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Dawa  - (Arabic:  دعوة)    Islamic proselytism: propagation of the faith. Dawa literally means "invitation" or summons. It is also transliterated as Dawah and Da'wah.  In the Qur'an "Dawa" is used in different ways. In Sura 30, it denotes the call to the dead to rise at judgment day. Dawa

The Quran does says: Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. " (Surrah 16: (An-Nahl) 125).

Dawa is not one of the five pillars of Islam. It is considered "Fard" however, a duty.  It is not clear if Dawa is Fard al ayn (incumbent on every Muslim) or only Fard Kiffayah - incumbent on the community of Muslims. According to one source, Dawa requires specialized training and is therefore a duty of a special part of the community. Moreover, it is apparent from the below that Dawa is about internal preaching as well as converting others to Islam:

I know that every Muslim would not have time to go through this kind of training and give da`wah in this way. But some people must prepare themselves and engage in this field, as Allah the Exalted says: "And the believers should not all go out to fight. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk when they return to them, so that they may beware." (At-Tawbah 9:122)

Thus, giving da`wah with proper training and specialization is regarded as fard kifayah (collective obligation). That means in every community some people must take the proper da`wah training and should do this work in a systematic and methodical way on behalf of all other members of the community. If some people do this work, then there is no blame on others, but if no one does it, all Muslims of the community are considered sinners. It is the duty of all Muslims to support this work by providing facilities and funds so that it can be done in a proper manner.

Another explanation of Dawa, however, seems to imply that it should be done by all Muslims, and offers training in how to do it.

Missionary activity by Christians or others is generally forbidden by strict Muslim governments and conversion to Christianity may be subject to legal sanctions or informal murder. Thus converts to Christianity were reportedly murdered in the Palestinian Authority, and in Somalia. In Afghanistan, a man was threatened with execution for converting to Christianity, which incurs the death penalty under the new moderate government installed by the US and its allies. ref ref In Iran, a man who converted to Christianity was jailed and reportedly faced the death penalty. His father had been executed for conversion. ref  


Ami Isseroff

December 21, 2008

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Dawah, Da'wah

Further Information: Islam History of Islam and the Arabs

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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