بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
اللهم صلى وسلم على سيدنا محمد
وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين
The essence of Risala is conveying the message of Allah to the people. Because the institution of Risala has been terminated in the person of Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam)—meaning in its formal manifestation—the Umma of Prophet Muhammad, which is the best and last Umma of mankind, is tasked by Allah and His Apostle with the ministry of Da’wa and Tabligh to further spread the revealed message of the Apostle (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam):
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ
You are the best nation produced for mankind; You enjoin virtue and forbid vice and believe in Allah
While this is a descriptive statement, Allah also enjoins the institution of Da’wa, commanding good and preventing wrong:
وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ ۚ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
And let there be from you a nation inviting to the good and enjoining virtue and preventing vice. And those are the successful.
So the Umma of Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) is exceptional in that it has been tasked with the work of conveying the message of Allah to the people, inviting them to faith, commanding what is good and forbidding evil. This is how we have inherited the mantle of the Prophets and why Allah Most High has declared us the best of mankind.
However, Allah also says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ
O you who have believed! Upon you is [responsibility for) yourselves
This Ayah appears to be at odds with the well-known institution of Da’wa established throughout the holy Qur’an and Sunna and consequently solicited curious questioning from some of the Prophet’s companions (radi Allahu anhum). The Prophet’s most eminent companion and his first successor, sayyidina Abi Bakr (radi Allahu anhu), aware of this fact, proclaimed:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّكُمْ تَقْرَءُونَ هَذِهِ الآيَةَ : ( يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لاَ يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ) وَإِنِّي سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ إِذَا رَأَوْا ظَالِمًا فَلَمْ يَأْخُذُوا عَلَى يَدَيْهِ أَوْشَكَ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمُ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابٍ مِنْهُ
O people, verily you recite this Ayah: “O you who have believed, upon you is (responsibility for) yourselves. They cannot harm you who have gone astray when you are guided.” And verily I heard the Apostle of Allah - sall Allahu alayhi wasallam - saying: “Indeed, when the people see an oppressor but do not seize his hand (prevent him from oppression) soon Allah shall envelop them in a punishment from Him.” (Jami´ at-Tirmidhi #3057)
And in another version:
إِنَّ النَّاسَ إِذَا رَأَوُا الْمُنْكَرَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُونَهُ أَوْشَكَ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمُ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابِهِ
“Indeed, when the people see evil and do not change it soon Allah shall envelop them in His punishment” (Sunan Ibn Maja #4005)
In other words, this Ayah does not negate the duty of commanding good and forbidding evil. Indeed, to abandon that duty would be a cause of divine punishment and humiliation from Allah Most High. However, the Ayah underscores the fact that despite our preaching, calling and attempts at persuasion, we will not always be successful, therefore, we have to ensure our own souls and know that if we ourselves are guided to the truth the misguidance of others will not affect us in the least.
Nevertheless, there will be circumstances when the guided Believers are not bound to command others to do good and forbid them from evil, and this Ayah is an indication of that as explained by the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam):
بَلِ ائْتَمِرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنَاهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ حَتَّى إِذَا رَأَيْتَ شُحًّا مُطَاعًا وَهَوًى مُتَّبَعًا وَدُنْيَا مُؤْثَرَةً وَإِعْجَابَ كُلِّ ذِي رَأْىٍ بِرَأْيِهِ فَعَلَيْكَ بِخَاصَّةِ نَفْسِكَ وَدَعِ الْعَوَامَّ
“Rather, comply with (and order) the good, and stay away from (and prohibit) the evil until you see avarice obeyed, desires followed, the (life of this) world preferred, and everyone with an opinion amazed with his view. Then you be concerned with yourself particularly and leave the common folk.” (Jami´ at-Tirmidhi #3058)
We can safely conclude that we are living in a time when these four conditions outlined by our beloved Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) are clearly present. As time progresses it will only become worse. I definitely foresee, in the very near future, when our efforts of Da’wa and Tabligh will fail to move the people and prove to be futile. It is already happening. Hearts have hardened and even the masses of Muslims are so engrossed in worldly affairs that they do not tolerate a preacher knocking on their door inviting them to refresh their faith. “Everyone with an opinion amazed with his view” is a prophecy that is continuously being fulfilled with greater pronunciation. The ignorant now have the audacity to openly contest clear and precise teachings of Islam in favor of their own personal views based on their desires. In such an atmosphere, it is best to avoid heated confrontations and to worry about one’s own soul and one’s own faith.