Ar-Rasul’s Da’wah Sirriyyah: A Disruptor’s Start-up Against the Established

Learn why ar-Rasul’s da’wah sirriyyah during his early years is a great reference for the long-term success of your ‘start-up’ project.

What you should expect:

• Ar-Rasul’s trials and tribulations during this ‘start-up’ phase

• Why this phase is an important, fundamental phase to ar-Rasul’s tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad

• Practical lessons for today’s Leaders and Daies


1. Early ‘cocoon’ period – minimising the negative hit

2. Co-founding members – close and strategic

3. Co-founding members – sharing the common core vision and values

4. Organic growth – amplify by trust, loyalty, 

5. Critical leadership – to maintain the existence

This is a renowned fact: the da’wah of ar-Rasul ﷺ at the time of Makkah has two major phases – da’wah sirriyyah (confined) and jahriyah (open).

Very often, we look at that first phase of da’wah sirriyyah only from the perspective of its secretive nature which prevents imminent harm to the low number of the believers then.

But, was there more to that?

Looking from today’s terms, ar-Rasul ﷺ was in the ‘start-up’ phase of da’wah Ilallah. Like any other start-ups or the start-ups for the Islamic Revival effort you are working on, there are critical aspects that you need to pay attention to, to make sure that your effort will be a great success.

There were five main aspects of ar-Rasul’s adoption of da’wah sirriyyah during this phase of da’wah:

1. Early ‘cocoon’ period – minimising the negative hit

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Any start-up is basically a potential disruptor of the established. The more likely the complacent establishment is threatened by the start-up’s existence, the more hit will the latter have to face by the former.

Realising that ar-Rasul’s mission of Allah sovereignty is a total disruptor of man-made systems, and considering the small capacity that he ﷺ had at that start-up level, ar-Rasul ﷺ had to watch his steps carefully to avoid open and direct confrontation, i.e. minimise possible negative hit towards the believers.

Scholars reported that during this phase, ar-Rasul ﷺ also considered someone who can be discreet about this mission to be invited to Islam.

At that time, the Arab society adhered to the belief of Paganism – a spiritual belief and the practice of worshipping images and idols. They inherited Paganism from their great grandfathers, passed down from generation to generation in the pre-revelation era of Arab Jahiliyya.

Moreover, Islam calls for the abandonment of any man-made systems practised that were against the Deen. Therefore, ar-Rasul’s da’wah would be considered a threat to those with influence and strategic positions in society.

Scholar al-Ghadban commented that the Quraish disbelievers were paying more attention to the hanif people compared to ar-Rasul’s followers. It was because the former have declared their opposition towards the Arab’s idolatry.

For a disruptor, negative hits are expected. But the small period of mitigating the hit through da’wah sirriyyah provided the believers ample time to do necessary preparations before the upcoming big hit and the mass penetration.

2. Co-founding members – close and strategic

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In any start-up project, the co-founding and the original core members matter most. They will be the ones who ensure the mission’s success until the end.

Yet these people are also the most difficult to find. Not everyone dares to go against the tide. Some have a lot in their hands that are difficult to let go of. Some wait first and see. The majority usually prefer complacence: they discredit, mock and ridicule new ideas.

During the phase of da’wah sirriyyah, ar-Rasul ﷺ focused on the closest people from his family, relatives and friends. The headhunting process was not performed openly in meetings, town halls and general assemblies but on targeted groups or individuals. Things were difficult, not everyone answered his call and followed his steps.

Ar-Rasul’s wife, Khadija binti Khuwalid, became the first woman to embrace Islam, followed by his cousin Ali bin Abi Talib in his childhood and his adopted son Zaid bin Harithah.

Early to Islam were also ar-Rasul ﷺ’s close companions with a soft character like Abu Bakar bin Abu Quhafah and Uthman bin Affan.

A quarter of the believers were reported to be women. Unlike what we were taught, only 13 out of 67 early believers were from among the poor, non-Arab and freed slaves.

Through ar-Rasul’s effort and Allah’s guidance (hidayah), early believers already consisted of the free and the slaves, men and women, youths and elders, and representatives from most of the Quraish clans and Arab families in Makkah.

Although not many, such a thorough penetration contributed to a strategic spread of da’wah later.

3. Co-founding members – sharing the common core vision and values

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What’s next in a startup after having the additional core members is the right mindset and a similar spirit shared among them. Otherwise, the next moves will become a derailed train as the team’s direction and vision is unclear and contradicts one another.

Throughout this phase, Allah revealed the Quranic verses specifically to tarbiyyah ar-Rasul ﷺ and the Sahaba in their mindset, the direction, the fundamentals and for their motivation throughout the obstacles.

The faith of the believers of Islam’s central message was tested from this early phase – whether they would firmly believe and stand for it, or were they mere followers.

Even from this phase, Allah emphasised Himself being the King and Sovereign of the world and its system, which is beyond a merely worshipped god through specific rituals or ibadah.

Allah kept reminding the Sahaba and early Muslims about the afterlife, heaven and hellfire, and about the doom He has befallen upon the preceding disbelievers of Him and His way of life.

All of these narratives are the disruptive, central message of Islam. This message is so significant in this Deen that Allah mentioned them over and over. Take away this central message and Islam would be left a lost and fragile cause, stripped off its true meaning and objectives.

4. Organic growth – amplified by critical factors

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Although only in small numbers, the growth of the believers in this phase was amplified through trust, loyalty and fulfilment.

Even before prophethood, ar-Rasul’s personal branding was already developed. He ﷺ was renowned among the Meccans as ‘al-Amin’ – the trustworthy. Some of them, even without embracing Islam, still entrusted him ﷺ to take care of their property.

His behaviour and ethics were of the best among the people. Putting aside the disruptive central message of Islam, people would believe anything he ﷺ said, even if he said “there are armed forces behind this mountain waiting to fight you.”

Even when he received persecution from the disbelievers, ar-Rasul ﷺ still portrayed the superior noble attitude.

One aspect worth mentioning here is that ar-Rasul’s dedication to his mission of tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad was not limited to a certain session or time. Instead, the daily attitude of ar-Rasul ﷺ was a total embodiment of that mission.

What makes personal branding significantly stronger is staying true to the cause – a concept commonly termed as ‘da’wah bil hal’. People embrace our mission through its genuine translation within ourselves, not only through what we speak or through the ‘avatar’ role we are showing the public.

Another factor that contributed to the organic growth of da’wah sirriyyah was the afterlife fulfilment revealed through the Quran. Ar-Rasul ﷺ didn’t only enlighten the believers on whom they needed to commit to.

Instead, he also inspired them with the rewards they deeply craved: the promise of Heaven & avoiding Hellfire. The visualisation of both was ‘advertised’ in a way that suited the challenges they were facing from living in the desert.

5. Critical leadership – to maintain the existence

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In ar-Rasul’s tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad where the true north of the mission is establishing Allah’s systems in the world, one of the biggest challenges was making the effort last until reaching the endgame.

For the three critical, early years of da’wah, the factor of maintaining existence was no doubt the biggest aspect that had to be prioritised.

That was why during the critical situation of the battle of Badr, ar-Rasul ﷺ pleaded to Allah, cried to Him that his body shivered and his hands raised to the sky, “O Allah, if this group of believers is finished, You will never be worshipped on earth.”

Guided by Divine Words, ar-Rasul ﷺ had to pick the best, difficult decisions. Some of which were the sustainability and the secrecy of the mission.

After three years, Allah the All-Wise instructed for da’wah to shift to the next phase of da’wah jahriyyah. There, the threat became prominent, the opposition became fiercer and the mission appeared to be more challenging.

With the great leadership decision by ar-Rasul ﷺ and the achievements from the phase of da’wah sirriyyah, the believers were more ready to bring their mission to the next level – a bigger awareness campaign to have more people considered and converted to Islam – in their path towards becoming a ‘unicorn’-valued disruption to the Taghut systems.

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