The Meaning of Da'wah in Islam

Da'wah
An interfaith rally at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Definition: Da'wah is an Arabic word which means to invite or summon someone. This term is often used to describe when Muslims share their faith with others, in order to teach them more about Islam.

Pronunciation: da-w-wah

Also Known As: prosthelytize, give testimony, share, preach, teach

Alternate Spellings: dawah

Example: Yousef engaged in da'wah with his new neighbor, who asked him many questions about Islam.

Explanation: The Quran instructs believers to: "Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. For your Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance" (16:125).

In Islam, it is believed that the fate of each person is in Allah's hands, so it is not up to individual Muslims to "convert" others to the faith. The goal of da'wah, then, is merely to share information, to invite others towards a better understanding. Then it is, of course, up to the audience to make their own choice.

Some Muslims actively study and engage in da'wah, while others choose not to speak openly about their faith unless asked. Rarely, an over-eager Muslim may debate intensely over religious matters, and insist on convincing someone to believe the "Truth." Most of the time, however, non-Muslims will find that Muslims are willing to share information about their faith with those who are interested, but will not force the issue.

Muslims may also engage other Muslims in da'wah, to give advice and guidance on making good choices and living an Islamic lifestyle.

While engaging in da'wah, Muslims would benefit from following these Islamic guidelines, which are often described as part of the "methodology" or "science" of da'wah.

How to Give Da'wah

  • Listen! Smile!
  • Be friendly, respectful, and gentle
  • Be a living example of the truth and peace of Islam
  • Choose your time and place carefully
  • Find common ground; speak a common language with your audience
  • Avoid Arabic terminology with a non-Arabic speaker
  • Have a dialogue, not a monologue
  • Clear up any misconceptions about Islam
  • Be direct; answer questions asked
  • Speak with wisdom, from a place of knowledge
  • Keep yourself humble; be willing to say, "I don't know"
  • Invite people to an understanding of Islam and tawhid, not to membership in a particular masjed or organization
  • Do not confuse religious, cultural, and political issues
  • Do not dwell on practical matters (first comes a foundation of faith, then comes day-to-day practice)
  • Walk away if the conversation turns disrespectful or ugly
  • Provide follow-up and support for anyone who expresses interest in learning more