Religious / Spiritual Identity
The Qur’an distinguishes between Islam (as a basic statement of belief) and iman (as true commitment) (Surah 49:14). Belief coupled with commitment is a higher level of submission and spirituality. For example, one may proclaim to be Muslim by uttering the testimony (shahadah) but still does not perform obligatory duties such as performing daily prayers. Nevertheless one who prays but whose trust in God is weak has not achieved a firm faith in his heart. Hence, rituals, other symbolising physical commitment, have as a purpose the reaping of strong faith and spiritual fulfilment.
The Prophet (and Imams for the Shi’ah) left people with a template to reach perfection and attain the highest degree of spirituality. Thus a Muslim must follow the way of the Prophet as it is the most perfect way. A Muslim cannot abandon a religious act ordained by the Prophet and replace with one that he constructs. However, there are recommended acts that one is free to do when and as much as one wishes. Within the religion, there are different schools of thought which one might choose to change from one to another. A follower of the Shi’ah school chooses a spiritual leader as a point of reference just as a Sufi chooses a spiritual leader or guide (shaykh or murshid), or an order or path (tariqah) to follow.
Each person has individual responsibilities for which that person will be accountable for on the Day of Judgment. This is a direct corollary of free will with which each human being is born. Free will enables the person to make their own choices without being coerced into anything as the Qur’anic verse states:
Let there be no compulsion in religion […] (Surah 2:256)
The Qur’an emphasises greatly on the individual and their duties to God, to themselves and to others by talking directly to the person “oh human being” or indirectly “every male and female”. Islam teaches Muslims that human beings have a central role to play in the universe as God has chosen the human being as His khalifah, His vicegerent. In order to represent God, one must know God and even share God’s characteristics. Therefore, every person has the ability to acquire these by perfecting in one’s self the 99 Names of God.