Advice to Students of Knowledge / Islamic Themes

“Do I need an Islamic Degree to do Dawa…”

“Do I need a Degree and a Turban to do Da`wa?

– Some Advice to Students of Knowledge”

In what follows is a brief discussion about claims that only the scholars (`ulama’) are permitted to carry out the da`wa and non-scholars have no permission to do that. On the basis of this understanding, many sincere da`wa carriers are dismissed by either scholars or students of knowledge as ignoramuses (juhala’) and having no right to discuss matters of da`wa. This understanding is often wielded in order to close down presentations of an alternative view or difference of opinion and is very dangerous. This is indispensable for any sincere and serious student of sacred knowledge to know and reflect on.


  • The Reason why this discussion about da`wa is relevant is because:
  1. Often, many Muslims argue that da`wa is only the work of scholars and no-one else.
  2. Often many students if knowledge argue that da`wa can only be carried out by a graduate from an Islamic university.
  3. Holding to the view that the work of da`wa is only for scholars is often used as a tactic to undermine and dismiss non-scholarly persons involved in da`wa work.
  4. Holding to the view that the work of da`wa is only for scholars is often used as a method to silence any credible opposing view held by a non-scholarly persons involved in da`wa work.


  • The issue revolves around exegetical glosses from surat Al `Imran, verse 104 that reads: {And let there be groups from amongst you that call to the Khayr [s: i.e. Islam]; who then command the right and forbid the wrong and they who do it will be the successful ones}.[1] Some ‘commentators’ (mufassirun) hold that the ‘group’ (umma) mentioned here in the verse refers only to the ‘scholars’ (`ulama’). The discussion is given by Imam al-Razi who comments: “The second opinion is that the preposition {min} here in the verse takes the ‘partitive’ sense (li ’l-tab`id). Those who hold this view differ over this, giving two understandings. The first understanding holds that {min} refers to people who are neither able to carry out the da`wa nor able to perform amr bi ’l-ma`ruf wa ’l-nahy `an al-munkar such as women, the ill and the infirm [s: e.g. disabled, immobile, physically challenged, etc.]. The second understanding holds that this duty is specific to the `ulama’ […]”[2]

والقول الثاني: أن { مِنْ } ههنا للتبعيض، والقائلون بهذا القول اختلفوا أيضاً على قولين أحدهما: أن فائدة كلمة { مِنْ } هي أن في القوم من لا يقدر على الدعوة ولا على الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر مثل النساء والمرضى والعاجزين والثاني: أن هذا التكليف مختص بالعلماء ويدل عليه وجهان الأول: أن هذه الآية مشتملة على الأمر بثلاثة أشياء: الدعوة إلى الخير، والأمر بالمعروف، والنهي عن المنكر، ومعلوم أن الدعوة إلى الخير مشروطة بالعلم بالخير وبالمعروف وبالمنكر، فإن الجاهل ربما عاد إلى الباطل وأمر بالمنكر ونهى عن المعروف، وربما عرف الحكم في مذهبه وجهله في مذهب صاحبه فنهاه عن غير منكر، وقد يغلظ في موضع اللين ويلين في موضع الغلظة، وينكر على من لا يزيده إنكاره إلا تمادياً، فثبت أن هذا التكليف متوجه على العلماء، ولا شك أنهم بعض الأمة

  • Firstly, merely quoting an exegesis of a classical scholar that the duty of da`wa as refers only to scholars (as some do) does not in and of itself prove the point as true. Secondly, an equally valid exegesis from an equally reputable scholar can also be quoted presenting an alternative view. Imam Ibn Kathir for example, comments: “What this aya means is that there should be a firqa [s: i.e. group and not theological sect] from the umma fulfilling this task even though it is an obligation on every Muslim to do it each according to his capability based on the what is established Muslim’s Sahih on the authority of Abu Hurayra who said: the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: ‘Whoever among you witnesses an evil, let him change it with his hand. If he is unable, then let him change it with his tongue. If he is unable, then let him change it with his heart, and this is the weakest faith and in another version: ‘There is no faith beyond that, not even the weight of a mustard seed’. Imam Ahmad said: Sulayman al-Hashimi who said: we were informed by Isma`il b. Ja`far who said: `Amru b. Abi `Amr informed me on the authority of `Abd Allah b. `Abd al-Rahman al-Ashhali on the authority of Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman that the Prophet (saw) said: ‘By He in Whose Hand is my soul! You will enjoin righteousness and forbid evil, or Allah shall send down a punishment from Him to you. Then, you will supplicate to Him, but He will not accept your supplication’…”[3]

والمقصود من هذه الآية، أن تكون فرقة من هذه الأمة متصدية لهذا الشأن، وإن كان ذلك واجباً على كل فرد من الأمة بحسبه، كما ثبت في صحيح مسلم، عن أبي هريرة، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلممن رأى منكم منكراً فيلغيره بيده، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه، وذلك أضعف الإيمان وفي روايةوليس وراء ذلك من الإيمان حبة خردل. وقال الإمام أحمد: حدثنا سليمان الهاشمي، أنبأنا إسماعيل بن جعفر، أخبرني عمرو بن أبي عمرو، عن عبد الله بن عبد الرحمن الأشهلي، عن حذيفة بن اليمان، أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قالوالذي نفسي بيده، لتأمرن بالمعروف، ولتنهون عن المنكر، أو ليوشكن الله أن يبعث عليكم عقاباً من عنده، ثم لتدعنه فلا يستجيب لكم ورواه الترمذي وابن ماجه من حديث عمرو بن أبي عمرو، به، وقال الترمذي: حسن، والأحاديث في هذا الباب كثيرة، مع الآيات الكريمة، كما سيأتي تفسيرها في أماكنه

What this means then, is that the matter under contention requires a little more elaboration. There is some confusion here regarding the word “`ulama’” and how it should be understood in the context of the verse. There is no doubt that a precondition of carrying da`wa which involves commanding right and forbidding wrong,[4] al-tabligh (‘conveying the call’)[5] and al-tawasi (‘mutual admonition’)[6] is ‘knowledge’ (`ilm).[7] This however does not mean the one carrying the da`wa has to be an `alim (‘scholar’) in the sense of an extremely knowledgeable person, a mufti, or graduate from an Islamic university or madrasa. This is not entirely accurate.

Shaykh `Abd al-Karim Zaydan clarifies the confusion: “[…] `ilm naturally divides up into parts and different aspects. If one has knowledge of a particular matter (mas’ala) but is ignorant regarding another matter, he is said to be ‘knowledgeable’ (`alim) of that first matter and ‘ignorant’ (jahil) of that second matter. What this therefore means is that a person would be considered or counted as generally being from amongst those who are knowledgeable with regards to the first matter and would thus possess the required condition that would obligate him to carry out da`wa of what he knows to the exclusion of what he does not know. There is no disagreement amongst the fuqaha’ that a person is not permitted to call to that which he is totally ignorant of or a ruling (hukm) that he does not know and this is because knowledge is a condition for the da`wa of the da`wa carrier to be sound [s: or valid]. So, every Muslim calls others to Allah according to his ability and what he knows as we shall explain shortly. This is what is meant by their saying: ‘da`wa is obligatory on the `ulama’ and not any other person’; in other words, it is obligatory on those who have knowledge of a matter and its ruling pertaining to what one is giving da`wa to regardless of whether the person is from the Muslims at large or those who have vast amounts of knowledge…”[8]


  • It would not be correct to say that da`wa is only the work of scholars as this implies restriction where no textual warrant exists from that exclusive restriction.
  • Da`wa is an individual obligation (fard `ayn) according to one’s ability and knowledge.[9]
  • It would not be correct to dismiss a person who carries da`wa simply on the grounds that he does not possess an Islamic degree, certificate (shahada), qualification or general ijaza (‘license’, ‘permission’) because these are not necessary conditions for a person to be a da`i. They would help no doubt, but they are not conditions of validity.


  • Those interested to work for Islam or desire to enter into the field of da`wa should not be misled by arguments that dismiss the general Muslim from that duty.
  • It is highly desired for a person to increase their Islamic knowledge, character and efforts for the cause of the da`wa.
  • A student of knowledge with a sincere intention and appreciative mind will understand the matter clearly and properly and not be misdirected by the argument that da`wa is only for a scholar, `alim, madrasa graduate, Islamic university graduate or shaykh.

And with Allah is all success.


London 2012.

[1] For the meaning of this verse and discussions on it, see “Establishing Political Parties: Unpacking 3:104” and “Establishing Political Parties: Description of the Groups” at

[2] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 7:177-178.

[3] Ibn Kathir. Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Karim, 2:92-93.

[4] Sh. Ahmad Mahmud, al-Da`wa ila ’l-Islam, pp.24-27 (Eng.).

[5] Ibid., pp.27-28.

[6] Ibid., pp.28-35.

[7] Sh. `Abd al-Karim Zaydan, Usul al-Da`wa, p.302.

[8] Ibid., p.302.

[9] For evidential discussions, see Mahmud, al-Da`wa ila ’l-slam, pp.21-36 (Eng.) and Zaydan, Usul al-Da`wa, pp.299-300.


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