Da'wah and conversion in Islamic theology and practice

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Islam is a missionary religion in the sense that it actively seeks converts and has the history and propensity for diffusion through conversion across a diversity of geographies and cultures. The spread of Islam occurred as a slow process over many centuries primarily through direct access to Muslims and consequently Islam. This could sometimes be a conquering army removing empires, sometimes tradesmen, and other times a wandering dervish or just ordinary Muslims interacting freely with their non-Muslim neighbors. In modern times, the Islamic mission or da’wah acquired contemporary nuances and intermingled with Islamic revivalist movements.
The approach taken in this chapter has three key angles. First is the examination of the theological rationale of da’wah in Islam as understood by Muslims. The key theological underpinning in this respect lies in the Islamic narrative of the history of religions which underpins Muslim paradigm of seeing Islamic faith propositions as essential truths to be shared with the rest of humanity. So, da’wah as the Islamic missionary activity emerges as an essential outcome of a specific Islamic worldview. Second, the chapter introduces the Muslim conceptualization of da’wah methodology in three key concepts – tabligh (preaching), tamthil (representation of what is preached) and taklīf (invitation for conversion) – and proceeds to examine Qur’anic principles involved in these three aspects of Islamic mission. How this conceptualization plays out in Prophet Muhammad’s da’wah strategy is foundational in setting precedents for Muslims to follow in history and today. Prophet’s practice in da’wah with its evolving nature throughout his twenty-three-year mission is analyzed together with the exploration of early conversions to Islam found in hadith sources. Third, the chapter explores the historic, political, cultural and missionary factors involved the spread of Islam with a particular attention on successes and failures of Muslims in following the ideals of da’wah methodology. The chapter concludes on the modern evolution of da’wah activities in Islamic revivalist movements within Muslim countries and spread of and conversion to Islam in Western countries.
Importantly, the chapter follows the traditional approach of taking the Quran and hadith to be authoritative and paradigmatic for Muslim belief and practice. This is necessary to reveal the Muslim thinking and rationale behind their practice of da’wah. At the same time, the interpretation of the Quran and hadith is informed by modern scholarship which understands that these sources were established, and the life of Prophet Muhammad and his immediate followers transpired within a historical and cultural context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorld religions and their missions
EditorsAaron J. Ghiloni
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781433180132
ISBN (Print)9781433180118
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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