The Future of Da’wah in North America

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In recent years, the subject of dawah has become a topic of considerable interest among Muslims in North America. A plethora of articles and books have appeared, both in English and Arabic, that deal with this subject from a variety of angles? Western writers, both scholarly and popular, have noted the steady increase in the number of converts to the Muslim faith. An article in the Wall Street Jouml proclaims in its headline that “Islam is Growing Fast in the U.S., Fighting Fear and Stereotypes.” US. News and World Report has observed that “Islamic worship and lifestyles are becoming an increasingly familiar part of the American tableau. It is said to be the nation’s fastest growing religion . . .” But what may be said of the future of Islamic dawah in North America? Will Muslim dii ’is become increasingly successful in their missionary work, or do the reports mentioned above represent only a temporary advance? As we attempt to answer these questions, it is important to note at the outset the differences in orientation and focus of Muslims living in the West. In seeking to classify the five million Muslims currently resident in the United States and Canada with respect to their beliefs as to how Muslim missionary activity should proceed, two general philosophies of dabuh can be distinguished. These may be called, respectively, the “defensive-pacifist’’ and “offensive-activist’’ approaches. The first characterizes the attitude of those Muslims who are concerned solely or primarily with the retention and maintenance of their own Islamicity and not with the extension of that Islamicity to the non-Muslims around them. The second applies to those who are desirous of converting non-Muslims to Islam and of transforming the surrounding non- Muslim society so that it will reflect Islamic values and beliefs. The defensive-pacifist orientation is a consequence of the factors which spurred the early waves of Muslim immigration to the United States and Canada. The ideological and theological hindrances to the residence of a Muslim in dar al kufr were mitigated by pragmatic considerations such as the need to escape the increasingly chaotic conditions of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Muslim immigrants quickly adopted the spirit of American individualism, and this enabled them to blend into the communities in which they chose to reside. Organizations were established which mainly reflected the various national origins, ethnic backgrounds, and sectarian beliefs of the different Muslim populations. There have been few concerted efforts to subsume these differences under a larger Islamic umbrella ...


Originally published as:

Poston, L. (1991). The future of da’wah in north america. American Journal of Islam and Society, 8(3), 501–511. https://doi.org/10.35632/ajis.v8i3.2608