A Lesson in Da’wah

, Val Jensen, Leave a comment

Da’wah (from Arabic da’ā, to “call”, “invoke”, “summon”, to “invite”.)

Perhaps, it is safe to say that by now the average American has a certain level of familiarity with the term jihad and knows more or less its significance when relating it to fundamental and radical Islam. Perhaps, it is also safe to say that on average Americans have practically no familiarity with the term da’wah and how it relates to the overall Islamic narrative but also correlates with the radical agenda.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) which has set itself up as the arbiter of acceptable discussion on the issue, with media blessing, has no interest in pursuing such an inquiry, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, a world of valuable information exists outside of its website.

Dr. Col. (Res.) Eitan Azani calls attention to the issue of da’wah. Dr. Azani, who is the deputy executive director of the Institute for Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, translates da’wah as “propagation based on non-violent means aimed to repair the Muslim society through education, preaching, and social welfare.” He explains that da’wah is found all over the world in Islamic centers, mosques, college campuses and madrasahs (public schools).  It is also translated to mean “missionary work to bring new believers to Islam, or to reinforce belief,” according to the New Encyclopedia of Islam (page 114).

Perhaps a good question is why would the average American even care about the term da’wah? The simple answer, according to Dr. Azani, who is also a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, is that da’wah and jihad are inextricably linked and can serve the same purpose. That purpose is the full realization of the ummah, or a world that is governed solely by Islamic law (Shari’ah).

The world falls into two main conditions for Islam: dar al-Islam and dar al-harb. The two terms are defined by the New Encyclopedia of Islam (page 111-112) as:

dar al-Islam (lit. the “abode of peace”). Territories in which Islam and the Islamic religious Law (the shari’ah) prevail.

dar al-harb (lit. the “abode of war”).  Territories in which Islam does not prevail.

This infers that in order to reach the full realization of the ummah, these two territories are in a constant state of hostility toward one another and the goal is to reconcile dar al-harb with dar al-Islam through jihad and da’wah so that eventually dar al-harb will be in subjugation to dar al-Islam, according to Dr. Azani. The repercussions are clear when speaking about jihad in these terms as Muhammad himself embodied the very nature of reconciling these two conditions through jihad or conquest of Arabia and the subsequent Arab conquests of the Middle East, northern Africa and Spain in the 7th and early 8th centuries. The repercussions of da’wah are much more subtle and run the risk of falling into the category of Islamophobia and political incorrectness (which could explain the lack of attention in mainstream media) but are, in effect, just as dangerous as overt jihad, as Dr. Azani warns.

The real crux of the argument is this: the Qur’an states in Surah 5:48 that there should be no separation between Islamic religion and governance and when Muslims that wish to sincerely follow the Qur’an are given many verses such as Surah 8:38-39 which state to fight those who have disbelief until all of religion is for Allah, then it becomes logically alarming because if taken literally and true, it means the eventual state of the world should be in submission to Allah and Islamic governance. Radical Muslims recognize this and do this forcefully through jihad but are often aided with non-violent measures of da’wah (charitable funding, proselytizing). Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, explains this when he speaks about obedience.

There are many Muslims to whom da’wah simply means a form of missionary work in the hopes that people find Allah and where violence or world domination plays no part. However, Dr. Azani’s warning concerns the societal threat of those who see da’wah, supported logically from the Qur’an, as linked with jihad in a hope of a world under dar al-Islam. As the term jihad will probably forever take on the connotation of a violent struggle and holy war instead of a personal struggle for betterment in the West, da’wah also runs the risk of a negative connotation without those Muslim leaders who can boldly stand up to set the theological record straight.


Val Jensen is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org