. 4).

A large number of truth seekers have been born in the modern age, many of whom have acknowledge the veracity and greatness of the religion of Islam. Many of them studied Islam on their own and accepted Islam. For instance, Dr. Abdul Karim Jurmanus of Hungary, Leopold Mohd Asad of Austria, Mohd Marmaduke Pikthal and Lord Headlay Faruq of Britain.

The modern scientific age produced a new generation with a new way of thinking, characterised by the spirit of enquiry and this was exactly in accordance with Islam.

Bertrand Russell, the English Philosopher (d. 1970) write a book on this very subject titled “The Will to Doubt”. A study of such books shows that the distinguishing quality of the modern mind is that, thanks to scientific deconditioning, it is free from the traditional way of thinking. Modern minds want to judge by historical and scientific standards to know the truth of the matter before accepting it.

In large measure, this intellectual revolution of modern times favoured Islam, Islam being the only religion which is completely preserved. All other religions have been subjected to human interpolation and have been rendered historically unauthentic for this reasons only one choice is left for modern minds in the matter of religion to accept Islam. Islam enjoys the exceptional position of having the authentic version of the revealed religion.

In this way, exactly the same situation prevails in modern history which prevailed in Arabia at the turn of the 7th century. That is, the coming into existence of a group of individuals who, because of their de-conditioning have come, albeit unconsciously, closer to Islam. Now all that has to be done is to convert this unconsciousness into consciousness. Once a Japanese person told me that the Japanese people were potentially Muslims.

In my view all the people of the present day have potentially become Muslims. Now the need of the hour is to do dawah work which measures up to modern scientific standards so that this potential may be turned into a reality. This present generation will produce such individuals as will recognize the divine truth and, by accepting this truth, will form a group which is called Ikhwan-e-Rasool (brothers of the Prophet) as in the Hadith.

There is nothing mysterious about the “brothers of the Prophet”. It is as understandable a concept as that of the “companions of the Prophet”. The companions of the Prophet were formed as a result of the dawah work performed along prophetic lines.

In a similar way, a dawah process along prophetic lines is required in modern times. Through this dawah work, the new generation will discover the divine truth and will form a group called Ikhwan-e-Rasool as in the hadith.

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