This is the second chapter of a book called “Am I really A Muslim?”. You can download this book for free here.
I have searched for a long time, as you may have, for answers to this question. And after my rigorous findings, I don’t seem to land on a single, once-and-for-all answer.
But finally, I landed on an axiom that we Muslims aren’t what we think we are.
Are we not Muslims if we submit to Allah? You may ask.
Yes, anybody who submits to Allah is, without doubt, a very good Muslim. But what does it takes to submit? This is where it all begins.
Before anything else, I’ll like for you to realize that you may not be the Muslim you think you are. I want you to ask yourself this question again, “Am I really a Muslim?” because I’m positive there are a lot of people who think they are Muslims but are not, actually.
Hearing that, you might be tempted to know what kind of a person I am to dare say something like this. What guts do I have to insult and disillusion people?
But to be honest, I don’t mean any harm. If you will, believe me, I’m just trying to help because I truly want to.
Do you know that many Muslims are often feverish in some matters but heedless in others?
Many Muslims today, for instance, devotes most of their time to worship Allah, but is negligent about their family life; or they treats their families with respect but is disturbing their neighbors; or they turn out to be very religious and pious, but heedless of some Islamic teachings.
Isn’t it strange that all these shortcomings are common among people who claim to be Muslims?
So before you can call yourself one, think for a while: What does the word Muslim, which we all use so often, really mean?
Can a person be a Muslim by virtue of his birth? Is a person a Muslim simply because he is the son or grandson of a Muslim? Is a Muslim born a Muslim just as a white man’s son is born a white man, or a Negro’s son is born a Negro? Are Muslims a race, a nationality or a caste?
I believe your answer to these questions will surely be No. A Muslim does not become one simply because he was born in a Muslim family. A Muslim is not a Muslim because he belongs to any particular race; he is a Muslim because he follows Islam. If he renounces Islam, he ceases to be a Muslim. It’s simple as that!
Any person, whether an Englishman or a Japanese, a white or a black, will, on accepting Islam, become a full member of the Muslim community; while a person born in a Muslim home may be expelled from the Muslim community if he gives up following Islam, even though he may be a descendant of the Prophet, or an Arab.
This establishes that the greatest gift of Allah which you enjoy – that of being a Muslim – is not something automatically inherited from your parents, which remains yours for life irrespective of your attitudes and behavior. It is a goal as well as a gift which you must continually pursue to deserve if you want to retain it; if you are indifferent to it, it may be taken away from you, Allah forbid.
If you agree that we become Muslims only by accepting Islam. What does acceptance of Islam mean then? Does it mean that whoever makes a verbal profession – ‘I am a Muslim’ or ‘I have accepted Islam’ becomes a true Muslim? Or does it mean that a man who utters some Arabic phrases without knowing their meaning becomes a Muslim? What reply will you give to this question?
You can only say that accepting Islam means much more than this. True Muslims should consciously and deliberately accept what has been taught by the Prophet of Allah, blessings, and peace be upon him, and act accordingly. People who do not so behave are not Muslims in the true sense.
Now, where are you? Let us examine our lives by the crucial criteria of Iman and Islam as laid down by the Qur’an and the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.
If you claim that you have accepted Islam, have you oriented your living and dying towards Allah only? Are you living for His cause alone? Are your hearts and minds, your bodies and souls, your time and efforts, being devoted to the fulfillment of Allah’s wishes?
And, again, do you obey and serve Allah alone? Have you eliminated from your lives the submission to selfish desires and obedience to family, brotherhood, friends, society, and state? Have you made your likes and dislikes totally subordinate to the wishes of Allah?
If you love somebody, are you loving for the sake of Allah? If you dislike somebody, is that too for the sake of Allah? Is no element of selfishness involved in this?
Do you give and withhold only for the sake of Allah? Are you spending on your own selves and giving wealth to other people, or withholding the same, because that is what God wants? Is your motive nothing but to gain His pleasure?
Congratulations then! You may shout at the top of your voice and say “Alhamdulillah”. If you find such a state of faith and submission within yourself, you should thank Allah, for He has bestowed upon you the blessing of Iman in its fullness.
But if you feel any deficiency, you must give up every other concern, worry and concentrate wholly on remedying this deficiency. For on its removal depends your well-being in this world as well as your success in the Hereafter.
Whatever success you may enjoy in the present life will not compensate you for the loss you will suffer in the Hereafter due to this deficiency. But if you make up for this deficiency, even if you gain nothing in this world, you will benefit vastly in the life to come.
But remember not to use this criterion to test or judge others and determine whether they are true Muslims or hypocrites; use it only to judge your own self and, if you detect any deficiency, try to remove it before you meet Allah.
Do not become happy merely on seeing your names registered as Muslims, but remain anxious about how and where your names are entered in the Register of the Lord.
Real success consists in your being judged as a true Muslim and not a hypocrite, obedient and not disobedient, faithful and not unfaithful, by that God who is the final Judge.
So, if you walk around on this eggshell, confident about your faith of being a Muslim, be ready to act like one.