Qur'anic Methods for Communicating Islam
Throughout history, Allah has sent messengers one after the other to
provide the people of the societies of ignorance with clear explanations
of His Existence and the hereafter, and to summon them to worship Him.
Allah informs us that His messengers, as well as all believers, have been
entrusted with this task:
Let there be a community among you who call to the good,
enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong... (Surah Al 'Imran: 104)
Believers are obliged only to communicate Islam, meaning that they are
to convey Allah's commands to people and call them to the Qur'an's morality.
Allah guides and gives understanding to people. In this respect, believers
are responsible only for using the methods indicated in the Qur'an; they
are not responsible for whether they believe or not.
To make their task easy, Allah shows believers many methods through explicit
commands and accounts in the Qur'an. Allah's messengers' practices also
set an example for believers. In this chapter, we will dwell upon the
Qur'anic methods of communicating the message and coping with changing
situations while fulfilling this task.
Stressing that No Wage is Asked for
Those people to whom Islam is being communicated should be able to analyze
the message with a free mind and conscience, and without being placed
under the influence of any prejudice, doubt, or distress. To this end,
they should be certain of the conveyor's sincerity.
People who are not acquainted with believers and thus know little about
them may well be biased against them and doubt their intentions because
they are under the influence of the society of ignorance. This may be
considered acceptable to a certain extent. For instance, they might be
curious about why believers work so hard to bring Islam to them. Since
everything in their own world is based upon personal interest, they might
be unable to grasp that people of faith only seek Allah's good pleasure.
Or, they might have concerns about whether the information being provided
is accurate. For these reasons, believers must do their best to dispel
all doubts and concerns without waiting for the other party to express
Indeed, the Qur'an informs us that all messengers made this a priority
of their mission, for they have certain faith in Allah's Might and the
hereafter's existence, and thereby devote their entire lives to earning
His good pleasure. Having certain faith in the existence of Heaven and
Hell, messengers fear that everyone they meet will face an infinite and
dreadful punishment in Hell unless they comply with Allah's commands.
Their main mission is to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and to tell
people about Allah's might and greatness. In return, they seek only to
earn Allah's good pleasure. Other than that, they expect no worldly benefit.
The Qur'an draws our attention to this point, and stresses that messengers
strove to resolve their people's doubts. Some relevant verses are as follows:
I do not ask you for any wage for it. My wage is the
responsibility of no one but the Lord of all the worlds. (Surat ash-Shu'ara':
They are the ones Allah has guided, so be guided by their
guidance. Say: "I do not ask you for any wage for it. It is simply a reminder
to all beings." (Surat al-An'am: 90)
My people! I do not ask you for any wage for it. My wage
is the responsibility of Him Who brought me into being. So will you not
use your intellect? (Surah Hud: 51)
A man came running from the far side of the city, saying:
"My people! Follow the Messengers! Follow those who do not ask you for
any wage and who have received guidance." (Surah Ya Sin: 20-21)
Thus, in compliance with the signs mentioned in these and other verses,
those who have undertaken such a noble mission have to clarify this point.
The conditions of today's world have compelled people to be prejudiced
toward everyone, since relations are based primarily upon material interests.
For this reason, such clarifications will clarify the matter to the other
Making It Clear That the One Who Communicates the Message
As to how the message should be communicated, the Qur'an provides yet
another message: Those who communicate Islam first should make it quite
clear that they are honest and reliable people. Indeed, we understand
from the Qur'an that all of the messengers used this method and stressed
that they were reliable messengers sent by Allah:
I am a faithful Messenger to you. (Surat ash-Shu'ara':
This is essential to remove the doubts of those to whom Allah's message
will be conveyed and to win their confidence. If people are honest, sincere,
and reliable, then their words deserve attention and contemplation. But
any doubts about the reliability of those conveying the message will cause
the other party to develop a self-defense mechanism. Once this point is
crossed by the methods presented in the Qur'an, people become ready to
concentrate on the message of Islam and are more open to it.
Refuting False Beliefs
After eliminating the concerns and prejudices of those to whom Islam
is being conveyed, the next step is to refute their irrational and false
beliefs. Explaining the erroneous nature of their beliefs should be done
clearly and logically, for people will abandon their beliefs only after
being convinced that their beliefs are mistaken. In order to remove the
concerns that blur one's mind, Allah presents a method: Disproving false
beliefs through rational, scientific, and visual methods by providing
satisfactory explanations as to why the unbelievers' systems do not work.
The method used by the Prophet Ibrahim (as) to spread the message to his
people sets a good example:
When he asked his father and people: "What do you worship?"
they replied: "We worship idols, and will continue to cling to them."
He asked: "Do they hear you when you call, or do they help you or do you
harm?" They said: "No, but this is what we found our fathers doing." He
asked: "Have you really thought about that which you worship, you and
your fathers who came before?" (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 70-76)
The Prophet Ibrahim (as) asked his people such questions in order to
address both their reason and intelligence, and gradually made them realize
the invalidity of their own beliefs. Meanwhile, with each question he
appealed to his people's consciences and ensured that they would acknowledge
the illogical nature of their beliefs. He followed this method because
his people, who had been worshipping stone idols inherited from their
forefathers, had never thought about it. However, once he exposed the
facts, they realized how unconscious and feeble were the beings that they
He then introduced Allah through His sublime attributes and thereby revealed
the incomparable difference between the stone idols that lacked any strength
and the being of Allah, the All-Mighty and All-Wise:
They are all my enemies, except for the Lord of all the
worlds: He created me and guides me. He gives me food and drink. When
I am ill He heals me. He will cause my death and then give me life. He
in Whom I sincerely hope will forgive my mistakes on the Day of Reckoning.
(Surat ash-Shu'ara': 77-82)
This method enabled his idolatrous people to grasp the irrational situation
they were in, but its influence lasted for only a certain time.
Using a Question-and-Answer Format
Similarly, people can be encouraged to inquire further about that which
they are not convinced. Doing so will enable them to understand how well
they have understood the information provided, and thereby allow them
to provide further explanations. Offering more information before clarifying
what has been presented already only confuses people.
In addition, it is a Qur'anic method to refute distorted thinking by
presenting the Qur'an's sound and rational reasoning. Another verse enlightens
us about this method:
What about the one who argued with Ibrahim about his
Lord, on the basis that Allah had given him sovereignty? Ibrahim said:
"My Lord gives life and causes to die." He replied: "I also give life
and cause to die." Ibrahim said: "Allah makes the sun come from the east.
Make it come from the west." And the disbeliever was dumbfounded. Allah
does not guide wrongdoing people. (Surat al-Baqara: 258)
In an extremely concise and profound manner, the Prophet Ibrahim (as)
exposed the unbeliever's weakness before Allah's infinite might and, through
impressive examples, made him recognize this situation on his own. Prophet
Ibrahim (as)'s proposal amazed and then completely silenced the unbeliever.
This wise style sets a very good example for believers who are communicating
Islam to others.
Calling Openly and Secretly
Allah informs us that all His messengers employed various methods and
explanations to communicate Allah's greatness and the need for religion.
The example of the Prophet Nuh (as) in this regard can serve as a guide
for all believers.
He said: "My Lord, I have called my people night and
day, but my calling has only made them more evasive. Indeed, every time
I called them to Your forgiveness, they put their fingers in their ears,
wrapped themselves up in their clothes, and were extremely arrogant. Then
I called them openly. Then I addressed them publicly and privately. I
said: 'Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Truly He is Endlessly Forgiving.
He will send heaven down on you in abundant rain reinforce you with more
wealth and sons, and grant you gardens and grant you waterways.'" (Surah
This prayer reveals that, when necessary, believers can use both direct
and indirect ways of explanation.
Reminding his people of the mundane things for which they felt a strong
affection, the Prophet Nuh (as) stressed that Allah grants them all blessings
so that they will think. He told them that Allah sends down rain to water
their crops, gives them wealth and children, creates rivers and gardens
with abundant yield, and that He is the Sole Possessor of every blessing
that they enjoy. In order to draw them nearer to the concept of religion,
he strove to explain to his people, who could not truly grasp Islam's
beauty and their need for religion, that the worldly interests to which
they were greedily attached also were under Allah's control. Their grasp
of these basic facts would lay the proper ground for a better understanding
of the hereafter's existence and Islam's commands.
Do you not see how He created seven
heavens in layers and placed the moon as a light in them, and made the
sun a blazing lamp? Allah caused you to grow from the soil, (and) then
will return you to it and bring you out again. Allah has spread the ground
out as a carpet for you so that you could use its wide valleys as roadways.
(Surah Nuh: 15-20)
These signs of creation hold so much and elaborate information that they
could fill many volumes. Reflecting upon the seven layers making up the
sky and their benefits to earth's living inhabitants and ecological system,
the sun's and moon's influence on the seasons, climates, the alteration
of night and day, and human life will broaden people's horizons and eventually
add to their wisdom and faith. Pondering over the catastrophes that the
slightest change in these systems could cause serves the same purpose.
The universe abounds with such minute details, which the vast majority
of people ignore. For this reason, drawing attention to them encourages
people to think and is instrumental in leading them to assessing Allah's
Power and Might. The Prophet (saas) stresses the importance of such a
good deed: "Whoever guides someone to virtue will be rewarded equivalent
to him (her) who practices that good action." (Muslim)
Indeed, the Qur'an calls upon people to appreciate the signs of creation
that indicate Allah's Existence and Greatness, and to reflect upon them.
Below are just a few of the many verses that draw one's attention to this
Have they not looked at the sky above them, how We structured
it and made it beautiful, and how there are no fissures in it? And the
ground, how We stretched it out and cast firmly embedded mountains upon
it and caused luxuriant plants of every kind to grow in it, an instruction
and a reminder for every penitent human being? And We sent down blessed
water from the sky and made gardens grow by it, and grain for harvesting,
and soaring date-palms with layered spathes, as provision for Our servants.
By it We brought a dead land to life. That is how the Resurrection will
take place. (Surah Qaf: 6-11)
Have they not looked at the camel how it was created?
And at the sky - how it was raised up? And at the mountains - how they
were embedded? And at the earth - how it was smoothed out? So remind them!
You are only a reminder. (Surat al-Ghashiyya: 17-21)
Do those who disbelieve not see that the heavens and
the earth were sewn together and then We unstitched them and that We made
from water every living thing? So will they not believe? We placed firmly
embedded mountains on the earth, so it would not move under them, and
We put broad valleys as roadways in it, so that perhaps they might be
guided. We made the sky a preserved and protected roof yet still they
turn away from Our Signs. It is He Who created night and day and the sun
and moon, each one swimming in a sphere. (Surat al-Anbiya': 30-33)
A Sign for them is the dead land which We bring
to life and from which We bring forth grain, of which they eat. We place
upon it gardens of dates and grapes, and cause springs to gush out from
it, so they may eat its fruits - they did not do it themselves. So will
they not be thankful? Glory be to Him Who created all the pairs, from
what the ground produces and from themselves and from things unknown to
them. (Surah Ya Sin: 33-36)
In the heavens and earth there are certainly Signs for
the believers. And in your creation and all the creatures He has spread
about, there are Signs for people with certainty. And in the alternation
of night and day and the provision Allah sends down from the sky, bringing
the ground to life by it after it has died, and the varying direction
of the winds, there are Signs for people who use their intellect. Those
are Allah's Signs that We recite to you with truth. In what discourse,
then, after Allah and His Signs, will they believe? (Surat al-Jathiyya:
Communicating Allah's Existence to the General Public
As the foregoing makes clear, the Qur'an presents various methods for
communicating Islam. The decision about which method to use depends upon
the believers' conscience and wisdom. Many parts of the Qur'an refer to
messengers conveying Islam to a single person. They also mention an open
address to the general public.
The Qur'an implies that Allah's messengers called their people publicly
by saying: "My people." One of the relevant verses is as follows:
And to 'Ad We sent their brother Hud, who said: "My people,
worship Allah! You have no other god than Him. So will you not have fear
of Allah?" (Surat al-A'raf: 65)
People generally find it humiliating to be influenced by someone who
holds contrary views. Alternatively, although they may be convinced of
the correctness of those views, they tend to reject them outright because
of personal prejudice. This is why people who hold such an outlook might
achieve better results by addressing the general public rather than talking
to individuals, since the positive reaction of some people may have a
favorable effect upon others. In brief, considering the community's general
attitude, this method may prove to be more effective.
Never did your Lord destroy the cities until He had raised
up in their mother (-town) a messenger reciting unto them Our revelations...
(Surat al-Qasas: 59)
Throughout history, Allah has sent His messengers to "mother-towns" to
tell people about His ways. This serves as a guide for believers, for
as a general rule it is more effective first to focus upon principle places
and then to expand upon them. Indeed, the Qur'an relates that believers
first spread Islam to their relatives. Once their relatives grasped its
beauties, the believers targeted a larger group. This way, they made the
most effective use of their talents.
As the Qur'an indicates, messengers generally are sent to densely populated
areas where "the chiefs of the nation," those who are the most insolent,
live. Allah's messengers summon such people first to the fear of Allah
and Islam's moral excellence, for they are aware that such people's tendency
toward Islam will have a positive impact upon other people.
The Prophet Musa (as)'s call to Pharaoh is a good example of this:
Has the story of Musa reached you, when his Lord called
out to him in the holy valley of Tuwa? "Go to Pharaoh, for he has overstepped
the limits, and say: 'Do you resolve to purify yourself? I will guide
you to your Lord so that you may fear Him.'" (Surat an-Nazi'at: 15-19)
The wisdom here is self-explanatory: Refuting the rationale of the leading
unbelievers' disbelief facilitates the conversion of their followers to
The Influence of Wealth and Splendor
A beautiful physical environment is another important factor that contributes
to the believers' success in spreading Allah's message. As a matter of
fact, whether this is the purpose or not, trying to establish a beautiful
place is the natural outcome of all believers' desire and endeavor to
draw near to the beauties of Paradise, for believers try to apply the
Qur'anic understanding of aesthetics and art to their surrounding environment.
The Qur'an contains extremely glorious and impressive descriptions of
mansions, gardens, rivers, couches, and other decorative elements that
address themselves to the human soul. Thus, believers adopt the Qur'anic
style of aesthetics.
Furthermore, the Qur'an draws attention to the positive effect that a
glorious and splendid environment makes on those people to whom Islam
is being conveyed. This way, people who have recently been introduced
to Islam should be able to see the Paradise-like features inherent in
the believers' lifestyle and surrounding environment. This brings their
hearts closer to Islam and, as with all other aspects of the Qur'an, they
can observe how this Qur'anic concept is practiced.
The Qur'an provides us with an example in the story of the Prophet Sulayman
(as) and the Queen of Saba:
She was told: "Enter the courtyard." But when she saw
it, she thought that it was a pool and so bared her legs. He said: "It
is a courtyard paved with glass." She replied: "My Lord, I have wronged
myself but I have submitted, with Sulayman, to the Lord of all the worlds."
(Surat an-Naml: 44)
Having heard that the Queen of Saba and her people were worshipping the
sun, the Prophet Sulayman (as) summoned them to submit to Allah and Islam.
The queen, who came to Sulayman (as)'s palace after receiving his letter,
was extremely impressed by the magnificence and wealth she saw there.
Her admiration for this taste led her to submit herself to the true path.
The verse informs us that the palace's floor was so transparent that
the Queen of Saba thought that it was an expanse of water and thus pulled
up her skirts. This floor bore a striking resemblance to Paradise, which
the Qur'an depicts as a place full of gardens "with rivers flowing under
them," and, although it was built by people, it had an immediate effect
upon the person to whom Islam was being conveyed. Recognizing that the
beauties surrounding her were the result of great wisdom, she acknowledged
Moreover, a place's aesthetic appearance and cleanliness provides some
relief to the human soul. Bright, spacious, and clean places possessing
an aesthetic decorative touch display the believers' peaceful state of
mind and positively affect the people to whom the message is being conveyed.
On the other hand, dark, gloomy, and messy places depress everyone, even
if they themselves are unaware of this fact.
However, we need to remember that Allah guides and grants insight to
a person. Such environments can only serve as a prayer, for they do not
guarantee that people will acquire faith in Allah. Meanwhile, what really
matters for believers is striving to earn Allah's good pleasure and calling
people to Islam as an act of worship. In return for this service, believers
will be justly rewarded in the hereafter.
Through their physical appearance, believers show that they live by the
Qur'an's moral principles. In the Qur'an, Allah calls the believers to
pay meticulous attention to physical hygiene and grooming. Complying with
all of Allah's recommendations and commands would make all believers,
who convey the Qur'an's commands, impressive in people's eyes.
On the other hand, only a sound and relaxed mind can concentrate on a
particular subject. Therefore, believers who call others to Islam should
abandon anything that might distract the unbelievers' attention so that
they can concentrate all of their attention upon the message and Allah's
signs. An unkempt appearance produces a negative and unpleasing effect
upon an audience, whereas believers who adhere to the Qur'an always are
pleasing to the eye. Their neat appearance and cleanliness evoke admiration
and respect, and call forth attention.
Meeting People's Needs
Another issue pointed to in the Qur'an is meeting the needs of those
who have been introduced to Islam only recently. This is a natural tendency
for believers, since the Qur'anic morality teaches them to be kind and
thoughtful to others even if they do not know them. As we saw earlier,
the Prophet Ibrahim (as) offered food to his guests promptly, although
they were complete strangers to him.
Surat at-Tawba: 60, "those whose hearts are to be reconciled," mentions
that such people are among the recipients of alms. Therefore, whatever
is given to those whose hearts are to be reconciled to Islam is in compliance
with the Qur'an.
On the other hand, concentrating on an important subject requires a great
deal of energy both for the listeners and the speaker. Harnessing one's
energy to a certain topic for a prolonged period of time may cause physical
and mental weariness. Offering them something to eat or drink raises people's
energy levels and helps them concentrate.
The Qur'an provides many beneficial methods to communicate the message.
Yet, what renders all of these methods and endeavors effective is sincerity.
The Qur'anic understanding of sincerity is quite different from that of
the society of ignorance. Real sincerity is sensed only if those who preach
the word believe in what they preach. Insincerity, revealed when a person's
words do not conform to Allah's recommendations, can be recognized easily
by how one speaks.
On the other hand, the attitude of those who truly believe in what they
preach and live by what they preach is quite different. For instance,
people who have a strong faith in the hereafter describe Hell in a naturally
convincing manner. Their tone of voice, expression, and manner of talking
convey their feelings and enable other people to perceive Hell's certainty
and dreadful nature. The explanations of those who have not grasped its
existence, on the other hand, may have a negative effect on others. Thus
the values, attitudes, and life of these people should support their explanations.
We also need to remember that sincerity can be attained only through
true faith. Allah draws attention to this attribute of His messengers
in many verses. Indeed, in order to explain away the impact that Allah's
messengers have had upon their souls, unbelievers throughout history have
slandered them and called them magicians.
Communicating the message with wisdom, that is, with concise and effective
speech, is another feature that is just as effective as sincerity. Concise
speech means to explain a subject through a few striking words, mentioning
only the necessary issues, and avoiding irrelevant details. The Qur'an
relates the importance of wise speech:
Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition,
and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who has gone
astray from His way, and knows best who has been guided. (Surat an-Nahl:
The key to wise speech is sincerity. From the verse below, we understand
that wisdom cannot be counterfeited and that one can attain it only by
the Will of Allah:
He gives wisdom to whoever He wills, and he who has been
given wisdom has been given great good … (Surat al-Baqara: 269)
Allah draws attention to the importance of decisive speech, saying that
it is a blessing from His sight, as we read below:
When he (Musa) reached full age and was firmly established
(in life), We bestowed on him wisdom and knowledge, for thus do We reward
those who do good. (Surat al-Qasas: 14)
We made his kingdom strong, and gave him (Dawud) wisdom
and decisive speech. (Surah Sâd: 20)
… Allah gave him (Dawud) kingship and wisdom, and taught
him whatever He willed … (Surat al-Baqara: 251)
… We gave the family of Ibrahim the Book and Wisdom,
and We gave them an immense kingdom. (Surat an-Nisa': 54)
(Allah said:) "O Yahya! Take hold of the Book with strength."
And We granted him wisdom while yet a child. (Surah Maryam: 12)