Making Da'wah to people of other religions may have similarities, but there are different ways to do it. For example, there is one way to make Da'wah to Christians that is different from the way you would make Da'wah to Jews; additionally the way one might make Da'wah to a Christian may vary according to which sect they follow. Is there a way to make Da'wah to a non-religious person -- specifically, a person who doesn't believe that there God exists? What are the major points to keep in mind while making Da'wah to an atheist? What major points should be considered aside from the fact that they do not believe in God?
Someone who does not believe in God cannot be started to be argued based on Qur’an, Ahadeeth, and any quotation from the scholars. They will never accept any such reasonings as these are not authentic to them at all. What we can do is to start from a position that they agree upon as well, whether ourselves approves it or not.
Most of the atheists I have met very much believe in science and accept either witnesses from science (and especially the famous scientists whose theories are widely accepted) or any bare intellectual reasoning. So here is the starting point to discuss things with them. You should be able to rationalize the religion for them and if there is any controversy you should be able to explain why your idea can be the true answer and the science's position be the wrong answer. Some weeks before this I explained a rigorous proof for existence of God which immediately proves many other characteristics about Him as well, that He has existed from -oo and will exist to +00, that He is unique, and etc. . He was trying not to accept the proof (برهان وجوب و امکان) but then I brought to him some criticizes objected to it by some critics like some famous Western philosophers and explained to him why their criticisms are not valid. After some hours he accepted the concept of God as we do believe, but the discussion ended before the other arguments about the prophets, the Hereafter, Qur’an, and etc. being argued. He just refused to accept anything that I was to say. I guess such things are not easily acceptable by those who were once proud of believing differently, like thinking modern (متجدد), all at once, that will need time for them to adapt and get ready for hearing the rest of the reasoning thread. However, if they accepted Qur’an and alike issues as well the rest will be easy.
So far it is addressed where to start, but how to start is also important. The atheists today believe they are so reasonable and science based, we can approach them by showing them how lame is their knowledge about the universe. When their ME collapsed, when they become humble, then they will be ready for learning new things, otherwise you will always find them building a rough guard against you whenever that you approach them for a constructive argument. This I have learned from a great scholar (I don't remember his name but maybe he was Ayatullah Milani), seems correct to me for my personal experiences as well.
Godspeed for the difficult task
PS 1. I know the answer was like being at my soapbox, but I'm not sure if you were also asking for references and citations? My personal experience more or less.
PS 2. Actually this was based on my personal experience, as I had no great success in convincing the atheists using verses of Qur’an. However, this fact must not be ignored that the holy prophet --peace be upon him-- invited the atheists and Mushrik's all around by Qur’an, rightly choosing the verses and rightly arguing with them based on such verses. Such that the person could find the truth understood be his hearth, no matter if he was then to deny or accept it. / Another way is to use some specific Ahadeeth without stressing over the narrators, but instead stressing over the context of Ahadeeth to change his mind about the Ahadeeth. This will bypass their excuses for not accepting the quotations merely because they are quotations!
One could argue that an atheist lacks reasons to believe in God, while tending to approve the scientific method.
Make clear to yourself why you believe.
In my opinion, your own personal reasons for belief are your strongest option if you wish to share your belief. I believe complete honesty is the key. Vague reasons just strengthen their current position.
The convincing part of the scientific method is mainly that it requires repeatability, so that you can verify the result yourself with the same test, not needing to trust somebody else. So by showing how you've reached your belief is like showing the test.
Know your limits.
What do you know and more importantly not know?
I am for instance currently convinced that we can only know what we determine ourselves. Everything else is just a more or less qualified guess based on our interpretations of experiences or probable facts. These guesses are mostly good enough for us to survive and we have to take the risk in believing in some of them when making decisions in order to move forward.
Thus I cannot know for sure that God exists. But given my experiences and other probable facts, I can believe in it, and thus assume that it is true during decisions.
I preach in the way the Quran instructs us. That is to recite passages of the Quran to the people. The Quran in itself is a miracle, the divinity and truth of the passage can be realised to anyone whose heart Allah has opened up to it. To atheist I sometime recite Surah Al Haaqq (69). This is very good surah, its short, mentions the prophets, judgement day and hell and heaven. Some of these people after hearing the verses of the quran tell me that they really liked it, one person told me that he felt really moved by it. I understand that sometimes this is not enough so I offer them a Quran, in the hope that they will read it and perhaps a greater exposure to the quran will make them see its truth and divinity. I myself only accepted the message of the quran only after I got up to the 3rd chapter.
After I read the Quran, I ask atheist questions such as how they think life began, the purpose of life.
Some say they believe in the evolution theory. Having a degree in Biochemistry I explain to them that scientist cannot explain how life began at the molecular stages so the evolution theory has no beginning, that is the problems with the most popular "RNA world theory".
There are other more popular questions they ask, I will not go through the list, for example "why is there suffering in the world?". To this I remind them that this world is not supports to be a paradise, that comes afterward. That here we are tested and tried in various way. I also explain to them that this saying there is so much suffering and evil in the world is an over exaggerated statement.
As a preacher your job is only to bring them the truth.
To conclude I preach to all faith the same way, that is reciting the Quran but the passages I recite vary depending on their faith. The question I ask to Christian are different to atheist and vis vera.
Actually, an atheist is already half way there since he proclaims that there is no God.
La ilaha means no god
Atheist do not become atheıst out of a void. They come from religious backgrouds where the belief in God as presented to them is a dogma that just does not make sense and also the faith is lacking in providing guidance in today's materiaşistic and capitalist world.
Reverting an atheist to Islam is actually easier that someone who stubbornly persists in the religion they were brought up wıth. The atheıst is already using his common sense and reason to refute the false gods and god partners, etc.
You would simply engage the atheist to complete the cascade of reasoning to the only conclusion that there is no god but Allah and Muhammed is his last messenger with the message being the perfected religion of Islam.
La ilahe Il Allah, Muhammed al Rasul Allah
When we make da‘wah to ANYONE (Christian, Jew, athiest, whatever) we are ultimately making an appeal to the “fitrah” (which I like to define as “spiritual instinct”). According to the Qur‘an and the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad all human beings are born with the fitrah and, though people deviate from its guidance, it never dies. It is always there.
The fitrah is a primal force inside our soul. The potency of the Qur‘an is in the fact that its basic Message RESONATES with the fitrah. When you talk to people about the story of Adam and Hawa and their expulsion from the Garden, the true purpose of life on Earth, the promise of the Day of Resurrection, etc., you are saying things that touch upon their fitrah AND MOVES THEIR SOUL.
It does not matter how unconvinced or uninterested they try to PRETEND they are the Islamic Message moves ALL people at a very deep and primal level. This is a profound spiritual principle I‘m talking about here, but it‘s not a bunch of mystic mumbo jumbo.
The Qur‘anic basis for my argument is in 7:172-174. Allah says:
“When your Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam -from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves. (He said:) ‘Am I not your Lord?‘ They said: Yes! We do bear witness!‘ (THIS WAS DONE) LEST YOU SHOULD SAY ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT: ‘OF THIS WE WERE NEVER MINDFUL‘, OR LEST YOU SHOULD SAY: ‘OUR FATHERS BEFORE US MAY HAVE TAKEN FALSE GODS, BUT WE ARE THEIR DERCENDANTS AFTER THEM. WILL YOU DESTROY US BECAUSE OF THE DEEDS OF MEN WHO WERE FUTILE?‘”
The Ibn Kathir tafseer on this passage sites a hadith from the Prophet (SAWS) explaining this incident. After Allah created Adam (a.s.) He extracted the unborn souls of all of Adam‘s descendants and He asked them, “Am I not your Lord?” And they all said “YES!”
Now, as I understand it, that incident left a permanent impression upon those souls - the fitrah.
Now consider WHY Allah said He did this. He did it to deprive every kafir the claim of ignorance on the Day of Judgment. They won‘t be able to claim, “We didn‘t know we had a Lord”, because, deep down, EVERY SOUL KNOWS THAT IT HAS A LORD. And they won‘t be able to claim, “Our forefathers led us into shirk and we didn‘t know any better.” According to 7:174, every soul knows better IN SPITE OF PREVIOUS MISGUIDANCE.
When a soul hears the Message of Islam it RE-COGNIZES - knows again - the Truth of its Lord. Nothing but arrogance keeps it from accepting that Truth and becoming muslim.
“Your God is One God! As to those who do not believe in the Hereafter, THEIR HEARTS REFUSE TO KNOW AND THEY ARE ARROGANT. Without doubt, Allah knows what they reveal and what they conceal. Truly, He has no love for the arrogant.” Qur‘an 16:22-23
And my point is this: Yes, make arguments to an atheist that may appeal strongly to him/her by addressing their scepticisms with particularity. But also deliver the basic Islamic Message to them, BECAUSE THERE IS POWER IN ALLAH‘S MESSAGE THAT WILL BE ABSENT FROM YOUR PERSONAL ARGUMENTS (NO MATTER HOW CLEVER/CHARISMATIC YOU MAY BE).
May Allah grant barakat to your efforts and reward you abundantly for your service.