A da’i is an individual who invites others to God and the truth. A mad’u is the one called to God and the truth. The successful Da’i will need to consider many aspects of Islamic knowledge, the condition of the environment he is working in, his resources and means, and what he wishes to accomplish.
The aim of calling man to God is that, while still living in the world, he may become an inhabitant of the hereafter. He will thus discover God’s greatness in the greatness of the world. He will start experiencing heavenly blessings in worldly comforts, while worldly hardships will remind him of the torment of hell fire.
He will be able to see glimpses of the realities of the hereafter in the beautiful scenes of the world of nature. This is the true aim of dawah, and the preparation of such individuals is the true measure of the da’i’s success. It is said in the Quran that God created man in ‘the best mould’ and then ‘cast him down to the lowest of the low.’1 The process of dawah is to bring the individual back to his original state, to help him to gain entry into Paradise once again and to bring him under the protection of the Lord’s blessings.
The example of a man who is away from God is like a fish which has been taken out of water and thrown in the desert. Such a fish, completely out of its element, will soon face extinction. The best way to help it is to return it to water again.
In the same way, man is also an inhabitant of Paradise. He has a tremendous urge to find an unknown ideal. Every man is running after this unknown ideal. Over and over again, he leaps towards some worldly success or the other. He hopes that this is probably that unknown ideal for which he has been striving all along, but without any success.
Finally he leaves the world without having found his ideal. This is the place where a da‘i (the one who calls people to God) has to perform his task of dawah, that is, to tell man that the ideal for which he has been searching for is none other than Almighty God and His Paradise.
It is God alone who can enable him to find his ideal and it is only by his finding God that this can happen. It is only after reaching Paradise that man will be filled with bliss, as he will find there the world for which he has been striving all along.
In this way, every man is the target of a da‘i (the one who calls people to God). A da‘i has to reach out to every individual. He has to remove the veil from every eye. In other words, if the world has a population of about 7 billion, the da‘i has the same number of tasks to perform. He has to strive to make all the people reach their heavenly abode. The name of this guide of humanity is da‘i —the one who calls people to God.
A da‘i is like a beacon standing by the roadside as a divine guide for the wandering caravan of humanity. The Quran says: ‘O people! Worship God and save yourself from Satan’. In a later chapter, it records the words of the Prophet:
‘O people! Run towards God. I am on His behalf an open warner for you’3. This is the real point of calling people to God. All the prophets warned their people about the necessity to seek out God and to shun Satan.
In later generations, it will be the task of the da‘is to make people aware of this reality. In this world man stands in between two calls: one is God’s call and the other is Satan’s. God is the source of all goodness, and He calls people towards all that is good. On the contrary, Satan is the source of all evil, and he calls people towards all that is evil. The test of man is that he should not fall a prey to Satan’s illusion: he should rather leave Satan and run towards God.
God is the source of all virtues. He loves justice, mercy, truthfulness, honesty and sincerity. God wants man to adhere to all such virtues, casting himself in their mould. On the contrary, Satan is the antithesis of all that is good. He is the very incarnation of all that is evil and he wants to draw man towards evil things. Satan kindles in man evil feelings and sentiments. He rouses in him dormant feelings such as jealousy, egoism, anger, vengefulness, pride, selfishness and ungratefulness. In this way Satan suppresses the human qualities in an individual and inflames and aggravates the animal nature in him, so that man becomes like a devil.
In the present world man stands in between these two demands. Every man is standing on the edge of an inner battle. On the one side lies the conscience which pulls him towards God. On the other side there is his ego, which pushes him towards Satan. His conscience represents God, while his ego represents Satan.
The role of a da‘i is to warn man of this reality. He should bring about an intellectual awakening in man so that he may, in recognizing these two demands, be able to control his ego and strengthen the subtle voice of his conscience. Avoiding Satan’s temptations, he becomes the traveller on God’s path, which will take him to Paradise. This task of dawah is the most important mission out of all the works going on on the face of this earth.
This was the mission of the prophets. Those who will take up this mission will be given a very special reward. Chapter 7 of the Quran mentions ‘the people of the Heights.’ These people will be made to stand on raised platforms on the Day of Judgement. They will announce God’s judgement to the people of Paradise and to the people of Hell. This reads as follows:
A barrier will divide the two groups, and on the Heights there will be men who will recognize each group by their marks, and they will call out to the people of the Garden, ‘Peace be with you!’—they will not have entered, but they will be hoping (to do so). When they turn their eyes towards the People of the Fire, they will say: ‘Our Lord, do not include us with the wrongdoers!’ And the people of the Heights will call out to men they recognize by their marks: ‘What use have been your great numbers and your false pride? And are these the people you swore would never earn God’s mercy?’ (And again turning to the blessed, they will say:) ‘Enter the Garden! You have nothing to fear, nor shall you grieve.’
According to al-Qurtubi, ‘the people of the Heights’ in this verse refers to shuhada’. That is, those special servants of God who, in the service of the religion of God, were witness to the deeds of the nations of the world. Some accepted their call, while others rejected it. These preachers of the divine message have been mentioned in the Quran in many different terms such as ‘warner’, ‘bearer of glad tidings’, ‘the caller’, etc. This group, originally formed of the prophets, was later made up of those special servants of God who followed the example of the prophets and performed dawah for the people of their times.
The Final Judgement on human beings, which is going to take place in the hereafter, will be based on the task performed by the witnesses (shahadah) for the people of the world. This task of witness divides the people of the world into two groups: one which accepts this message and the other which rejects it On the Day of Judgement these two opposing groups will be separated from each other. Then according to their deeds, they will be judged and will be destined to two different sets of consequences.
Though this judgement will be entirely God’s judgement, the announcement of it will be made by those special servants of God who had undertaken the task of dawah (call) and shahadah (witness). This will be a matter of a great honour to them. On the Day of Judgement, high platforms will be raised for ‘the people of the Heights’ to stand on. From there they will be able to see everyone, and will pronounce God’s judgement to the people.
The shuhada’ (those who bore witness to people) and the du‘at (those who called people to the truth), strove very hard in the world to convey the message of God to people. They dedicated their entire lives to this mission, as if it were their own personal work. For this reason, they will be honoured on the Day of Judgement by being asked to announce the final result of the call of truth to the people. They ranked high in the world according to their mission, and they will be referred to as such on the Day of Judgement, according to the result of their actions.