Da'wah and Tabligh: Principles and Curriculum
Embedded in this verse (125) there lies a whole curriculum of Da'wah and Tabligh, its principles and rules of etiquette, within the frame of a few words.
As in Tafsir al-Qurtubi, when Haram ibn Hayyan's time of death came near, his relatives asked him for some wasiyyah (order, parting advice, will). In reply, he said, "Wasiyyah? That people make for trial (wealth, property, inheritance), which I do not have. But, I would still make a wasiyyah, that of the ay at of Allah, particularly that of the last verses of Surah an-Nahl - and I order you to stand firm on them." The verses mentioned here are the same as appear above.
Literally, : da'wah, means to call. The first duty of the blessed prophets is to call people towards Allah. After that, what they teach as prophets and messengers are explanations of this Da'wah. The Qur'an mentioning a special attribute of the Holy Prophet has called him: (one who invites people towards Allah):
And one who invites towards Allah with His permission whilst being a lamp, lighted. (al-Ahzab, 33:46)
O our people, respond to the Caller of Allah (Prophet Muhammad ). (al-Ahqaf, 46:31)
Calling people towards Allah ( : da'wah ilal-lah) has been made obligatory on the Muslim Ummah following in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet . It was said in Surah 'Al-'Imran:
And there has to be a group of people from among you who call towards the good... (3:104)
And in another verse, it was said:
And who is better in utterance than the one who called (people) towards Allah. (Ha Mim as-Sajdah/Fussilat, 41:33)
While expressing the general sense, this word may take several forms, such as: (da'wah ilal-lah: Calling towards Allah), (da'wah ila al-khair: Calling toward the good) and (da'wah ila sabllillah: Calling towards the way of Allah). However, the outcome is the same because calling towards Allah is actually calling towards His dm and the Straight Path.
The next phrase: (ila sabili rabbik: to the way of your Lord) carries two nuances of expression. Here, by mentioning the special attribute of the Most Exalted Allah - 'Rabb' - and then by annexing it to the Holy Prophet , a hint has been given that the work of Da'wah is connected with the attribute of nurture, raising, training and education. Here, it is being suggested to the Holy Prophet that the way Allah Ta'ala has nurtured him, he too should invite people using the mores of nurture and education. It should be a Da'wah in which due consideration is given to the nature and attending circumstances of the addressee and the ultimate approach has to be such as would not weigh heavy on the recipient, rather, should be as effective as is possible. The word: (da'wah) itself imparts this sense in that the mission of a prophet is not simply limited to conveying the injunctions of Allah and making people hear them. Instead, his mission is to invite people to implement these in their lives. And it is obvious that no one inviting someone to Allah would present his submission in a manner which causes distraction and aversion or in which the addressee has been maligned or mocked at.
The expression: (bil-hikmah: with wisdom) which follows immediately has been used in the Holy Qur'an for several meanings. At this place, some Tafsir authorities have taken: (al-hikmah) to mean the Holy Qur'an, some others explain it as the Qur'an and Sunnah, still others call it the binding argument while Ruh al-Ma'ani has given the following Tafsir of 'al-hikmah' with reference to al-Bahr al-Muhit:
It is sound speech which goes into one's heart. (Ruh al-Ma'ani)
This Tafsir assimilates all above views. The author of Ruh al-Bayan has also carried almost the same sense in the following words:
"Al-Hikmah means the insight through which one finds out the dictates of circumstances and talks as appropriate relatively, chooses such time and occasion as would not put a burden on the addressee, employs lenience where lenience is called for and firmness where firmness is in order. And where he thinks the addressee would be embarassed by saying something frankly, there he should use hints to communicate, or employ a change of subject and approach in a way that neither embarasses the addressee nor feeds him with the thought of sticking by his prejudice."
The next word: (al-maw'izah) or: (wa'z) literally means to say something in the spirit of wishing well in a manner that would make the heart of the addressee softened and arable, all tuned to accept it. Once this is done, it will be useful to talk about the reward and benefit of such acceptance, as well as, about the punishment and ill-effects of not accepting it. (Al-Qamus and al-Mufradat of Raghib al-Isfahani)
Later, by saying: (al-hasanah: good), the sense conveyed is that the subject and treatment of this counsel should be such as would satisfy the heart of the addressee, removing doubts and apprehensions whereby the addressee comes to realize that you have no personal motive behind your approach and that you are addressing him only in the interest of the addressee and for his or her good.
We may stay with the word: (al-maw'izah: counsel) for a while and say that it had already made it clear that this wishing well has to be in an effective manner. But, experience bears out that sometimes while wishing well for someone, the approach could become hurtful or insulting for the addressee. (Ruh al-Ma'ani). In order that people would leave this kind of approach, the word: (al-hasanah: good) was added.
The word: (jadil: argue) in the subsequent sentence: (And argue with them in the best of manners) has been derived from: (mujadala). At this place, it means argumentation and debate and: (And argue with them in the best of manners) means that should there be, in the process of Da'wah, the need to engage in debate or exchange of arguments, then, that discussion should also be in the best of manners. It appears in Ruh al-Ma'ani that good manners require a gentle and soft approach in mutual submissions, arguments have to be such as would be easily understood by the addressee, arguments have to be supported by known premises so that they help remove the doubts of the addressee and shields him against falling into dogmatism. And there are other verses of the Qur'an which bear witness to the fact that this approach of showing good manners in debate (al-ihsan fi al-mujadalah) is not restricted to Muslims alone. About the people of the Book (Jews and Christians), the Qur'an particularly says:
And do not argue with the People of the Book except in a manner which is the best. (al-'Ankabut, 29:46)
And in another verse, by giving the instruction of: (speak to him in gentle words (Ta-Ha, 20:44) to Sayyidna Musa and Harun (A.S), it was also stressed that this was how they have to deal even with as rebellious an infidel as the Pharaoh.