Reflection No. 258 on Q 16:125 – Manners of inviting towards God
اُدْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ
Ud‘u ilā sabīli rabbika bilhikmati walmaw‘izatil-hasanah,
wa-jādilhum billatī hiya ahsan
Invite towards the path of your lord with wisdom and good advice
and dispute with them in a manner which is best.
(Suratun Nahl, No.16, Āyat 125)
Everyone who believes in God has a duty to call others towards Him in some way. It does not have to be formal preaching. Through their own example, their interactions with others and through their everyday talks with others they can invite people to love and worship the Lord they believe in. It is not a self-righteous, holier than thou attitude. Rather it stems from a desire to glorify God by sharing His greatness with others. How can one who is in awe of Allah (swt) be silent about Him? It is but natural that such a person would want to share the joy of belief with others.
In the verse above Allah tells believers that they should invite to His way in a particular manner. There are three principles mentioned in the verse;
1) Wisdom. That means the one inviting towards God should use knowledge, reason, and understanding to attract people towards God. He should appeal to the natural instinct and the intellect. People are naturally drawn towards that which is rational and logical. Luqmān (a) when advising his son, said: My son, learn wisdom and you will become noble, for verily wisdom directs towards religion (SoW, H. 1694).
2) Good advice. The second step in inviting people towards God is to use good advice. This appeals to the heart. Advice shows concern. It conveys a consideration for the good of the other person. The word hasana means the advice should be done in a pleasant and gentle manner. People respond positively to such advice. Imam Ali (a) advised his son: Revive your heart with exhortation (maw‘iza). (SoW, H. 1850).
3) Disputing in a good manner. Disputing or arguing is also a necessary step. To remove what has been previously etched in the mind and heart, it must be disputed and proven wrong. But this too must be done in a manner that is best. It should be done with sincerity, fairness, gentleness and should preserve the dignity of the other person. It should be free from condemnation and mockery, and not overstated. The Holy Prophet (s) said: No sooner do a people go astray than they exaggerate in dispute (SoW, H. 1046).
Everyone can be an invited towards God. Show your love for God by telling others about Him. Remember Him in your gatherings, in your talks with others and in your writings. Convey His greatness to others in the manner outlined in this verse. It may enter a heart and spread from there in many different directions.
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne;
Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr;
Muhammadi, The Scale of Wisdom.