Is Islam a Missionary Religion, Like Christianity?

06 August, 2020
Q Is islam a missionary religion as Christianity?

Answer

Short Answer:

  • No, the da’wah of Islam is not the same as the kind of missionary activities the Christian churches are engaged in.
  • The da’ee’s duty is just to remind the people of the Message in a pleasing and appealing manner; the rest is up to God.
  • Islam does not permit Muslims to use coercion or compulsion in da’wah; and it does not allow the use of any kind of guile or dishonest practices to entice others to Islam.

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Salam brother/sister,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

What do we mean by Missionary Religion?

Professor Max Muller (1823-1900), the famous German philologist and orientalist, divided the world religions into two classes: The missionary ones and the non-missionary ones. He put Judaism, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism into the non-missionary category and Buddhism, Christianity and Islam into the missionary category. 

Prof Muller defined a missionary religion as one “in which the spreading of the truth and the conversion of unbelievers are raised to the rank of a sacred duty”. According to him, it is the zeal for the truth of their religion that has inspired the Muslims to convey the message of Islam to the world.

Thomas Arnold, the historian and author of “The Preaching of Islam” (1795-1842) identifies “the unremitted labors of Muslim missionaries” as one of the most powerful factors that led to the remarkable spread of Islam throughout the world. He also notes how the Prophet is the prototype for the missionary of Islam.[i]

Islamic Da’wah

Instead of the expression “missionary work” Islam uses the word “da’wah” meaning “the call to Islam”. From the Islamic point of view, the word refers to the process of inviting people towards the right path prescribed by the Almighty for all of mankind. A Muslim who does da’wah (called a da’ee) encourages people to voluntarily worship Allah alone and live a life of submission to His will.

Da’wah, is the duty of every Muslim; and it is quite different from the kind of missionary work done by Christian missionaries. For one thing, Islam has no organized world-wide network similar to that of the Christians, dedicated to converting “the heathen” or evangelizing “the unreached peoples”.

Da‘wah essentially was the call of all the Messengers and Prophets of God. God chose them to call people to the Path of the One and Only God.

Da’wah, is the duty of every Muslim

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last and final Messenger of God. After the Prophet’s time, it became the obligation of all his followers to convey the Message of God to people.

The Prophet concluded his famous farewell sermon with this powerful message: ‘Let those who are present here convey to those who are not present.’ 

And Allah states in the Quran:

“And let there arise from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful” (Quran 3:104)

Thus the duty of calling people to the Path of Allah is a general command to every sincere Muslim. Hence, expressed in these words:  

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction and argue with them in the best manner possible. Indeed, your Lord is Most Knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is Most Knowing of who is [rightly] guided” (Quran 16:125)

The success of da’wah depends on the character of the da’ee

And the example of the Prophet clearly demonstrates that the most effective way for a person to teach Islam is to have a good character by being kind, gentle, honest and helpful to people, thereby proving to be a dedicated and truthful living model.  

It is worthy of emphasizing here that Islam does not permit Muslims to use coercion or compulsion in da’wah; and it does not allow the use of any kind of guile or dishonest practices to entice others to Islam. Allah Almighty gives a clear warning to the Prophet as well as to every da’ee:

“Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided” (Quran 28:56)

The da’ee’s duty is just to remind the people of the Message in a pleasing and appealing manner; the rest is up to God.

“Your duty is only to convey the message; and on Us is the reckoning” (Quran 13:40)

“For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.” (Quran 109:6)

Islam is The First & Final form of the Religion of the One & Only God

It is also noteworthy that Islam was not presented as a new religion competing with all the old religions; rather it is the final form of the Religion of God preached by all the earlier prophets.

Therefore, a da’ee has no authority or right to ask a convert to denigrate their previous religion. Islam should be presented as the First and the Final form of the Religion of the One and Only God.

The foregoing means that the da’wah of Islam is not the same as the kind of missionary activities the Christian churches are engaged in.

And Allah knows best.  

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:


[i] THE PREACHING OF ISLAM A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith by T W Arnold (published in London 1913)