What Makes a Muslim a Muslim

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

These are some more thoughts from the Saturday sisters’ halaqah at Ummah of Noor in Second Life:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

All thanks is to Allah, whom we seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from whatever evil our hearts conceal and from the consequences of our evil deeds. Whoever Allah grants guidance will never be led astray. Whoever He leads astray will never find guidance. I attest that none is worthy of worship except Allah, who has no partners, and that Mohammad is His slave and Messenger
” O ye who believe fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam. ” Aal Imran 102
” O mankind fear your Lord, Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; fear Allah through Whom ye demand your mutual (rights) and the wombs (that bore you); for Allah ever watches over you. ” Alnisaa 1
” O ye who believe fear Allah, and (always) say a word directed to the right. That He may make you conduct whole and sound and forgive you your sins: he that obeys Allah and His apostle, has already attained the highest achievement. ” Alahzab 70

What Makes a Muslim a Muslim?

It is important to understand what makes a Muslim a Muslim. Let’s go over the pillars of belief in Islam. In order to be a Muslim, there are six fundamental beliefs:
Belief in Allah, in His Oneness
Belief in all the Messengers and Prophets sent by Allah
Belief in the Revealed Books
Belief in the Angels
Belief in a Day of Judgment
Belief in Allah’s Divine Decree
In addition, there are five things which a person must do in order to be a Muslim:

Bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad (saw) is the Messenger of Allah
Pray five times a day
Purify your income by paying zakah as a percentage of money over your basic needs.
Fast during the month of Ramadan
Make the Hajj, the Pilgrimage to Makkah, one time in your life if you have the physical and financial means.

These are the basics. If you believe as the Muslims believe, and you act as the Muslims act, then you are a Muslim. Now, there are caveats to this. If you believe something that is incompatible with Islam, you can be counted as a disbeliever. For instance, if you believe in Allah and His Messenger, but you also believe that Jesus, as, is the son of God (naouthoobillah), then this completely negates your Islam. If you believe in the pillars of Islam, but you also believe it is permissible to visit the graves of dead scholars and pious people to ask them to intercede with Allah, then this completely negates your Islam.
As you see, Islam has a positive side and a negative side. You must believe what the Muslims believe, and you must refute that which would negate your Islam. Islam is a very easy religion to understand; it can be comprehended by the greatest ivory-tower intellectual and by the most humble peasant in the field. Allah is One. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Be kind to your parents. Be modest and chaste. Don’t commit fornication. Pray, fast, and give charity. There is no “mystery” in Islam. There is no secret society to which only the elite can aspire. Islam is open to all and is attainable by all. The hard-headed logical German can be the brother of a soft-hearted Indian. The farmer can be the brother of the Wall Street broker. There is plenty of room in Islam for the many varied cultures and personalities that Allah has allowed to come forth on the earth. When we submit to Allah, we do not abandon our personalities or even our quirks, but we do strive to bring them into line with what pleases Allah.
So, those are the basics of what makes us Muslim. But what makes us Muslim? There is more to being a true Muslim, a Muslim at heart, than simply fulfilling the duties of prayer and fasting. In order to be counted as a Mu’min, a person who has faith (Imaan) firmly planted in his heart, we must also cultivate behaviors that will help us to be good human beings and role models. We only need to look to the Qur’an and Sunnah to see what those behaviors are:
Foremost among the habits of the believers is a love of one’s parents, and showing respect and kindness to them. Honoring one’s parents is commanded in the same verse as worshipping Allah:
“Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or more attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say, “my Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy, even as they cherished me in childhood.” (17: 23,24)
Even if a parent is not Muslim, we are not allowed to be rude to him or disrespect him:
It is narrated by Asma bint Abu Bakr that during the treaty of Hudaibiyah, her mother, who was then pagan, came to see her from Makkah. Asma informed the Messenger of Allah of her arrival and also that she needed help. He said: Be good to your mother (Bukhari, Muslim).
We should also be kind to our spouses, because they are our companions and helpers. I can go into this in more detail, but that is a discussion all in itself. Suffice it to say that if you are not treating your husband or wife with mercy and respect, this is a major defect in your Islam and you risk your dunyah and your aachirah by your behavior.
We have to cherish our children and be good role models for them. If you make your home a Muslim home, filling it with Qur’an, prayer, and kindness, you will raise children who are strong believers. This is important for all children but especially for girls, who are often looked upon as less and marginalized by ignorant cultures:
‘A’ishah, the wife of Allah’s Messenger, may Allah be pleased with her, said: A woman came to me along with her two daughters. She asked me for (charity) but she found nothing with me except one date, so I gave it to her. She accepted it and then divided it between her two daughters and she ate nothing of that. She then got up and went out, and so did her two daughters. When Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) came I narrated to him her story. Thereupon he (may peace be upon him) said: Whoever is destined with the responsibility of (bringing up) daughters, and he accords benevolent treatment towards them, they would be protection for him against Hell-Fire. (Muslim 4763)
Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: Al-Aqra’ bin Habis saw Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) kissing Al-Hasan. He said: I have ten children, but I have never kissed any one of them, whereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: He who does not show mercy (towards his children), no mercy would be shown to him. (Muslim 4282)
Muslims must be hard workers. Laziness is not an Islamic trait. If you work for someone else, then you should always do your best and put in a full, honest days’ work. You should always seek to have a halaal income. If you remember that your sustenance comes from Allah, you will realize that taking a smaller salary for a permissible job is better than taking a large salary for a job that is haraam, such as working in an interest-based bank, selling liquor or pork, or selling insurance.
“O you who believe! eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities: but let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual good-will: Nor kill (ordestroy) yourselves: for verily ALLAH hath been to you Most Merciful” [4:29]
“In whatever business you may be, and whatever portion you may be reciting from the Qur’an and whatever deed you may be doing We are Witnesses thereof when you are deeply engrossed therein. [Al Qur'an 10:61]
The Muslim overall must be a good role model, a good example of what it means to be a believer in Allah. You must bring Islam in to every aspect of your life – your food, your work, your play, your love, your worship. You should walk with humility and a light step on the earth, and be a good Khalifah of the planet. Muslims should be at the forefront of human rights, ecological efforts, and animal rights. We should be the ones who seek to raise the downtrodden. We should strive to live up to the example set by Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.
Remember, you are responsible for your own soul, but you are also responsible for how people perceive of Islam because of you. If you are rude, sloppy, insolent, untrustworthy, and miserly, people will perceive Islam as a religion that teaches or tolerates such behaviors. If you are clean, moderate in your dress and manner of speaking, kind, and honest in your business dealings, people will be curious to learn about the religion that teaches people to live in such an upstanding manner. So beyond yourself, you have a lot of influence over every person with whom you come in contact, be it your parent, spouse, child, classmate, coworker, or even the guy who collects your ticket at the parking garage.
To be a Muslim, you must combine correct belief with right action. The physical actions of the prayer must be combined with the intention to please Allah. Your job must be one that is permissible so your money will be blessed. Your family life must be a combination of discipline – waking up yourself and your family for fajr – and love, mercy and learning. Your time must be spent in worship and remembrance of Allah. That remembrance can take place when you go to the park on a picnic with your family, when you are stuck in traffic commuting to work, or when you are at the bedside of a sick family member. When your life is focused on pleasing Allah, the most mundane actions can be elevated to worship and you will benefit not only in this world, but in the world to come.
Now, it is vitally important for me to share one thing with you. It is not my job or your job to declare that a particular person is or is not a Muslim. If you declare someone to be a kaafir, a disbeliever, then that statement will be proved against one of you; if that person really is a disbeliever, then you have said a true statement. But if that person is not a disbeliever, then the statement of disbelief becomes true upon YOU. You can take yourself out of the fold of Islam with such a statement, so even if you see someone drinking wine and going around with the worst people, refrain from telling that person he is not Muslim. Rather, warn him that there are certain attributes of those who believe and those who disbelieve, and counsel him to repent to Allah and behave in a better manner. And of course, look to yourself before you look to another person. We all fall short in our lives and we should spend most of our time looking at ourselves rather than at others. This is the true character of a Muslim and it will help us to be patient and merciful when we see others behaving in a manner that is not pleasing to Allah. When we have this attitude, then we can approach someone with wisdom to counsel him on his behavior.
I hope that these words will benefit you and help you. Anything I said correct is from Allah, and anything I said that is incorrect is from the Shaitan and my own nafs. Truly, Allah knows best.
Fi Aman Allah,
Noorah Haalan


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