Being a Muslim

A Muslim must establish belief in the fundamentals of religion (usal al-din): tawhid, prophethood and Judgment Day. The Shi’ah school of thought has a further two: imamah (God chosen successors to the Prophet) and justice. A Muslim must recognise that God is One (tawhid) and that Muhammad (pbuh) was His last messenger and hence must lead a way of life that is in accordance with the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). A Muslim has obligations towards God, himself and others. A Muslim (when of age) is expected to perform their religious obligations such as the daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and pay their religious taxes (zakah and khums). He must treat others as his equals in humanity.

A committed Muslim carries out his religious duties, he may go to the mosque to attend lectures or to perform his prayers individually or in congregation, but he is primarily someone who does good deeds and refrains from sin:

To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah. It is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute. (Surah 5:48)

[…] Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Surah 49:13)

Hence it is deeds that show real commitment and which will ultimately determine a person’s destiny.

Without doubt the five daily prayers (salah) is the most important ritual in Islam which must be performed under any circumstance. Muslims will be seen praying in public places, at their work place and even on airplanes for instance. The prayers can also be performed every day in congregation at the mosque (or any place where there is a person leading the prayers and there are others following).

Charity (sadaqah) is vital in Islamic communities; Islam expects Muslims to be generous towards others. Through charity, communities raise money for different projects such as Iftars (food for breaking the fast) for poor families and running a ‘Sunday school’ (madrassah). A Muslim is expected to keep close ties with his family and the community.

Greeting (taslam: al-salam ‘alaykum, reply ‘alaykum al-salam) each other is very important in Islam. In effect the person who initiates the greeting is said to merit 99 rewards (hasanat) whereas the person who replies only merits one; this is to encourage people to greet each other but it also stresses the importance of not breaking ties.

There is also great reward in visiting the elderly and the sick, helping the needy, attending social gatherings such as weddings and funerals and visiting the cemetery. All this is part of belonging and contributing to a community. Islam forbids all kinds of intoxicants; a Muslim cannot consume, transact with, or even sit in the company of people who are consuming alcohol.

As far as dress is concerned there is no particular way a Muslim must dress. The key requirement is modesty and dignity as the Qur’an commands both men and women to ‘lower their gaze and be modest’. The only outward expression of Islamic dress is the covering of the woman (hijab); however the way it is worn can vary greatly from one culture to another. Men are encouraged to keep a beard.

Commitment is generally seen as an intimate relationship between God and the person. Hence only God knows who is truly committed as only He knows what is in any person’s heart. Although a person may have submitted to the way of Islam, he might not have established firm faith within his heart. (Surah 49:14). Any act done to boast to others is disliked (except giving to the poor as this can set an example or reminder to others).

The Prophet is reported to have said: ‘Indeed, I have been sent to perfect the morals.’

The Qur’an describes him as a role model for human beings to follow as he put perfectly into practice everything that he preached:

Ye have indeed in the Apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah. (Surah 33:21)

Amongst other things, the Prophet taught honesty, humility, hospitality, generosity, kindness, tolerance and love. He called the struggle of the soul (jihad al-nafs) as the greater struggle compared to the minor struggle that of war. It is worth noting that during the life of the Prophet Islam did not spread by the sword but people were attracted to him because of his way of life and this is what is expected of every Muslim.

The Prophet also said: ‘Model yourselves with the qualities of God.’

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