Using gentleness with those who are hoped to embrace Islam is a desirable thing, in order to attract their hearts to it. This is with regards to the disbelievers; what then should the attitude be towards someone who is hoped to make repentance while he is a Muslim who believes in Allah and His Messenger? Is he not worthier of gentleness than the disbeliever who is hoped to embrace Islam?
In Da’wah (calling to Islam), gentleness is a form of a kind treatment that opens the heart of the recipient. This is one of the established principles of Da‘wah in Islam that is uniformly mirrored in the Quranic discourse and the practices of all Messengers of Allah with their peoples. It is more evident in the story of Prophet Ibraaheem (Abraham), may Allah exalt his mention, when he was inviting his father to believe in Allah. He repeatedly called him “O my Father”, thereby hoping to appeal to him through this firm father-son bond. It is also quite clear in the story of Prophet Moosa (Moses), may Allah exalt his mention, with Pharaoh, who claimed to be God. Allah The Exalted commanded Moosa and Haaroon (Aaron), may Allah exalt their mention, to invite Pharaoh to believe in Him with kindness; He Says (what means): “And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah].” [Quran 20:44] There is no doubt that gentle speech is more likely to be responded to positively.
Islam preaches this same general attitude when calling people to Allah The Exalted. Rather, the Quran emphasized it and the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) implemented it; Allah The Exalted Says (what means): “And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter.” [Quran 3:159]
Contemplating the Quran, we notice that harshness is not mentioned except in the context of fighting the enemies in battlefields. Here, there is no room for gentle speech as no sound is louder than that of the sword and spear. The rules of efficiency in combat dictate toughness when confronting the enemy until the battle comes to an end. However, even in this context, Islam preaches kindness by establishing the refined etiquette of Jihaad in this glorious religion. There should be no fighting before conducting Da‘wah (calling people to Islam). In fact, the object of Jihaad in Islam is to usher people to guidance; the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: ~“If a single person is guided by Allah through you, it will be better for you than a whole lot of red camels.”~~ In Islam, the purpose of Jihaad is not killing people and taking captives and war booty; rather, it is prompted by mercy in all its aspects. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) used to instruct his Companions to observe the Islamic etiquette of war, saying: ~“Set out with the blessing of Allah. Do not kill a decrepit old man, or a child, or a woman; do not steal (from the booty) or act treacherously, and do right and act kindly, for Allah loves those who act kindly.”~~
If Islam preaches kindness and gentleness in the context of war, how about that of Da‘wah?
Violence Yields no Good
Violence in the context of Da‘wah begets no good. Nothing mars Da‘wah more than violence, because the caller to Allah hopes that his call delves into the depths of the recipient to make him a person of God in his conceptions, feelings, perceptions, and attitude. It alters his whole being and transforms him to another person in terms of thought, feeling and willpower. It also targets the community to change its inherited beliefs, deeply rooted traditions, and prevailing moral and social systems that do not conform with the laws of Allah or the tenets of faith and the concepts of truth.
It is thus a substitution at the intellectual, ideological, and emotional levels. It is well known that beliefs and ideologies can never be changed through violence, force, or coercion. Being harbored by the hearts and minds, there is no way to force beliefs and ideas on others. In fact, the only effective means to change beliefs and ideas are persuasion and reasoning.
This can only be achieved by means of wisdom, clever handling of matters, and knowledge of the human nature and man’s innate inclination to hold on to the old norms, while taking into account his inherent inclination to dispute; Allah The Exalted Says (what means): “… but man has ever been, most of anything, [prone to] dispute.” [Quran 18:54] This entails adhering to gentleness and skillfully trying to win the heart and mind of the recipient to soften his heart, weaken his persistent clinging to old ideas and practices, and eliminate his prejudice.
There Should Be no Compulsion in Religion
Allah The Exalted and Glorified does not force anyone to believe in Him or embrace His religion. In fact, He forbade the believers from coercing people into embracing Islam; He Said (what means): “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.” [Quran 2:256] Evidently, coercion is utterly pointless as far as beliefs and ideologies are concerned. It does not yield genuine faith, as a person cannot become a true believer under duress.
It goes without saying that Allah The Exalted is able to cause all His servants to be believers; He Says (what means): “And if we had willed, We could have given every soul its guidance…” [Quran 32:13], “And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” [Quran 10:99]
However, He did not do so and instead provided His servants with clear and compelling evidence to usher them into the correct path, and sent them Messengers to guide them to the truth; Allah The Exalted Says (what means): “[We sent] messengers as bringers of good tidings and warners so that mankind will have no argument against Allah after the messengers.” [Quran 4:165] He then left them the choice to believe or disbelieve so that the consequences would be those of the servant’s own choice, not of someone else’s actions forced on him. Allah The Exalted Says (what means): “so whoever wills – let him believe, and whoever wills – let him disbelieve. Indeed, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire whose walls will surround them.” [Quran 18:29]
The Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) lived in Makkah and saw the idols everywhere, yet he did not demolish or burn them. Rather, he continued calling people to Allah and communicating the divine message to them to enlighten their minds, change their false beliefs wisely, and correct their perceptions so that the change would stem from within them out of full conviction.
The Muslim youth around the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) were sometimes carried away by zeal for their cause and asked him to take up arms against their enemies. However, he sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) urged them to adhere to patience and commanded them to refrain from fighting the disbelievers until instructed otherwise, and concentrate their efforts, instead, on establishing the prayer and paying the Zakah until the budding Muslim community is strong enough to take the apt measures. Allah The Exalted Says (what means): “Have you not seen those who were told, ‘Restrain your hands [from fighting] and establish prayer and give Zakah’?” [Quran 4:77]
Assume that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) had given in to their wishes and commanded them to fight the disbelievers of the Quraysh, how would have the Muslims, few in number as they were then, been able to confront their enemies? Had the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) demolished the idols around the Ka’bah, what would have been the consequences of such an act?
Some ardent Muslim youth in a large Muslim country dug up the graves erected inside mosques and demolished shrines venerated by some misguided Muslims who made offerings to them. These zealous Muslim youth defended their action by bringing forth textual evidence from the Quran and Sunnah regarding the obligation of forbidding such sinful acts. There is no doubt that their intention was good and they sought to enjoin good and forbidding evil. However, their actions incurred adverse consequences; they were arrested and so were large numbers of scholars, seekers of knowledge and religious Muslims. All of them were severely harmed, and their families suffered material and moral harm as well.
Add to that, these shrines were rebuilt better than they were before. In brief, forbidding the evil in this case incurred a graver one.
I recall another incident in a Muslim country where a statue of a naked woman was installed at a square. It was an old worn-out statue that people hardly cared about or noticed. A zealous Muslim young man broke the statue and vandalized it. Perhaps he was somewhat right, but again the consequences were unfavorable; he was arrested and subjected to much suffering, and the officials rebuilt the once-neglected statue, turning it to a better and more noticeable version. It became the talk of the town and the incident actually drew people’s attention to it even more.
We do not accept or approve of preserving such idols and statues or of building shrines and allowing people to circumambulate them. We do not accept or approve of any sinful act committed in a Muslim country; however, we must consider the consequences of actions and their results. Forbidding an evil may be considered an evil itself if it led to an even graver evil, as Muslim scholars agreed.
Addressing corruption and evils with violence or in a manner that does not conform to the principles of the Sharia and the due conditions of enjoining good and forbidding evil often incurs legal implications on the doer under the man-made laws. It also constitutes a major irritant for some influential notables, who benefit from preserving such corruption and evil. Thereupon, the caller to Allah would be exposing himself to the punishment and oppression of authorities and no good would be generated from his action. It would not benefit the call to Islam or Muslims in the slightest. His efforts would be wasted and his call would be rejected and prevented from spreading.
We are not suggesting that the caller to Allah should be a coward; rather, we want him to expand his mental and psychological horizons and address the root causes of the problem wisely and patiently, taking into account the beginnings and endings of matters. This is the normal way of addressing problems.
In fact, demolishing idols and statues does not eradicate corruption or uproot disbelief, and it will not change the situation in the slightest. On the contrary, people would more likely erect new ones or rebuild the broken ones to be better than before, and they may be blinded by stubbornness from seeing the truth. Most likely, such an act would enrage them, driving them to retaliate against Muslims and their Messenger sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) as did the people of Ibraaheem (Abraham), may Allah exalt his mention, when he demolished their idols.
The Role of the Caller to Allah
The role of the caller to Allah is not to kill idol worshipers. Killing them is pointless because it does not end idol worship. His role is not to demolish these idols, while their love remains vivid in the hearts of their worshipers; because, as we said before, they would rebuild them and make them better than they were. Rather, the role of the caller to Allah is to demolish the idols within the hearts and minds of the worshippers until their love is eradicated and people learn that these idols are false gods that do not benefit or harm themselves, let alone their worshipers. He is required to uproot the reverence, love, and glorification for such idols from the hearts and channel that reverence, love, and glorification to the One who is truly worthy of them. By doing so, the worshippers will demolish the idols with their own hands after the callers to Allah have demolished them within their hearts. This is the real change, and this is the role, job and duty of the callers to Allah.
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