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Preaching Guidelines from the Quran

Allah says in Surah Al-Araf verses 199 - 202:
O Prophet, adopt the way of leniency and forbearance; enjoin what is good and avoid useless discussions with the ignorant people. If Satan ever excites you to anger, seek refuge in Allah: He is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. The fact is that if ever an evil suggestion from Satan so much as touches those who are God-fearing people, they immediately get alerted and clearly see the right course they should adopt.

As Regards their (that is, Satan’s) brethren, they drag them on and on in their crooked ways and leave nothing undone to seduce them.
(7:199 – 202)

In this passage, Allah has taught His Messenger Muhammad  صلى الله عليه و سلّم some very important things about the methods of inviting people to the Message of propagating Islam, and of guiding and informing people. The object is to instruct the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلّم and, through him, his successors to enable them to carry on his mission after him. Some salient points are given below and should be considered in the order they are given:

1. The most important thing is that the inviter to the Truth should have a big and tender heart, and should be forgiving and forbearing. He should be friendly to his companions, kind to the common people, and should show forbearance to his opponents. He should tolerate the weaknesses of his comrades and endure patiently the persecution of his enemies. He should keep cool even under the greatest provocation and connive at the most unpleasant things. He should bear patiently the bitterest words, the most wicked slanders and the cruelest persecutions. Harsh treatment, hard-heartedness, bitter talk, and vindictive retaliations are as harmful as poison for this work: this spoils the work and does not mend it.

There is a tradition of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلّم to the same effect: “My Lord has enjoined me to say what is just whether I am in a state of anger or happiness; to try my best to have cordial relations even with those who are inimical to me; to render their rights even to those who deprive me of my rights; to forgive even those who are cruel to me.” He صلى الله عليه و سلّم advised those whom he sent on this mission: “wherever you go, your visit should be a harbinger of happiness and not of hatred; you should become the source of comfort to the people and not of bringing hardships on them.” Allah has also praised this characteristic of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلّم : “(O Messenger,) it is a great blessing of Allah that you are very lenient towards them and gentle with them. If you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have scattered away from you ...” (3: 159)

2. The second formula for the success of this Mission is to avoid philosophizing but to enjoin those simple and well-known virtues that are universally accepted to be virtues, and are easily recognized by common sense which an ordinary person possesses. Thus the appeal of the inviter to the Truth convinces everyone. Its greatest advantage is that it helps win over the common people to the side of the propagators of the Truth, against its antagonists. When the common people, in spite of their prejudices, see on the one side a gentle and kind person inviting them toward simple virtues, which they themselves understand well, and on the other, his antagonists opposing his noble mission with immoral and inhuman devices, they turn away by and by from those degraded opponents and come to the inviter of the Truth. As a result of this, in the end, only those remain in the field to oppose the Truth, whose own interests are closely linked with falsehood or those who are slaves of the traditions of their forefathers and of the customs of ignorance. The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلّم owed his great success in Arabia to this wise policy. Afterwards, his successors achieved the same in the adjoining countries, where Islam spread by leaps and bounds and was accepted by the overwhelming majority of the people.

3. The other important instruction that has been given for the propagation of Islam is to avoid useless discussions with ignorant people. The inviter of the Truth should always strictly be on guard against involvement in useless talk and discussion with mischievous and quarrelsome people. He should take the utmost care to approach and converse with those people only who adopt a reasonable and rational attitude toward his message. As soon as he feels that his addressees are adopting the attitude of ignorance and are resorting to argumentations, wrangling, and taunts, he should make an honorable retreat from them. This is because it is not only useless to be involved in such things but it is also harmful to the mission, as valuable time and energy, that could have been usefully employed for the propagation of the Message, go to waste.

4. In case the inviter to the Truth feels that the provocations from the mischievous people are becoming too much for him to bear and he cannot withstand their tyrannies, mischief, foolish objections, and accusations, he should at once realize that it is Satan who is tempting him to retaliate. Then the best thing is to seek refuge in Allah, and invoke His Help to protect His servant from doing in anger anything that might be harmful to his Mission. This is possible only if one remains cool-headed even under the greatest provocations, for one can never think or act wisely if one is easily excited by anger, insult, injustice, or cruelty, etc. But Satan, who does not like this Mission to succeed and is always devising schemes to defeat it, first incites his own disciples to attack the inviter to the Truth and then incites him to make counter-attacks on them. As Satan’s appeal is couched in very alluring words and pious terms, it is not an easy thing to withstand it. That is why pious people have been forewarned, in verses 201 – 202, of this serious danger and instructed that if they intend to refrain from evil, they should immediately get alarmed as soon as they feel the evil effects of the temptation of Satan and its incitement in their hearts and stand on their guard. Then they will clearly see the right course that they should adopt on such occasions and under such circumstances for the sake of their Mission.

As for “the brethren of Satan,” they become self-seekers under their influence, and cannot withstand their temptations. So they follow Satans, who tempt them to retaliate and resort to every kind of abuse and dishonesty like their enemies. 


Besides the above-mentioned particular implications of this passage, it bears a general meaning as well. It helps differentiate the way of the pious from that of the impious. Those who really fear Allah and sincerely desire to refrain from evil, are so sensitive that even if an evil thought so much as touches their hearts, it pricks their consciences and rankles in their hearts and they seek Allah’s refuge from Satan. This is because they are not used to evil thoughts, evil desires, and evil intentions, for these are foreign to their nature. As soon as they become conscious of their presence in their minds, their eyes are opened and their consciences recognize them. Then they seek Allah’s refuge from Satan in order to cleanse their hearts of those dirty things. In contrast to them, those who do not fear Allah nor desire to refrain from evil and those who have satans as their brethren go on cherishing evil thoughts, evil intentions, and evil designs in their hearts without feeling anything strange in them. So much so that no sense of cleanliness is left in their minds; and in due course, these dirty things take practical shapes and expose them before the world.

(Commentary of Verses 199 - 202 of Surah Al-Araf from the Meaning of Qur’an, English translation of Tafheem-Ul-Quran By Sayyad Abu Al-Ala Maududi)