Essentially, da’wah is a means to transform moral values and the quality of life of human beings -as individuals or as a group- to be more positive, constructive and productive. Da’wah to transform one’s self and society is clearly inspired by the Al-Qur’an.
A concrete example of social transformation that the Prophet Muhammad successfully achieved through da’wah is a testimony or narrative by the Prophet’s companion who was also his cousin named Ja’far ibn Abi Thalib (629 AD). He recounted: “We were ignorant people, worshipping idols, feeding on carcass, doing hideous acts, cutting off family ties, being hostile to our neighbors, the powerful would trample the weak. And thus we were until God selected from among us a Prophet of whom his lineage, honesty, trustworthiness and piousness were known to us. The Prophet urged us to practice monotheism, only worshipping Allah, to abandon worshipping other than Allah such as divinizing idols, race, ethnicity, and ancestry. The Prophet also encouraged us to enforce justice, speak honestly, uphold righteousness and purity. He also urged us to be kin-loving, maintain good relationships with our neighbors, to avoid evil acts and stop all forms of conflicts and blood-shed. The Prophet also forbade us to carry out heinous acts and speak falsely, exploit and neglect orphans, and commit violence against women, including slandering pious women.
Ja’far ibn Abi Thalib’s testimony clearly depicts the reforms that the Prophet carried out during his time, which was by transforming ignorant people into an Islamic society with many changes towards a more positive, constructive and productive life. If we measure the Prophet’s success in da’wah by his companions’ narratives and testimonies, so can we measure our own success in da’wah by several survey methods such as the Islamic City Index developed by the Ma’arif Institute.
The Islamic City Index intends to measure the extent that Islamic values are practiced in the daily lives of citizens, and how those Islamic values are used as the foundation for development and growth of the city. This index uses three main aspects, namely security, welfare and happiness of the citizens. The Islamic dimension of security is further elaborated in several variables such as freedom to practice religion, legal protection, fulfillment of women’s political rights, children’s rights and the rights of the disabled. The aspect of welfare is set out in several variables such as education, employment, and health. Lastly, the aspect of happiness is divided into several variables such as the willingness to share, solidarity, and harmony with nature. It is interesting to note that cities enforcing Islamic Shari’a laws or have Islamic bylaws (Perda Shari’ah) have not attained a very high ICI index.
Measuring the success of da’wah using this index as an instrument is certainly not absolute; it is just a concept. We can all develop better instruments of measurements. In essence, there needs to be a way to measure the effectiveness of da’wah as a means to transform one’s self and society for the better. This kind of assessment is an important tool in evaluation, self-introspection for all who are involved in da’wah activities. It is important that all parties, especially those who carry out da’wah must be open-minded and willing to be corrected and then try to update or reform, and enhance the quality of their future da’wah.
Dakwah for living moral values : Improving spiritual quality
Human beings have been given the duty as khalifah fil ardh, and that is why humans have been blessed with fitrah (natural belief) to differentiate between right and wrong. Fitrah is no other than religious moral values that are in essence the same as universal humanity. The misuse of fitrah involves denial of one’s innermost feelings thus living a life without balance and in turn resulting in decadence (safilin), even to the point of being even lower than reptiles.
Religious morals that are a given part of human beings have been instilled since birth. It is the duty of the parents, teachers and religious teachers as well as their closest environment to actively enforce those values to ensure their function in directing humans towards goodness and righteousness. The essence of da’wah is to reiterate those values. This should be done since early childhood, beginning from family life and continuously developed so as to ensure akhlak karimah (commendable virtues).
The underlying substance of those religious morals is values of justice. In truth, justice is the quintessential teaching of Islam, and even of all religions and faith that teach the importance of justice.
Justice, in relation with God results in absolute obedience only to Him, tawadhu (humility), tawakkal (resignation), forbearance and thankfulness. Justice, in its relation among human beings brings out compassion, love, sincerity, solidarity, courage and a sense of responsibility. Justice guides human beings away from all forms of discrimination, exploitation and violence. Also to avoid all things that may harm humanity, such as corruption, nepotism, consumerism, hedonism, and arrogant as well as despotic attitudes. Justice, in relation with nature, generates a caring attitude for the environment, and helps us avoid all forms of exploitation that ends in humanitarian disasters.
The Al-Qur’an asserts that mankind has an important capability regarding humanism, liberation and transcendence. Humanism in this case means that mankind has the potential to turn themselves and their society into becoming more humanistic through activities such as education, trainings, cultural events, seminars, workshops and research.
All these activities are aimed at reengineering individuals and society towards a better condition. Liberation in this case means mankind’s potential to liberate fellow human beings from injustice, the restricting bid’ah (actions that displeases Allah), khurafat (superstions) and radicalism. Transcendence in this case is related to mankind’s potential to improve their spirituality.
The al-khayr (universal wisdom) concept in that verse refers to religious morals that are more or less the same has universial humanitarian values. These values are the ones that constitute the central point in all religions and faiths. Da’wah should be aimed at reiterating those valies in each individual and group with the effect of improved spiritual quality in every human being.
Reformulation of da’wah: Bridging diversity and Enriching humanity
First of all, allow me to convey my appreciation to all those who have done their utmost to improve the quality of da’wah in Indonesia, and that includes this seminar organized by UIN today. I admit that much progress has been achieved through the hard work of many, particularly da’wah activists. However, that progress has yet to fulfill all expectations, especially in relation to the objective condition of Muslims. In my opinion, there is an urgency to reformulate da’wah to ensure that it can be a tool in bridging diversity and enriching humanity.
As to the quality of da’wah, there are at least five elements that need to be improved: Firstly, the actor of the da’wah itself ((da’i). A da’i must have the knowledge, the skill, and experience related to da’wah. Not only must a da’i have competence, most importantly, he has to have integrity and a passion for humanity. A da’i must be commited to disseminating new interpretations that are more humanistic, democratic and rational in line with the objective conditions of the community he is facing. In the context of Indonesia, there is a need for da’is who understand the philosophy behind the State Ideology (Pancasila) and the Constitution, as well as human right values. In addition, a da’i must also have knowledge of the local wisdoms that are practiced in society.
We need da’is who have the ability instill moral values in each individual and society so that they always think positively and actively contribute to the good of all human beings. And if those moral values live and resonate, human beings will be encouraged to carry out amar ma’ruf nahy munkar in courteous and civilized ways according to their respective capacities. We need da’is who are committed to promote progress for the people by spreading love and ensuring peace. We don’t need da’is who always speak in anger, provoke people through their hate speech and hostility and push people into a destruction of civilization.
The second element is the audience. People who receive da’wah, even if they are all Muslims, are very diverse, in terms of ethnicity, race, language, traditions, gender, intellectuality, in their understanding of Islam and in their political choice. Da’wah should educate people to be more spiritual and civilized through the act of reviving the moral values of religion. If recipients of da’wah are people who are open-minded, critical, dynamic, love to learn, want to change, then da’wah becomes a trigger to accelerate that transformation.
On the contrary, if recipients of da’wah consist of people who are skeptical, indifferent, easily provoked, uncritical and irrational, then da’wah activities will not be very effective in transforming people. And as such, da’wah will no longer be a platform of obligations but rather a performance that will turn recipients of da’wah into performers that people watch, and even become political objects for the benefit of certain political parties or groups.
The third element is the material of da’wah (maddah) itself, or what we know as the message of da’wah. The substance of da’wah should at least offer an explanation of religious moral values that need to be practiced on life by each human being so they can become people of commendable virtues (akhlak karimah). That is because this was the main objective of the Prophet’s mission. As the Prophet proclaimed: ”I was assigend solely to elevate noble morals.” At the very least this explains the value of justice and equality for mankind, including gender equality and equity. Renunciation of those values will result in injustice for the people.
Da’wah will succeed when the content of da’wah fulfill the needs of the people as recipients of da’wah. For example, da’wah content for farmers should be focused on efforts to improve the quality of agricultural products. The material should consist more of moral religious messages to enhance their dignity as defenders of human rights. The content of da’wah should inspire hope, offer certainty and the promise of happiness, not be full of threats, provocation to hate, cursing and horror stories full of hoax and lies.
The fouth element is the da’wah media (wasilah). There several kinds of known wasilah, da’wah can be verbal, written, portrayed in paintings, and in audiovisual form through short films and videos, memes, photos and caligraphy. With the advances in technology, particulary in telecommunication and informatics, there are so many medias that can be used for da’wah. We must have the courage and ability to use all media for the success of da’wah. We even need to create new medias that are more effective for da’wah. Whatever the media we choose, the important thing is to remain consistent in using courteous language that inspires human empathy.
The last but not least is the method of da’wah. The Al Quran clearly states that there are three principles in the method of da’wah : hikmah, maw’izhati`l-hasanah, and mujadalah bi`l-latî hiya ahsan. It is important to note that the maw’izhah must be conveyed in a good (hasanah) manner and that mujadalah must be done in an even better way (bi`l-lati hiya ahsan). Remember that in Islam, how we do something is as important as why we do it. Islam does not condone using despicable and unethical maneuvers, such as hoaxes, fake data and false news to attain a purpose.
I am sure that reformulation of da’wah will be carried out along with efforts to improve the quality of those elements of da’wah. In the end, da’wah will succeed in bringing Muslims to the forefront in advancing huma civilization and preserve world peace. I would like to one day give a testimony on the success of da’wah in transforming people so that they become even better, like the testimony given by Jafar at the beginning of my article. Hopefully!
Da’wah as a tool for upholding peace through interfaith dialogue
In a generic way, Islam is a religion which carries the message of peace and harmony. the word Islâm originate from salima which means peace and preclusion from all that is condemned and disgraceful. From a linguistic perspective, Islam generally means a profound concern for peace and justice.
Islâm also means the submission to Allah and it is based on humility. An attitude of humility within one's own self cannot be accomplished without total rejection of violence, and a personal attitude and alignment toward peace. Islam is present in the face of mankind, in the realm of conveying a new morality for social transformation. Islam is a teaching which is oriented to humanity. Based on this principle, Islam is a religion which respects humanity.
Islamic tradition has a glorious history of interfaith dialogue. The Prophet Muhammad has set many examples of dialogue, both verbal and written. The prophetic dialogue was also accompanied with the establishment of a tradition of cooperation on common human grounds with followers of other religions. To institutionalize this cooperation, the prophet concluded written agreements with followers of different religions which can serve as models of cooperation and coexistence for the pluralist societies of today.
Firstly, ‘Hilful Fudūl’. We witness the first ever instance of the Prophet’s activism for cooperation with others in acts of goodness and to undo excesses and injustice, in Mecca, when he was yet to be bestowed with the prophet hood. He became part of this agreement, called ‘Hilful Fudūl’, and accorded so much importance to it that even after he was granted prophet hood.
Secondly, The Madina Pact. After migrating to Madina, the Prophet in order to establish peace, stability and a civil society based on human rights, concluded a deal with the Christians, Jews and mushrikīn (idol worshippers) which is recorded in history as Madina Pact. The most striking feature of the Pact that has a very meaningful relevance to our own socio-political situation in this era of globalization. He has accepted all the religious entities represented in the Pact as forming one single people (Ummah). The Madina Pact accepts religious freedom as a core value and right and guarantees equal rights and obligations of all the participants in the Pact in matters of the State.
Thirdly, The Pact of Hudaibiya. It is also forms a great landmark in the Islamic tradition of interfaith dialogue. This Pact which was concluded with the Muslims, doing it seemingly lying down, paved the way on one side for the suspension of hostilities against Muslims and for opening interaction and negotiations with different religious groups on the other. These negotiations facilitated the processes of mutual understanding and coexistence becoming a reality as well as created conditions for an unobstructed propagation of Islamic teachings.
Fourthly, the khutba hujjat al-widā. The most important initiative taken by the Prophet having utmost relevance in the context of the present interfaith dialogue is his Last Sermon which was addressed not only to the Muslims but also for all human beings. It is very interesting to note that The Sermon is containing the basic principles of human rights in Islam in the most clear language. The Last Sermon, the khutba hujjat al-widā, not only constitutes the first Charter of Human Rights but also provides a firm ground for peaceful coexistence and promoting interfaith dialogue.
All these four models of the Prophet’s acts of building peace through interfaith dialogue, Hilf ul-fudūl, Madina Pact, Pact of Hudaibiyyah, the Last Sermon, contain a very clear guidance that can help us in the process of initiating a model of interfaith dialogue in the present day pluralist societies.
Experience has shown me that in many religious dialogues, all religions have a common enemy, which is injustice. Injustice brings to many social problems which related to corruption, lack of education, unemployment, migrant workers, trafficking, children marriage, prostitution, sexual harassments, domestic violence, social inequity, poverty, unemployment, a tyrannical and despotic political system leading to colonialism and imperialism.
Injustice also results in unequal relationships, which in turn give rise to domination, discrimination, exploitation and many forms of violence and crime. That is why, da’wah in all religions, especially in Islam should be aimed at eliminating all forms of social injustice, that is our common enemy.
The conclusion is that da’wah be capable of reiterating or living the moral values of religion of which the essence is universal human rights. I do believe that by living values or revitalizing those values, a warm, intimate, intense and meaningful human relationship can be established, and this starts with one’s self within the family. Da’wah must ultimately produce a peaceful and happy society, as is stated in the Holy Qur’an with the phrase baldatun thayyibah wa Rabbun ghafur.
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